Einstein Science Reporting for Kids
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14-Sep-2006

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Oldest writing in the new world



This drawing shows the signs on the block. Many look like vegetables. Can you tell which ones? You can imagine what some of the other signs mean.

While digging in a gravel quarry in Mexico, workers found a stone block that researchers believe has the oldest writing in the New World carved into it. Researchers believe that the stone was carved by people living in Mexico and Central America before Columbus discovered the New World. These people, called the Olmecs, lived in the oldest known civilization in that part of the world.

"This block shows a whole new dimension to the society and opens up the possibility that they could have kept records," Houston says.

On the block

No one knows what the writing on the block says, but they are studying it.

Scientists who study languages believe that the carvings on this block are part of a written language, even though very different symbols are used. There are 62 signs on it and 28 distinct ones. The text seems to have several sentences. The signs look like other images seen in the Olmec civilization. Some of them look like vegetables can you tell which ones?



The block was found in Cascajal in Veracruz, Mexico.

Why do the researchers believe that this stone is the oldest writing in the New World?

The carvings in the stone look like markings and art work made by the Olmecs.The stone block was found close to the Olmec's capitol near Veracruz, Mexico. The block has been tested and it is at least 3,000 years old.

Scientist Stephen Houston says that the Olmec people were very sophisticated. They carved statues as tall as 8 feet-tall and had other signs of advanced civilization.

Researchers also know that the block is really old because the symbols show signs of having been out in the weather. The block has pits in it and small amounts of minerals have formed around the letters.

This finding could lead to more archeological research in this area of Mexico.

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