Monthly Archives: January 2011

Proto-Sinaitic — 1900 BC, Egypt

Proto-Sinaitic — also called Proto-Canaanite — was probably the very first writing system that was purely phonetic, i.e. that did not use logograms.  It did not include all the vowels (so is classified as an abjad and not an alphabet) … Continue reading

Posted in Abjad, Rating: 3 "I did not know that" | 4 Comments

Hieratic — 3200 BC, Egypt

Hieratic was a version of Egyptian hieroglyphics that developed in parallel with hieroglyphics. While the question of “is it a writing system or isn’t it?” has come up several times already in these postings, hieratic is interesting because it brings … Continue reading

Posted in Abjad, Evolved slowly from parent, Rating: 4 "Huh, interesting!" | 4 Comments

Elamite cuneiform — 2200 BC, Iran

Linear Elamite petered out after a few hundred years, ignored in favour of more prestigious languages/writing systems like Babylonian (which was an organic descendant of Akkadian in both language and script).  When the Elamite language reappeared after a few hundred … Continue reading

Posted in Logograms, Rating: 5 "Whoa!!", Syllabaries, technology influenced | 1 Comment

Linear Elamite — ~2200 BC?, Iran

Linear Elamite — also called “Old Elamite” — was the outgrowth of proto-Elamite in modern-day Iran. We tend to think of languages as either “deciphered” or “undeciphered”, but Linear Elamite is currently partially deciphered and likely to stay that way … Continue reading

Posted in Logograms, Rating: 1 "Dull, only here for completeness", Syllabaries | 1 Comment

Proto-Elamite — 3000BC?, Iran

Proto-writing happened over an extensive area over thousands of years.  While proto-writing developed into “proto-cuneiform” in modern-day Iraq and from there into Sumerian cuneiform, it developed into proto-Elamite in Iran (and from there into Elamite).  We don’t hear much about … Continue reading

Posted in developed by illiterate(s), Logograms, Rating: 4 "Huh, interesting!", Undeciphered | 1 Comment

Quipu — 3000 BC?, Peru

The Incan empire was very large, very powerful, lasted for a very long time, yet had no writing system — apparently.  This seemed odd. However, even the conquering Spaniards recognized that the Incas did have a way of storing accounting … Continue reading

Posted in developed by illiterate(s), first in its area, Rating: 5 "Whoa!!" | 1 Comment

Aztec — 1400 AD, Mexico

There are no pre-Columbian Aztec books remaining: the colonists managed to get every last one.  However, there are a few books written by Aztecs left from the period after the Spaniards occupied the land, with translations/explanations written in Spanish. The … Continue reading

Posted in Logograms, Rating: 5 "Whoa!!" | 4 Comments

Mixtec — 1200 AD, Mexico

The Mixtec writing system is from Southern Mexico, very close to the Mayan civilization in distance and contemporaneous.  The Spaniards only did half as good a job destroying the Mixtecs books — there are a whopping eight pre-Columbian Mixtec books … Continue reading

Posted in Logograms, Rating: 5 "Whoa!!" | 2 Comments

Maya — 250 BC, Guatemala

Maya script is a very rich and complicated script, and the colonizing Spaniards did an outstanding job of eradicating it.  For example, they managed to destroy all but four books written in Maya script. Fortunately, many carved examples of Mayan … Continue reading

Posted in Logograms, Rating: 5 "Whoa!!", Syllabaries | Leave a comment

Epi-Olmec — 900BC? ~450 BC?, Mexico

How many independently-developed writing systems have there been?  One hundred years ago, educated people would have told you without hesitation, “three: Sumerian or Egyptian in the Middle East, Chinese in China, and Mayan in Central America”.  Very well-educated people would … Continue reading

Posted in Logograms, Rating: 4 "Huh, interesting!", Syllabaries, Undeciphered | Leave a comment