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History of Books and Writing
Ancient Picture Stories



Ancient Picture Stories
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 9 to 12
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   8.28

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    cuneus, newsrock, semidarkness, snorkosaurus, ideogram, pictograms, stylus, cuneiform, ceremonial, abstract, expressive, doorstep, haste, writing, artistic, memorable
     content words:    Fred Flintstone, One North American, Another Native American, Great Lakes, Bad Boy, Boy Scroll, To Native Americans


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Ancient Picture Stories
By Colleen Messina
  

1     Fred Flintstone was a lucky guy. He had the local Bedrock newsrock delivered to his doorstep each day, and the family snorkosaurus, Dino, brought it inside for Fred to read. In truth, early peoples just told stories orally, and it took thousands of years before anything was written down. Early storytellers had no alphabet, pens, or paper. They got tired of telling the same stories again and again. Finally, someone decided to take a piece of charcoal and scratch the head of an animal on the wall, perhaps to make his or her story more memorable. This simple picture was the beginning of the written word. The expression, "a picture paints a thousand words," perfectly describes how written language began about 35,000 years ago.
 
2     The Reindeer people of northern Europe were not Santa's helpers, but they did immeasurably help the development of language. They were the first people to scratch pictures of animals on their rock walls. At first, ancient artists just drew pictures of the animals with sticks for legs and circles for heads, but as time went on, the pictures improved. They drew the animals that they hunted, and that sometimes hunted them, like the fierce saber-toothed tigers. Bushy bison, shaggy mammoths, and reindeer graced the walls of their dwellings. They may have been tracking the number of animals they caught, or invoking good luck for their expeditions. We will never know what motivated the first artists.
 
3     Over the course of thousands of years, the drawings became more realistic, as a little French girl discovered. At the turn of the twentieth century, a scientist named Marquis de Sautuola explored a cave with his five-year-old daughter. The daughter got tired of playing with the stone axes and spearheads her father had dug up, so she picked up a candle and walked down the passage a short distance. Suddenly she ran back to her father shouting "Toros, Toros!" which meant, "Bulls! Bulls!" The father ran down the corridor and looked. A huge bison head stared at back at him in the semidarkness. The animal looked like it was about to charge! The Reindeer people did the beautiful bison painting, and it was the first of many paintings discovered in France and Spain.

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