The origins of writing

Travel back in time to learn about where writing came from and how it has evolved.
Hieroglyphics on a tablet

Where did writing begin?

Article by:
Ewan Clayton

From Mesopotamia to the Americas, discover how different regions around the world adopted writing at different times and for different reasons.

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Handwriting on a manuscript

The evolution of writing – 5000 BC to today

Article by:
Ewan Clayton

How, and why, does writing change over time?

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Two scribes at work

Why did humans start writing?

Article by:
Ewan Clayton

We travel back to the ancient Middle East, to look at why, over 5,000 years ago, we first came to write.

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A 19th-century Thai folding book

The evolution of the alphabet

Article by:
Ewan Clayton

We trace the origins of the alphabet from ancient Egypt to today.

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Stela fragment with glyphs, 4th–9th century

Ancient Maya writing: A brief history of Maya scripts

Article by:
Claudia Zehrt

Learn about the origins of writing in the Maya region - encompassing the modern countries of Belize and Guatemala, southern Mexico, and western Honduras and El Salvador.

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Chinese manuscript

A brief history of writing materials and technologies

Article by:
Ewan Clayton

From the earliest incisions and scratchings to the quill pen of the middle ages, how did we come to get the diverse range of tools to produce writing we know today?

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A Torah fragment

Iraq’s scripts and languages

Article by:
Dr Michael Erdman

Find out about Iraq’s rich diversity of scripts and languages throughout its history.

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Further themes

Curator favourites

Discover what our curators selected as their favourite collection items relating to writing.

People and writing

Uncover the relationship between people and writing.

The art and design of writing

Fascinated by calligraphy, typography and the materials we use to write? Read on...

The future of writing

Fast-forwarding to the future, will writing still be relevant as technology advances?

The origins of writing

Travel back in time to learn about where writing came from and how it has evolved.