HUMANPAST.NET

Language                  2,000 BC
Africa
Southwest Asia
Egypt
Indus Valley
China
Europe
South America
Mesoamerica
North America
Other

In General

The alphabet did not naturally evolve from the Mesopotamian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphic systems which overlapped with the alphabetic system for more than 1,500 years. We do not know exactly when and where the introduction occurred, but the current "universal alphabet" appeared full-blown in human records between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago. The term "universal alphabet" applies because all ancient and modern alphabets derive from the exact same concept and structure. (113)

Africa

 

Southwest Asia

 The most widely preserved archives of such systems contain Sumerian or Akkadian cuneiform covering hundreds of thousands of clay tablets and date between 3200 BC and 75 AD. In this system, one symbol (e.g., a wedged cone) represented a small word (e.g., NI), root, or suffix/prefix. Each of these symbols could be combined with others to form a more complex word. This Sumerian system's shortcoming was its cumbersome nature, requiring as many as 600 common characters and 2,000 unusual characters. (113)

Sanskrit, the oldest known and most complete version of the alphabet, may have appeared in South Asia as early as 4,000 years ago. It contained almost twice as many letters (16 vowels and 34 consonants) as any subsequent versions. The 50 precise symbols found in Sanskrit represented a range of mutually exclusive sounds. Each letter indicated one specific sound that can be made through the human mouth, using air from the lungs against parts of the voice box from the throat to the lips. (113)

About 300 years later, a less sophisticated version (22 letters of consonants only) appeared in Phoenicia (peopled by proto-Canaanites who lived in the coastal areas of what is now Lebanon, Syria, and Israel/Palestine). The earliest Phoenician version had 18 letters from the Sanskrit system that can be found in all the more recent major alphabets. The Phoenician model has been associated with two Canaanite towns. One, Qiryat Sepher, means "city of the letter," and the other, Byblos, means "book town." Byblos has been associated with Osiris (one of the gods who may have favored technology transfer for humans). (113)

This possibility is reinforced by the close resemblance (shape of the letters) of the Phoenician (Canaanite) alphabet script to the Sanskrit one. A few words also illustrate the links between Sanskrit and Western languages. "Angel" is Angelos in Greek and Angiras in Sanskrit. "Eucharist" is eu-kharistos in Greek and su-haritas in Sanskrit. The Celtic word for "priest" is druid and the Sanskrit word is dru-vid (meaning "knower of the word)." (113)

In 1917 scholars were astonished by the announcement that the Hittite language proved on deciphering to belong to a previously unknown, very distinctive and archaic, now-vanished branch of the Indo-European family, termed Anatolian. Some obviously Hittite-like names mentioned in earlier letters of Assyrian merchants at a trading post near the Hittite capital's future site push the detective trail back to nearly 1900 BC. This remains our first direct evidence for the existence of any Indo-European language. (114)

The next breakthrough was the late-nineteenth-century discovery of a mass of ancient Egyptian diplomatic correspondence. Most of it was written in a Semitic language, but two letters in an unknown language remained a mystery until excavations in Turkey uncovered thousands of tablets in the same tongue. The tablets proved to be the archives of a kingdom that thrived between 1650 and 1200 BC and that we now refer to by the biblical name "Hittite." (114)

The Sumerians called the city KA DINGIRRA(ki), i.e. the "Gate of God," and TINTIRA, the "Grove of Life." The Akkadians, i.e. the Semitic Babylonians, translated the old Sumerian name KA DINGIRRA(ki) by Babilu, a name also meaning "The Gate of God" (Bab ili), and from this the Greek name for the whole country is derived. The Jewish Rabbis, remembering the confounding or confusion of tongues that took place when the building of the Tower of Babel was stopped, made a pun on the name "Bab ili," and rendered the two words by one and called the city "Babhel," which means a "mixing up," or "confusion." (118)

Akkadian became the lingua franca of the Middle East although inscriptions were made in Sumerian, the latin of the empire. (135)

It is the general academic view that the first alphabets were developed independently by two different peoples: the Mesopotamians in the east and the Phoenicians in the west. While other nations required several hundred signs with which to express their thoughts and give visible form to human speech, somewhere between 1700 and 1500 BC the Phoenicians invented 22 simple signs that perfectly matched every sound in their language. (160)

Egypt  

One of the many mysteries of Egypt is the origin of its written language, or hieroglyphs (“sacred carvings”). These were first used shortly before 3100 BC and continued in use until about AD 1100 (and are still in use today by the crafty forgers in modern Cairo’s tourist traps). Ancient Egyptian was a mixture of signs and symbols, some of them expressing sounds in the spoken language, others indicating to the reader how a written character with several possible meanings was to be read in that specific context. It was not used as a truly alphabetic system, but virtually everything in the spoken language could be efficiently conveyed in the written language. The beautifully simple hieroglyphic characters were complemented very early on by a hieratic script, which was much more abstract and cursive and thus could be written easily on papyrus with a reed pen and ink. (47)

Hieratic was an ancient Egyptian cursive writing, used from the 1st dynasty (c. 2925-c. 2775 BC) until about 200 BC. Derived from the earlier, pictorial hieroglyphic writing used in carved or painted inscriptions, hieratic script was generally written in ink with a reed pen on papyrus; its cursive form was more suited to such a medium than were the formal hieroglyphs. It was originally written vertically and later horizontally from right to left. After about 660 BC demotic script replaced hieratic in most secular writings, but hieratic continued to be used by priests in the transcription of religious texts for several more centuries. (73)

