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Game research : pottery, writing, alphabet

I have a few more words to add to the yesterday’s post “History of the world through a game“.  Something that bothered me in several games, but something that never annoyed me enough to look up or express – the connection between pottery, writing, and alphabet.

Pottery, writing, alphabet

First of all, why is pottery a required research before writing and alphabet?  They seem to have nothing in common.  But yet in many history-related strategy games it is so.  I never thought much about it, but it just felt wrong.  Until today, when I was speaking about this with my wife and she mentioned pottery shards.  I’ve heard about them a few times, but never associated pottery with writing.  Here is a quote from the almighty Wikipedia for you:

Unglazed pottery shards were used almost as a kind of scratch paper, as ostraka, for tax receipts and, in Athens, to record the individual nominations of Greek leaders for ostracism.

This one is clear and out of the way.

The second thing that bothers me always is the order of research for writing and alphabet.  In my silly head, you need the alphabet to write.  Alphabet is what separates writing from drawing.  Here is the Wikipedia definition of “writing”:

Writing is the representation of language in a textual medium through the use of a set of signs or symbols (known as a writing system). It is distinguished from illustration, such as cave drawing and painting, and the recording of language via a non-textual medium such as magnetic tape audio.

And here is the Wikipedia definition of “alphabet”:

An alphabet is a standardized set of letters — basic written symbols — each of which roughly represents a phoneme in a spoken language, either as it exists now or as it was in the past.

Which one comes first – alphabet or writing?  I don’t know, but it seems that the alphabet is a required research for writing and not the other way around.

What do you think?

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