Such transactions led to scratching a rude picture of
the basket grain-measure and a number of strokes on the mud wall of the
peasant’s hut, indicating the number of measures of grain he had paid (cf.
§ 42). The use of these purely pictorial signs formed the earliest
stage in the process of learning to write. Such pictorial writing is still
in use among the uncivilized peoples in ou1r own land. Thus, the Alaskan
natives send messages in pictorial form, scratched on a piece of wood (Fig.
26). The exact words of the message are not represented. Fig.
26 might be read by one man, “No food in the tent,” while another
might read, “Lack of meat in the wigwam.” Such pictorial signs thus conveyed
ideas without expressing the exact words. Among our own Indians the desire
of a brave to record his personal exploits also led to pictorial records
of them (Fig. 27). It should
be noticed again that the exact words are not indicated by this record
FIG. 26. PICTORIAL MESSAGE SCRATCHED ON WOOD BY
A figure with empty hands hanging down helplessly, palms
down, as an Indian gesture for uncertainty, ignorance, emptiness, or nothing,
means no.” A figure with one hand on its mouth means “eating” or “food.”
It points toward the tent, and this means in the tent” The whole is a message
stating, (There is) no food in the tent” (§ 51)