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How It Used to Be---Ancient Forms of Writing

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Ancient Forms of Writing: Cave Paintings

Before the computer, before the typewriter, even before pen and paper were invented, people found ways to write. Ancient writing systems prove that since the beginning of time humans have sought ways to document their experiences and tell their stories. Believe it or not, there are many ancient forms of writing. Today, we will explore the cave paintings.

Cave painting Throughout history story telling has been valuable to all communities and populations. Even before standard letters and symbols were established, ancient peoples used drawings such as cave paintings to tell stories and communicate. You can find these prehistoric works of art all over the world, including Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe, and the Americas! Right in California you can find Native American Chumash art in state parks around Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.

Take a look at this 1,000 year old Chumash painting from Los Padres National Forest:

Chumash cave painting

Ancient peoples adorned these cave walls using paint made from dirt or charcoal mixed with spit or animal fat! And for paintings tools they used sticks, feathers, and horsehair.

Mixing art and writing can be fun! Can you guess what stories these paintings were trying to share? Try telling your own story like a cave painting!

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Ancient Forms of Writing: Ogham. The alphabet of trees!

Dating as far back as the 4th century A.D. an ancient writing system known as Ogham surfaced in the Republic of Ireland and the modern day United Kingdom. Ogham is an early Medieval alphabet used primarily to write the Old Irish language. This alphabet, also referred to as the “Celtic Tree Alphabet,” had 20 letters typically arranged in four series. (Each of the 20 original letters are individually ascribed a name of a tree. For example, the letter B, Beithe, is ascribed to the Birch tree and the letter S, Sail, is ascribed to the Willow tree). Each letter looks similar to a modern day, “tally” mark.

Imgres

Letters were grouped together to form words and linked by a solid line running underneath the phrase. These “sentences” or “phrases” looked similar to music notes on a stanza. All surviving inscriptions can be found on stone and in manuscripts, but it is probable that the Ogham writing system also marked sticks, stakes, and trees. The direction of the writing went from bottom to top and left to right when written on stone and left to right and horizontal when written on manuscripts.

  Ballymote

Many inscriptions take the form of a name leading scholars to believe this writing system was used as a sort of secret code to mark personal territory. Ogham inscriptions have been found in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and the Isle of Man. To learn more about visit:  Ogham

 

 

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Ancient Forms of Writing: Pigeons

Have you heard the story ofNoah's Ark and the great flood? Remember the dove that Noah sends out to find land? It was probably a homing pigeon! Some cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia, as well as Egyptian hieroglyphics, mention the taming of homing pigeons more than five thousand years ago. A pigeon may have delivered the results of the first Olympic games in ancient Greece. Their greatest historical contributions have been in times of war, when the safety of hand-delivered messages was in jeopardy.

Many war pigeons carried vital messages from trapped populations to the wider world (especially during the four-month siege of Paris in the 1870 Franco-Prussian war), and some delivered military instructions from government headquarters to troops. 32 pigeons actually won Dickin Medals, the highest possible honor for valor that can be awarded to an animal, for their contributions to WWII. A form of aerial microphotography was developed England in the early 1900s, featuring a tiny camera weighing only 2.6 ounces to be worn around a pigeon's neck, but never quite got off the ground.

The International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., has dedicated a small room to carrier pigeons and WWI pigeon photography.  You can even send your own message today via pigeon post... if you live in Texas, that is!

Diarysketch033

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How It Used to Be... Ancient Forms of Writing: Quill Pen

Before the computer, before the typewriter, even before pen and paper were invented, people found ways to write. Ancient writing systems prove that since the beginning of time humans have sought ways to document their experiences and tell their stories. Believe it or not, there are many ancient forms of writing. Today, we will explore the quill pen.

A quill pen is a writing implement made from the feather of a large bird. Quills were used for writing with ink before the invention of the dip pen, metal-nibbed pens, the fountain pen, and, eventually, the ballpoint pen.  The hand-cut goose quill is rarely used today, except occasionally as a calligraphy tool. The hollow shaft of the feather acts as an ink reservoir and ink flows to the tip.  Quills were the principal writing instrument from the 6th to the 19th century, most of which were made from goose and swan feathers, and later, turkey feathers, However, when the metal pen began being mass produced in 1860, quill pens were used less and less. Quills are denominated ranked in quality based on where they were found on the bird's wing.The first called the pinion is that favored by the expert calligrapher, the second and third quills being very satisfactory also. No other feather on the wing would be considered suitable by a professional scribe.

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How It Used to Be - Ancient Forms of Writing

Beforethe computer, before the typewriter, even before pen and paper were invented, people found ways to write. Ancient writing systems prove that since the beginning of time humans have sought ways to document their experiences and tell their stories. 

Believe it or not, there are many ancient forms of writing. Today, we will explore hieroglyphics, an ancient form of writing used by the Egyptians. It consists of three types of characters, also called glyphs: phonetic glyphs, logographs and determinatives. The three types of glyphs were used together to create a form of communication that told full stories using a combination of pictures and alphabet.

The hieroglyphic script was used mainly for formal inscriptions on the walls of temples and tombs, telling stories of the decreased person inside. In some inscriptions the glyphs are very detailed and in full color, in others they are simple outlines. The earliest known examples of hieroglyphic writing in Egypt have been dated back to 3,400 BC. The latest dated inscription made using hieroglyphs is believed to have been made on the gate post of a temple at Philae in 396 AD.

Want to learn how to write hieroglyphics yourself? Click here.

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