11 Ancient African Writing That Prove Black People Were Not Illiterate Before Colonization • illuminaija
illuminaija

11 Ancient African Writing That Prove Black People Were Not Illiterate Before Colonization

   
   

11 Ancient African Writing That Prove Black People Were Not Illiterate Before Colonization

The importance of oral culture and tradition in Africa and the recent dominance of European languages through colonialism, among other factors, has led to the misconception that the languages of Africa either have no written form or have been put to writing only very 

recently.

However, Africa has the world’s oldest and largest collection of ancient writing systems. The evidence dates to prehistoric times and can be found in multiple regions of the continent.

By contrast, continental Europe’s oldest writing, Greek, was not fully in use untilroughly 1400 B.C. (a clay tablet found in Iklaina, Greece) and is largely derived from an older African script.

Here are 11 African writing systems you should know about to dispel the myth that Africans were illiterate people.

Proto-Saharan (5000–3000 B.C.)

11 Ancient African Writing That Prove Black People Were Not Illiterate Before Colonization

Dr. Clyde Winters, author of “The Ancient Black Civilizations of Asia,” wrote that before the rise of the Egyptians and Sumerians there was a wonderful civilization in the fertile African Sahara, where people developed perhaps the world’s oldest known form of writing.

These inscriptions of what some archaeologists and linguists have termed “proto-Saharan,” near the Kharga Oasis west of what was considered Nubia, may date back to as early as  5000 B.C. w riting systems are several centuries older.

   
   

Wadi El-Hol or ‘Proto-Sinaitic’ (2000 B.C.–1400 B.C.)

In 1999, Yale University archaeologists identified an alphabetic script in Wadi El-Hol, a narrow valley between Waset (Thebes) and Abdu (Abydos) in southern Egypt. 

Dating to about 1900 B.C., the script bears resemblance not only to the Egyptian hieroglyphs, but also to the much older “proto-Saharan” writing system inscription that dates to 1500 B.C. was found in Serabit el-Khadim on Africa’s Sinai peninsula and has been deemed by linguists to be the basis for the so-called “proto-Canaanite” and Phoenician scripts.

This provides proof that Phoenician writing began on the African continent.

EGYPTIAN WRITING

11 Ancient African Writing That Prove Black People Were Not Illiterate Before Colonization

Perhaps the most famous writing system of the African continent is the ancient Egyptian (Kemetic) hieroglyphs.

The ancient Egyptians called their hieroglyphic script “mdwt ntr”  or “medu neter” (God’s words). 

The word “hieroglyph” comes from the Greek “hieros” (sacred) and “glypho” (inscriptions) and was first used by Clement of Alexandria (c. 200 A.D.)  The hieroglyphic script was confined mainly to formal inscriptions on the walls of temples and tombs.

Hieratic  (3200 B.C.–600 AD)

Ancient Egyptian hieratic writing was a simplified form of the hieroglyphics, used for day-to-day business and administrative and scientific documents throughout the dynastic history of both Kemet and Kush (3200 B.C.–600 A.D.). 

Some linguists have also shown similarities between hieratic and the alphabetic proto-Saharan writing.

Demotic (650 B.C.–600 A.D.)

11 Ancient African Writing That Prove Black People Were Not Illiterate Before Colonization

The term demotic was used by Greek writer-historian Herodotus (484–425 B.C.) to distinguish it from the hieratic script.

Whereas hieratic connotes “priestly,” the term demotic is derived from the Greek word demos, which means common people.

The demotic script is the only ancient Egyptian script that was used by just about every Egyptian. It is potentially the world’s first cursive or flowing script, and was mostly confined to pottery and papyri.

It is very important to note that demotic was introduced in Kemet’s 25th

Nsibidi (5000 B.C.–present)

11 Ancient African Writing That Prove Black People Were Not Illiterate Before Colonization

Nsibidi is an ancient script used to write various languages in West Central Africa. Most notably used by the Uguakima and Ejagham (Ekoi) people of Nigeria and Cameroon, nsibidi is also used by the nearby Ebe, Efik, Ibibio, Igbo and Uyanga people.

The nsibidi set of symbols is independent of Roman, Latin or Arabic influence, and is believed by some scholars to date back to 5000 B.C., but the oldest archaeological evidence ever found (monoliths in Ikom, Nigeria) dates it to 2000 B.C.

   
   

Similar to the Kemetic medu neter, nsibidi is a system of standardized pictographs. In fact, both nsibidi and the Egyptian hieroglyphs share several of the same characters.

Nsibidi was divided into sacred and public versions, however, Western education and Christian indoctrination drastically reduced the number of nsibidi-literate people, leaving the secret society version as the last surviving form of the symbols.

Still, nsibidi was transported to Cuba and Haiti via the Atlantic slave trade, where the anaforuana and veve symbols derived from the West African script.

   
   

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.