OIMP 32. Visible Language: Inventions of Writing in the Ancient Middle East and Beyond Christopher Woods, ed., with Emily Teeter and Geoff Emberling

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Writing, the ability to make language visible and permanent, is one of humanities' greatest inventions. This book presents current perspectives on the origins and development of writing in Mesopotamia and Egypt, providing an overview of each writing system and its uses. Essays on writing in China and Mesoamerica complete coverage of the four "pristine" writing systems — inventions of writing in which there was no previous exposure to texts. The authors explore what writing is, and is not, and sections of the text are devoted to Anatolian hieroglyphs of Anatolia, and to the development of the alphabet in the Sinai Peninsula in the second millennium BC and its spread to Phoenicia where it spawned the Greek and Latin alphabets. This richly illustrated volume, issued in conjunction with an exhibit at the Oriental Institute, provides a current perspective on, and appreciation of, an invention that changed the course of history.

Table of Contents

  • Visible Language: The Earliest Writing Systems. Christopher Woods
  • Iconography of Protoliterate Seals. Oya Topcuoglu
  • The Earliest Mesopotamian Writing. Christopher Woods
  • Adaptation of Cuneiform to Write Akkadian. Andrea R. Seri
  • The Rise and Fall of Cuneiform Script in Hittite Anatolia. Theo van den Hout
  • The Conception and Development of the Egyptian Writing System. Elise V. MacArthur
  • The Earliest Egyptian Writing. Andréas Stauder
  • Egyptian Hieroglyphic Writing. Janet H. Johnson
  • Hieratic. Kathryn E. Bandy
  • Demotic. Janet H. Johnson
  • Ptolemaic Hieroglyphs. François Gaudard
  • Coptic. T. G. Wilfong
  • Invention and Development of the Alphabet. Joseph Lam
  • Anatolian Hieroglyphic Writing. Ilya Yakubovich
  • The Beginnings of Writing in China. Edward L. Shaughnessy
  • The Development of Maya Writing. Joel Palka

  • Oriental Institute Museum Publications 32
  • Chicago: The Oriental Institute, 2015 (reprint, with minor corrections, of 2010 first edition)
  • ISBN: 978-1-885923-76-9
  • Pp. 240; 104 pages color
  • Paperback 9 x 11.5 in
  • $39.95

See museum registration information for the objects published in this volume