New archaeological findings suggest that primitive inscriptions in China could date back about 5,000 years –1,400 years earlier than the writings found on oracle bones. These inscriptions were found on 240-odd artifacts unearthed from the Neolithic Zhuangqiaofen site in Pinghu, Zhejiang Province. Archaeologists are divided on whether the engravings are words or something simpler, but all agree that the discovery will shed light on the origins of Chinese language and culture.
Most Chinese archeologists and experts on ancient writing believe the inscriptions do not evidence a developed writing system. However, leading archaeologist Xu Xinmin asserts that there is evidence of words on two stone axes. One has six word-like signs in a line resembling a short sentence. “They differ from the symbols we have seen before on artifacts,” Xu explained. “The specific shapes, and the fact that they appear in a sentence-like pattern, indicate that they form an expression of some meaning.”
For now, Chinese scholars are calling the markings primitive writing, a vague term that classifies the find somewhere between symbols and words.