History’s Unknown: Ancient Emoticons

The Modern emojis we use on smartphones and other devices were created by Shigetaka Kurita, who established an entire library of these little creatures in the categories of faces, food, weather, and other images essential to everyday life. A total of 176 emoticons. Shigetaka Kurita has stated “it’s difficult to express yourself properly in so few characters” referring to the limited of letters, words, and spaces on social media outlets such as Twitter and some emailing programs. These conflictions were Shigetaka Kurita prime reason for establishing the emoji.

I’m sure Shigetaka Kurita had some history in mind when first taking on this venture, however, many people who use emoji fail to make that connection.

Truthfully, Emoji or emoticons are a thing of the past. A refurbished alphabet of pictures dug up from the bones of past civilizations, such as Egypt and Greece covering law, trade, literature, and religion.

Researchers originally referred to the ancient emoticons as “funny signs” because they didn’t possess any tools to properly decipher or interpret the images.

A hieroglyph is a combination of logographics and alphabetic elements. An emoji is the same thing, take for example a smiley face, which means happy. Instead of writing the term “happy” we apply the icon to the text. This is exactly what a farmer in Ancient Egypt would do; drawing four donkeys on a tablet means he owns four donkeys. It was a record keeping system.

Linguists say emojis are the fastest growing language on Earth. So, are we evolving or devolving? I’d say evolving, after all let’s not forget the ancients compiled more information than even us modernists could interpret today. In fact, there are thousands of ancient texts, books, languages, and cultures historians and scientists still have yet to decode. The emoji serves as a visual language. 

Hieroglyphs, pictograms, and emojis are not bounded by any linguistic rules. Words and sentences follow a formula different from symbols. But symbols and languages both display emotions and ideas. However, the emoji has the advantage of existing in a time, where population, globalization, and diversity runs high.  

Emoji has the potential to become a global language as it’s usage has increased 777% and in many ways already is a language. In fact, before its popularity and compatibility in and with mobile devices, businesses were already using this little tool to communicate with customers; hamburgers identified fast food and weather icons informed the day’s forecast. 

Anatolian Hieroglyphics

Sumerian Hieroglyphics