Did You Know?
The world's oldest literature dates from about 4,000 years ago, from the land known as Sumer (now southern Iraq). Early writing took the form of pictographs, very simple pictures that first represented things or ideas and later came to represent actual words. The first actual alphabet, in which each character represents a sound, appeared in the same general region about 500 years later. But writing developed in very different ways in different parts of the world, and 1,000 years later, when Europeans first arrived in the New World, alphabetic writing still wasn't being used anywhere in the Americas. Decoding some ancient languages has proven to be a huge task for paleographers, and determining the age and the source of a piece of writing can pose major challenges.
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