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C. Flower
21-01-2012, 12:05 PM
There is an interesting wiki page on the history of writing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_writing

I'd never given it too much thought before, beyond having the vague idea that it had started in what we now call the middle east, in a rich agricultural area based on virgin riverside topsoils.

Written number systems originated in the same area (now part of Iraq) -


The earliest known writing for record keeping evolved from a system of counting using small clay tokens that began in Sumer about 8000 BC.[6]


The cities of Sumer were the first civilization to practice intensive, year-round agriculture, by perhaps c. 5000 BC showing the use of core agricultural techniques, including large-scale intensive cultivation of land, mono-cropping, organized irrigation, and the use of a specialized labour force. The surplus of storable food created by this economy allowed the population to settle in one place, instead of migrating after crops and grazing land. It also allowed for a much greater population density, and in turn required an extensive labour force and division of labour. Sumer was also the site of early development of writing, progressing from a stage of proto-writing in the mid 4th millennium BC to writing proper in the third millennium (see Jemdet Nasr period).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumer

The earliest known writer of literature was a woman, an Akkadian princess from Sumer, called Enheduanna.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enheduanna (an example of her work - http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/etcsl.cgi?text=t.4.07.2&display=Crit&charenc=gcirc&lineid=t4072.p7#t4072.p7 ) The concept of writing spread, and new forms of writing were developed. There were also, later, separate developments of writing - in America first and also in China and quite a few other places.

Writing is important -


The great benefit of writing systems is their ability to maintain a persistent record of information expressed in a language, which can be retrieved independently of the initial act of formulation.

Writing has made possible the spread knowledge and culture through large populations and also allowed for an increasingly rapid development of new knowledge, standing on the shoulders of what was known before.

The benefits of writing were constrained when each copy had to be hand written. Many important works have been lost from that period.

The development of the printing press in the 15th century "cracked open" the potential of writing for societal development. Written works were far more accessible and less likely to be lost.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Printing_press

The internet (developed in the 1950s-80s), likewise, has had an exponential effect on the sharing and spread of knowledge, in that it has provided a much cheaper and more readily available global means of access to writing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Internet

Thousands of free books and articles (damn you, pay walls!)

http://www.gutenberg.org/

Both of these developments have come about on the back of the general level of technological and scientific development in society.

One would think that writing might be challenged by development of recorded sound - I have just listened to a talk by Conor McCabe, on youtube, for example, that once would have been more likely shared by means of a pamphlet, or that would not have been heard beyond the initial live audience.

But writing is in many ways superior - a moment's lapse of concentration when listening to a recording means the tedium of playback and listening again, maybe more than once. Reading a written version, one can go at one's own pace.

Perhaps the next step will be some form of direct plug-in of information into the brain. :)

jmcc
21-01-2012, 12:33 PM
Probably even older than that. What a lot of people seem to forget is that most civilisations develop near water and the coasts and that the coastlines have shifted in the last 20K or so years. The early history of literature may be at the bottom of some seas and all we have left is that which survived.

Regards...jmcc

Baron von Biffo
21-01-2012, 12:44 PM
Perhaps the next step will be some form of direct plug-in of information into the brain. :)

Or maybe not. :)

http://img.rasset.ie/00038786-314.jpg

http://i42.tinypic.com/117v4wn.jpg

http://www.independent.ie/multimedia/archive/00436/outburst_i_436892t.jpg

Holly
21-01-2012, 12:50 PM
Both a strength and a limitation for historians is the written records.

C. Flower
21-01-2012, 01:03 PM
Slightly amended version on the blog

http://itsapoliticalworld.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/the-history-of-writing/

Sidewinder
21-01-2012, 01:07 PM
Probably even older than that. What a lot of people seem to forget is that most civilisations develop near water and the coasts and that the coastlines have shifted in the last 20K or so years. The early history of literature may be at the bottom of some seas and all we have left is that which survived.

Regards...jmcc

Indeed...I just came across the fascinating tale of this site (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6bekli_Tepe) earlier today.

There are also numerous sunken cities off the coast of India which are all much older than the Sumerian cultures.

It increasingly looks like Graham Hancock might have been onto something after all.

