Tag Archives: oldest writing

Before proto writing: symbolic pictures from Jerf el-Ahmar 9,000 BP

jerf-el-ahmar-pictograms

Link.

On the left bank of the Euphrates River, 100 km (60 mi) of Aleppo (Syria), in the archaeological site of Jerf el-Ahmar (in Arabian “Red Bank”), a Syrian-French team discovered, in 1996, some very old stone slates bearing engraved graphics.

The plates were considered to date from the Neolithic  being 9,000 years old. The plates pre-date with 4,000 years the oldest known writing, the Sumerian (in southern Iraq), believed to have appeared 5,000 years ago.

I can tell you that the the strange loops with dots in them on stone c look like humans depicted from above in Australian Aboriginal art. The ‘u’ shapes represent the legs or arms of someone sitting cross legged on the ground, and the dot inside the head. The site is a PPNA site that falls within the within the Mureybetian culture. I don’t think these are just plain drawings, they look as if they have some kind of narrative function (long lost). There’s a descritpion of the stones in this book link, page 89.

Linear A scrit found in Bulgaria?

German Scientists: Europe’s Oldest Script Found in Bulgaria

18 May 2005,

Ancient tablets found in South Bulgaria are written in the oldest European script found ever, German scientists say.

The tablets, unearthed near the Southern town of Kardzhali, are nearly 7,000 years old, and bear the ancient script of the Cretan (Minoan) civilization, according to scientists from the University of Heidelberg, who examined the foundings. This is the Cretan writing, also known as Linear A script, which dates back to XV-XIV century B.C.

The discovery proves the theory of the Bulgarian archaeologists that the script on the foundings is one of the oldest known to humankind, the archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov announced Wednesday.

Ovcharov, who is heading the archaeological expedition in the ancient Perperikon complex near Kardzhali, called the discovery “revolutionary”. It throws a completely different light on Bulgaria’s history, he said in an interview for the National Television.

Another contender for the worlds oldest writing.

Signs carved into 8,600-year-old tortoise shells found in China may be the earliest written words, say archaeologists.
The symbols were laid down in the late Stone Age, or Neolithic Age.

They predate the earliest recorded writings from Mesopotamia – in what is now Iraq – by more than 2,000 years.

The archaeologists say they bear similarities to written characters used thousands of years later during the Shang dynasty, which lasted from 1700-1100 BC.

But the discovery has already generated controversy, with one leading researcher in the field branding it “an anomaly”.

The archaeologists have identified 11 separate symbols inscribed on the tortoise shells.

The shells were found buried with human remains in 24 Neolithic graves unearthed at Jiahu in Henan province, western China.
The site has been radiocarbon dated to between 6,600 and 6,200 BC.

The research was carried out by Dr Garman Harbottle, of the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, US, and a team of archaeologists at the University of Science and Technology of China, in Anhui province.

“What [the markings] appear to show are meaningful signs that have a correspondence with ancient Chinese writing,” said Dr Harbottle.

The Neolithic markings include symbols that resemble the characters for “eye” and “window” and the numerals eight and 20 in the Shang script.

“If you pick up a bottle with a skull and crossbones on it, you know instantly that it’s poison without the word being spelt out. We’re used to signs that convey concepts and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what we’re seeing here,” Dr Harbottle told BBC News Online.
However, Professor David Keightley, of the University of California, Berkeley, US, urged caution, particularly over the proposed link to the much later Shang script.

“There is a gap of about 5,000 years [between them]. It seems astonishing that they would be connected,” he said.

He added that the link had to be proved more thoroughly.

But Dr Harbottle points to the persistence of sign use at different sites along the Yellow River throughout the Neolithic and up to the Shang period, when a complex writing system appears.

He emphasised that he was not suggesting the Neolithic symbols had the same meanings as Shang characters they resembled.

Professor Keightley added: “It’s a puzzle and an anomaly; [the symbols] are remarkably early. We can’t call it writing until we have more evidence.”

Shaman rituals

He noted that there were indications the Neolithic culture at Jiahu may not have been complex enough to require a writing system.

But Professor Keightley did say the signs appeared to be highly “schematised” or stylised. This is a feature of Chinese written characters.
Aggregations of small pebbles were found close to several of the tortoise shells.

The Jiahu researchers propose that the shells once contained the pebbles and were used as musical rattles in shamanistic rituals.

In one grave, eight sets of tortoise shells were placed above the skeletal remains of a man whose head was missing.

The shells come from graves where, in 1999, the researchers unearthed ancient bone flutes. These flutes are the earliest musical instruments known to date.

The character for “eye”, similar to inscriptions in the latest find
Bone flutes, oldest known instruments.

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Signs carved into 8,600-year-old tortoise shells found in China may be the earliest written words, say archaeologists.

The symbols were laid down in the late Stone Age, or Neolithic Age.

They predate the earliest recorded writings from Mesopotamia – in what is now Iraq – by more than 2,000 years.

The archaeologists say they bear similarities to written characters used thousands of years later during the Shang dynasty, which lasted from 1700-1100 BC.

