Developement Of Ancient Systems Of Writing In Iraq And Egypt

1618 words - 6 pages

Ancient systems of writing in the Middle East arose whenpeople needed a method for remembering important information. Inboth Ancient Iraq and Ancient Egypt each of the stages of writing,from pictograms to ideograms to phonetograms, evolved as a responseto the need to express more complex ideas. Satisfaction of thisneed gave us the two most famous forms of ancient writing,cuneiform from ancient Iraq, and hieroglyphics from ancient Egypt.Both of these forms of writing evolved and their use spread toother peoples even after the originators of the scripts had passedon.Some of the oldest writing found in the Middle East dates from8000 to 3000 B.C. This corresponds to the approximate time periodthat the people of the region went from living a nomadic life tosettlement in villages and trading among themselves. When tradinglarge or varying types of commodities you need a method forrecording. To meet this need developed a token system for therecording of financial data. These tokens were of varying shapesfor various things, two to three centimetres in size, and used forenumeration and keeping track of goods and labour.These tokens eventually had to be stored so they wouldn't bemisplaced or lost. To secure them, they were placed in opaque clayenvelopes. To indicate what was inside the envelope markings weremade on it, eventually someone realized that all you had to do wasmark on the clay what was in the envelope and you discard thetokens altogether. With this major development we get the firstwriting on clay tablets.In Ancient Mesopotamia the most readily available material forwriting on was clay. When writing on clay first arose, the scribewould try to make an artistic representation of what he wasreferring to. This is a logical first step in writing as if youwanted to record that you had three sheep, you would draw a pictureof a sheep and then add to the picture some marking to indicatethat you had three of them. Thus the earliest stage in writingarose, pictograms.Pictograms, although not really writing in the modern sense ofthe term, do represent a method of communicating an event ormessage. They also 'led to true writing through a process ofselection and organization.' As people wanted to write more downand in a faster method, the pictograms lost their artistic look andtook on a more 'stylised representation of an object by making afew marks in the clay . . . .' The writing was eventually writtenin 'horizontal lines rather than in squares or in vertical bands .. . became smaller, more compact, more rigid, more 'abstract',finally bearing no resemblance to the objects they represented . .. .'The next stage in the development of ancient writing was whenthe scribes wished to write more complex ideas down. In time a signthat had represented a tangible object, came to represent some wordor thing. For example, the symbol representing the sun eventuallyrepresented over seventy different words. This caused someconfusion as the reader could not be certain what...

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