Recorded history or written history is a historical narrative based on a written record or other documented communication. It contrasts with other narratives of the past, such as mythological, oral or archeological traditions. For broader world history, recorded history begins with the accounts of the ancient world around the 4th millennium BC, and coincides with the invention of writing. For some geographic regions or cultures, written history is limited to a relatively recent period in human history because of the limited use of written records. Moreover, human cultures do not always record all of the information relevant to later historians, such as the full impact of natural disasters or the names of individuals. Recorded history for particular types of information is therefore limited based on the types of records kept. Because of this, recorded history in different contexts may refer to different periods of time depending on the topic.
Prehistory traditionally refers to the span of time before recorded history, ending with the invention of writing systems. Prehistory refers to the past in an area where no written records exist, or where the writing of a culture is not understood.
More complete writing systems were preceded by proto-writing. Early examples are the Jiahu symbols (c. 6600 BCE), Vinca signs (c. 5300 BCE), early Indus script (c. 3500 BCE) and Nsibidi script (c. before 500 CE). There is disagreement concerning exactly when prehistory becomes history, and when proto-writing became "true writing". However, invention of the first writing systems is roughly contemporary with the beginning of the Bronze Age in the late Neolithic of the late 4th millennium BCE. The Sumerian archaic cuneiform script and the Egyptian hieroglyphs are generally considered the earliest writing systems, both emerging out of their ancestral proto-literate symbol systems from 3400Ц3200 BCE with earliest coherent texts from about 2600 BCE.
The earliest chronologies date back to the earliest civilizations of Early Dynastic Period Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Sumerians, which emerged independently of each other from roughly 3500 B.C. Earliest recorded history, which varies greatly in quality and reliability, deals with Pharaohs and their reigns, as preserved by ancient Egyptians. Much of the earliest recorded history was re-discovered relatively recently due to archaeological dig sites findings. A number of different traditions have developed in different parts of the world as to how to interpret these ancient accounts.
Saint Augustine was influential in Christian and Western thought at the beginning of the medieval period. Through the Medieval and Renaissance periods, history was often studied through a sacred or religious perspective. Around 1800, German philosopher and historian Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel brought philosophy and a more secular approach into historical study.
The combined work, sometimes referred to collectively as the Mahavamsa, provides a continuous historical record of over two millennia, and is considered one of the world's longest unbroken historical accounts. It is one of the few documents containing material relating to the Naga and Yakkha peoples, indigenous inhabitants of Lanka prior to the legendary arrival of Prince Vijaya from Singha Pura of Kalinga.
While recorded history begins with the invention of writing, over time new ways of recording history have come along with the advancement of technology. History can now be recorded through photography, audio recordings, and video recordings. More recently, Internet archives have been saving copies of webpages, documenting the history of the Internet. Other methods of collecting historical information have also accompanied the change in technologies; for example, since at least the 20th century, attempts have been made to preserve oral history by recording it. Until the 1990s this was done using analogue recording methods such as cassettes and reel-to-reel tapes. With the onset of new technologies, there are now digital recordings, which may be recorded to CDs. Nevertheless, historical record and interpretation often relies heavily on written records, partially because it dominates the extant historical materials, and partially because historians are used to communicating and researching in that medium.