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.
CREDIT: RODRIGUEZ MARTINEZ ET AL.
Epigraphic drawing of block.
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