From Pictogram to Writing

It was in Sumer, in southern Mesopotamia, that the images of things – a palm tree, a vase, a star – simplified figures, were carved into tablets made of clay from the banks of the Tigris to become pictograms. First bearing the name of a thing, the word, the idea (logogram), then the sound of that name, then a sound in and of itself, the syllable (phonogram), the pictogram metamorphosed into an ideogram, throwing off its relation to the real thing, transforming into an abstraction, an element of the first system of writing, cuneiform.

In Egypt, in China, other forms of writing appeared; Phoenician writing emerged in the Near East and spread throughout the Mediterranean basin. As the head of the Phoenician bull led to the Hebrew aleph, then to the letter A, the alphabet succeeded in transcending the images of things, raising itself to the level of the voice, languages, law, narrative, of transactions it was to record, arrange and archive.