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Since the early origin of man’s existence there has been a need to share stories about life, the lives of his family, ancestors and the historical events and figures that existed before him. Sharing these stories orally and passing them down from generation to generation is what is recognized as oral tradition. The original, or main use for these stories, was for personal entertainment of both the storyteller and the listener, but the usage goes much deeper. These stories could be true or fictional, regardless of how factual they are deep within the story is valuable content such as historical events, lessons, and culturally relevant information.
One of the obvious disadvantages of oral tradition is that if the story teller were to die before passing his stories on then the stories are lost with him. Likewise, there is the issue of fabrication. If you have ever experienced what it’s like to play the game telephone, you know what it’s like to deliver a message to one person and have multiple people translate that message into their own words until the actual meaning at the core of the original message is lost and the words have evolved into something completely new altogether.
Characteristics of Oral tradition involve the use of repetition, like in using key phrases, or the repetition of formula, to ensure that the listener remembers and is able to pass the story on, or apply the lessons in the fable to their daily life.
If I was an individual living around 3500 B.C. in Mesopotamia, I would probably spend my day trying to survive, wearing animal skins, and migrating across lands. I would be able to use minor tools and fire, but for the most part I would devote the majority of my energy towards survival. I would have to avoid pitfalls, like getting sick, getting eaten, and literally falling into pits. Eventually I might find the Fertile Crescent, in which I would have plenty of veggies and fruit, and plenty of water, and the weather would not be as hazardous for my survival.
The ability to remain in the Fertile Crescent and not move would allow for a better quality of life for me and ultimately resulted in the people around me moving towards civilization. Staying stationary in one location would eventually result in the development of skills and specialization of skills as well as a need for trade and written language.
Hieroglyphics formed in Egypt and Cuneiform in the Fertile Crescent and by 2500 B.C. the Cuneiform became more complex and developed. Both involved the use of images which were very timely and tedious to write, even for the well trained scribe. The Phoenecian alphabet provided for the use of smaller images in the form of letters which could also be applied in phonetic language. This resulted in faster communication in both construction and trade as well as daily life.
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