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The earliest form of writing on Earth—dating back to 5,500BC: The Tartaria tablets

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The earliest form of writing on Earth—dating back to 5,500BC: The Tartaria tablets


Ancient Sumerian writing may NOT have been the first people to invent the earliest form of writing—which by the way is said to have appeared around 3,500 BC. Scientists argue that the Tartaria tablets are evidence of a writing system that predates the one in Ancient Sumer by at least some 2,000 years. They have dubbed it as the Old European Scrip or the Danube Script.



The so-called Tartaria Tablets are three artifacts recovered in 1961 from a Neolithic site in Tartaria, Romania. Since their discovery, the three enigmatic tablets have created confusion and excitement among archaeologists.

Why? According to many authors and scholars, these enigmatic tablets are evidence of the OLDEST writing on the planet, even predating the ancient Sumerian writing.

The Tartaria tablets bear symbols of the Neolithic Vinča culture. The Vinča culture occupied a region of Southeastern Europe (i.e. the Balkans) corresponding mainly to modern-day Serbia, but also parts of Romania, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and parts of Greece.

Experts claim that the symbols depicted on the Tartaria tablets represent the earliest form of writing. Archaeologists argue that the tablets originated as far back as 5,500 BC.

This is beyond fascinating because it would mean that contrary to what mainstream scholars suggest, the ancient Sumerians may NOT have been the first people to invent the earliest form of writing—which by the way is said to have appeared around 3,500 BC.

Scientists argue that the Tartaria tablets are evidence of a writing system that predates the one in Ancient Sumer by at least some 2,000 years. They have dubbed it as the Old European Scrip or the Danube Script.

The tablets were discovered in 1961 when archaeologists Nicolae Vlassa excavated the three clay tablets. Their contents are highly controversial yet extremely meaningful.

Vlassa claimed that the inscriptions on the tablets are pictograms and other items found at the same place were subsequently carbon-dated to before 4000 BC (while the tablets themselves cannot be dated by physical or chemical methods), which means they appeared thirteen hundred years earlier than the date he expected, and earlier even than the writing systems of the Sumerians and Minoans.

To date, more than a thousand fragments with similar inscriptions have been found on various archaeological sites throughout south-eastern Europe, notably in Greece (Dispilio Tablet), Bulgaria, Romania, eastern Hungary, Moldova, and southern Ukraine.

There have been several interpretations as to what exactly lies etched on the three clay tablets. Many scholars believe that the enigmatic etchings are in fact a primitive form of writing—the oldest writing on Earth—while others remain convinced that they are either pictograms, random scribbles or religious symbols without a greater meaning.

The enigmatic tablets measure about 2 ½ inches across and two of them are rectangular while the third one is round. The round tablets have a curious hole drilled through it. The Tartaria tablets were discovered with 26 clay and stone figurines, a shell bracelet and human bones.

Many scholars argue that the Tartaria tablets are a product of the Danube Civilization. There are several authors who argue that the more intriguing and hotly debated aspects of the Danube Valley civilization is their supposed written language.

One of them is Harald Haarmann, a German linguistic and cultural scientist, currently vice-president of the Institute of Archaeomythology , and leading specialist in ancient scripts and ancient languages firmly believes the view that the Danube script is the oldest writing on planet Earth.

Among the innovative technologies which emerged in Southeastern Europe in the course of the sixth millennium BCE, writing occupies a prominent role. The experiment with writing technology in that part of Europe produced an original script which is firmly rooted in the local tradition of an earlier use of signs and symbols, drawing on the cultural heritage of the Mesolithic Age and partly going back as far as the Paleolithic. This ancient script is called here the “Danube script” and the cultural horizon in which it originated, the “Danube civilization”, writes Haarmann.

According to Haarmann: “…The Danube script is compared with the ancient Sumerian pictography (of the archaic period between c. 3200 and 2700 BCE), the Proto-Elamite script (c. 3050-2700 BCE),early Egyptian hieroglyphs (c. 3350-2600 BCE),Cretan Linear A (c. 2500-1450 BCE), the ancient Indus script (c. 2600-1800 BCE), and ancient Chinese writing of the late Shang and western Chou dynasties (oracle bone inscriptions c.1200-780 BCE). Parallelisms and resemblances are elaborated in a comprehensive typological scheme.”

Those who believe that the tablets are in fact evidence of the earliest form of writing base their assessment on three main conclusions.

Frist of all, similar signs on artifacts found across the Balkans belonging to the ancient Danube civilizations indicates there was an inventory of precise, standard shapes used by the ancients.

Secondly, the characters of this ancient form of writing—when compared to archaic writing clearly show a HIGH degree of standardization.

Thirdly, the information transmitted by each of the characters was a specific one with an unequivocal meaning and that the inscriptions were clearly sequenced in rows, either horizontally, or vertically.


Reference: The Danube Script and Other Ancient Writing Systems: A Typology of Distinctive Features by Harald Haarmann

Ivan
Ivan is editor-in-chief at ancient-code.com, he also writes for Universe Explorers. You may have seen him appear on the Discovery and History Channel.
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