of the key factor that allows historians today understand what life
was like in the ancient civilizations was through written records
of the past. Who were the first, then, to start keeping written
records of events that were taking place around them? Well, the
start of written records dates back to 3100 BC, where the Sumerians
of Mesopotamia first began communication with one another through
the use of pictographs, which are symbols to represent familiar
objects. They drew pictures of goods that they traded on clay tablets.
Over the next 200 years, they invented a pattern of symbols which
were etched on to soft clay with a reed. This type of writing became
known as "cuneiform" or wedge-shaped writing.
ancient Egyptians too began to invent their own form of writing
around the same time as the Sumerians. The type of writing was called
"hieroglyphics", which like "cuneiform", also used symbols to represent
one's thoughts and ideas. It is interesting to note however, that
hieroglyphics cuneiform were not only just pictures which represented
a thought, each symbol actually also represented a sound, which
meant that they could be spoken like the ABCs of the English language
that we know of today!
the Maya of Mesoamerica, writing in the form of hieroglyphics also
existed. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of the Maya version
of hieroglyphics on the buildings, bones, shells, pottery, paintings,
stone monuments and in books that were uncovered among the ruins
of the Maya civilisation of the past. These hieroglyphics were very
complex and today, only 80% of them have been deciphered. Some of
these hieroglyphics depicted stories of the outstanding achievements
of the Maya rulers, as well as the conflicts between the various
Maya city-states. The longest piece of writing is inscribed on a
huge stairway at Copan.
For the ancient Chinese, the earliest forms of writing were pictographs,
which were somewhat like the ones the Sumerians had. Most of the
symbols used were drawings that could be identified at a glance.
Each of these symbols was a word in itself and there were different
symbols for different words. Some words were even made up of a mixture
ancient Indians of the Indus Valley too had their own form of pictographs.
Evidence of these pictographs can be found on the thousands of seals
that have been dug up at the ancient sites in the Indus Valley.
Each of these seals served as a trademark for a single farmer or
merchant, which could have been stamped on the sacks of grains or
goods that they owned.
however, we see that in most parts of the world, men no longer communicate
with one another through the use of pictographs or hieroglyphics.
Instead, for most of us, we use the alphabet, which had originated
from the Greek alphabet that had been created over 2000 years ago.
The alphabet of today has 26 letters, unlike the alphabet of the
Ancient Romans which had only 23 letters. The invention of the alphabet
has indeed brought much convenience to the lives of mankind since
millions of words can be formed from the letters of the alphabet,
all of which could be easily understood at a single glance. The
pictographs of the ancient Chinese too have undergone a drastic
transformation to become the Chinese characters that they are today,
characters that are easily recognised by anyone with knowledge of
the Chinese language.
writing today is so much more easily understood by most. Come to
think of it, isn't it also much easier than drawing symbols to represent
tortoise shell from the Shang period, between 1766 and 1122 BC,
is inscribed with characters that are said to be the first form
of Chinese writing. Such writing also appears on animal bones. Priests
used such oracle bones and shells to foretell the future.
On this Kiowa winter count, the pictographs represent events. The
moons, or lunar months, are shown by crescents. The black strips
indicate the winters from 1865 to 1892.