On park benches, across building walls, scratched on trees and on school desks... humans leave their mark wherever they go. Sometimes, it’s with a simple “I was here!” This tendency to announce our arrival might sometimes be considered vandalism today, but the practice actually goes all the way back to early humans – and it’s the reason we now know that they lived in certain regions of the world.
Click start to play today’s Word Search, where you can pick out the word “record”, which inspires this story of the world’s earliest recorded history.
According to a July 2015 report in the National Geographic, about 30,000 years ago, writing hadn’t been invented so early humans could not leave their names on the rock surfaces of cave walls. So, they would flatten their hand on the wall and blow dust over it, leaving a silhouette of their palm, haloed in red pigment. Such handprints exist in Chauvet-Pont d’Arc, a cave in southeast France that contains some of the best-preserved figurative cave paintings in the world.
For about 40 centuries across all the continents, this is how cave people, children, hunters, farmers and nomads left their mark.
But who is the first person in recorded history whose name we know?
Yuval Harari, Israeli author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind found that it wasn’t a king, or a warrior, or a poet, as one would expect. Such professions usually garner the most mentions in literature and even as part of oral traditions. However, the first recorded name – Kushim – belonged to an accountant!
Through dots, brackets and little drawings on a 5,000-year-old Mesopotamian clay tablet, his name was recorded as part of a business deal. In today’s terms, it was a receipt. The words read: “29,086 measures barley 37 months Kushim”, most likely translating to the amount of barley received over a period of 37 months, with Kushim’s signature at the end.
A receipt for barley doesn't sound like an exciting or memorable 'first', but Kushim’s excellent record-keeping also revealed how much importance people gave to business and trade so long ago.