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Ancient Chinese Writing Discovered in Shanghai

Oldest Ever Chinese Writing Discovered in Shanghai

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Archaeologists have discovered inscriptions on artefacts dating back 5,000 years , which is 1,400 years older than the most ancient written Chinese language known to date, previously found on animal bones dating to the time of the Shang dynasty.

The markings were found on over 200 artefacts found at a Neolithic Liangzhu relics site in Shanghai.  Chinese scholars of archaeology and ancient writing have been debating whether the markings are in fact words or whether they are something similar.  However, Xu Xinmin, lead archaeologist is convinced that the markings indicate “expressions of some meaning”.

Evidence comes from two items in particular, which show six word-like shapes arranged in a line in a sentence-like pattern and seem to resemble the modern Chinese character for human beings.  "If five to six of them are strung together like a sentence, they are no longer symbols but words," said Cao Jinyan, a scholar of ancient writing at Zhejiang University.

Nevertheless, some scholars remain sceptical and believe more evidence is needed before drawing conclusions. "I don't think they should be considered writing by the strictest definition. We do not have enough material to pin down the stage of those markings in the history of ancient writings" said Liu Zhao, But Liu Zhao, an archaeologist at Fudan University.

For now the Chinese scholars are calling the markings primitive writing, a term that suggests that the inscriptions are somewhere between symbols and words.  It is hoped that further analysis of the remaining artefacts, in addition to further excavation work at the site, may lead to more insights into the discovery which has the potential to bring a radical change to current understanding about Chinese language and culture.

By April Holloway

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