The Ancient World Revisited: Material Dimensions of Written Artefacts

The Ancient World Revisited: Material Dimensions of Written Artefacts
Edited by Marilina Betrò, Michael Friedrich, and Cécile Michel In cooperation with Jesper Eidem and Gianluca Miniaci, Studies in Manuscript Cultures 37, Berlin: De Gruyter. DOI:

Written artefacts are traditionally studied because of their content. Material aspects of these artefacts enrich the study of ancient history in many ways. Eleven case studies in five sections on the ancient world, including the Near East, Egypt, the Mediterranean, China and India, demonstrate the impact of a holistic approach that considers materiality and content alike.

Following an introductory sketch of relevant research, the first section, ‘Methodological Considerations’, critically examines the limitations the evidence available imposes on our understanding. ‘Early Uses of Writing’ addresses material and spatial aspects of inscriptions, and their communicative functions over the textual ones. The third section, ‘Material Features’, deals with clay, wooden and papyrus manuscripts and demonstrates the importance of an integrated approach. The contributions to ‘Co-presence of Written Artefacts’ take into account that written artefacts come in clusters. The final section, ‘Cultural Encounters’, presents studies on the interactions between social strata and ethnic groups, challenging previous ideas

Michael Friedrich

Methodological Considerations
Some Mesopotamian Challenges: A History Based on Tablets Unevenly Distributed in Time and Space                                                                                                                    31 Jesper Eidem and Cécile Michel

Epigraphy, Archaeology, and our Understanding of the Mycenaean World                    49 Jorrit Kelder

Early Uses of Writing
Material, Spatial, and Social Contexts of Early Writing: Egypt and China                     71
John Baines und Cao Dazhi

Aśoka and the Use of Writing in Ancient India                                                                 129
Ingo Streich

Material Features
Writing on Wood in Hittite Anatolia                                                                                   165
Michele Cammarosano

The Mittanian Cuneiform Documents: The Interplay between Content, Language, Material, Format, and Sealing Practices                                                                                                   207
Stefano de Martino

Some Turin Papyri Revisited: A Look at Material Features and Scribal Practices       221
Susanne Töpfer

Co-Presence of Written Artefacts
Experiencing Inscriptions in Space: Extended Inscriptions of the Early New Kingdom (Qenamun – Useramun – Rekhmire)                                                                             243
Andréas Stauder

The Scholar in His House: Scribal Material in Context in Late Uruk Private Houses   281
Philippe Clancier

Cultural Encounters
Bakhtin, Gramsci, and the Materiality of the Egyptian Hieroglyphs: When the ‘Official’ Culture Leaks into the ‘Folk’ Domain             307
Gianluca Miniaci

The ‘He’ Tribe from Serabit el Khadim and the Invention of Alphabetic Writing: Can the Subaltern … Write ?                                                                                                            345
Ludwig D. Morenz

Contributors                                                                                                                             369

General Index                                                                                                                          371

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