C. Flower
21-01-2012, 01:10 PM
Probably even older than that. What a lot of people seem to forget is that most civilisations develop near water and the coasts and that the coastlines have shifted in the last 20K or so years. The early history of literature may be at the bottom of some seas and all we have left is that which survived.

Regards...jmcc

The wiki entry really is very interesting. It explains that there was "proto writing" using symbols maybe tens of thousands of years before writing proper was developed, and a far more sophisticated pre history than we have assumed.

But I think that the developments in Sumer were something very important and it is easy to see how the material conditions were there that supported the development of writing.

Agriculture, urban development, and writing all came about together.
The first written numbers and words were all about food surpluses and sheep trading.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_agriculture

Spectabilis
21-01-2012, 01:16 PM
http://content.answcdn.com/main/content/img/oxford/Oxford_Celtic_Myth/0192801201.ogham.1.jpg


Ogham did not emerge until the fourth century for the recording of Old Irish. It seems we have mainly the monumental sculptures as record. Ogham written on wood would have perished.

jmcc
21-01-2012, 01:20 PM
Yep but those Indian cities would upset a lot of the conventional model and that's why the academics don't like it. It is like that Clovis Horizon mess in the USA.

Regards...jmcc

jmcc
21-01-2012, 01:34 PM
The wiki entry really is very interesting. It explains that there was "proto writing" using symbols maybe tens of thousands of years before writing proper was developed, and a far more sophisticated pre history than we have assumed.The problem with "proto writing" is that it means that people looking at it today don't understand it. This is often a problem of context in that the modern day person does not think like a person in ancient times. Without understanding the context, it is impossible to decipher the text. It is the same thing with the carvings seen on Newgrange and other places. They are encoded information but most people looking at them just see them as artistic or religious carvings rather than symbols.


But I think that the developments in Sumer were something very important and it is easy to see how the material conditions were there that supported the development of writing.They were important becuse they survived largely unharmed and they were easily uncovered.

Regards...jmcc

fluffybiscuits
21-01-2012, 01:54 PM
The main purpose of earlier writing was for record keeping purposes. They had to keep records of who owed what, its more or less because of accounting needs that it was needed . Stephen Fry covered it very well his programme Planet Word and Nicholas Ostler in his book Empires of the Word.

C. Flower
21-01-2012, 02:10 PM
The problem with "proto writing" is that it means that people looking at it today don't understand it. This is often a problem of context in that the modern day person does not think like a person in ancient times. Without understanding the context, it is impossible to decipher the text. It is the same thing with the carvings seen on Newgrange and other places. They are encoded information but most people looking at them just see them as artistic or religious carvings rather than symbols.

They were important becuse they survived largely unharmed and they were easily uncovered.

Regards...jmcc

The "fertile crescent" also was the place where cattle were first domesticated - and then were brought from there by people migrating to the rest of the world.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/evan.20267/full

The genetic evidence is there.

C. Flower
21-01-2012, 02:13 PM
The main purpose of earlier writing was for record keeping purposes. They had to keep records of who owed what, its more or less because of accounting needs that it was needed . Stephen Fry covered it very well his programme Planet Word and Nicholas Ostler in his book Empires of the Word.

Yes - the first written numbers were for counting sheep, and the first words (so far as we know) were lists of grain surpluses / stores.

But did you read the piece of writing by that Sumerian priestess? It's powerful stuff, and somehow doesn't read to me as though no one had ever written such stuff before.

But perhaps there had been an oral tradition of prayer writing that she had learned from.

C. Flower
21-01-2012, 02:20 PM
Yep but those Indian cities would upset a lot of the conventional model and that's why the academics don't like it. It is like that Clovis Horizon mess in the USA.

Regards...jmcc

I think what I find interesting is that writing came out of a certain level of agricultural development, first and foremost.

If it happened earlier somewhere now under a few fathoms, I'm very certain that that place had also developed a fairly advanced agricultural system that was generating grain surpluses. Native American and Chinese writing, which developed separately, also had advanced agriculture with irrigation and good grain surpluses and grain/rice stores.

Clay is important too, for storage vessels, and for writing tablets.

fluffybiscuits
21-01-2012, 02:33 PM
Yes - the first written numbers were for counting sheep, and the first words (so far as we know) were lists of grain surpluses / stores.

But did you read the piece of writing by that Sumerian priestess? It's powerful stuff, and somehow doesn't read to me as though no one had ever written such stuff before.

