Cuneiform was an early script. Baked into clay tablets, its remains have proven durable. Learn about the early ancient forms of writing.
The race is on. Major contenders for (river valley) civilization with the earliest writing are: Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Indus Valley, and maybe China (although it would be hard to show that Chinese writing wasn't influenced by contact with the rest of Eurasia) -- with Sumeria (3300-3200 B.C.) the clear favorite.
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Mesoamerican graphics are referred to as hieroglyphs because the writing is pictorial, like the Egyptians' hieroglyphs. Scribes drew pictures or geometric designs of people, gods, abstracts, or objects. They wrote using: logograms (whole words to express meaning) and syllabograms (syllables to denote sounds). This particular type of compound writing is technically called logosyllabic.