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Communications Science

Earliest "Writing" On 60,000-Year-Old Eggshells 214

Posted by kdawson
from the beats-walking-on-them dept.
New Scientist reports on research published in PNAS (abstract here) about what may be the earliest writing yet discovered, on eggshells dated to 60,000 years ago. "Since 1999, Pierre-Jean Texier of the University of Bordeaux, France, and his colleagues have uncovered 270 fragments of shell at the Diepkloof Rock Shelter in the Western Cape, South Africa. They show the same symbols are used over and over again, and the team say there are signs that the symbols evolved over 5,000 years. This long-term repetition is a hallmark of symbolic communication and a sign of modern human thinking, say the team. [Another researcher is quoted:] 'Judging from what we know about the evolution of art all over the world, there may have been many [written language] traditions that were born, lasted for some time, and then vanished. This may be one of them, most probably not the first and certainly not the last.'"
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Earliest "Writing" On 60,000-Year-Old Eggshells

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  • by bl8n8r (649187) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @10:24AM (#31358198)

    Mmmmmmmm.... bacon

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 04, 2010 @10:35AM (#31358310)

      Wrong wrong wrong, it's the prehistoric form of 'best before' date written in an ancient numeral system (similiar to roman numerals).

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      no no no no... it says "First Post!"

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      It if fragment of lonegr text, and says "Even if they never come back to this planet again, these flying cars are positively coolest thing _ever_".
  • The writing says (Score:3, Insightful)

    by click2005 (921437) * on Thursday March 04, 2010 @10:25AM (#31358200)

    The writing says

    Best Before: Birth of Christ

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday March 04, 2010 @10:27AM (#31358226)
    In 60,000 years we've progressed from scratching symbols on eggshells and shitting in caves to producing electronic television shows like "Jersey Shore" and "The Hills." How far we've come.
    • by anss123 (985305)
      Well, people back then had 10% bigger brains than we do now. They lacked convenience such as tame animals and modern grain so they had less time to sit around pondering - thus maybe they needed to be smarter than we are now.

      Then as life got easier (with plant and animals changing to accommodate us) we lost some intelligence in favor of easier births.

      We'll never know but it's possible isn't it?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by lordmetroid (708723)
        Actually, all research points that they had a lot more spare time, meats of various kinds is a very energy dense food item, grain production requires a whole lot of work for piss porr nutritional values in comparision.
        • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @11:00AM (#31358604)
          I always suspected that the theme of the lost "golden age" present in many creation myths is a faint echo of the change from a pure hunter-gatherer existance, where, given a low population density, food was abundant, to a settled farmer existance with high population density and the resulting resource shortage and long days of hard work. Those myths have a long oral tradition - it would not surprise me if this theme reaches back to the neolithic revolution. Interestingly, the loss of the golden age is often closely coupled with flood myths. This, too, points to a neolithic origin - memories of the floodings accompanying the end of the last ice age.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by timeOday (582209)

            I always suspected that the theme of the lost "golden age" present in many creation myths is a faint echo of the change from a pure hunter-gatherer existance, where, given a low population density, food was abundant

            Huh? The population density was low because the carrying capacity was low, precisely because food was scarce. The subsequent explosion in the human population (still ongoing for the most part) indicates we have been in an unusual transitory period where food has been plentiful, due to agricul

            • That's not necessarily a contradiction. Yes, carrying capacity was low and the hunter-gatherer lifestyle can't support the population a farming lifestyle can. However, the hunter-gatherer's were adapted to it and led a comparably comfortable life. I remember reading a study about the !Kung-bushmen, who live as hunter-gatherers under extremely scarce conditions and still have more free time - in that case time purely for social interaction - than any farmer can dream of.

              The immense population growth of far
              • by radtea (464814) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @12:55PM (#31360264)

                Don't get me wrong, I am not saying all this is true,

                Good, because it's all false. Hunter-gatherer societies can in rare cases have more free time for social interaction, but everything we've seen of hunter-gatherer societies in the modern world gives the lie to every other aspect of your speculation.

                Hunter-gatherer societies are in general hierachical, war-like, mysogynstic, and rigidly bound by social mores that would make the Victorians look like libertines.

