Ancient African Writing and Language

school-languageThere is a stigma of illiteracy associated with the African continent that is unwarranted. African’s and people of African descent have also been more or less relegated to having only oral history which in itself is a stigma implying a lesser advanced civilization. Here we share both writing and language that is not commonly taught in any school system anywhere in the world.


Fascinating stuff. See below. Alot of the content comes from the Ta Neter Foundation


Proto Saharan (5000 – 3000 BC)

  • Perhaps the world’s oldest known from of writing are inscriptions of what some archaeologists and linguists have termed, “Proto Saharan” near the Kharga oasis west of so-called “Nubia” that date to at least 5,000st 5,000
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    BC. The writings under the image that looks like the Nilotic god Seth show similarities to later writing systems such as Tifinagh and Vai.


Nsbidi (5000 BC – present)


  • Nsibidi is an ancient script used to communicate in various languages in West Central Africa. Most notably used by the Uguakima and Ejagham (Ekoi) people of Nigeria and Cameroon, Nsibidi is also used by the nearby Ebe, Efik, Ibibio, Igbo, and Uyanga people.








  • The script is believed to date back to 5000 BC, but the oldest archaeological evidence ever found dates it to 2000 BC (monoliths in Ikom, Nigeria). Similar to the Kemetic Medu Neter, Nsibidi is a system of standardized pictographs. In fact, both Nsibidi and Medu Neter share several of the exact same characters.


Medu Neter or Ta Merrian “Hieroglyphs” (4000 BC – 600 AD)


  • Medu Neter on an excerpt from the “Papyrus of Ani” (1250 BC), a spiritual and metaphysical work of literature.
  • The word Medu Neter (MDW W NTR) literally means “tongue of God” or more loosely, “God’s words.” The English word, “hieroglyphs,” is derived from the Greek word, “hieroglyphikos,” which means “sacred engraving,” similar to the basic meaning of “Medu Neter.” This script is an elaborate a logosyllabic writing system in which symbols represent either words (concepts) and consonal phoenetic sounds, or both, depending on the context. The oldest known evidence for this writing system come from pre-dynastic pottery at Gerzeh (c. 4000 – 3500 BC; “Gerzean culture”), which is located about 100 miles south of Ha Ka Ptah (Giza), and from inscriptions found at Gebel Sheikh Suleiman (Wadi Halfa; 4000 – 3500 BC; “Nubian A-Group culture”) in so-called “Nubia.” The next oldest form of Medu Neter dates between 3300 and 3200 BC and found in Abdu (tomb of the so-called “Scorpion” suten in Abydos) on clay tablets that recorded oil and linen deliveries. During the so-called “dynastic period” (3100 BC – 500 AD), Medu Neter was used on the oldest of all historical texts, the “Narmer Palette” (3100 BC), then widely used in the metaphysical/spiritual “Pyramid texts” (2400 – 2200 BC), coffin texts (2200-2000 BC), and the scientific, spiritual and administrative papyri (1825-600 BC).


Kemetic “Hieratic” (3200 BC – 600 AD)


  • The term, “Hieratic” was first coined by Saint Clement of Alexandria (c 200 AD), a Greek theologian who used the term “grammata hieratika” or priestly/sacerdotal writing. Although many scholars contend that “Hieratic” developed as an entirely distinct script from the Medu Neter, the obvious visual similarities prove that its also a somewhat simplified form of the Medu Neter that was mainly used for more administrative and scientific documents throughout the dynastic history of both Kemet and Kush (3200 BC – 600 AD). However, linquists have also shown similaries between it and the alphabetic Proto-Saharan or Thinite writing.


Tifanagh or “Lybico-Berber” or “Mande” (c. 3000 BC – present)


  • Rock paintings at Oued Mertoutek in southern Algeria show the earliest signs if the so-called “Lybico-Berber” or early Tifinagh writing system and date to 3000 BC.






tifinaghTifanagh is still used by Amajegh (Tauregs), who mainly inhabit a vast area of West Africa, including present-day Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, Southern Algeria and Southern Libya, are the only known group of Tamazight speakers who have used the Tifanagh script continuously since antiquity (in recent years, however, the larger Tamazight speaking community of the Sahara region have adopted use of the Tifanagh script).




Vai (3000 BC – present)


  • Vai is one of the world’s oldest alphabetic scripts in continuous use, with over 150,000 users in present-day Liberia and Sierra Leone. It’s a highly advanced syllabary writing system with over 210 distinct characters representing various consonants and vowel sounds used in the Vai language (a descendant of ancient Mande). Contrary to popular belief, Vai is not a wholly unique script invented circa 1830 by a West African whose friends helped him remember a dream
  • vai-detail-pendant-with-vai-scriptlgEvidence of its antiquity comes from inscriptions from Goundaka, Mali that date to 3000 BC, and Vai’s close similarity and relation to the older Proto-Saharan and Tifanagh writing found all over the Saharan region. Vai has also been linked to other writing systems in West Africa that were allegedly invented in the 1800s by people who had similar dreams. Even in the Americas, Vai is similar to scripts that were supposedly invented by Africans who, again, were coincidentally inspired by their dreams (e.g., the so-called Afaka script shares at least 34 of its 56 characters or 61% with those of the Vai script).


Ge’ez or “Ethiopic” (800 BC – present)


  • The Ge’ez script is an advanced syllabary script consisting of 231 characters used to communicate in several Ethiopic languages. Its unquestionably one of the oldest writing systems in continuous use anywhere in the world. Although the original Ge’ez language is only used in Ethiopian and Eritrean Tawahedo Orthodox churches and the Beta Israel churches, the Ge’ez script is mainly used by speakers of Amharic, Tigre and Tigrinya, among others. The oldest known evidence of Ge’ez writing can be found on the Hawulti stela, which dates to the pre-Aksumite-era or roughly 800 BC. Therefore, evidence suggests Ge’ez could be older than the “Old Ethiopian” script, even though the latter appears to be more primitive than the former




“Old Nubian” (800 AD – 1500 AD)

  • old-nubianThe so-called “Old Nubian” script is a descendant of both ancient Napatan and Coptic, and the Old Nubian tongue is an ancestor of the modern Nubian languages, such as Nobiin. Old Nubian was used in writings in the Christian kingdom of Makuria whose capital was mainly Dongola in central Sudan. This image shows an excerpt from the Book of Archangel Michael found at Qasr Irbim in Kush (“Lower Nubia”)




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