17. Heritage in Transmission: Adoption and Adaptation of Writing Systems

Organizer: Annick Payne (Universität Bern)


Paola Corò, (Università Ca' Foscari, Venezia), ‘Foreign scribes in Hellenistic Uruk? Scribes, scribal traditions and the layout of cuneiform texts’ – Orly Goldwasser (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), ‘Alphabets as "Disruptive Technology" in the Ancient Near East’ – Paola Cotticelli-Kurras (Università di Verona), ‘Schreibfehler im Fokus: die anatolischen Schriftsysteme des II. Jahrtausends im Vergleich’ – Karenleigh A. Overmann (Center for Cognitive Archaeology, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs), ‘Writing system transmission and change: A neurofunctional perspective’- Robert Hawley (CNRS “Orient et Méditerranée”; Institut Catholique de Paris, ELCOA), “The different cuneiform alphabets of the 13th century BC, and their (occasional) passage from socially marginal experiments to institutionalized ‘official’ status”


Cuneiform writing famously began at Sumer, and as a cultural technique, writing successfully spread far beyond the circle of its original users. Further script inventions such as alphabetic and hieroglyphic share the same cultural heritage of the idea of writing. This workshop will consider both the adoption and adaptation of cuneiform amongst different peoples of the Ancient Near East and the spread of the concept of writing over several millennia. Questions to be addressed include what surviving ancient scripts tell us about the intellectual environment of their users, attested either explicitly in the literary record, or implicitly in the structures of the respective writing systems. The workshop will consider the role of transformation as an intercultural contact phenomenon, with attention to the question of transmission routes, and their modalities such as mono- or multidirectionality of the diffusion across linguistic and cultural boundaries.

Confirmed workshop contributions will discuss the culture dependency of text format, the status of new scripts as technology, the typology of writing mistakes, and the neurofunctional perspective of writing in transmission. If you are interested in contributing to this workshop, please send a short abstract (ca. 250 wds) to annick.payne@iaw.unibe.ch.