Some People Ignored Writing for Thousands of Years
Ancient Assyrians still used clay markers, 2K years later
By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 14, 2014 4:30 PM CDT
An example of a cuneiform tablet.   (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)

(Newser) – What if people still used typewriters in the year 4,000? Or wrote with a stone and chisel today? That's roughly the equivalent of what archaeologists discovered in Turkey, where a dig dating to 600 to 900 BC turned up clay tokens alongside cuneiform tablets, the Smithsonian reports. The find showed that ancient Assyrians were using the variously shaped tokens as part of a bookkeeping system centuries after writing was invented in around 3,000 BC. The researchers say that farmers trading grain or livestock likely handed the tokens over to officials who later translated them into cuneiform script, an ancient form of writing, Science 2.0 reports.

The system was practical, allowing illiterate farmers to use tokens, so stock could be moved and accounts "modified and updated without committing to writing," says lead researcher John MacGinnis. He believes the token-and-cuneiform system was used across the Assyrian empire, covering modern-day Iraq, Syria, and Turkey—then the world's largest ever. And it shouldn't seem so odd, he says: After all, "complex writing didn’t stop the use of the abacus, just as the digital age hasn’t wiped out pencils and pens." (Read about a stone tablet said to "confirm" the Noah's Ark story.)

More From Newser
My Take on This Story
To report an error on this story,
notify our editors.
Some People Ignored Writing for Thousands of Years is...
2%
84%
1%
8%
1%
3%
Show results without voting
You Might Like
Comments
Showing 3 of 12 comments
Guy Takamatsu
Jul 16, 2014 12:59 AM CDT
Maybe these tokens were sort of like a kind of "shorthand." or abbreviated form of communication like twitter. So instead of considering the tokens as clinging to the past maybe the tokens were shorthand type of communication. I'm not technically literate but think of LOL for Laugh Out Loud. Or maybe emoticons to express emotion :)
peter
Jul 15, 2014 9:16 PM CDT
they werent stupid you know.
baldpirate
Jul 15, 2014 8:49 AM CDT
I guess some people didn't think that "writing" thing would catch on........like My Space ! ! !