The information about the origin of writing systems is a bit difficult to piece together, to find when the first accounts of "writing used to transfer information over large distances". For example, the list of languages by first written accounts focuses on more "modern" (so to speak) writing systems, starting in ~3k BCE with Egyptian hieroglyphics. But the history of written numbers dates back to 40k BCE, using tally marks in bones and other materials. Then native american painting dates back to at least 10k BCE, and other cave paintings in Europe to even 40k BCE.

So I'm wondering what the consensus is of when we specifically started to write stuff down to send it over large distances for trade, or if not necessarily writing it down, then using some sort of medium to store and transfer information over distances. Technically I guess you can say that a cave painting might be a message that extends over large distances, but that I would say is more potentially a permanent message that extends over time rather than one used to transfer information over distances of space. I'd be interested to know, too, when the first permanent messages were created, but that seems like a more vague and less well-developed concept, and probably better for a separate question. I am more imagining like passing a baton in a relay race, where the information is actually being transferred to someone else.

So for this question just wondering specifically about trade, and transferring information over large distances. Modern examples include paper, telephone, and internet. The earliest example I found was ~3k BCE with Aramaic drawing icons of lets say an Egyptian ox head 𓄀 or which led to Proto-Sinaitic (1850 - 1550 BCE), to Phoenician 𐤀‬ or (~1050 BCE, "oldest verified alphabet"), to Paleo-Hebrew (~1000 BCE), to Aramaic (~800 BCE), etc. It sounds like they drew these on bones, stone, or wood, to give to another person far away as a symbol of "We have 3 ox for sale" for example, like " III". But I can't see why this wouldn't have occurred thousands of years earlier, but haven't found much information on that.

I'm not too concerned with whether it was just tallies, icons, or alphabets, or even just shells, rocks, or sticks. More just wondering when the technology was developed historically (in different places in the world) to transfer information over large distances for trade. It seems that just to transfer information over large distances without trade could have occurred much earlier, but that is just speculation. It seems that hunter gatherer societies probably had some form of this technology, which might go back millions of years.

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    The question is vague I think, in the sense that any physical object can fit your requirements if agreed in advance. Spoken language and trade probably pre-dates by a good margin any of the physical remains you mention. – Tomas By Sep 21 '18 at 19:58

We can only examine evidence that survived, and the earliest surviving portable numerating objects seem to be Paleolithic tally sticks tens of thousands of years old. Their sociocultural roles are subject to debate, but they definitely represent numbers, and could be carried distances if necessary.

If you like to speculate, then the same thing could have happened even earlier using less permanent media like wood.

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