But the discovery has already generated controversy, with one leading researcher in the field branding it “an anomaly”.

The archaeologists have identified 11 separate symbols inscribed on the tortoise shells.

The shells were found buried with human remains in 24 Neolithic graves unearthed at Jiahu in Henan province, western China.

The site has been radiocarbon dated to between 6,600 and 6,200 BC.

The research was carried out by Dr Garman Harbottle, of the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, US, and a team of archaeologists at the University of Science and Technology of China, in Anhui province.

“What [the markings] appear to show are meaningful signs that have a correspondence with ancient Chinese writing,” said Dr Harbottle.

The Neolithic markings include symbols that resemble the characters for “eye” and “window” and the numerals eight and 20 in the Shang script.

“If you pick up a bottle with a skull and crossbones on it, you know instantly that it’s poison without the word being spelt out. We’re used to signs that convey concepts and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what we’re seeing here,” Dr Harbottle told BBC News Online.

However, Professor David Keightley, of the University of California, Berkeley, US, urged caution, particularly over the proposed link to the much later Shang script.

“There is a gap of about 5,000 years [between them]. It seems astonishing that they would be connected,” he said.

He added that the link had to be proved more thoroughly.

But Dr Harbottle points to the persistence of sign use at different sites along the Yellow River throughout the Neolithic and up to the Shang period, when a complex writing system appears.

He emphasised that he was not suggesting the Neolithic symbols had the same meanings as Shang characters they resembled.

Professor Keightley added: “It’s a puzzle and an anomaly; [the symbols] are remarkably early. We can’t call it writing until we have more evidence.”

Shaman rituals

He noted that there were indications the Neolithic culture at Jiahu may not have been complex enough to require a writing system.

But Professor Keightley did say the signs appeared to be highly “schematised” or stylised. This is a feature of Chinese written characters.

Aggregations of small pebbles were found close to several of the tortoise shells.

The Jiahu researchers propose that the shells once contained the pebbles and were used as musical rattles in shamanistic rituals.

In one grave, eight sets of tortoise shells were placed above the skeletal remains of a man whose head was missing.

The shells come from graves where, in 1999, the researchers unearthed ancient bone flutes. These flutes are the earliest musical instruments known to date.

Tortoise shells bearing the ancient writingMap, BBCGravesite in HenanShang character for

image

Bone flutes, second oldest known instruments, the oldest are Neanderthal.

The character for “eye”, similar to inscriptions in the latest find

 

 

The worlds oldest writing?

The Dispilio Tablet, the first writing?

Dispilio Neolithic Lake Settlement

The prehistoric settlement of Dispilio is situated on the southern shore of Kastoria lake, Orestiada, at the site Nissi (island). It was located in 1932, when the lake level fell.

Systematic excavations (1992 onward) unearthed the remains of a large lakeside settlement of the Late Neolithic period; one of the most important and oldest of its kind in Europe. Excavations at Dispilio constitute a landmark for archaeological investigations in Greece because of the special character of the site and because it permits the study of habitation structures during the Neolithic Period.

The houses of the settlement, circular and rectangular, were built of timber, reed, and clay upon timber-post framed platforms. The modern reconstruction of the lakeside settlement provides a wonderful insight into the habitation norms of that period.

Among the fauna and flora remains, as well as the mobiliary finds from the excavations (pottery, tools, etc.), the whole range of economic activities of the prehistoric inhabitants of Dispilio are represented: farming, animal husbandry, hunting and fishing. Numerous bone hooks and traces of a boat, identical to those used to this day by the fishermen of Kastoria, is clear evidence that fishing was practised. Finds, such as leaf-shaped and triangular arrowheads of Melian obsidian, pottery similar to that of the neighboring Balkan areas, and a stone ring idol pendant, place the settlement of Dispiliowithin the exchange networks developed in Greece in particular during the Late Neolithic period.

Grey pottery of the Tsangli type, black burnished ware of the Larisa type, and polychrome-painted vessels date to the phases of the Late Neolithic I. In the late phases of the settlement, black and blacktopped ware predominated, as well as red burnished and painted designs (brown on a light background). Characteristic types of vases were bowls, fruit stands, closed vases with a neck, and clay tables.

The community at Dispilio must have been a culturally evolved one, as is indicated by the three bone flutes, along with a wooden tablet with incised linear symbols that archaeologists were happy to unearth (please see our album). This tablet dates with certainty from 5260 BC, and is probable to be an early form of written speech, as has been assumed about similar symbols on clay, discovered at settlements in the southern Balkans (Vinca culture).

The signs (letters) on the tablet transcribed. They really look like writing.

I also think they bear some resmblance to these symbols..

               
 

This inscription was made about 6,500 years ago on the wall of a cave near Sitovo (next to Plovdiv, Bulgaria). The written signs are in two lines and each row is 3,4 meters long. The signs are 40 cm tall.

There’s a legend from Europe that the birch goddess taught people to write, and there is evidence from medieval finds that birch bark has been used as a form of parchment in Europe. Only time will tell if it’s really writing.

The find was in lake Kastoria, in Northern Greece near the border with Albania (Macedonian area).