16 September, 2006

Cascajal - "oldest example of writing found in the Americas" - 3000 year old couplets

A stone block unearthed in Mexico and covered in carved patterns is thought to be the oldest example of writing found in the Americas."

Archaeologists believe the writing on the 26lb (12kg) block could date back to the first millennium BC. Road builders digging in a gravel quarry found the 14x8in (35x20cm) block at Cascajal, Veracruz. It is thought to be the work of the Olmec civilisation, which may have laid the foundations for the future Mayan and Aztec empires. [snip]

The 62 symbols inscribed on the block contain distinct elements, repeated characters, and what appear to be sentences. Several paired sequences are suggestive of poetic couplets.

The Olmec people appeared on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico around 1200 BC. They quickly flourished, becoming a sophisticated society which built monumental structures and left behind carved stone heads 8 feet tall.

But, until now, no one knew they were able to write. The meaning of what is written on the Cascajal block remains a mystery, and the text's influence on later writing systems is unclear. The characters run horizontally, rather than vertically as in later Meso-American scripts. [snip]

The surface of the block is concave, leading researchers to believe that symbols had repeatedly been carved on it and erased. This was an "unprecedented" discovery, said Dr Houston. Independent

erasure - some sort of writing tablet?

"'As products of a writing system, the sequences would, by definition, reflect patterns of language, with the probable presence of syntax and language-dependent word order,' the article states." [this site has a link to an illustration of the glyphs]

more pix

"there are no primitive languages"


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