antlers, and some stone inscriptions, can be successfully dated back at least 20,000 BP. Unfortunately, except for clearly recognizable calendrical markings—such as those indicating the twenty-eight-day lunar cycle—the key to the meanings remains unknown. Then, returning to both standard archeology, and aided by more contemporary methods of dating, there was an explosion of inscriptions from Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, and even a Sumerian site in Romania from 6000 to 5000 BP. Add, recently, new dating of Chinese turtle shell inscriptions that may go back to 7000 BP, and once again one has a distributed set of practices, globally diverse, concerning the origins of writing.
Now, some historico-phenomenological variational analysis: While turtle shell, reindeer antler, cliff and stone etching, pottery (Pakistan), and tablet (Sumerian and Mesopotamian) inscriptions might seem very diverse, there is something much more common to this writing-praxis than might first appear to be the case. Readers may recognize here my human-technology-world version of interrelational analysis. Work backward from the "text" or inscribed result—I call this the tablet. In each case, with the end result the inscription is preserved onto something hard (hard copy, if you like!). Take cuneiform, or the protoscript from Pakistan: both were inscribed upon clay artifacts, but then baked into solidified results. In the other cases, cliff, stone, and bone "tablets," the material was itself already hard and had to be inscribed upon. Then ask, what kind of instrument is needed to accomplish the inscription? The answer has to be: something itself hard, and in most cases, sharp to make the inscription, something styluslike. Third, what about the human bodily action needed to achieve the result? To give it a sort of Heideggerian but ironic twist, it takes lots of practice and learned bodily skill to make inscriptions that can be read. Not everyone can pick up a hammer and hit the right (not the finger) nail! But, once the practice, clearly somewhat analogous to sculpting or pottery shaping, gets habituated, the result will be a good, readable "written" inscription. Again, if Heideggerian language is used, at first there is a resistance from the object, a sort of early present-at-hand obstruction, before a transparent "withdrawal" occurs. It is only after more and more acquired skill that the transparency of readiness-to-hand can finally take hold. Heidegger' s tool analysis seems to presume an already attained bodily skill rather than recognize its existential history of acquisition. And, as in this example, this is "writing with the hand"—but with and through tool and produced upon a tablet.
Now take note of a different writing variant. Here, as with the hard technologies, there is a considerable ambiguity as to chronological origins, but at least by 4000-3000 BP, there is evidence for what I call soft writing
130 ■ Concluding Postphenomenological Postscript