                Look at pre-contact Polynesian societies, for example: women weren't allowed in canoes, which is more extreme than even modern Saudi Arabia, where women are at least allowed to be passengers in the primary mode of transportation.

                Studies of non-agricultural North American native societies suggest that war-like violence was the primary cause of death amongst young men.

                Existing "stone age" Amazonian peoples have used gang rape as a means of social control in the past century (see the book "Anxious Pleasures" for an interesting ethnography of an Amazonian tribe, focused on sexual mores.)

                And so on. There is a wealth of detailed empirical data putting the lie to the whole "noble savage" "golden age" myth: modern, liberal, democratic, technological, market-oriented societies are the most peaceful, caring, inclusive, egalitarian, ecologically friendly cultures that have ever existed.

                We have problems because we still have people who are heirs to the sociopathic psychology of earlier times, both hunter-gatherer and agricultural, and we are so enormously successful that our very numbers have created problems that other peoples could only dream of.

                But don't kid yourself: this is the golden age, and if you're posting on ./ you're one of the "noble citizens" that future generations will look back on with envy and wonder. Kinda sad, ain't it?

                • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                  by tresho (1000127)
                  pre-contact Polynesian societies, for example: women weren't allowed in canoes -- Those barbarians made their women swim to the uninhabited islands while the men got to ride in the canoes.
                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by Tyler Durden (136036)

                  Errr... citation needed.

                  It was pretty hilarious to go here [wikipedia.org] and read in the first paragraph the exact opposite of what you just said.

                • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @01:29PM (#31360642)
                  I think I have to clarify something here - I am certainly not adhering to any "noble savage" theory here. I completely agree that from our point of view the quality of life and societal structure of hunter-gatherer societies are nothing desirable at all and with your assessment of the relative merits of our society compared to it. What I was arguing was that from the perspective of an early farmer, life has not really improved in the course of the neolithic revolution. I am not saying that there was a golden age we should strive to get back. I am saying that for the early neolithic farmer it might have looked that way, thus giving rise to the golden age myth present in so many cultures.
                • by tmosley (996283)
                  Hmm, all that, as opposed to modern hierarchical, war-like, misogynistic, and rigidly bound by social mores that make Victorians look like libertines african farming communities?

                  Good job on making things up. You apparently have someone convinced.
    • by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @10:48AM (#31358472)

      I still shit in a cave, you insensitive clod!

    • by mdielmann (514750)

      We probably shit outside the caves. Most of the time.

  • More images (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Concern (819622) * on Thursday March 04, 2010 @10:29AM (#31358250) Journal

    I wish in articles like these they presented more of the source images, and in higher resolution. The small sample they provide is beautiful, but to the layman appears as a kind of meandering, simple decoration. Of course the claims are limited: communication via graphic art is distinct from communication via modern written languages.

    It's interesting to imagine the first lonely human writers at the dawn of written language - how many wrote things only they themselves could understand, before coincidence formed the first community of proto-literate people? How much of this early writing was just the smooth flow of art - abstract or representational - into more concrete meanings relevant to the every day lives even of the illterate?

    • Re:More images (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @10:35AM (#31358308)
      For the earliest forms of "writing" I suspect there were no "lonely" writers. The earliest forms likely being one step away from pictures, if they simply explain it to the other members of their group then it's pure memorization. Some languages (e.g. Chinese) are still like this, with specific symbols representing a word or concept instead of representing sounds or syllables. The written form of Chinese is mostly the same across the country, while the spoken language differs; the symbols have nothing to do with the pronunciation, they simply express the concept.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by anss123 (985305)

        The written form of Chinese is mostly the same across the country, while the spoken language differs; the symbols have nothing to do with the pronunciation, they simply express the concept.

        Does this means that people that can't talk to each other can write instead? Convenient then, no need to learn multiple languages.

        • by Sique (173459)

          Does this means that people that can't talk to each other can write instead?

          Yes. A Korean might be able to read a chinese newspaper without knowing a single word in any Chinese language.

