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The Rise of Civilization and Writing

Uploaded by williwaw on Jan 24, 2002

The phenomenon of writing has been invented independently five separate times in the history of man. While History textbooks almost exclusively talk about the writing of Mesopotamia and Egypt, writing has also been developed in the Indus Valley, China, and Mesoamerica. This strange phenomenon has led many historians and anthropologist to conclude that writing is necessary for a complex society to exist. Nevertheless, there was a society located in the Andean Mountain in present day Peru in which writing was never invented yet it is still consider complex or, in other words, a civilization. This civilization, instead, used a method of record keeping that functioned in place of writing. This suggests that although there is a strong correlation between the development of a civilization and writing, it does not necessarily mean that writing is one of the causative factors in its rise. However, a record keeping system is crucial to a society’s evolution towards complexity.

One civilization that developed writing was the Sumerians in Mesopotamia which is located in present day Iraq. The Sumerians impressed wet clay with the end of a reed leaving a wedge-shaped form. This kind of writing on clay is called cuneiform, from the Latin “cuneus”, meaning "wedge." Cuneiform owes its origins to the need arising from public economy and administration. With the rise in production of the country, accumulated surplus were sent to the cities. This necessitated a method of keeping account of all the goods coming into the cities as well as of manufactured goods leaving for the country. However before the first tablet was written, the Sumerians used an uncomplicated but inefficient system of recording transactions. It involved enclosing clay tokens signifying certain commodities and their quantities in a round clay object called a bulla. Seals of the individuals involved in the transaction were placed on the outside to validate the even. However to check the honesty of the deliverer, the bulla had to be destroyed to reconcile the goods with the tokens inside thereby destroying the record of the transaction as well. So to preserve the record, they impressed the tokens on the outside of the bulla before sealing them in. As time passed the bulla became the tablet and the impressions of tokens became symbolized by wedge-shaped marks. Eventually these marks came to denote distinct words and syllables of their spoken language. The purposes for writing also evolved. Sumerians wrote literature,...

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Uploaded by:   williwaw

Date:   01/24/2002

Category:   History

Length:   4 pages (988 words)

Views:   1285

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