Nearly 5,000 years before Christ was born, Proto-writing was well-established form of written expression in North and West Africa.
dominance of European languages through colonialism has led to the mistaken
belief that the written languages in Africa did not exist before the arrival of
Europeans. However, Africa has the world’s oldest and largest collection of
ancient Symbolic and Writing Systems.
are five African symbolic and writing systems you should know about to dispel
the myth that Africans were illiterate people before European colonialism.
5 Ancient African Symbolic and Writing
|Proto-writing is symbolic communication |
5000BC - 3000 BC
the Egyptian and Sumerian civilizations, there were inscriptions labeled proto-Saharan. Nearly 5,000 years before Christ was born, Proto-writing was well-established form of written expression near the near the Kharga Oasis in the Libyan Desert of Africa. Proto-writing is symbolic communication which the reader understands the symbol as a written expression.
the most famous symbolic writing system in Africa is the ancient Egyptian
hieroglyphs were a formal writing system used by the ancient Egyptians that
combined logographic and alphabetic elements. A logogram is a written character
that represents a word or phrase. Egyptians
invented three scripts: hieroglyphic 4000 BC – 600 AD, hieratic 3200 BC – 600
AD, and demotic 650 BC – 600 AD.
|Proto-Sinaitic was the first consonantal alphabet. |Proto-Sinaitic,
also known as Proto-Canaanite, was the first consonantal alphabet. In 1999,
Yale University archaeologists identified an alphabetic script in Wadi El-Hol,
a narrow valley in southern Egypt. Dating to about 1900 B.C., the Wadi El-Hol script
bears resemblance to the Egyptian hieroglyphs, but also the much older writing
system. A similar inscription that dates to 1500 B.C. was found in Serabit
el-Khadim on Egypt’s segment of the Sinai Peninsula.
|Tifinagh is the Berber name for the ancient Libyan Alphabet. |Tifinagh
is the Berber name for the ancient Libyan Alphabet. Tifinagh is the traditional
writing system of the Tuareg people, who are scattered throughout different
countries of northern Africa. The name Tifinagh maybe means the Phoenician
letters, or perhaps, from the phrase tifin negh, which means 'our invention.
400 AD - 1400 AD
|Nsibidi script comprises |
nearly a thousand symbols.
comprises nearly a thousand symbols. Nsibidi is an ancient system of graphic
communication indigenous to the Ejagham peoples of southeastern Nigeria and
southwestern Cameroon in the Cross River region. It is also used by neighboring
Ibibio, Efik and Igbo peoples. Aesthetically compelling and encoded, nsibidi
does not correspond to any one spoken language. It is an ideographic script
whose symbols refer to abstract concepts, actions or things and whose use
facilitates communication among peoples speaking different languages.
Did you know?
Proto-writing is different from True writing. True writing is information of verbal sound sets that the reader must structure the exact sound written down in order to understand the meaning. In True writing systems, a person must understand something of the spoken language to comprehend the text.
"There are truths on one side of the world which are
falsehoods on the other" - African Proverb