But perhaps there had been an oral tradition of prayer writing that she had learned from.

I didnt see it! Going to have a look later :)

BTW Cass if you ever get a chance to visit Copenhagen, their national museum I think it is (I was there years ago!) has a great section devoted it :)

C. Flower
21-01-2012, 02:39 PM
I didnt see it! Going to have a look later :)

BTW Cass if you ever get a chance to visit Copenhagen, their national museum I think it is (I was there years ago!) has a great section devoted it :)

Here she is - enjoy!

http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/etcsl.cgi?text=t.4.07.2&display=Crit&charenc=gcirc&lineid=t4072.p7#t4072.p7

Hapax
21-01-2012, 02:46 PM
Yep but those Indian cities would upset a lot of the conventional model and that's why the academics don't like it. It is like that Clovis Horizon mess in the USA.

Just because it might upset some entrenched academic positions doesn't mean it's true. There is now firm evidence, using reputable and generally accepted techniques, to support pre-Clovis datings for human remains in the Americas. Can you cite any equivalent nonambiguous evidence to support pre-Sumerian origins of writing?

It's also worth looking at the broader agendas of sites pushing these alternate hypotheses. Some of them (http://www.hinduism.co.za/oldest.htm#indusscript), for example, have a strongly nationalist Indian flavour, not unakin to those which, a few years ago, were claiming extraordinary archaeological finds, including vast ancient pyramids (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosnian_pyramids), in the Balkans. Claims which would equally have upset many academics, but which quickly turned out to be bogus when subjected to examination by neutrals. I'm not saying these claims are necessarily wrong, just that they remain merely speculation until more evidence emerges, or the Indus Valley script is cracked. Remember all those eighteenth-century claims about how the Irish language was descended from Punic, the language of Carthage?


Edit: I see there's a Wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historiography_and_nationalism) on the connections between nationalism and archaeology. Well, historiograohy in general, but archaeology is dealt with.

Hapax
21-01-2012, 02:59 PM
I think what I find interesting is that writing came out of a certain level of agricultural development, first and foremost.

If it happened earlier somewhere now under a few fathoms, I'm very certain that that place had also developed a fairly advanced agricultural system that was generating grain surpluses. Native American and Chinese writing, which developed separately, also had advanced agriculture with irrigation and good grain surpluses and grain/rice stores.

Clay is important too, for storage vessels, and for writing tablets.

The Australian archaeologist, V. Gordon Childe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V._Gordon_Childe), was one of the first to try integrating the early evidence for human settlement in Europe and the Middle East, and fitting it with a generally socialist view of human history. A lot of his work has now been superseded by more recent evidence, of course, but he's still well worth reading.

Slightly off topic: A lot of the issues around the development of script, and later, of printing, on human thought and cultural development, were raised by Marshall McLuhan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_McLuhan). (Known for his cameo-role in Annie Hall, if nothing else.) He was one of a group of intellectuals gathered around Toronto in the mid-20th century, who seemed to concern themselves with these questions: Walter Ong, Hugh Kenner, Eric Havelock, etc. Interestingly, most of them seem also to have been very much Roman Catholics. Ong was actually a Jesuit priest. I've often what the story was behind this grouping. I doubt it was accidental.


Edit: Though it's still, as I understand, an open question, there is significant evidence to suggest that Mespotamian script influenced early Chinese writing.

jmcc
21-01-2012, 03:19 PM
Just because it might upset some entrenched academic positions doesn't mean it's true. But it does require research and analysis.


There is now firm evidence, using reputable and generally accepted techniques, to support pre-Clovis datings for human remains in the Americas. Can you cite any equivalent nonambiguous evidence to support pre-Sumerian origins of writing?Not yet. But then under water archeology is still young and that's where I think, the real developments will happen.


I'm not saying these claims are necessarily wrong, just that they remain merely speculation until more evidence emerges, or the Indus Valley script is cracked.It is best to keep an open mind on the matter.


Remember all those eighteenth-century claims about how the Irish language was descended from Punic, the language of Carthage?Linguistics was in its infancy then. However it was fashionable at the time to claim some association with Greek or Roman civilisation.

