Publication : The Ancient World Revisited: Material Dimensions of Written Artefacts, edited by Marilina Betrò, Michael Friedrich, and Cécile Michel

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.


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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.

The volume contributes to the comparative study of written artefacts in ancient history, stimulating cross-disciplinary and -cultural research.



Introduction                                                                                                                             1

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