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The First Writing: Script Invention as History and Process

The First Writing: Script Invention as History and Process

Hardback

Edited by Stephen D. Houston

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  • Publisher: CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
  • Format: Hardback | 436 pages
  • Dimensions: 191mm x 251mm x 15mm | 590g
  • Publication date: 13 December 2004
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge
  • ISBN 10: 0521838614
  • ISBN 13: 9780521838610
  • Illustrations note: 25 b/w illus. 3 maps

Product description

Ancient writing gives us our first glimpse of history, people and institutions, and yet its origins remain mysterious. This 2004 book offers a treatment and examination of the origins of ancient writing. It studies often neglected writing systems, such as those of Mesoamerica. The leading scholars in the field collectively discuss new topics and highlight new subtlties about how these scripts came into existence and development during the first centuries of use. Egypt, Mesopotamia, Elamite, Mesoamerica and the Maya, Shang, and Runic are all represented.

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Author information

Stephen Houston is Professor of Anthropology at Brown University. A scholar of the ancient Maya in Mexico and Central America, he is the author of many books on the Maya, most recently The Memory of Bones: Body, Being and Experience among the Classic Maya.

Review quote

'Most of the specialist scholars included here are eminent in their fields, and the whole beautifully produced volume will be of interest to all those studying early civilizations.' Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Table of contents

Part I. Orientation and Theory: 1. Overture of the first writing Stephen D. Houston; 2. The possibility and actuality of writing John S. Robertson; 3. Writing systems: a case study in cultural evolution Bruce G. Trigger; Part II. Case Studies of Primary and Secondary Script Formation: 4. Babylonian beginnings: the origin of the cuneiform writing system in comparative perspective Jerrold Cooper; 5. The state of decipherment of Proto-Elamite Robert Englund; 6. The earliest Egyptian writing: development, context, purpose John Baines; 7. Anyang writing and the origin of the Chinese writing system Robert Bagley; 8. Writing on shell and bone in Shang China Francoise Bottero; 9. Reasons for runes Henrik Williams; 10. Writing in early Mesopotamia Stephen D. Houston; Part III. Epilogue: 11. Beyond writing Elizabeth Hill Boone; 12. Final thoughts on writing Stephen D. Houston.