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This article demonstrates the scope of that accomplishment and how it came to be achieved. Humans lived for tens of thousands of years with language, and thus with tales about the past, but without writing.Oral history is still important in all parts of the world, and successful transmission of stories over many generations suggests that people without writing can have a sophisticated historical sense.Its claim to truth is based in part on the fact that all the persons or events it describes really existed or occurred at some time in the past.Historians can say nothing about these persons or events that cannot be supported, or at least suggested, by some kind of documentary evidence.History, which may be defined as an account that purports to be true of events and ways of thinking and feeling in some part of the human past, stems from this archetypal human narrative activity.While sharing a common ancestry with myth, legend, epic poetry, and the novel, history has of course diverged from these forms.In the 20th century the scope of historical evidence was greatly expanded to include, among many other things, aerial photographs, the rings of trees, old coins, clothes, motion pictures, and houses.Modern historians have determined the age of the Shroud of Turin, which purportedly bears the image of Jesus, through carbon-14 dating and have discredited the claim of Anna Anderson to be the grand duchess Anastasia, the daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, through DNA testing Just as the methods at the disposal of historians have expanded, so have the subjects in they have become interested.
The king-lists of the Sumerians, the oldest civilization in Mesopotamia, not only presented the order of rulers but described shifts in power as various kings were “smitten with weapons” and overthrown.
One way is to make use of nontraditional sources—for example, personal documents, such as wills or marriage contracts.
Another is to look at the records of localities rather than of central governments.
Such evidence customarily takes the form of something written, such as a letter, a law, an administrative record, or the account of some previous historian.
In addition, historians sometimes create their own evidence by interviewing people.
Virtually all that was known about them passed through the filter of the attitudes of literate elites.