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The evolution of written language through the passage of time

Cascajal block Early Olmec ceramics show representations of something that may be codices, suggesting that amatl bark codices, and by extension well-developed writing, existed in Olmec times. This suspicion was reinforced in 2002 by the announcement of the discovery of similar glyphs at San Andres. In September 2006, a report published in Science magazine announced the discovery of the Cascajal blocka writing-tablet-sized block of serpentine with 62 characters unlike any yet seen in Mesoamerica.

This block was discovered by locals in the Olmec heartland and was dated by the archaeologists to approximately 900 BCE based on other debris.

If the authenticity and date can be verified, this will prove to be the earliest writing yet found in Mesoamerica. Monument 3 at San Jose Mogote. The two shaded glyphs between his legs are likely his name, Earthquake 1. Zapotec writing[ edit ] Another candidate for earliest writing system in Mesoamerica is the writing system of the Zapotec culture. Rising in the late Pre-Classic era after the decline of the Olmec civilization, the Zapotecs of present-day Oaxaca built an empire around Monte Alban.

On a few monuments at this archaeological site, archaeologists have found extended text in a glyphic script. Some signs can be recognized as calendric information but the script as such remains undeciphered. Read in columns from top to bottom, its execution is somewhat cruder than that of the later Classic Maya and this has led epigraphers to believe that the script was also less phonetic than the largely syllabic Maya script.

These are, however, speculations. The earliest known monument with Zapotec writing is a "Danzante" stone, officially known as Monument 3, found in San Jose MogoteOaxaca. It has a relief of what appears to be a dead and bloodied captive with two glyphic signs between his legs, probably representing his name.

First dated to 500—600 BCE, this was earlier considered the earliest writing in Mesoamerica. However doubts have been expressed as to this dating and the monument may have been reused. The Zapotec script went out of use only in the late Classic period.

  • Cell phones can be found everywhere in modern America;
  • A greatly elaborated set of these clay shapes—some shaped like jars and some like various animals and occasionally inserted in clay envelopes—dates from 3500 bce, about the time of the rise of cities;
  • Read in columns from top to bottom, its execution is somewhat cruder than that of the later Classic Maya and this has led epigraphers to believe that the script was also less phonetic than the largely syllabic Maya script.

The left column gives a Long Count date of 8. The other columns are glyphs from the Epi-Olmec script. Epi-Olmec or Isthmian script[ edit ] Main article: Epi-Olmec script A small number of artifacts found in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec show examples of another early Mesoamerican writing system. They can be seen to contain calendric information but are otherwise undeciphered. The writing system used is very close to the Maya script, using affixal glyphs and Long Count dates, but is read only in one column at a time as is the Zapotec script.

It has been suggested that this Isthmian or Epi-Olmec script is the direct predecessor of the Maya script, thus giving the Maya script a non-Maya origin. Another artifact with Epi-Olmec script is the Chiapa de Corzo stela which is the oldest monument of the Americas inscribed with its own date: The following year, however, their interpretation was disputed by Stephen Houston and Michael D.

Coewho unsuccessfully applied Justeson and Kaufman's decipherment system against epi-Olmec script from the back of a hitherto unknown mask.

The interface between spoken and written language: developmental disorders

The matter remains under dispute. It is likely that in this area in late Pre-Classic times an ancient form of a Mixe—Zoquean language was spoken, and the inscriptions found here may be in such a language rather than a Maya one. Some glyphs in this scripts are readable as they are identical to Maya glyphs but the script remains undeciphered.

The advanced decay and destruction of these archaeological sites make it improbable that more monuments with these scripts will come to light making possible a decipherment. Maya glyphs in stucco at the Museo de sitio in PalenqueMexico Main article: The earliest inscriptions in an identifiably Maya script date back to 200—300 BCE.

Mesoamerican writing systems

The Maya script is generally considered to be the most fully developed Mesoamerican writing system, mostly because of its extraordinary aesthetics and because it has been partially deciphered.

In Maya writing, logograms and syllable signs are combined. Around 7000 texts in Maya script have been documented. Maya writing first developed as only utilizing logograms, but later included the use of phonetic complements in order to differentiate between the semantic meanings of the logograms and for context that allows for syllabic spelling of words. Mixtec is a semasiographic system that was used by the pre-Hispanic Mixtecs.

Many of its characteristics were later adopted by the Mexica and Mixteca-Puebla writing systems.

The origin of the Mixteca-Puebla is the subject of debate amongst experts. The Mixtec writing system consisted of a set of figurative signs and symbols that served as guides for storytellers as they recounted legends. These storytellers were usually priests and other members of the Mixtec upper class. Mixtec writing has been categorized as being a mixture of pictorial and logographic, rather than a complete logogram system. These codices are read in boustrophedona zigzag style in which the reader follows red lines that indicate the way to read.

Instead, the codices that have been preserved record historical events of this pre-Columbian people, especially those events related to expansionism in the era of Ocho Venadolord of Tilantongo. After the collapse of the classic Maya civilization, the Maya glyphic system continued to be used, but much less so. Other post-classic cultures such as the Aztec did not have fully developed writing systems, but instead used semasiographic writing although they have been said to be slowly developing phonetic principles in their writing by the use of the rebus principle.

Aztec name glyphs for example do combine logographic elements with phonetic readings. Where Are We Now? Annual Review of Anthropology. Mixtec Place Signs and Maps". Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University. Estudio interpretativo de un libro mixteco antiguo.

Codex Vindobonensis Mexicanus I. Esplendor de la antigua Mixteca. Nielsen, Jesper, Under slangehimlen, Aschehoug, Denmark, 2000. Hutchinson London1985.