          • Re:More images (Score:4, Informative)

            by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @11:14AM (#31358746)

            I think he meant speakers of different languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, Wu, ect) within China, not neighboring countries. They use an alphabet, Hangul, in Korea, which is not the Chinese characters, Hanzi. Same way with Japan. Their borrowed Chinese characters many times have different meanings (although they might be able to pick out some meaning here and there), and they also rely on a syllabary, Kana, in their wringing. Chinese has left major linguistic marks on neighboring languages like Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese (which is written with a form of the Latin alphabet, they could no more understand Chinese characters than your average English speaker), but you can't read Chinese on the virtue of knowing them.

            • by anss123 (985305)
              I imagined Chinese as a sort of "universal" writing language where anyone that wrote using Chinese's characters would be able to make themselves understood regardless of them writing French, German, etc.

              Grammar would be a problem though.
              • Yes, its essentially a universal writing system for all Chinese speakers from what I understand. There is the caveat that there was an old system for writing that was traditional, and there is now a newer simplified system that requires less symobols etc. From what I understand not everyone knows the old system, so some things that are older may be somewhat unreadable to modern readers.
                "Chinese" actually comprises 5 language groups I believe (Mandarin, Cantonese, Han, Wu and something else), and well over 1

              • Written Chinese has heaps of grammar. It's a language, after all. If you tried to use Chinese glyphs to write texts using French, German etc. grammar, it would end up like The New Guide of the Conversation in Portuguese and English [amazon.com]...
            • by bkr1_2k (237627)

              The Korean usage of the Chinese characters definitely carries the same meaning as the Chinese usage of the same characters. As I understand, so does the Japanese usage of the characters, though I've never studied Japanese formally to be certain about that.

              • In some cases, the Japanese usage is to equate the character to a Japanese word that sounds the same as the Chinese word that was originally associated with the symbol (from whichever Chinese language the Japanese first came into contact with).

                But mostly, the Japanese use is the same as the Chinese, so yes, it would be mostly readable...

            • by MaWeiTao (908546)

              There are still many characters used in Japanese that are interchangeable with Chinese. However, because of the extensive use of hiragana and katakana the number of traditional characters Japanese can recognize is far smaller than what Chinese can identify, so Japanese may struggle a bit more. Certainly some meanings have changed but there are still many shared characters. It's not foolproof but a Chinese speaker can manage quite well using only writing, and I've seen quite a few examples of this firsthand.

            • I worked for a Japanese man who regularly read a Korean paper although he had no knowledge of the Korean language (except insofar as it overlapped with Japanese). The paper was written using Chinese characters.
              • I guess it could be possible, until relatively recently many Koreans used Chinese script, and a lot of historical documents are written it in, but I think that most Koreans, probably younger ones in particular, don't know much Chinese. I have no idea how similar their usage is; every time I see Korean, it's written in Hangul. If you look at the Korean Google news, [google.com] you see almost no Chinese characters; the only ones you do see are the name of a city in Taiwan. I'm not Korean, so I could be wrong, but I wa

          • by bkr1_2k (237627)

            Very unlikely that any Korean will be able to read and fully comprehend any Chinese paper based solely on the use of Chinese characters in the Korean language. That said, it's certainly possible to learn to read without ever learning the sounds of the characters.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Does this means that people that can't talk to each other can write instead? Convenient then, no need to learn multiple languages.

          Yes, that is true. Mandarin and cantonese writings will be comprehensible to each other, but not the spoken language. It is not something that is very unusual. China formed into a large empire 2500 years ago and established an enduring bureaucracy. The Mandarins (palace officials) collected data from the vast empire and established common writing systems. But local languages adopted the symbol-meaning map but kept their own pronunciation. Eventually minor dialects died out leaving behind just two large spok

        • Re:More images (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @11:00AM (#31358594) Journal

          The written form of Chinese is mostly the same across the country, while the spoken language differs; the symbols have nothing to do with the pronunciation, they simply express the concept.

          Does this means that people that can't talk to each other can write instead? Convenient then, no need to learn multiple languages.

          Yes - actually, funny anecdotal story about things like that. A friend of mine went and travelled the world and he said one of the most interesting quirks about China is that everyone knows the symbols, but not the words.

