A pictogram or pictograph is a symbol representing an object or concept by illustration. Pictography is a form of writing whereby ideas are transmitted through drawing. It is the basis of cuneiform and hieroglyphs.
Early written symbols were based on pictograms, pictures which resemble what they signify, and ideograms, pictures which represent ideas; it is commonly believed that pictograms appeared before ideograms. They were used by various ancient cultures all over the world since around 9000 BC and began to develop into logographic writing systems around 5000 BC. Pictograms are still in use as the main medium of written communication in some non-literate cultures in Africa, The Americas, and Oceania, and are often used as simple symbols by most contemporary cultures.
The earliest uses of pictograms in Mesopotamia predated the famous Sumerian cuneiforms (oldest of which date to around 3400 BC). As far as around 9000 BC tokens marked with simple pictures began to be used to label basic farm produce, and around 6000 BC, with the rise of cities and spread of basic craftmanship more complex pictographic tokens were devised to label manufactured goods. Eventually, the tokens were replaced by clay tablets, on which symbols were drawn with a blunt reed called a stylus. The impressions left by the stylus were wedge shaped, thus giving rise to the name cuneiform, wedge-writing.
Water, rabbit, deer pictograms on a replica of an Aztec Stone of the Sun.Though written Chinese is often thought of consisting of pictograms, less than 1% of all characters ever created have their direct origins in pictograms. The letters of the Roman alphabet, however, do have their origins in pictograms. For example, the letter A represented the head of an ox, and if it is turned upside down, a bovine head with horns can be seen.