Thoth’s Pill – an Animated History of Writing

My animation takes you through the birth and evolution of writing. Watch the story of the world’s scripts unfold, from the early cave days to modern writing systems. But only if you choose to take Thoth’s Pill…

This animated documentary is my vision of the history of writing if you could’ve seen it evolve with your own eyes. It was a time-consuming labor of love in honor of written language, a topic I’ve been passionate about for years.

(Hugs to the commenters who took time to point all of these out on specific videos in the series.)

The two bottom “yue” examples use simplified characters, one of which (“key”) has the more common reading “yao”. This means that the characters didn’t evolve in ancient times according to the traditional pattern presented here, but were made to look similar later in history. To find accurate examples, rewind to our character “ma” (“horse”). Better yet, use an online Hànzì dictionary to see each component of a specific character:

The character for “ant” is cited as a prefix with the more general meaning “insect”.

In standard transliteration, mä, bä and lä rather than ma, ba and la.

I swapped the shape keys for ‘p’ and ‘m’. Annotations should pop up to correct this unless you’re watching on mobile.

쓰기 instead of 쯔기 on the capsule at 3:20, mentioned by FredRick010 on reddit and also by multiple commenters.

Meet these scripts:
– Egyptian hieroglyphs
– Sumerian cuneiform
– Aztec glyphs
– Chinese characters (Hanzi)
– Maya glyphs
– Phoenician abjad (consonant alphabet)
– Greek alphabet
– Roman alphabet
– Arabic, Syriac and Hebrew consonant alphabets
– Brahmic scripts, including Devanagari
– Ge’ez abugida
– Korean hangul and hanja
– Japanese kana and kanji

See these developments in the history of writing:
– pictographs (pictograms)
– ideographs
– metonymy
– logographs (logograms)
– rebus writing
– determinatives and radicals
– syllabaries
– phonetic complements
– acrophony
– abjads
– alphabets
– matres lectionis
– vowel pointing
– alphasyllabaries
– abugidas
– featural alphabets

~ Who’s to thank or blame? ~
Mostly me, plus some CC-BY and public domain stuff.


Also, Thamus’ opening speech is my translation of Plato’s Phaedrus 274e-275a.

About agogo22

Director of Manchester School of Samba at
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