A stone block unearthed in Mexico and covered in carved patterns is thought to be the oldest example of writing found in the Americas. Archaeologists believe the writing on the 26lb (12kg) block could date back to the first millennium BC. Road builders digging in a gravel quarry found the 14x8in (35x20cm) block at Cascajal, Veracruz. It is thought to be the work of the Olmec civilisation, which may have laid the foundations for the future Mayan and Aztec empires. An international team of researchers, writing today in the journal Science, said that the find shed surprising new light on the Olmecs. The 62 symbols inscribed on the block contain distinct elements, repeated characters, and what appear to be sentences. Several paired sequences are suggestive of poetic couplets. Dr Stephen Houston, of Brown University in Rhode Island, the co-author of the study, said: ‘It’s a jaw-dropping find. It takes this civilisation to a different level.’ Dr Houston, an expert on ancient writing, added: ‘This block shows a whole new dimension to the society and opens up the possibility that they could have kept records. It’s telling us that these records probably exist and that many remain […]

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