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Look Inside The First Writing

The First Writing
Script Invention as History and Process


Stephen D. Houston, John S. Robertson, Bruce G. Trigger, Jerrold Cooper, Robert Englund, John Baines, Robert Bagley, Françoise Bottéro, Henrik Williams, Elizabeth Hill Boone
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  • Date Published: July 2008
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521728263

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About the Authors
  • Ancient writing gives us our first glimpse of history, people and institutions, and yet its origins remain mysterious. This 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.

    • Most up-to-date, comprehensive look at why writing comes into existence, from case studies in many different parts of the world, with top experts in those areas
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '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

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2008
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521728263
    • length: 436 pages
    • dimensions: 250 x 176 x 27 mm
    • weight: 0.88kg
    • contains: 25 b/w illus. 3 maps
    • availability: Available
  • 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 Françoise Bottéro
    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.

  • Editor

    Stephen D. Houston, Brown University, Rhode Island
    Stephen Houston is Professor of Anthropology at Brown University, Rhode Island. 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 (with David Stuart and Taube, 2010).


    Stephen D. Houston, John S. Robertson, Bruce G. Trigger, Jerrold Cooper, Robert Englund, John Baines, Robert Bagley, Françoise Bottéro, Henrik Williams, Elizabeth Hill Boone

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