          So - when you are in lets say Germany, and you are looking for a Coffee shop, and you ask the person next to you - and they speak German not English, but you don't know the German word for Coffee. You might use words like Café, and so on and so forth, speaking to the person using different words to get your meaning across.

          In China, whenever someone comes across a word they don't know (and it happens quite frequently) - they hold out their hand, and use the index finger of their opposite hand to draw out the symbol of the word you are looking for. This works so well because their symbols mean the words instead of the sounds.

          • by Rich0 (548339)

            If spoken Chinese is anything like spoken Japanese (the written languages are almost the same - loosely speaking), then the problem may not be that people don't know the words so much as the fact that the words are ambiguous.

            In Japanese (as in Chinese) the vocalization of a symbol has nothing to do with the appearance of the symbol, as the symbols are ideograms and are not phonetic. (Japanese also has two phonetic alphabets that work just like any writing system most /. readers already understand.) There

        • by b0bby (201198)

          Yes; in Larry Gonick's excellent "Cartoon History of the Universe" I recall a bit where the Chinese scholar is trying to persuade the European to adopt Chinese script for their language. It's an interesting idea, everyone could keep speaking their native language but all written communication would be understood by everyone.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by anss123 (985305)
            Intriguing idea but I suspect it would be somewhat like reading Babelfish translated text. Metaphor, grammar and even context (words that have different meaning depending on context) translates badly.
        • It's also worth mentioning that different Chinese languages (Cantonese, Mandarin) have different grammar. Thus when a Cantonese speaker learns to write, they have to learn completely different rules of grammar for writing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by amplt1337 (707922)

        the symbols have nothing to do with the pronunciation, they simply express the concept.

        Not quite. There's actually considerable phonetic information encoded in Chinese characters. They've just kept their original shape as the phonetics of the language shifted -- the written language is separately conservative from the spoken one. It's a process which we Anglophones should be familiar with -- but then, *cough*, ploughing through these kinds of rough waters, one is often inclined to keep one's unconsidered beliefs...

        In any event, Chinese characters are typically formed of combinations of sma

      • by Concern (819622) *

        Yes, that's the question I was getting at. You could be exactly right. Although I could just as easily imagine a solitary memory aid to a gifted individual growing in lonely complexity. Perhaps again and again - before the aggregation of people brought such folks into contact with each other, and their ideas began to intermingle. Then again, the need for this kind of memory aid is supposed to be associated with the growth of agriculture and the consequent increase in the complexity of human society. Perhaps

    • It's interesting to imagine the first lonely human writers at the dawn of written language - how many wrote things only they themselves could understand, before coincidence formed the first community of proto-literate people? How much of this early writing was just the smooth flow of art - abstract or representational - into more concrete meanings relevant to the every day lives even of the illterate?

      Are you really asking about the ratio of
      a) Written languages invented fully formed, spread when several ind

      • by Concern (819622) *

        No. I'm ruminating about what it was like for an intelligent person's fiddling with ink or clay carving to take on some of the characteristics of writing. How it happened, how it looked, whether it was a solitary development, and if so, how often it happened?

    • by daremonai (859175) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @10:51AM (#31358504)
      I wish in articles like these they presented more of the source images, and in higher resolution.

      Unfortunately, they can't; early humans had established a 70,000-year copyright period. And their DMCA takedown notices come by club and bone-tipped arrow.

    • In order to produce art it seems that you'd need a community around you. Without a community it would be difficult to find the time to do anything beyond mere surviving....

      Or maybe not.. It could be that there are long periods of inactivity -- sitting around waiting for the rain to stop or last night's meal to digest -- punctuated by moments of actual survival. Maybe game was super plenty.

      In either case, I like to think that those first human artists were not so different from those today.

      • by Concern (819622) *

        That's another great question. I have the idea that it was both. For many I'm sure survival was a 24 hour a day job. For others, human intelligence probably opened up staggeringly easy shortcuts to calories, to which the natural world would take many years, or decades, or centures etc. to adapt.

