Who Invented Writing? 3 Curiosities you did not know

In an increasingly digitalized world, full of emoticons and touch screens, the question still remains: who invented writing?

If you too are fascinated by the origins of our “human” civilization or if writing (in any form) is your daily work, here are 3 curiosities on the subject that you may not have known. The birth of writing is certainly ascribable to around 5000 BC, but are you sure that’s all? Let’s find out together.

1) Who invented writing? Dates that do not coincide

The invention of writing is commonly attributed to the Sumerians. We are in 4000 BC, a long time ago. Sumerian writing , therefore, is the first documented form existing in the world and is composed of drawings and symbols (it is called pictographic writing). Sumerian writing also takes the name of cuneiform writing , because it was performed by engraving clay tablets with signs and symbols using a stylus. The Sumerians lived in the region we know today as Iraq. In Egypt, the first evidence of writing dates back to 1200 BC ( hieroglyphic writing ). According to other sources, however, the invention of writing occurred in a contemporary way(around 5000 BC) throughout the Middle Eastern (Mesopotamian) area. “The archaic (pre-cuneiform) Sumerian language and Egyptian hieroglyphics are considered to be the earliest forms of writing, both of which emerged from their proto-literary symbols from 3400–3200 BC, with the earliest consistent texts from around 2600 BC.” (Source: Wikipedia).

Sumerian writing wikipedia.org

Curiosity in curiosity : the first writing method of the Egyptians were ideograms . Each symbol corresponded to a word that could be a person or a thing ( pictogram ) or represent an action. In Greek, the word hieroglyph means writing of the gods .

2) Who invented writing? There are at least two “inventors”, maybe three

The invention of writing by no means seems to be the exclusive primacy of a single people. In fact, it is commonly accepted by historians that writing was born in at least two macro-regions, in a completely independent way. The first, the Sumerian script , in about 3000 BC in the Mesopotamian area. The second, the writing of the Olmecs , in the Mesoamerican region, around 600 BC (current Mexico and surroundings). When the writing (initially pictographic) was born it is not possible to establish it with absolute precision, in fact, depending on the sources consulted, the dates fluctuate and even by a lot. In any case, by the time the Greeks arrived, the world had been writing for quite some time.

Scholars still debate who was the first inventor of writing and how there is evidence of scriptures in different cultures, but in similar time periods. For example: the writing system developed by the Egyptians (around 1200 BC) and the Chinese writing system (1200 BC) are clearly independent because they do not resemble each other (different phonetic representation) and also because there is no evidence of human exchanges between the two areas. The case of Sumerian and Egyptian hieroglyphic writing is different: hieroglyphs do not resemble cuneiform writing at all, however they do resemble each other in concepts. The hypothesis that writing arrived in Egypt from Mesopotamia is not at all excluded. Then, in addition to Sumerians, Egyptians, Chinese and Mesoamericanswe must not forget the Indians . In the area, around 2200 BC a sort of proto-writing established itself which has not yet been deciphered.

3) Who invented modern writing? The key role of the Romans and Charlemagne

The Latin alphabet, the basis of modern writing, was developed by the Romans about 3000 years later. His invention stemmed from a real need: to develop a common system of communication between the different peoples of their vast empire. What the Romans spread with trade (and also with the wars of conquest), another key-figure spread with culture. Let’s talk about Charlemagne . His Holy Roman Empire also needed a universal linguistic system capable of connecting populations that are distant by language and culture. If we write lowercase letters today (without even thinking about it) we owe it to him. In fact, in the history of writing, it was Charlemagne who introduced lowercase letters. In honor of her they are called, in fact, Caroline. It is a form of semicursive also called “chancellery writing” which was introduced in the time period VIII-IX century AD

Carolina writing

Curiosity in curiosity : in this period the question mark and some letters were also introduced to simplify the learning process. The letters A, C, E, S, Z. Carolina writing will be the basis of Gutenberg’s revolution: that is, the printed characters, in turn the basis of our modern writing.

It is not easy, now you know, to establish with absolute certainty who invented writing or when it was invented. Also because different styles of writing – often very dissimilar to each other – have spread in similar time periods in different areas of the world, often very distant from each other. What is certain is that the birth of writing has forever and irreversibly revolutionized human civilization.