Regards...jmcc

C. Flower
21-01-2012, 03:30 PM
The Australian archaeologist, V. Gordon Childe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V._Gordon_Childe), was one of the first to try integrating the early evidence for human settlement in Europe and the Middle East, and fitting it with a generally socialist view of human history. A lot of his work has now been superseded by more recent evidence, of course, but he's still well worth reading.

Slightly off topic: A lot of the issues around the development of script, and later, of printing, on human thought and cultural development, were raised by Marshall McLuhan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_McLuhan). (Known for his cameo-role in Annie Hall, if nothing else.) He was one of a group of intellectuals gathered around Toronto in the mid-20th century, who seemed to concern themselves with these questions: Walter Ong, Hugh Kenner, Eric Havelock, etc. Interestingly, most of them seem also to have been very much Roman Catholics. Ong was actually a Jesuit priest. I've often what the story was behind this grouping. I doubt it was accidental.


Edit: Though it's still, as I understand, an open question, there is significant evidence to suggest that Mespotamian script influenced early Chinese writing.

I'm relying on the Wiki entry, which is a broad sweep. There are grey areas about several languages - were they inspired by Sumer or separate.

The Sumerian concept of a written script that recorded spoken words is said to have inspired peoples to have a go at making their own written language from early on, even when the characters were not the same.

Putting it crudely, McCluhan promoted analysis of thought and communications in a way that did not make the connection between thought and the material world within which thoughts emerge. The word is god and all that.

That is not to say that he didn't have insights about communication.:)


In the early 1960s, McLuhan wrote that the visual, individualistic print culture would soon be brought to an end by what he called "electronic interdependence": when electronic media replace visual culture with aural/oral culture. In this new age, humankind will move from individualism and fragmentation to a collective identity, with a "tribal base." McLuhan's coinage for this new social organization is the global village.[47]

A socialist view of history would start with examination of the economic base of society at any given time, rather than looking at personalities, or current ideas. As an approach, it seems to me to offer the deepest understanding of historic development.

Hapax
21-01-2012, 03:50 PM
I'm relying on the Wiki entry, which is a broad sweep. There are grey areas about several languages - were they inspired by Sumer or separate.

The Sumerian concept of a written script that recorded spoken words is said to have inspired peoples to have a go at making their own written language from early on, even when the characters were not the same.

Putting it crudely, McCluhan promoted analysis of thought and communications in a way that did not make the connection between thought and the material world within which thoughts emerge. The word is god and all that.

That is not to say that he didn't have insights about communication.:)

No argument from me there. This whole Toronto bunch came up with some very interesting ideas, but one thing they have in common is that they're all markedly idealist (rather than materialist). It's largely their apparent organization, however informal, that interests me. I'm very vague on Canadian history, but as I recall Canada did have a Social Credit state government at some point, and some of this Toronto group were also proponents of that economics.

Oh, and Buckminster Fuller (inventor, amongst much else, of the geodesic dome (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geodesic_dome) (actually, Wiki tells me he didn't really invent it, but what the hell), and after whom Buckyballs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckyballs) were named) was also associated with them. But I'm wandering even further off-topic.




A socialist view of history would start with examination of the economic base of society at any given time, rather than looking at personalities, or current ideas. As an approach, it seems to me to offer the deepest understanding of historic development.

Agreed! That's where Gordon Childe comes in. Not that he's the only one, but so far as I know, his was the most ambitious attempt at a Marxist-inspired synthesis in this area, and he influenced many lator scholars.

C. Flower
21-01-2012, 08:25 PM
The Australian archaeologist, V. Gordon Childe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V._Gordon_Childe), was one of the first to try integrating the early evidence for human settlement in Europe and the Middle East, and fitting it with a generally socialist view of human history. A lot of his work has now been superseded by more recent evidence, of course, but he's still well worth reading.

Slightly off topic: A lot of the issues around the development of script, and later, of printing, on human thought and cultural development, were raised by Marshall McLuhan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_McLuhan). (Known for his cameo-role in Annie Hall, if nothing else.) He was one of a group of intellectuals gathered around Toronto in the mid-20th century, who seemed to concern themselves with these questions: Walter Ong, Hugh Kenner, Eric Havelock, etc. Interestingly, most of them seem also to have been very much Roman Catholics. Ong was actually a Jesuit priest. I've often what the story was behind this grouping. I doubt it was accidental.


