Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Origins of Writing

I always enjoyed watching the ibis in Florida poking about in the mud flats. It makes perfect sense to me that the Egyptians chose the ibis for the god, Thoth, who invented writing. Ibis mark mud flats in a way very similar to the earliest examples of writing we have: cunieform. That suggests to me that reading as a behavior for attending to the world around precedes the concept of writing as a behavior for recording narrative. For example, a hunter "reads" signs such as animal tracks. We "read" the sky for a sense of the weather, and so on. That the Egyptian god, Thoth, Ibis-headed, invents writing may come from close observation of ibis and the marks left behind after the ibis passes through.

Sumerian cunieform writing results from pressing wedges of reeds into soft clay.

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