Where did writing come from?

The Sumerian city of Uruk was one of the world’s earliest large cities. Its active commercial trade created an unprecedented volume of business trasactions, and Sumerian merchants required an accounting system for keeping track of the day’s inventory and receipts; this was the birth of writing. Here, liberal arts majors may need to set their romantic notions aside. The first forms of writing emerged not for art, literature, or love, not for spiritual or liturgical purposes, but for business – all literature could be said to originate from sales receipts (sorry). With the growth of trade, cities, and writing, people soon discovered architecture, government, and the other refinements of being that collectively add up to what we think of as civilisation.

Daniel Levitin, The Organized Mind

 

I love the line on liberal arts majors. As someone once said (in a different context), “this thing here is like a liberal arts major — it doesn’t matter.”