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   » » Wiki: Proto-writing
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Proto-writing consists of visible marks communicating limited information.

(2018). 9780199567782, Oxford University Press.
Such systems emerged from earlier traditions of systems in the early , as early as the 7th millennium BCE. They used or early symbols or both to represent a limited number of concepts, in contrast to true , which record the of the writer.


Neolithic

Neolithic China
In 2003, shells were found in 24 Neolithic graves excavated at , province, northern China, with from the 7th millennium BCE. According to some archaeologists, the carved on the shells had similarities to the late 2nd millennium BCE oracle bone script.. Others have dismissed this claim as insufficiently substantiated, claiming that simple geometric designs such as those found on the Jiahu shells cannot be linked to early writing.
(2018). 9780521838610, Cambridge University Press.


Neolithic Europe

The Vinča signs or the Vinča symbols (6th to 5th millennia BCE, present-day ) are an evolution of simple symbols beginning in the 7th millennium BCE, gradually increasing in complexity throughout the 6th millennium and culminating in the Tărtăria tablets of ca. 5300 BCE;Haarmann, Harald: "Geschichte der Schrift", C.H. Beck, 2002, , p. 20 it has been argued that the alignment of the symbols evokes the impression of a "text".

The of the late 6th millennium is similar. The scripts of the Ancient Near East (Egyptian, Sumerian proto-Cuneiform and Cretan) seamlessly emerge from such symbol systems, so that it is difficult to say at what point precisely writing emerges from proto-writing. Adding to this difficulty is the fact that very little is known about the symbols' meanings.


Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age
The transition from proto-writing to the earliest fully developed writing systems took place in the late 4th to early 3rd millennia BCE in the . The , dated to 3500 BCE, reflects the stage of "proto-cuneiform", when what would become the of was still in the proto-writing stage. By the end of the 4th millennium BCE, this symbol system had evolved into a method of keeping accounts, using a round-shaped stylus impressed into soft clay at different angles for recording numbers. This was gradually augmented with writing using a sharp stylus to indicate what was being counted. The transitional stage to a writing system proper takes place in the Jemdet Nasr period (31st to 30th centuries BCE). A similar development took place in the genesis of the Egyptian hieroglyphs. Various scholars believe that Egyptian hieroglyphs "came into existence a little after , and ... probably were ... invented under the influence of the latter ...",Geoffrey Sampson, Writing Systems: a Linguistic Introduction, Stanford University Press, 1990, p. 78. although it is pointed out and held that "the evidence for such direct influence remains flimsy" and that "a very credible argument can also be made for the independent development of writing in Egypt ..."Simson Najovits, Egypt, Trunk of the Tree: A Modern Survey of an Ancient Land, Algora Publishing, 2004, pp. 55–56. (See further Egyptian hieroglyphs).


Bronze Age
During the , the cultures of the Ancient Near East are known to have had fully developed writing systems, while the marginal territories affected by the Bronze Age, such as Europe, India and China, remained in the stage of proto-writing.

The emerged from proto-writing in the Chinese Bronze Age, during about the 14th to 11th centuries BCE (Oracle bone script), while symbol systems native to Europe and India are extinct and replaced by descendants of the during the .


Indian Bronze Age

The so-called is a symbol system used during the 3rd millennium BCE in the Indus Valley Civilization.


European Bronze Age
With the exception of the Aegean (, Cretan hieroglyphs), the early writing systems of the Near East did not reach Bronze Age Europe. The earliest writing systems of Europe arise in the Iron Age, derived from the Phoenician alphabet.

However, there are number of interpretations regarding symbols found on artefacts of the European Bronze Age which amount to interpreting them as an indigenous tradition of proto-writing. Of special interest in this context are the Bronze Ages cultures derived from the in the second half of the 2nd millennium BCE. Interpretations of the markings of the bronze associated with the , especially the large number of so-called "knob-sickles" discovered in the , are discussed by Sommerfeld (1994).Christoph Sommerfeld, "Die Sichelmarken" in: Gerätegeld Sichel. Studien zur monetären Struktur bronzezeitlicher Horte im nördlichen Mitteleuropa, Vorgeschichtliche Forschungen vol. 19, Berlin/New York, 1994, , pp. 207–264.

Sommerfeld favours an interpretation of these symbols as numerals associated with a [[lunar calendar]].Sommerfeld (1994:251)
     


Later proto-writing
Even after the Bronze Age, several cultures have gone through a period of using systems of proto-writing as an intermediate stage before the adoption of writing proper. The "Slavic runes" (7th/8th century) mentioned by a few medieval authors may have been such a system. The of the (15th century), sometimes called "talking knots", may have been of a similar nature. Another example is the system of pictographs invented by before the development of the (ca. 1900).


African Iron Age
is a system of symbols indigenous to what is now southeastern . While there remains no commonly accepted exact date of origin, most researchers agree that use of the symbols date back well before 500 BCE. There are thousands of Nsibidi symbols which were used on anything from to and to wall designs. Nsibidi is used for the and , and the are known to write Nsibidi messages on the bodies of their messengers.
(1977). 9780677043807, CRC Press. .


See also
  • History of communication
  • Prehistoric numerals

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