The deep-rooted human desire to share stories and communicate our unique perspectives with each other is by no means a recent phenomenon. Our intrinsic appreciation for creativity and connection stretches all the way back to the dawn of mankind. In fact, historians believe that writing was one of the very first skills that humans acquired tens of thousands of years ago.
The history of writing is endlessly fascinating. For centuries, this ancient art form has altered history, fueled new innovations, and has impacted countless lives. From the earliest pictographs etched into cave walls to the invention of the modern Latin alphabet, people have believed that their perspectives and important events should be shared and immortalized.
To this day, these sentiments continue to influence creative writers, journalists, bloggers, and even people who claim they’re not creative. If you take a closer look at the phenomenon of writing, you might realize that your Twitter posts may have similar messages to those found in weathered cave drawings.
Drawings and Symbols
Historians speculate that spoken language was common thousands of years before writing came into existence, and cave drawings were thought to be early signs of humans wanting to document information for posterity. According to Dr. Jean Clottes, the former general inspector for archaeology at the French Ministry of Culture, the oldest known cave art is thought to date back to the Stone Age.
Beyond these crude sketches, the earliest evidence of writing dates back to around 3,000 BC. Egyptian hieroglyphics, which used pictograms to symbolize words, is a common example from this time period. Another ancient writing style, cuneiform, was used among Sumerian and Babylonian people around this same time. Unlike hieroglyphics, cuneiform used symbols that represented specific sounds instead of words or phrases.
Around 2,000 BC, early Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, and Hebrews began developing and using parchment paper, and by 1200 B.C., ink was commonplace in a number of regions. Different colors were made by using various plants, berries, and minerals, and it’s thought that each color had symbolic meaning.
Creating The Alphabet
The Phoenician alphabet was first developed around 1,500 BC near the Meditteranean. This alphabet moved away from pictograms that represent complete words; instead, this system developed less complex symbols to represent various consonants. It was especially useful for traveling merchants, who began using the system to keep detailed records.
The alphabet quickly spread throughout the Meditteranean, and it eventually led to the development of the Greek alphabet around 400 BC. By 600 AD, there were Greek, Roman, and Byzantine writing systems which were written left to right, used lowercase and uppercase letters, and had symbols for vowels and consonants.
Technological Advancements and Writing
Once we finally created a writing system, we were able to develop new ways to make it easier to write and share information. Quill pens were first invented in 700 AD, and even though they had to be replaced about once a week, they were the most popular writing implement for several centuries. Around this time period, Romans actually invented the first fountain pens, while others simply dipped reeds in ink.
Later, the invention of the printing press in 1450 sparked an entirely new age for writers. People could finally mass-produce their musings and share them with others all over the world. Literacy rates soared, and regular newsletters were created to update people about current events in their specific community or country. Common people had access to books, and the printing press helped establish basic rules for grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
Soon after its invention, the printing press was replicated and spread throughout Europe. Just 50 years later, The Protestant Reformation occurred and hundreds of new manuscripts were produced from 1500-1530. Eventually, the written word helped Europe enter the Renaissance period with new ideas and cheaper resources.
A number of different printing presses were created between the 1500s and today, such as offset printing and the rotary press, but the next biggest technological advancement in writing had to be the internet. Writers could finally share ideas, post stories, spread information, and get feedback within seconds.
Today, writing continues to be one of the driving forces of our world. I bet you’ve even sent a text or checked your email at some point while reading this article! However, a common misconception is that the advancement of technology has made online art forms less valuable than “traditional” works. Blogging can be considered less important than keeping a physical journal, and graphic designers are sometimes told that they’re not making “real” art; but I doubt our thousand-year-old ancestors would agree with this sentiment.
For thousands of years, people have been spreading the idea of writing to improve our understanding of one another. Sharing information and personal stories is part of human nature, and doing so in a blog post or a Tweet shouldn’t make our ideas seem any less important or valuable. It doesn’t matter how we connect; it’s only essential that we continue to see the value of creativity for centuries to come.