Allow me to tell you a short story. It has to be short because it was inspired by a small set of squiggles on an ancient artifact, and my Holmes-ian attempt to deduce their origin. Here’s the piece.
A man sat outside his hut, fashioning pots out of the riverside clay. He might be using a potter’s wheel, if he’d had some contact with traveling merchants from Sumer.
His 4-year-old daughter was playing nearby and ran over to see what her father was creating. She was fascinated by the magical way the mud was moulded into these beautiful, sinuous shapes, then carved with these lovely designs by her father. She felt so proud of him. And she wanted (so much!) to do what he was doing!
So, she pestered him, begging him to let her make “one design” till with an indulgent laugh, he sat her in his lap, took her small hands in his and shaped a lump of clay into a pot. “Happy?”, he asked her with a laugh. “No” she laughingly replied. She wanted to carve it too. So the man took a stylus, etched a short wavy line, and handed her the stylus. She held it forcefully, and tried to copy her father’s design, her concentration and focus pushing the stylus in deep. Then maybe it was her insistence or a loving father’s desire to make a memory, but that pot was baked, glazed and put to use.
And somehow, over five millennia, that little picture of parental love managed to survive to reach us. See the zig-zag pattern on top and the smaller, rougher copy of it below. Note how deep the pattern was gouged, you can still see the ridges the displaced mud made: does it not look like a child’s attempt to learn how to draw?
Now, is this story true? Honestly, how could anyone say that? Does it fit the facts? I’d say so, but I leave you to draw your own conclusions. Was it a lovely thought? Again, I’d say so, and I hope you do too!