Primitive writing unearthed in China

11th Jul 2013

Some of the planet's oldest known primitive writing has been found in China.

A few of the 5,000-year-old inscriptions etched on broken axes resemble a modern Chinese character.

Shanghai is China's biggest city by population and much loved by tourists on city breaks. Just south of here lies one of its cultural sites, the Neolithic-era Liangzhu relic area, where the axes were found.

Experts say the markings are around 1,400 years older than the oldest written Chinese language, suggesting the primitive writing is somewhere between symbols and words.

They say the discoveries will shed light on the origins of Chinese language. Markings were discovered on more than 200 pieces unearthed at the site.

The pieces are among thousands of fragments of ceramic, stone, jade, wood, ivory and bone unearthed from the site between 2003 and 2006.

Foreign specialists haven't examined the inscriptions, but Chinese archaeologists and ancient writing experts have.

They think the markings aren't enough to suggest a developed writing system.

But lead archaeologist Xu Xinmin said they include proof of words on two broken stone-axe fragments.

He said they are different from the symbols they have seen on previous artefacts.

He added: "The shapes and the fact that they are in a sentence-like pattern indicate they are expressions of some meaning."

Archaeologist Liu Zhao, from Shanghai-based Fudan University, said, however, there is not enough material for any conclusion.

The oldest known Chinese writing has been found on animal bones dating to 3,600 years ago in the Shang dynasty.

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