Ancient Egyptians could have written all or most of their spoken language with just twenty-four signs. …the Egyptians never simplified their written language to this alphabetic format…(47)

Indus Valley

 Ancient texts seem to bring the people of the past to life much more vividly than do their bricks, bones, and pots, and thus it is particularly frustrating that the written language of the first great civilization of South Asia, the Harappan State (c. 2600-2000 B.C.), continues to defy decipherment. (48)

The translation of Sanskrit literature, first accomplished in the sixteenth century, revealed major similarities between Sanskrit, Greek, and European and Central Asian language families. These similarities were eventually traced to origins in the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia and adjacent areas and associated with tall, long-headed, fierce peoples collectively referred to as Aryans or Indo-Europeans. Shortly after 1900 BC, these peoples apparently invaded and influenced the cultures of India, Central Asia, Western Asia, and Europe. How they were able to do this is one of the great unresolved questions of history. (48)

There are some twenty "tablets" of Easter Island script scattered through the museums of the world: the United States, London, Vienna, Leningrad, Louvain, Belgium. The Easter Island script is almost exactly the same as that of the Indus Valley, with one minor difference--the figures aren't just "lines" but "outlines". The chart above is a comparison of Indus Valley and Easter Island scripts. This connection between the Indus Valley civilization and Easter Island was important because it was another piece of important evidence in telling me where the original Viracocha-people had come from. And, because the script was so close to the original, it reconfirmed the date of the Pacific crossing at about 2000 BC or earlier. (120)

The Aryans were not a distinct ethnic group, so this was not a racial term but an assertion of pride and meant something like "noble" or "honorable." The Aryans were a loose-knit network of tribes who shared a common culture. Because they spoke a language that would form the basis of several Asiatic and European tongues, they are also called Indo- Europeans. They had lived on the Caucasian steppes since about 4500 BC, but by the middle of the third millennium some tribes began to roam farther and farther afield, until they reached what is now Greece, Italy, Scandinavia, and Germany. At the same time, those Aryans who had remained behind on the steppes gradually drifted apart and became two separate peoples, speaking different forms of the original Indo-European. One used the Avestan dialect, the other an early form of Sanskrit. They were able to maintain contact, however, because at this stage their languages were still very similar, and until about 1500 BC they continued to live peacefully together, sharing the same cultural and religious traditions. (158)

China

 Writing in China dates back to the Shang period toward the end of the second millennium BC, and it dates to the first millennium BC in Mesoamerica. (110)

Europe

 A combination of pictograph and symbolic writing occurred around 4,000 years ago on the island of Crete and in places on the Greek mainland. Early versions employed Egyptian-like hieroglyphs. A later system of 88 signs was deciphered in 1952 by British scholars. It revealed an early form of the Greek language and documented economic matters such as land ownership, cattle, and slaves. References to gods appeared with frequency in this era of god-cults. (113)

…all that can be said with certainty about linguistic developments in Greece is that by Mycenean times (the second millennium BC), an early form of the Greek language - Linear B - was written in Greece. It does seem likely, however, that a non-Indo-European Language was indeed spoken at some earlier time in this part of the world. Several thousand loan words in the Greek language are believed to have been borrowed from a native pre-Greek tongue. Place names with -nth- or -ss- suffixes, also thought to be pre-Indo-European, have been recorded from Anatolia to southern Italy, with concentrations in central and southern Greece, Crete, and western Anatolia. (115)

The Aryans were not a distinct ethnic group, so this was not a racial term but an assertion of pride and meant something like "noble" or "honorable." The Aryans were a loose-knit network of tribes who shared a common culture. Because they spoke a language that would form the basis of several Asiatic and European tongues, they are also called Indo- Europeans. They had lived on the Caucasian steppes since about 4500 BC, but by the middle of the third millennium some tribes began to roam farther and farther afield, until they reached what is now Greece, Italy, Scandinavia, and Germany. At the same time, those Aryans who had remained behind on the steppes gradually drifted apart and became two separate peoples, speaking different forms of the original Indo-European. One used the Avestan dialect, the other an early form of Sanskrit. They were able to maintain contact, however, because at this stage their languages were still very similar, and until about 1500 BC they continued to live peacefully together, sharing the same cultural and religious traditions. (158)

Archaeologists have unearthed a writing system that could make historians revise long-accepted theories about the birth of civilization in western Europe. The 89 symbol script is preserved in scores of pottery fragments used 3,500 years ago in settlements reaching from the Orkneys to Majorca. It is more complex than any previously known in western Europe and suggests that a bronze age civilization dominated Britain, Spain and France around 1500 BC.These finds suggest that some part of western Europe, previously regarded as illiterate may have been as advanced as the ancient Greeks and Romans. What was extremely interesting was the type of symbols used. They were described as incisions of vertical, horizontal and diagonal liines circles and patterns of dots similar to the "Linear A' script, which had been used at a later date by the minoan culture on the island of Crete. (160)

South America

 

Mesoamerica

 

North America

 

Other

There are some twenty "tablets" of Easter Island script scattered through the museums of the world: the United States, London, Vienna, Leningrad, Louvain, Belgium. The Easter Island script is almost exactly the same as that of the Indus Valley, with one minor difference--the figures aren't just "lines" but "outlines". The chart above is a comparison of Indus Valley and Easter Island scripts. This connection between the Indus Valley civilization and Easter Island was important because it was another piece of important evidence in telling me where the original Viracocha-people had come from. And, because the script was so close to the original, it reconfirmed the date of the Pacific crossing at about 2000 BC or earlier. (120)