When I was in college, more years ago than I perhaps care to remember, I learned the standard story which still holds sway in many circles: Civilisation and high culture date back to, at most, perhaps five or six thousand years ago. A handy marker for recognising a true civilisation was written language, and it was generally agreed that the earliest true writing could be dated to the late fourth millennium BCE (that is, circa 3500 to 3000 BCE).
The Sumerians are generally credited with developing writing about 3300 to 3200 BCE, although the earliest Egyptian hieroglyphics may date back to the same period, or even a century or so earlier, and there is also evidence of writing possibly from as far back as 3500 BCE found at Harappa, the Indus Civilisation, in what is now modern Pakistan.1
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