Millions of people participate in signature transactions every day around the world. Whether you are making a purchase or signing a permission slip, there is power in your signature. Although using your signature to seal the deal is common, the concept has evolved over many millennia.
Before the Alphabet
Before there was e-signature, even before there was an alphabet, mankind wanted to make its mark. Proof of man’s earliest written communication and signatures have been found in Lascaux Cave in France and Altamira Cave in Spain. Scientists have found handprints that are believed to represent signatures of the artist. Some paintings found in caves like these are dated between 25 and 35 thousand years old!
The Phoenician alphabet, considered to be the origin to our modern alphabet, was created around 1050 BC. Researchers believe that the early alphabet was created for trade contracts, marking a major milestone in the advancement of human civilization.
Some of the earliest written contracts found by archeologists were written in Mesopotamia (present day Iraq). According to Fordham University’s, Ancient History Sourcebook, one of the first early rental agreements was carved out on a stone around 2,000 B.C. This contract was an agreement between landlord and tenant for “one shekel of silver” and included the signature of four witnesses. The real estate process has certainly evolved since then!
Signature in a Stamp
As society evolved, mankind found other ways to seal the deal-literally! A special seal, called a signet, was placed inside jewelry (usually rings) and was used by the elite to sign and authenticate important documents. The Signet was dipped in wax and pressed on the document, signifying the approval of its contents. Signet rings have been found in present day Sudan that date back as far as 40 A.D.
The Age of Technology
Today the signature has advanced beyond rudimentary paintings and even beyond the traditional “wet ink” signature. Even methods of authentication have advanced since our early ancestors. Thanks to legislative measures, like the ESIGN Act, electronic and digital signatures are given the same legal weight as the wet ink signature. This allows companies, like SignOnTheGo, to offer state-of-the-art tools to sign contracts electronically in a matter of minutes; even if your partners are in another part of the world. Real estate, legal and medical are just examples of the industries that benefit from the efficiency of the e-signature.