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In contrast, symbolic systems, such as information signs, painting, maps, and mathematics, often do not require prior knowledge of a spoken language.

Every human community possesses language, a feature regarded by many as an innate and defining condition of mankind (see Origin of language).

The emergence of writing in a given area is usually followed by several centuries of fragmentary inscriptions.

Historians mark the "historicity" of a culture by the presence of coherent texts in the culture's writing system(s).

An additional possibility is the undeciphered Rongorongo script of Easter Island.It is generally agreed that true writing of language (not only numbers) was independently conceived and developed in at least two ancient civilizations and possibly more.The two places where it is most certain that the concept of writing was both conceived and developed independently are in ancient Sumer (in Mesopotamia), around 3100 BC, and in Mesoamerica by 300 BC, because no precursors have been found to either of these in their respective regions.That is, it is possible that the concept of representing language by using writing, though not necessarily the specifics of how such a system worked, was passed on by traders or merchants traveling between the two regions.Ancient Chinese characters are considered by many to be an independent invention because there is no evidence of contact between ancient China and the literate civilizations of the Near East, In 1999, Archaeology Magazine reported that the earliest Egyptian glyphs date back to 3400 BC, which "challenge the commonly held belief that early logographs, pictographic symbols representing a specific place, object, or quantity, first evolved into more complex phonetic symbols in Mesopotamia." Similar debate surrounds the Indus script of the Bronze Age Indus Valley civilization in Ancient India (2600 BC).

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