When Did Writing Begin?
Actual writing took a long time to develop. For thousands of years, men drew pictures of their activities and sent their messages in the form of pictures (pictographs), which represented events.
This system developed into a form of writing around 3,500 B.C. Within its ancient ruins, they discovered hundreds of clay tablets, all inscribed with symbols, pictures, and number markings.
The Sumerian inscriptions used some pictures, but they were surrounded with other markings and signs that denoted sounds and monetary amounts. It was a step further above the pictograph.
Some of the marks actually represented verbal expression, and some combination’s actually formed words. The Egyptians and the Orientals kept the pure pictograph method for a much longer period.
The phonetic writing systems of the Greeks, and later the Romans, came from Phoenicia (hence, the name). The Phoenician writing system, though quite different from that of Mesopotamia, still owes its development to the Sumerians and their advances in the written word.
Independently of the Near East or Europe, writing was developed in Mesoamerica by the Maya c. 250 CE (though some evidence suggests a date as early as 500 BCE).
Writing in China developed from divination rites using oracle bones c. 1200 BCE and appears to also have arisen independently as there is no evidence of cultural transference at this time between China and Mesopotamia. The ancient Chinese practice of divination involved etching marks on bones or shells which were then heated until they cracked.
The cracks would then be interpreted by a Diviner. If that Diviner had etched `Next Tuesday it will rain’ and `Next Tuesday it will not rain’ the pattern of the cracks on the bone or shell would tell him which would be the case. In time, these etchings evolved into the Chinese script.