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  • Writing as Material Practice

    Substance, surface and medium

    Kathryn E Piquette, Ruth D Whitehouse

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    Writing as Material Practice grapples with the issue of writing as a form of material culture in its ancient and more recent manifestations, and in the contexts of production and consumption. Fifteen case studies explore the artefactual nature of writing — the ways in which materials, techniques, colour, scale, orientation and visibility inform the creation of inscribed objects and spaces, as well as structure subsequent engagement, perception and meaning making. Covering a temporal span of some 5000 years, from c.3200 BCE to the present day, and ranging in spatial context from the Americas to the Near East, the chapters in this volume bring a variety of perspectives which contribute to both specific and broader questions of writing materialities. The authors also aim to place past graphical systems in their social contexts so they can be understood in relation to the people who created and attributed meaning to writing and associated symbolic modes through a diverse array of individual and wider social practices.

    Table of Contents

    Writing as Material Practice TOC

    • Acknowledgements

    • Contributors

    • Introduction: Developing an approach to writing as material practice (Kathryn E. Piquette and Ruth D. Whitehouse)

    • The Twisting Paths of Recall: Khipu (Andean cord notation) as artifact (Frank Salomon)

    • Writing as Material Technology: Orientation within landscapes of the Classic Maya world (Sarah E. Jackson)

    • Writing (and Reading) as Material Practice: The world of cuneiform culture as an arena for investigation (Roger Matthews)

    • Re-writing the Script: Decoding the textual experience in the Bronze Age Levant (c.2000–1150 bc) (Rachael Thyrza Sparks)

    • The Function and Meaning of Writing in the Prehistoric Aegean: Some reflections on the social and symbolic significance of writing from a material perspective (Helène Whittaker)

    • Form Follows Function: Writing and its supports in the Aegean Bronze Age (Sarah Finlayson)

    • Materiality of Minoan Writing: Modes of display and perception (Georgia Flouda)

    • Saving on Clay: The Linear B practice of cutting tablets (Helena Tomas)

    • Straight, Crooked and Joined-up Writing: An early Mediterranean view (Alan Johnston)

    • “It Is Written”?: Making, remaking and unmaking early ‘writing’ in the lower Nile Valley (Kathryn E. Piquette)

    • Written Greek but Drawn Egyptian: Script changes in a bilingual dream papyrus (Stephen Kidd)

    • The Other Writing: Iconic literacy and Situla Art in pre-Roman Veneto (Italy) (Elisa Perego)

    • ‘Tombstones’ in the North Italian Iron Age: Careless writers or athletic readers? (Ruth D. Whitehouse)

    • Different Times, Different Materials and Different Purposes: Writing on objects at the Grand Arcade site in Cambridge (Craig Cessford)

    • Writing Conservation: The impact of text on conservation decisions and practice (Elizabeth Pye)

    • Epilogue (John Bennet)

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    Book Reviews (2):

      Review from 30 Aug 2014: Amazon.co.uk
      This contribution from the conference papers is a great starting point for archaeologists

      Massimiliano Pinarello

      I personally found the book stimulating for its theoretical approach, which is supported by detailed object-based case studies. Writing as Material Practice collects some of the papers presented at the homonymous conference held in UCL, Institute of Archaeology, in May 2009. This contribution from the conference papers is a great starting point for archaeologists, anthropologists, and any scholar who is interested in writing as a key element in shaping society. The human interaction with its environment and resources is mirrored in the process and outcome of writing practice. I would definitely recommend this book to all those who have an interest in archaeology and material cultures. The impact of the conference and this publication aims at readdressing writing as a social practice, focussing on the material aspects of it and not only on the conventional textual meaning embedded within writing. This book includes several studies distributed on a wide geo-chronological spectrum, each accompanied by colour images.

      Review from 01 May 2015: European Journal of Archaeology
      Writing as Material Practice: Substance, Surface and Medium

      Javier de Hoz

      This book collects the revised and updated versions of seventeen papers presented at the conference Writing as Material Practice: Substance, Surface and Medium, held in May 2009 at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. This book...

      The full review cannot be displayed due to copyright restrictions. You can read the full review at European Journal of Archaeology


    How to cite
    Piquette K. & Whitehouse R. 2013. Writing as Material Practice: Substance, surface and medium. London: Ubiquity Press. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/bai

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    Additional Information

    Published on 18 Dec 2013




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