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A Short History of Writing

Ancient Writing

20 November 2023

Imagine not being able to send a text, choose from a menu, or navigate with a map. Writing and reading permeate our daily tasks. Without these fundamental skills we can't function in modern society. From the origins of writing to today's European alphabet, check out UC's Short History of Writing exhibition.


From Hieroglyphs to Text Messages


Writing and reading permeate the tasks that help us to live from day to day, and we cannot function in modern society without these fundamental skills.

Writing is, however, so much more than just a way to bring order to our lives. Written language provides us with the means to communicate across distances, to share ideas and beliefs, or to administer laws and rules from afar. And as a tool for our collective memory, writing enables us to record our history and our dreams for the future.

As such the history of writing often mirrors the development of culture and society. Beginning in the Middle East around 5000 years ago, the emergence of written script reflects changes in trading practices, fluctuations in political power, the development of new technologies, and the move to urban living. Writing is essential to allow people to live in groups in villages, cities and nations. To use the Star Trek cliché, "our whole way of life depends on it".

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