Writing is the representation of language in a textual medium through the use of a set of signs or symbols (known as a writing system). Writing may use abstract characters that represent phonetic elements of speech, as in Indo-European languages, or it may use simplified representations of objects or concepts, as in east-Asian and ancient Egyptian pictographic writing forms. However, it is distinguished from illustration, such as cave drawing and painting, and non-symbolic preservation of language via non-textual media, such as magnetic tape audio.
Writing is an extension of human language across time and space. Writing most likely began as a consequence of political expansion in ancient cultures, which needed reliable means for transmitting information, maintaining financial accounts, keeping historical records, and similar activities. Around the 4th millennium BC, the complexity of trade and administration outgrew the power of memory, and writing became a more dependable method of recording and presenting transactions in a permanent form. In both Mesoamerica and Ancient Egypt writing may have evolved through calendrics and a political necessity for recording historical and environmental events.