Oldest writing systems?


Senior Member
USA: American English, Learning Hebrew and Spanish
1. Greek (8th c. BCE)
2. Latin (7th c. BCE)
3. Hebrew (3rd c. BCE)
4. Chinese (multiple scripts exist, not sure about this one)

I'm basing this mostly on omniglot and wikipedia - not exactly the most authoritative sources. Please correct and contribute as appropriate.

Thanks for your input,
  • DareRyan

    Senior Member
    United States - English
    How about Linear A and B? The ones found on the island of Crete.

    Or the Etruscans Proto-Latin Alphabet

    And we can't forget Heirogliphics


    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I believe the Chinese script is the oldest one still in use. The Hebrew script is also quite ancient, although it has undergone considerable changes. After that, as far as I know, came the Greek alphabet, but there may be scripts of India as old or older than the Greek script.


    Senior Member
    USA: American English, Learning Hebrew and Spanish
    One must make a distinction between the Proto-Hebrew script used until the end of the 6th century BCE, the Hebrew square script used from then on to write Hebrew. From what I gleaned from wikipedia, it seems that the most ancient scripts of China are the oldest\some of the oldest, but the scripts still in use today are more recent.


    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Well, the Chinese script, the Greek script, the Latin script... they too have undergone periodic changes and reformations -- even fashions, like the Gothic style!


    Senior Member
    USA English
    Early Writing Systems:

    8500-7500 BC. -Plain tokens from the Fertile cresent
    3350 B.C. - Complex tokens from the Fertile Crescent
    3200 B.C - Sumerian Cuneiform
    3050 B.C.- Egyptian hieroglyphics
    1650 B.C.- Linear A
    1500 B.C.- Old Canaanite alphabet
    1380 B.C.- Linear B
    1200 B.C.- Chinese
    1100 B.C.- Phoenician
    1000 B.C.- Old Hebrew
    11th cent B.C.- Aramaic
    740 B.C.- Greek
    620 B.C.- Latin
    25 AD- Runes
    200 AD- Ogham
    292 AD Mayan
    328 AD-Arabic
    800 AD Japanese Kana

    Source: The Origin of Writing by Wayne Senner

    This list is missing Cypriot, Minoan, Proto-indic, Hittite, Elamite, Etruscan (which probably is being refered to as Latin in this timeline since they were closely related), Indus Valley script, and a few others. Even so, none of these was earlier than Sumerian Cuneiform. Some of the writing sytems are derived from sytems that appeared earlier, others like Chinese and Mayan were completely independent inventions.

    Jhorer Brishti

    Senior Member
    United States/Bangladesh English/Bengali
    The Indus Valley script arose quite early but the current scripts used for the various languages of South and Southeast Asia are derivations from the Ashokan Brahmi Script of the 3rd Century BCE(during Gupta Rule) and this itself seems to be closely related to Aramaic(though none of the current scripts correlate so well).
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