Thursday, January 7, 2010

The invention of writing

We believe today that writing was invented in Mesopotamia, but the Romans had slightly different view - even so,they were not very far from (what we believe to be the) truth.

An Egyptian (of General Antefs) stele, ca 2050 f.Kr, 11th dynasty, probably under the reign of Mentu-hotep II.

"The Egyptians, in their animal-pictures, were the first people to represent thought by symbols: these, the earliest documents of human history, are visible to‑day, impressed upon stone. They describe themselves also as the inventors of the alphabet: from Egypt, they consider, the Phoenicians, who were predominant at sea, imported the knowledge into Greece, and gained the credit of discovering what they had borrowed. For the tradition runs that it was Cadmus, arriving with a Phoenician fleet, who taught the art to the still uncivilized Greek peoples."

Tacitus - Annals XI 14
Translated by J. Jackson


Björn Nilsson said...

Obviously, Tacitus was not aware of possible proto-writing ealier in the Balkans, like the Vinca culture. Personally, I still opt for the Sumerians as the earliest inventors and mayby even for giving inspiration to Egypt. After all, early sumerian artifacts have been found in Egypt, but I have not read about early Egyptian artifacts found in Sumer. (That does not explain why cuneiform writing and hieroglyphs are so different, but never mind!)

Patrik Klingborg said...

You are, as far as I know, correct. The Sumerians are, today, credited for the invention of writing, followed by the Egyptians some hundred years later (which is a small marginal to be honest).