Edit: Though it's still, as I understand, an open question, there is significant evidence to suggest that Mespotamian script influenced early Chinese writing.

Fascinating.

He was said not to have viewed the class struggle as a driver of social development although very much a supporter of the Soviet Union, and a socialist.

It sounds as though is big talent was in pulling together the fragmentary evidence of different digs across Europe into a broad picture of historical development.

Unconventional teacher.

At Edinburgh University, Childe spent much of his time focusing on his own research, and although he was reportedly very kind towards his students, never interacted much with them, to whom he remained largely distant. He had difficulty speaking to large audiences, and organised the BSc degree course so that it began with studying the Iron Age, and then progressed chronologically backward, through the Bronze Age, Neolithic, Mesolithic and Palaeolithic, something many students found confusing.[39]

Snazzy dresser, too :)

C. Flower
18-03-2012, 06:34 PM
There's a documentary on the Faddan More psalter running on RTE 2 at the moment.

http://www.museum.ie/en/exhibition/list/focus-on-the-faddan-more-psalter.aspx?article=f86b1b62-fa5c-491b-aeb2-759ef81a587f

The psalter contains the psalms of David. It was transcribed onto about 60 sheets of vellum, contained in a papyrus-lined leather cover, around 800 A.D. and hidden in a bog.

Bar a few fragments of ogham and Latin script, mainly personal names, according to this programme there was no writing in Ireland before Christianity.

C. Flower
18-03-2012, 06:34 PM
There's a documentary on the Faddan More psalter running on RTE 2 at the moment.

http://www.museum.ie/en/exhibition/list/focus-on-the-faddan-more-psalter.aspx?article=f86b1b62-fa5c-491b-aeb2-759ef81a587f

The psalter contains the psalms of David. It was transcribed onto about 60 sheets of vellum, contained in a papyrus-lined leather cover, around 800 A.D. and hidden in a bog.

Bar a few fragments of ogham and Latin script, mainly personal names, according to this programme there was no writing in Ireland before Christianity.

Wikipedia says that this basic writing was present in Ireland in the fourth century A.D. In the 5th century, things really took off -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Irish_literature


The earliest Irish authors

It is unclear when literacy first came to Ireland. The earliest Irish writings are inscriptions, mostly simple memorials, on stone in the ogham alphabet, the earliest of which date to the fourth century. The Latin alphabet was in use by 431, when the fifth century Gaulish chronicler Prosper of Aquitaine records that Palladius was sent by Pope Celestine I as the first bishop to the Irish believers in Christ.[1] Pelagius, an influential British heretic who taught in Rome in the early 5th century, fragments of whose writings survive, is said by Jerome to have been of Irish descent.[2] Coelius Sedulius, the 5th century author of the Carmen Paschale, who has been called the "Virgil of theological poetry", was probably also Irish: the 9th century Irish geographer Dicuil calls him noster Sedulius ("our Sedulius"), and the Latin name Sedulius usually translates the Irish name Siadal.

Two works written by Saint Patrick, his Confessio ("Declaration", a brief autobiography intended to justify his activities to the church in Britain) and Epistola ("Letter", condemning the raiding and slaving activities in Ireland of a British king, Coroticus), survive. They were written in Latin some time in the 5th century, and preserved in the Book of Armagh, dating to around 812, and a number of later manuscripts.[3] The 6th century saint Colum Cille is known to have written, but only one work which may be his has survived: the psalter known as the Cathach or "Book of Battles", now in the Royal Irish Academy. Another important early writer in Latin is Columbanus (543-615), a missionary from Leinster who founded several monasteries in continental Europe, from whose hand survive sermons, letters and monastic rules, as well as poetry attributed to him whose authenticity is uncertain. The earliest identifiable writer in the Irish language is Dallán Forgaill, who wrote the Amra Coluim Chille, a poetic elegy to Colum Cille, shortly after the subject's death in 597. The Amra is written in archaic Old Irish and is not perfectly understood. It is preserved in heavily annotated versions in manuscripts from the 12th century on.[4] Only a little later, in the early 7th century, Luccreth moccu Chiara, a Kerryman, wrote poems recording the legendary origins of Munster dynasties, including Conailla Medb michuru ("Medb enjoined illegal contracts"), which contains the oldest surviving reference to characters and events from the Ulster Cycle.[5]