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Origin and Development of History 1

writing, time, alphabet, symbols, paper, human, materials and measuring

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1. Archaeology as the «Threshold» of His tory — Pre-literary History.— Having seen that history in the modern sense of the term goes back to the beginnings of any record of human existence and activities, one must look for the ultimate origin of history in those early paleolithic periods. Before these pictograms, however, could be regarded as real writing, it was necessary that they should pass through three well defined stages of development. In the first place, the pictures had to become conven tionalized, so that they always had the same appearance• and designated the same object. Next, it was necessary that they should not only refer to a concrete object, but also be come the symbols of abstract .conceptions. Finally, it was essential that the conventional ized symbols should pass into that stage where they combined a representation of an abstract conception and the sound of the human voice. This last stage itself passed through a num ber of developments. In the simplest and most elementary form of this °sound writing" each symbol represented an entire word. Some languages, such as the Chinese, have never passed beyond this monosyllabic stage. Nor mally, however, the symbols usually came to represent not a whole word .but a syllable. Sooner or later, the various possible sounds of the human voice were analyzed and came to be represented by separate symbols or letters, and the alphabet thereby came into existence. The first known example of a true alphabet ap peared among the Phoenicians about 1000 a.c. its origins little is known further than that the Phoenicians borrowed most of these signs from their neighbors in Egypt, Babylonia and Crete. The Phoenician alphabet contained twenty-two consonants and it remained for the Greeks later to perfect the modern alphabet by adding the vowels. There seem to have been at least five independent centres of the origin of writing, namely, Crete, Egypt, Mesopotamia, China and Central America.

Along with the mastery of the art of writ ing went the provision of materials on which to set down the desired letters and words. Stone columns and walls and even the clay tablets of the Babylonians, whatever their virtues from the standpoint of permanence, were clumsy, awkward and restricted writing materials. The Egyptians solved the difficulty by utilizing the membrane of the papyrus reed. Later, parch ment was fashioned from the skin of animals for the use of those peoples where papyrus was not available. Paper, made originally from silk,

first appeared among the Chinese about 200 B.C. The Arabs devised a paper made from cotton fibre, about 750 A.D. This was brought into Spain, where flax was substituted for cotton and the modern linen paper came into use about 1250. With the provision of an alphabet and writing materials, historical writing could begin that long course of development which was to bring it from Herodotus and Thucydides to Ranke, Aulard, Gardiner and Osgood. Pro fessor Breasted has well stated the importance of this step in the evolution of civilization in general and of historical writing in particular, °The invention of writing and of a convenient system of records on paper has bad a greater i influence in uplifting the human race than any other intellectual achievement in the career of man. It was more important than all the bat tles ever fought and all the constitutions ever devised.' Before a true historical perspective could develop, however, it was indispensable that some method of measuring time should be discovered and a scientific system of chronology evolved.

3. The Development of the Conception of Time and the Provision of a Chronology.— Indispensable as some method of measuring time was for chronicling the thoughts and ac tions of man, it was not for this purpose that the calendar was originally developed. As Pro fessor Shotwell has remarked, and Professor Webster has shown in greater detail, it was the deeds of the gods and not of men that the early calendars were designed to fix and record. The methods of measuring time grew up about the need for determining the dates of tabooed or holy days and for fixing and recording the occurrence of unusual natural phenomena which were believed to have some religious signifi cance. In other words, the concept of time was born with the dawn of the consciousness of the repetition of natural processes and phenomena and the necessity of differentiating between days on the basis of their particular virtue or quali ties. The perfection of the methods of measur ing time has been a gradual process of transi tion °from luck to mathematics." It was not until long after crude calendars had been pro vided for these religious uses that they were utilized to fashion a chronology for recording historic events.

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