Writing, BC (and beyond)…

One of my favourite programs at the moment is Stephen Fry’s Planet Word. It’s a documentary chronicling the origins of the spoken word, the way we communicate and how it affects our day-to-day life. Last week’s program was about the birth of writing.

Essentially, the formal concept of the written word came about so the ancient taxman could keep tabs on the general populous.

Nice to see how some things never change, eh?

Anyway. Our ancestors would tell stories by carving stones. Before the alphabet, these people would sit for hours, using random writing implements to leave an imprint of their lives on rocks and tablets.

What I want to know is how the creative expressed themselves even before that? Before that caveperson picked up a stone, put it to another stone and thought, ‘hey, I can make a pattern here! Cool!’

Was primitive man advanced enough to feel the fires of imagination, or even realise what the rush of inspiration actually meant? What about the caveperson who had the urge to speak but in a more melodic way? Elongating the sounds to form a harmony. Would this have taken them by surprise? Or was it just a natural progression? No words to sing along to though. This would come later in life.

Of course, we all know that the oral form of communication is instinctive, it is something that has been hardwired into us since the womb, since the beginning of time. So would writing be instinctual also? Someone had to be the first person to pick up that stone and realise that it can be used to create a picture of some sort. And where did this picture come from? The mind of this caveperson.

I could easily google this topic and have a lot of questions answered but I’d rather hear what you have to say about it!


About Virginia

Writer, reader, crossword puzzler and conspiracy theorist.

2 Responses to “Writing, BC (and beyond)…”

  1. I think it is established that oral communication, storytelling around a campfire. First by gestures, then spoken word. Writing only came about as a means of record keeping and subjegating those who could not afford the education or materials. Writing for pleasure, or simply sharing of learned experiences came along much later when there were educational reforms and cheaper means of printing. Or so I think.


    • I was thinking along the same lines when I was typing up my post. As much as education and experience does play a part in the expression of creativity Im not entirely convinced that our caved ancestors werent capable of expressing themselves somehow. I think it’s something I’d like to research further when I have the time.


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