Not Many Wise -

Faith and spirituality in a modern world


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Could early man write?

Just tales told around a bonfire or could early man write?
Just tales told around a bonfire or could early man write?

The oldest surviving writings are inscriptions on a stone tablet from the Uruk period (3300 – 3100 BC). The original is from Kish and was in the Irak Museum. [i]

But what about before that date? Could early man write?

We are told by ‘popular history’ that mankind spent thousands of years passing on historical stories by word of mouth and by implication would include exaggeration and legend.

The first part of the Bible is included in this assumption, but looking at Genesis 5:1 we see it differently, because it states:

This is the written account of Adam’s line…”

‘Written account’ is a written document.
There is every possibility that Adam from the very beginning kept records of passing days, years, life story and other things.
But what did he write on?

The Mangyan tribe in the Philippines used bamboo shoots to carve their script on [ii].
The ancient Tamils of South India used palm leaves [iii].

Here is a list of materials that have been used for writing on:
Plant based:
Palm leaf (Borassus), Ola leaf (Corypha umbraculifera), Birch bark (Betula), Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus), Bamboo and wooden slips, Paper, Amate Trema micrantha, Ficus aurea, Parabaik (Streblus asper), Samut khoi (S. asper), Kraing (Morus bark).
Other materials:
Clay tablet, Wax tablet, Intaglio, Stone, Animal skin Parchment, Vellum, Oracle bone, Silk text, Geoglyph (large drawing on the ground). [iv]

But how long do these things survive for?
Surprisingly, palm leaf manuscripts can be kept for up to 400 or 500 years in a dry environment, [v] but nowhere near as long where there was any humidity.

Had Adam, Cain and others written on palm leaves, or something similar?

Did Moses have a stack of these deteriorating records and did he copy them to form Genesis 1 to 5?

Had Noah, Abraham and others written down their stories onto parchments that had deteriorated by Moses’ time?

I believe that Moses had lots of ageing, deteriorating documents that he was able to read and then from those, write what we now know as Genesis.

Reference:
[i] Babylonian Culture and Tablets (opens in a new window)
[ii] The Culture and Art of the Mangyan by: Jericho Paul Santos (opens in a new window)
[iii] Palm manuscript image (opens in a new window)
[iv] Wikipedia (opens in a new window)
[v] Endangered Archives Programme, British Library (opens in a new window).

Peter Reason

January 2012

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