    • Re:More images (Score:4, Informative)

      by Adelbert (873575) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @11:34AM (#31359084) Journal

      According to a tentative theory mentioned in Ancient Egypt: A Very Short Introduction [amazon.com], it's possible that the early Ancient Egyptians heard about the technology of "written languages", and then got their top scientists onto replicating the concept, in order to try to correct the economic and military disparity that would result from being illiterate in a literate world.

      I'm not sure how well accepted this hypothesis is, but I find it an intriguing idea. It certainly fits in with the behaviour of nations today, as they scramble to try to replicate nuclear technology, say, or high quality Internet search engines.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The small sample they provide is beautiful, but to the layman appears as a kind of meandering, simple decoration.

      Indeed. Without some further explanation, the images look like these could simply be something like decorated eggs [wikipedia.org]. Lots of cultures have done it over many millennia, and the patterns you often see are quite complex. My grandmother used to make a Russian/Ukrainian form of them, and she clearly "evolved" patterns of lines by varying those made by her mother and other women in her community.

      I'm not saying the researchers don't know what they're talking about. Just from the description of "repetitive pat

  • It probably says something like, My Eggs, Hands Off.
    • by deander2 (26173) *

      you joke, but if you had read the article, you would have known that this is exactly what they think it might have meant. =P

  • Did it make any more sense than current txt spk?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 04, 2010 @10:33AM (#31358292)

    Kilroy will be here

  • I hope no one was walking on those eggshells.

  • by wjousts (1529427) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @10:42AM (#31358406)
    Turns out it was a shopping list. First item on the list? Eggs.
  • Vinca (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dargaud (518470) <[ten.duagradg] [ta] [2todhsals]> on Thursday March 04, 2010 @10:51AM (#31358502) Homepage
    There are several proto-writings, such as the Vinca script [wikimedia.org] which are fascinating, but also hotly debated.
  • by digitalhermit (113459) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @10:53AM (#31358530) Homepage

    They show the same symbols are used over and over again, and the team say there are signs that the symbols evolved over 5,000 years. This long-term repetition is a hallmark of symbolic communication and a sign of modern human thinking, say the team.

    Indeed, this is quite true and the tradition continues. It's hard to imagine our forebears scratching symbols in eggshell and that one day it would lead to us scratching symbols in kornshell. The shells then were quite fragile, barely able to withstand an errant pointer. A misplaced hash would lead to a shell escape. And don't even get me started on bash. When the ancients were using eggshell, there were many competing mediums. Deer horns and bits of pottery, jade, flecks of obsidian -- they were all prettier and easier to work with. Today it's the same -- there's ruby and perl and a host of others -- but kornshell, and its ancestor eggshell, will always have a place in my heart,

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 04, 2010 @10:54AM (#31358536)

    I have examined the shells, and have been able to decipher the images. It reads...

    VERY FIRST POST.

  • when the first paleolithic software writer retired and the sandstone media deteriorated. Given the evidence, the original program probably had something to do with viewing naked women. More research into naked women is continuing.

  • In other news, a preserved skeleton of a a giant prehistoric rabbit-like creature was found in the Diepkloof Rock Shelter in the Western Cape, South Africa.
  • ...the handwriting is on the inside of the shells.
  • High-res photo... (Score:2, Informative)

    by kirill.s (1604911)
    We need some better pics.
    From home it looks now, my best bet is that it's just an ornament of some sort.

    This [dailymail.co.uk] looks somewhat better than the pics in the summary link. (Or have I not found the good ones?)
  • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @11:07AM (#31358670)
    By an ancient Einstein, I mean someone who develops as significant piece of technology in a single generation. Like fossils in evolutions, this could be so fast that it was not saved in the archeologic record. Two Examples:
    Egyptian pyramids went for stacked sand-walled mastabas to full-blown monsters in less than a century. This was attributed to creativity of Imhotep. (also credited with inventing columns in architecture).

