15 September 2006: Science Magazine
News This Week
Claim Of Oldest New World Writing Excites Archaeologists

The Olmec civilization of Central America [~1200 to 400 years before the common era (BCE)] may have been the precursor to later complex societies such as the Maya (100 to 600 CE) and Aztec (1200 to 1500 CE), yet unambiguous evidence of earliest Olmec writing is lacking. Rodríguez Martínez et al. (p. 1610; see the news story by Lawler) report the discovery of a stone block from Veracruz, Mexico, inscribed with an unknown system of writing. Taken from a gravel quarry, the block has been dated to the first millennium CE, which is earlier than previous finds. The glyphs, still undeciphered, bear similarity to other Olmec imagery, and the pattern is consistent with a system of writing.

Epigraphic drawing of block.

Cascajal signary.

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