Early Languages Pictographs & Hieroglyphs

Writing Samples courtesy of Ancientscripts.com Copyright © 1996-2005, Lawrence Lo. All Rights Reserved

You can see from these early writing forms that these languages are 90% pictorial 80% geometry it appears that most forms resemble things found in nature and have been stylized (simplified) making them in most likelihood more universal and easy to reproduce.  The development of a written language serves to catalog events in a civilization to communicate to the masses but the key here is communication & documentation. I believe that these early iterations of language operate on many levels one of the key factors here also relating to the early use of symbols we saw on the pottery on the previous pages is the use of symbols and how they relate to our own thinking process.  Recent work in neurophysiology have put forth the idea that experiences are converted to symbols and processed by the brain with this in mind it is easy to conclude that it is our physical nature that dictates the use of symbols in culture. This makes it easy to see how there use became so entrenched so early on, and for so long.

As you can see there are many similarities in these Petroglyph. Even though they were found in different locations throughout the world. This seems to support the idea of the use of symbols, as a physical parameter for the process of thought itself.  It is important to keep in mind that these early artist and shaman had a relationship to nature that bordered on maternal. It was widely held in many parts of the world that every action of men had repercussions to nature and the land. This ideal also had a relationship to the elements that where used to create objects this also became one of the founding principles around alchemy and early magic rituals. It follows to conclude that the common elements among us found daily in nature are those things we find pleasing or what we have come to term as (aesthetic). i.e.

  • Sun (yellow)
  • Sky (blue, orange, violet, white, gray)
  • Trees (green, red, white)
  • Flowers (variegated colors)
  • Water (aqua, turquoise)
  • Animal Skins (leopard, giraffes, cows, mink)
  • Rocks (variegated colors)
  • Sand (variegated colors) etc…
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Bronze
  • Lapis Lazuli
  • Copper
  • Cadmium
  • Wax
  • Cobalt
  • Zinc
  • Indigo

These elements each acquired there own importance over time some became associated with royalty and religious iconography. What’s more important to take note of is the relationship of these elements and how they are used in works of art i.e. (The sun or natural light may be illustrated in religious works by using gold leaf the reflection of Gods light by the physical reflection of gold. )

The birth of the metropolis

Most historians’ look to Egypt, Rome and Greece as the foundation of planning and the development of urban architecture, paved roads, monuments, and cathedrals. Artist defined these early civilizations as to providing a distinct style to the cultures they embodied; this distinction was attributed to societal beliefs and religious ideologies. This impled that artist at this time were beholden to their patrons pharos, emperors, kings and priest. Although Egypt by far is well known for its great cities starting as far back as 5000 BCE  Mesopotamia  has been credited as the birth of civilization. And looking at some of the pictures below you can see how incredibly advanced the architecture was as far back as 3500 BCE. Babylon was the largest city in the known world at the time. We have observed that most cities although from slightly different time periods have displayed extraordinary advances in architecture. Again this style of design was only used for building palaces and temples, but it not only heightened the cultural status but contributed as well to the moral of the people living in these cities giving them an tremendous sense of accomplishment.

Greeceimage The Temple of Athena Nike is part of the Acropolis in the city of Athens in Greece. Built around 420 BCE, Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2002. ©
EgyptHypimageostyle Hall, Temple of Amon at Karnak The hypostyle hall at the Temple of Amon in Karnak, Egypt, has more than 100 columns, each more than 20 m (70 ft.) high. The hall was built during the reign of Ramses II in the 1200s bc.Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2002. © 1993-2001
RomeimageScala/Art Resource, NY Basilica of Maxentius This Roman basilica was begun by the emperor Maxentius between 307 and 310 and completed by Constantine the Great after 312. The quality and scope of the architecture was outstanding for its time. Microsoft ® Encarta ® Encyclopedia 2002.

It would appear that the early work of artist were to create structures that would inspire an almost spiritual presence. Quite often writing or pictures would also adorn the facades and columns sometimes depicting everyday events or describing historical or religious ideologies. By using this scale the creators introduce a new idea into these monumental works that is a mixture of metaphor coupled with design & function. This is important to note because art and the role of artist in society widen to create other disciplines we see less decorative works and more utilitarian and functional objectivity. It was not unusual for artist to work in teams to create these extraordinary wonders and the masters were the overseers.