Learning to Write

The last chapter discussed how the adaptation to agriculture settled nomads, and that ultimately gave rise to villages, towns and cities. After this, people grew enough food, built better houses and developed several new techniques to lead a comfortable life. For example, they learnt spinning, weaving, shoemaking, smelting, pottery, etc. Several artisans mastered such skills and they crafted and sold the devices. Initially, they bartered these for agricultural products: later, coins replaced the barter system. Since cities had a big population, the craftsmen of cities could sell their goods easily. These implements also attracted farmers of nearby villages and towns to cities; gradually, cities became the centres of manufacturing and selling.

Apart from shopping, many farmers visited cities for the treatment of the sick and injured. Commonly, priests or faith healers treated them. Thus, the business of priests also flourished in the cities; they advised their kings to build large temples. Almost all ancient temples were built in the cities. The temple priests invented various new techniques of worship such as elaborate sacrifices, and popularized their temples with the help of magical stories. These places of worship further attracted farmers to the cities. Thus, between three to five thousand years ago, many cities became centres of trade and religion.

Around five thousand years ago, priests invented a phenomenal technique—the art of writing. Priests of four civilizations began the earliest writing: India, Mesopotamia, Egypt and China. Archaeologists have excavated the oldest writings of the world from the Indus valley in India; these were inscribed around five thousand five hundred years ago.

The early farmers wrote this invaluable literature; their near ancestors were hunter-gatherers. The early farmers must have continued the myths and beliefs of their ancestors. Therefore, the excavated text can also guide us about the beliefs of the prehistoric people.

Mesopotamians were the first to learn writing and inscribed many texts. Their most worshipped and powerful gods were Marduk, the sun and Ninurta, the god of rain, thunder and storm. Ishtar was the fertility goddess of Mesopotamia.

Egypt is another site where anthropologists found a huge collection of ancient scriptures, which meticulously portrays the evolution of Egyptian gods and religion. They worshipped hundreds of gods, and the sun was the strongest one.

People of all the excavated river valley civilizations worshipped the sun, the sky and other local gods. Apart from the excavated literature, historians have found plenty of references to the sun and the sky worship in surviving religious books too.

The above-mentioned evidence again attests that the ancient world had only one religion, and the organized religions of today came into vogue later. The ancestors of Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Christians and Muslims worshipped the sun and the sky before their individual religions evolved. They developed similar methods of worship such as prayers, rituals, etc. People perceived the sun and the sky as the creators, almighty, omnipresent and helpful. Modern gods of every religion also have similar attributes, but different names. The next chapter will discuss the various methods invented by humankind to appease their gods.