Both of theseforms of writing evolved and their use spread to other peoples even after theoriginators of the scripts had passed on. Some of the oldest writing found in the Middle East dates from 8000 to 3000B. C. This corresponds to the approximate time period that the people of theregion went from living a nomadic life to settlement in villages and tradingamong themselves. When trading large or varying types of commodities you need amethod for recording.
To meet this need developed a token system for therecording of financial data. These tokens were of varying shapes for variousthings, two to three centimetres in size, and used for enumeration and keepingtrack of goods and labour. These tokens eventually had to be stored so they wouldn’t be misplaced orlost. To secure them, they were placed in opaque clay envelopes. To indicatewhat was inside the envelope markings were made on it, eventually someonerealized that all you had to do was mark on the clay what was in the envelopeand you discard the tokens altogether.
With this major development we get thefirst writing on clay tablets. In Ancient Mesopotamia the most readily available material for writing onwas clay. When writing on clay first arose, the scribe would try to make anartistic representation of what he was referring to. This is a logical firststep in writing as if you wanted to record that you had three sheep, you woulddraw a picture of a sheep and then add to the picture some marking to indicatethat you had three of them.
Thus the earliest stage in writing arose, pictograms. Pictograms, although not really writing in the modern sense of the term, dorepresent a method of communicating an event or message. They also “led to truewriting through a process of selection and organization. ” As people wanted towrite more down and in a faster method, the pictograms lost their artistic lookand took on a more “stylised representation of an object by making a few marksin the clay .
. . . ” The writing was eventually written in “horizontal linesrather than in squares or in vertical bands .
. . became smaller, more compact,more rigid, more ‘abstract’, finally bearing no resemblance to the objects theyrepresented . . . .
“The next stage in the development of ancient writing was when the scribeswished to write more complex ideas down. In time a sign that had represented atangible object, came to represent some word or thing. For example, the symbolrepresenting the sun eventually represented over seventy different words. Thiscaused some confusion as the reader could not be certain what the writer wasusing the symbol for. A solution to this problem was the introduction of a method to indicatewhat the symbol represented.
These new symbols were called determinative. Forexample, the Sumerians placed a symbol in front of, or sometimes behind, theword sign to give the reader an indication of how to interpret it. The sign forplow could have the sign for wood in front of it, this meant that the symbol forplow meant the tool, if there was a symbol of a man in front, the symbol forplow would be interpreted as plowman. The most advanced stage of development was the phonetogram.
A phonetogramis a symbol that represented the pronunciation of part of a word. Phonetogramsdeveloped from symbols for words that sounded like the syllables of other words. For example you could have the symbol “4” and “C” in modern writing go togetherto make the symbol 4C, which would represent four seas, but if you added thedeterminative ‘ to make it 4’C’ it could be read as the word “foresee”. Thus atransition from pictographic to phonetographic.
With this, you could adapt ascript to write the sounds of any word