4. Palaeography

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The collection of over 2000 examples is large to cover the Western scripts, comprising Europe, Near East and the Americas. The palaeography of the rest of the world is covered, albeit less comprehensively, through examples elsewhere in the special collections.

While continuous writing conveying a message started in Syria, Sumer or Highland Iran ca. 3500 BC, single symbols, glyphs, marks representing names, places, tracks, gods, etc. are much older. Apart from Australia, where it possibly all started, the four earliest major river valley civilisations, represent the earliest symbols and writing from 4th millennium BC onwards, as mentioned in the introduction.

Some examples of each of these are listed, supplied with the earliest examples from Europe and the Americas.

Cylcon(Yurda) | MS 5086

MS on weathered white desert sandstone with lichen growth, High Delalan, Western New South Wales, Australia, ca. 20000-3000 BC, 1 cylindro-conical and cornute form cylcon with concave base, 22x8x8 cm, incised with 11 parallel longitudinal lines running from apex to base.

Cylcon (Yurda) 2 | MS 5073

MS on yellow soft sandstone, Western New South Wales, Australia, ca. 20000-3000 BC, 1 oval-conical cylcon with slanting flat base, 1 large arrow pointing towards apex, 4 arrows pointing towards base.

Cylcon (Yurda) 3 | MS 5087/17

MS on chalk-like stone, Urella Downs station, New South Wales, Australia, ca. 20000-3000 BC, cylindrical cylcon with rounded apex and base, band of irregular lines around circumference near base, longitudinal grooves from base to apex, deliberate chipping around base.

Churinga (Aranda) | MS 4610

MS in Aranda on pinky weathered and worn chalk stone, Central Desert area, Australia, before 500, 1 oval churinga of 2 joining parts, 33x14x2 cm, aboriginal patterns incised with an incisor tooth of an opossum.


MS in Aranda on green chist stone, Mount Zeil, Central Australia, before 1800, 1 oval churinga, aboriginal symbols incised with an incisor tooth of an opossum, rubbed with grease and ochre during the ceremonies.

Kangaroo Tracks Churinga | MS 2968

MS in Aranda on schist-like stone, Central Desert area, Australia, before 1800, 1 circular churinga, aboriginal patterns incised with a incisor tooth of an opossum, and rubbed with grease and red ochre during the ceremonies.

Earliest Written Evidence of Slavery | MS 2963
MS in Old Sumerian on clay, Sumer, ca. 3300-3200 BC, nearly cubic tablet, 5 compartments in primitive pictographic script, fine cylinder seal impressions on all sides made prior to writing of 2 men walking left, carrying goods.