Some of the oldest writing ever found has been cave paintings. Stones, rocks and bones were the first thing people used to record writing. Rocks, walls of caves, or bones from hunting animals were carved with pictures.
Marks were made by cave men using sharp sticks, stones or paint. There was no alphabet or writing system that the cave men had, so they used pictures to write down things that were happening in their lives. Early men drew pictures on cave walls or rocks to leave messages and to honor the spirits.
One of the earliest kinds of writing - or a writing system where special symbols were used to represent things - is called cuneiform. Cuneiform consisted of symbols carved by reeds on wet clay tablets. It was used about 3500 BC to 2000 BC by the Sumerian people who lived in the Middle East. Cuneiform was mostly used to keep lists for accounting and to record historical events. Another type of early writing is Egyptian hieroglyphics. The Egyptians carved signs representing objects and sounds. They even had a sort of alphabet with 24 symbols that stood for certain letters.
The Egyptians also created Papyrus, a type of paper made by gluing together layers of a reed plant, and ink which they used to record historical events and for record keeping.
The Chinese and Japanese use ideas instead of words to represent writing. Symbols that were used in certain patterns represented ideas.
The Phoenicians were the first to create an alphabet - symbols that represent sounds, not pictures or ideas. The Greeks modified the Phoenician alphabet about 500 BC and it is a lot like the alphabet we use today. The word alphabet comes from the first two Greek letters - alpha and beta. The Romans changed the alphabet when they conquered Greece.
The English alphabet still uses the same letters, but has added the letters J, U and W. The Romans were the first to link the letters together to make a flowing kind of writing, or cursive.
What People Wrote On
Things found in nature, like rocks, stones and bones were the first things that people wrote on. Early people also carved symbols on wet clay. When the clay dried, the symbol would still be there, and they could carry the clay around.
The Egyptians were the first to create a type of paper, called papyrus. They used reeds found along the banks of the Nile River and layered it to make a paper kind of surface.
Later, Europeans discovered that the skin of animals could be used to write on, but it took a long time to make the material, called vellum or parchment, and it was very expensive.
The Italians discovered an inexpensive and quicker way to make paper by breaking down the fibers of old cloth. Because of the invention of a writing material that was fairly cheap, more people started to write.
Printing was started by hand carving wooden blocks, putting ink on them and stamping them onto paper. To make printing even easier, J. Gutenberg created a moveable print made from metal. This made printing very easy and books became much more available.
What People Used to Write.
Early man used rocks, stones or bones to carve symbols and pictures into other rocks, stones or bones. They also used reeds to carve symbols on wet clay.
In Egypt, a stylus, or thin metal rod was used to mark on papyrus. The stylus was often made of lead.
Dyes from nature were used to paint symbols. Different plants and flowers made different colors. Burnt twigs, or charcoal, could also be used to mark on things. Chalk was found in some places, and could also be used as a way of writing.
Later, people started using sharpened feathers, or quills, with ink to write on paper. Metal points were made so the point would last longer.
Pencils were created when it was found that graphite, a mineral found in the earth, left a dark mark, but could also be erased! Graphite was really soft, and broke a lot, so people would wrap it in string. Later, people started putting the graphite in hollow wooden sticks. The center of a pencil is still called the lead (like the Egyptian Stylus) but it is really made of graphite.
Visit these sites to learn more about:
the history of writing
history of pencils