Pr01a3b_The Advent of Writing and the Historic Period (Text-based narration)
To pair the following narration with relevant slides in Pr01a3b (presentation on the advent of writing), setup your screen so that half the screen shows this narration and the other half shows the presentation. Please help your classmates who may not know how to do this.
Introduction: The journey of Neolithic man had reached a point, approximately 6,000 years ago, where data recording is critical. The agricultural communities are becoming larger and more complex. This growth demands a tool to properly organize the developing society.
I recommend that you revisit this presentation (Pr01a3b) after the auxiliary notes (AN01a3b) are published. That content can expand your depth of understanding.
NOTE: Language changes- always. Therefore, this discussion is restricted to the historical development of written language and not the impact on language in recent times. In particular, Chinese. The written and oral Chinese language has been impacted by changes instituted by the Chinese government beginning in 1949. Such changes continue to bridge gaps with other languages of the world.
Slide 01: Cover slide of presentation. Image of a set of seven Quipus tied together.
Slide 02: Here is a cash register receipt. We’re all familiar with the item and the content it displays. It is an example of one of the most common uses for writing in our society. Speak with your classroom neighbor and discuss why we need receipts? How do you use receipts? Can you foretell what difficulty our society would encounter if receipts were eliminated?
Slide 03: Table of ‘Alphabet’ Evolution. The images (icons) represent the evolution of ‘letters’ representing sounds. The icons on the left are the oldest, and those on the rightsize represent the final form.
The word ‘Alphabet’ is derived from the Phoenician word for the group of letters they used to construct their written words. They, the Phoenicians, decided to refer to this group of letters by the name given to the letter that appears first in the list => Aleph (A). Aleph is derived from the local name for a ‘bull’. In short order, this list and use of ‘letters’ spread as an efficient method of recording data on stone, clay, papyrus, and much later, paper. As it spreads, ‘Aleph’ becomes ‘Alpha’ and then just plain old ‘A’. ‘Alephbeth’ becomes ‘Alpa Beta’ and then plain old ‘Alphabet’.
When ‘writing’ appears as a method of recording data, it marks the end of the Prehistoric Period and the start of the Historic Period.
Slide 04: Here is a table that challenges you to identify how writing serves a purpose in three sectors of our society, which is a highly complex society in today’s standards. Discuss with your class neighbor what examples best fit in the column “How Writing May be Used”.
Slide 05: Hammurabi’s Code Stelae. Civilized societies developed from the growing agricultural communities of the Neolithic Age. Some of these civilizations, while centered on a single city (a City-State), made collective decisions to expand beyond their city borders to conquer neighboring city-states. One of these conquering cities was Babylon (Babylonians). Building one of the earliest ‘empires’ in human history, the Babylonians added the increased complexity of an empire onto an already complex civilized society. Hammurabi’s code is an excellent example of how law codes can help maintain peace and stability in societies with increasing populations.
Slide 06: We have guard against the notion that ‘writing’ is immune from change or tampering. This table offers a comparison of early and late forms of writing. Humans then, as today, are always revising.
Slide 07: ‘Phonetic’ letters are direct descendants of the Phoenician letters/ icons. They were always meant to allow the reader to replicate a sound from verbal speech. In the simplest form, phonetic writing is a method by which a writer converts speech into letters so that a reader can replicate the speech.
In this slide, we see an example of a written language that chose a different path. Instead of forcing a reader to produce a particular verbal sound, these characters (ideograms) are meant to conjure an idea within the mind of the reader. In Chinese, a written character may be pronounced drastically different in different parts of modern China, though the idea it represents may not exhibit the same variation.
‘Ideas’ are often not well defined and allow for a degree of interpretive flexibility. Therefore, the characters are often descriptive of something. Look at the character on the left: “Tree”. The character can also imply “wood”, which of course comes from a tree. If you put several trees together, as in the character on the right, you have a “forest”.
The method is amazingly flexible, but bears an incredible layer of complexity that phonetic language largely eludes.
Slide 08: here we have a ‘Quipu’. A tool for recording statistical data. A central string has a series of other strings tied to it. Each string represents a numerical value in the form of knots tied onto the string.
Developed and used for centuries in the Andean Region of South America. It’s very different from the writing forms described earlier. But, it did meet the needs of the Andean peoples (Inca).
Can you and your class partner see an advantage over phonetic and ideographic writing?
Slide 09: While Quipu may be beneficial in recording quantitate data, what if you wish to preserve an event you witnessed?
In this image you have a painting taken from a ceramic vessel dating to approximately 800 CE. The pottery was made by the Moche people who thrived in an area of modern Peru. The imagery outwardly looks fictional with little chance that individuals like these could ever have existed. Then, Dr. Walter Alva discovered a series of burials in the Peruvian town of Sipan. And lo and behold, the interred individuals were wearing the costumes that these painted figures are displaying. This pottery painting was Moche writing. This example falls into the category of writing called “Pictograph”.
Slide 10: Lastly, we meet up again with the Mexica (Aztecs). Here is a sample of pictographic writing similar in nature to that of the Moche, but containing the unique characteristics that would only make sense to the society that created it to satisfy it’s needs.