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Odds and Ends III

Aug 21, 2021

How Many Times Was Writing Invented?

There is still debate on this question, but between two and four times. Going with four, it was invented in Mesopotamia (ca. 3400 BCE), Egypt (ca. 3250 BCE), China (1200 BCE), and Mesoamerica (ca 500 BCE). It is difficult to put a precise date on any of these because writing develops gradually and there is no clear dividing line between "real writing" and "proto writing".

The Mesopotamian and Egyptian sources may have a common origin. Also, scholars assume China invented writing on its own because there is no known contact between China and the Near East at this time, but given how little we know of history during this period this may be an unfounded assumption. The independent origin of Mesoamerican writing is more certain because of the difficulty (probably impossibility) of traveling between the Near East and Mesoamerica at that time.