    The idea of purely phonetic alphabet seen to arise instantly in the archeological record in Ugarit 3400 years ago. It was adapted to Phonecia, Greece, Isreal, Rome etc. Most previous writing systems had combination of pure ideographs and phonetic syllables- ideographs borrowed because they sound like other works (like people do in charades).
    • by dargaud (518470)

      Egyptian pyramids went for stacked sand-walled mastabas to full-blown monsters in less than a century. This was attributed to creativity of Imhotep. (also credited with inventing columns in architecture).

      If this guy really did all that is attributed to him, then he was even more impressive than Einstein and Co. Just reading his wikipedia bio [wikipedia.org] sends shivers down my spine. It's like learning that the old guy of 10000BC (the movie) is for real.

  • by goffster (1104287) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @11:12AM (#31358720)

    Or for DVD's for that matter

  • by lymond01 (314120) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @11:15AM (#31358772)

    "Thag! We finally managed to climb to the great bird nest in level 3 peak. There was a mini-game! Look at the writing on this egg!"

    "Let me see that..."

    [You are in a clearing. A small cabin sits to the east. A dark forest is to the north. Impenetrable bushes are to the south and west. Choose the blue egg to go east. Choose the red egg to go north.]

    "Oooh...Dark forest sounds cool. Open the red egg!"

    [It is dark. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.]

    Both cavemen frown.

    "Not very original. This just happened to Grok yesterday."

  • It says... (Score:3, Funny)

    by goffster (1104287) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @11:15AM (#31358780)

    Get viagra cheap at mongo's monster med madness sale!

  • They are most likely mandated 'best before' dates.
  • "This may be one of [the writing traditions], most probably not the first and certainly not the last."

    I appreciate the "probably" on this being the first, but certainly not the last? Well I think it's a little presumptuous to assert that! I wouldn't be surprised if in ten years this scientist is eating crow because it turns out this was the last form of writing!

  • Considering that, 60,000 years ago, humans simply did not live in large groups, I have a hard time believing that writing would have been invented. Writing, initially, required pretty much a dedicated group of scribes (or possibly, in China, some sort of priestly class). Writing seems to have evolved in every place it was developed as a response to the needs of a large urbanized society.

    Note that hunter-gatherer groups have often used symbols (like petroglyphs and pictograms), but these are not writing sy

    • Considering that, 60,000 years ago, humans simply did not live in large groups, I have a hard time believing that writing would have been invented. Writing, initially, required pretty much a dedicated group of scribes (or possibly, in China, some sort of priestly class). Writing seems to have evolved in every place it was developed as a response to the needs of a large urbanized society.

      I'm skeptical too. I think writing AWKI was always invented as a bookkeeping system for state or temple taxes, or re-invented to imitate nearby prestigious societies that already wrote.

      The notion of a solitary Einstein inventing writing for his own use is just absurd.

      • In China, the earliest writing seems to have centered around certain mystical rites. In Sumeria it was most definitely economic in nature; bookkeeping, taxes and the like. I'm not so sure about Meso-America, since there's a lot of difficulty with the Olmec script, but in general it seems to have dealt more with accounts of kings and political interplay between elite groups, so may have served a ritual-political purpose. There is still considerable debate about whether Sumerian writing influenced Egyptian

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @11:42AM (#31359210) Journal

    Perhaps these symbols were still far from forming a structured script. Still, from the article it seems that they were used for communication, which is the main goal of writing. The reason why this is amazing is clear when you put it into the context of humankind 60.000 years later: we STILL have tribes that have no concept of writing, and in some countries analphabetism is affecting large swaths of the population.

    That reminds me of Civilization, when you "find Writing in scrolls of ancient wisdom". Who knows how much of such "ancient wisdom" was lost and then re-developed only to be lost again, during these past tens of millennia. In fact, a lot of the engineering and science developed during the Apollo program, with the passing of Wernher von Braun and some of his colleagues, can well be considered lost. Sorry for the digression.

    • Writing is a specific form of visual communication. There are earlier ones (like petroglyphs). These are not writing systems. The information pre-literate and proto-literate systems could record was very limited, whereas full writing systems essentially can express any idea efficiently and with a high degree of accuracy.

  • This long-term repetition is a hallmark of symbolic communication and a sign of modern human thinking, say the team.

    So that explains the constant duplicate Slashdot stories!

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