I have visited both Egypt and China, the two cultures that have maybe the most well-known sign based written languages. The idea that other cultures have evolved completely different ways to document history in really interesting. From paintings on the wall, via the knot-language of the old Incas to our binary representations in our computers, language and meaning can be represented in a lot of different ways. If you are interested in history and languages I recommend you to read the history of the Rosetta stone and the race between France and England trying to decode the hieroglyphic language.
The Rosetta stone is a black stone found by the French army in Egypt during the Napoleonic wars. The stone had the same text in three languages (Greek, Coptic and using hieroglyphs), and this enabled us to start cracking the Egyptian written language after maybe 1500 years where no-one knew how to read the language.
Now, some of us might be mistaken into believing that we only use the phonetic alphabet and the written word to communicate in our part of the world, but we use sign languages too. Everywhere we go we see signs telling us what not to do and where we can travel.