Have you ever wondered how the first humans communicated? Scientists don’t know exactly when the first language was developed, but they do know that humans have always had the ability to communicate.
The first written types of communication were drawings, recorded on animal skins, cave walls, pottery or wood. These drawings recorded details about daily life, such as hunting, religion and food. The earliest known cave paintings are from 40,000 years ago. Even before that, though, people used jewelry, paint colors or beads to express meaning.
- The first written communication was in the form of marks and symbols – recorded more than 9,000 years ago.
- Ancient Egyptians used symbols called hieroglyphs over 5,200 years ago. They recorded their writing on stone or metal tablets, or papyrus, which is a paper made from plant fibers.
- The written Chinese language contains over 80,000 different symbols, although most people use about 5,000.
- Today, there are over 6,000 languages spoken in the world. In Papua New Guinea alone, over 800 languages are spoken.
- Communicate: express thoughts and ideas with other people
- Pottery: dishes, bowls or decorations made from hardened clay
- Papyrus: a paper made from plant fibers
Visit the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History to learn more about early language and communication.
Question: Why is written language important?
Answer: For one thing, with written language we can share our thoughts with people worldwide, rather than just those within hearing range of our voice. More importantly, though, it is through written language that we best understand the traditions and histories of those who lived before us.