Early WritingThe race is on. Major contenders for civilization with the earliest writing are: Mesopotamia, China, Egypt, and the Indus Valley, with Sumeria (3300-3200 BC) being the most popular.
[(newsweek.com/nw-srv/issue/01_97b/printed/us/in0501.htm accessed 05/10/99)]
Archaeological evidence from Egypt at the tomb of a king named Scorpion were radio-carbon dated to 3300-3200 BC. In March 1998 archaeologists in Pakistan uncovered jars with ancient writing from about the same period.
[(news2.thdo.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_235000/235724.stm accesssed 05/10/99) ]
Articles from Newsweek [5/6/99] and the BBC News [5/4/99] confirm that Harappa, in the Indus Valley, is in the lead.
[(http://www.newsweek.com:80/nw-srv/tnw/today/ps/ps02we_1.htm) | (news2.thdo.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid%5F334000/334517.stm)]
The writing may come from as early as 3500 BC., although conservative estimates date the pieces to 3300-2600 BC. "Plant-like and trident-shaped" marks are not simply potters' marks, graffiti, or doodling, Richard Meadow, director of the Harappa Archaeological Research Project, claims. The terra cotta vessels in which the marks were inscribed both before and after firing repeat certain signs, but "not particularly placed or continuous bands." Meadows thinks they may have religious significance or show the jars' contents.
Meadows hopes to gather more such inscriptions and follow their progress as they grow into the written language of the Indus Valley. Unfortunately, this language has died out, and no one understands it.