Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 11th 2013 Contents B26
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, July 11, 2013
Archaeologists say they have discovered some
of the world s oldest known primitive writing,
dating back about 5,000 years, in eastern China,
and some of the markings etched on broken axes
resemble a modern Chinese character.
The inscriptions on artifacts found at a relic site
south of Shanghai are about 1,400 years older than
the oldest written Chinese language. Chinese scholars
are divided over whether the markings are words
or something simpler, but they say the finding will
shed light on the origins of Chinese language and
The oldest writing in the world is believed to be
from Mesopotamia, dating back slightly more than
5,000 years. Chinese characters are believed to have
been developed independently.
Inscriptions were found on more than 200 pieces
dug out from the Neolithic-era Liangzhu relic site.
The pieces are among thousands of fragments of
ceramic, stone, jade, wood, ivory and bone excavated
from the site between 2003 and 2006, lead archae-
ologist Xu Xinmin said.
The inscriptions have not been reviewed by experts
outside the country, but a group of Chinese scholars
on archaeology and ancient writing met last weekend
in Zhejiang province to discuss the finding.
They agreed that the inscriptions are not enough
to indicate a developed writing system, but Xu said
they include evidence of words on two bro-
ken stone-ax pieces.
One of the pieces has six word-like
shapes strung together to resemble a short
"They are different from the symbols
we have seen in the past on artifacts," Xu
said. "The shapes and the fact that they
are in a sentence-like pattern indicate they
are expressions of some meaning."
The six characters are arranged in a line,
and three of them resemble the modern
Chinese character for human beings. Each
shape has two to five strokes.
"If five to six of them are strung together
like a sentence, they are no longer symbols
but words," said Cao Jinyan, a scholar on
ancient writing at Hangzhou-based Zhe-
jiang University. He said the markings
should be considered hieroglyphics.
He said there are also stand-alone shapes
with more strokes. "If you look at the com-
position, you will see they are more than
symbols," Cao said.
But archaeologist Liu Zhao from Shang-
hai-based Fudan University warned that
there was not sufficient material for any
"I don t think they should be considered
writing by the strictest definition," Liu said.
"We do not have enough material to pin
down the stage of those markings in the
history of ancient writings."
For now, the Chinese scholars have agreed
to call it primitive writing, a vague term
that suggests the Liangzhu markings are
somewhere between symbols and words.
The oldest known Chinese writing has
been found on animal bones---known as
oracle bones---dating to 3,600 years ago
during the Shang dynasty.
China discovers primitive, 5,000-year-old writing
Utah prisoners will be allowed to talk with visitors
in Spanish or any other language they want now
that a long-standing English-only rule has been
By August 1, signs in the Utah state prison saying,
"All visits will be conducted in English," will be taken
down in a policy change ordered by Utah s new prison
boss, Rollin Cook.
That will put an end to the nation s only written
rule from a state prison system forbidding foreign lan-
guages during visits, said Chesa Boudin, a deputy
public defender in the city and county of San Francisco
and one of three authors of a Yale University law school
study that reviewed prison rules across the United
"I was shocked," Boudin said of when he learned
of the rule. "This is a country that prides itself on its
diversity: racially, ethnically, linguistically. Utah, while
not the epicenter of immigration in this country, has
many language groups."
The rule for visitations was initially put in place as
a safety measure so corrections officers could understand
what was being said by inmates and visitors, said Utah
Department of Corrections spokesman Steve Gehrke.
The new policy, first reported by The Salt Lake Trib-
une, takes effect August 1.
It was triggered by a meeting Cook, who took over
in April, had with representatives with the American
Civil Liberties Union, which for years has been com-
plaining about a free speech violation of the policy.
Cook came away convinced it was time to ditch the
old rule, but first wanted to meet with the prison staff
and make sure they could still maintain safety while
also allowing more languages to be spoken. They told
him they could do it, and Cook signed off on the new
rule. He said the change gives Utah prisons a better
balance between security and the rights of prisoners
and their families. Cook notes that it also recognises
the vital importance of visits in a prisoner s path to
being good citizens upon their release.
"That s their connection to the community and to
their family and friends," Cook said. "It s going to make
the visitation a lot better for people that don t speak
English as their first language." (AP)
at Utah prisons
Links Archive July 10th 2013 July 12th 2013 Navigation Previous Page Next Page