The Invention of Writing

It is not known exactly when or where Homo sapiens, the natural species of conscious, thinking mortals, emerged. As the search for our ancient origins continues, the early revolutions of our ancestors have been pushed back further in time. It is said that we evolved from a species that were in the southern part of Africa. These early hominids said out onto the grassy plains and into caves as the forests in that part of the world slowly vanished. In the tall grass, the hominids began to stand erect. Possibly this adaptation was a result of the need to watch for predators, to help discourage enemies by increasing the hominids’ apparent size, or to hold branches as weapons.

 In any event, the hand developed an ability to carry food and hold objects. Found near Lake Turkana in Kenya, a nearly three-million-year-old stone that had been sharpened into an implement proves the thoughtful and deliberate development of a technology—a tool. Early shaped stones may have been used to dig for roots or to cut away flesh from dead animals for food. While we can only speculate about the use of early tools, we know that they mark a major step in the human species’ immense journey from primitive origins toward a civilized state.

A number of quantum leaps provided the volume to organize a community and gain some measure of control over human fortune. “Speech” the ability to make sounds in order to “communicate”—was an early skill established by the Species on the long evolutionary trail from its archaic early stages. Writing is the visual counterpart of speech. MarksSymbolspictures, or letters drawn or written upon a surface or substrate became a graphic counterpart of the spoken word or unspoken thought. The boundaries of speech include the fallibility of human memory and an immediacy of expression that cannot transcend time and place. Until the electronic age, spoken words vanished without a trace, while written words remained. The invention of writing brought people the luster of civilization and made it possible to preserve hard-won knowledge, experiences, and thoughts.

The development of writing and visible language had its earliest origins in simple pictures, for a close connection exists between the drawing of pictures and the marking of writing. Both are natural ways of communicating ideas, and early people used pictures as an elementary way to record and transmit information.

Reference: Meggs History of Graphic Design