The initial traces of writing date from 3200 B.C. in Uruk, Lower Mesopotamia, in the ancient land of Sumer, the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (now known as Iraq). It’s believed that this form of script was invented by a group of administrators serving the city’s main sanctuary. During this time, commerce was thriving, and officials needed a method to simplify the tallying and recording of business transactions. As such, writing was initially used purely as a tool for management and accounting.
Scribes’ work is evolving
Back then, writing was not a script, but thousands of pictograms that represented objects, places, or concepts of the local environment. The scribes wrote in columns, from top to bottom and from right to left, on wet clay tablets that they held in their hands. Very quickly, they had to use larger tablets placed on their forearms. This is what would have led them to move to horizontal writing and from left to right.
Towards cuneiform writing
Writing continued to evolve, and the Sumerians created a unique writing style known as cuneiform, distinguished by its wedge or nail-like shapes. This system, developed using a stylus on wet clay tablets, used a series of interconnected corners to form symbols. Highly intricate, this writing method evolved over many years and was adopted by other cultures in approximately fifteen different languages.
Other traces of writing
During the same period, Egyptians developed their own writing system using hieroglyphs, which they etched onto papyrus or leather scrolls. These symbols could represent an object or a sound, either individually or in combination. The direction of reading is determined by the orientation of the figures, which typically face the start of the text. It was not until 1822, thanks to Champollion, that hieroglyphs were deciphered for the first time.
Meanwhile, the earliest evidence of writing in Crete and Greece dates from the second millennium BC. In China, ideograms first appeared around 1100 BC.
Embrace the heritage of records management and discover how the past informs the future. Be sure to contact us to find out how AGS Records Management can be of service to you.