Symbols on ax pieces in China may be world's oldest writing

July 11, 2013 at 3:50 PM
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SHANGHAI, July 11 (UPI) -- Fragments of two ancient stone axes found in China bear what could be some of the world's earliest primitive writing, archaeologists say.

Discovered as part of a large find of artifacts unearthed south of Shanghai, the ax fragments have been dated at around 5,000 years old, the BBC reported Thursday.

Currently, evidence of the world's oldest writing is thought to be from Mesopotamia from 3,300 B.C.

There has been disagreement among Chinese experts whether the markings on the axes are actual writing or a less sophisticated grouping of symbols.

"The main thing is that there are six symbols arranged together and three of them are the same," lead archaeologist Xu Xinmin said. "This clearly is a sentence expressing some kind of meaning."

Cao Jinyan, a Chinese scholar who is an expert on ancient writing, agreed.

"Although we cannot yet accurately read the meaning of the 'words' carved on the stone axes, we can be certain that they belong to the category of words, even if they are somewhat primitive," he said.

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