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  • Materiality of Minoan Writing: Modes of display and perception

    Georgia Flouda

    Chapter from the book: Piquette K. & Whitehouse R. 2013. Writing as Material Practice: Substance, surface and medium.

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    In traditional narratives of Minoan archaeology, the visual display of writing is usually overlooked.This chapter seeks to outline a framework for exploring the modes of display and the perception of Minoan writing by focussing on artefact categories bearing Cretan Hieroglyphic and Linear A inscriptions. Since both scripts are still undeciphered, they lend themselves to a study of their attestations as signs in the Peircean sense. Attention is therefore redirected from the written form of the specific inscriptions, the ‘signifier’ or ‘representamen’, to the physical aspects of their material supports and to the symbolic messages projected by them. Semiotic relationships that are grounded in the material properties and the performative capacities of the artefacts themselves are examined, in order to detect aspects of artefactual meaning that may not be immediately obvious from a conventional perspective. Parameters like material, size, shape, and other functional aspects of Minoan inscribed artefacts are analysed. Special emphasis is also placed on artefacts that possibly served as symbolic devices, mainly inscribed sealstones and their impressions on clay. The combination of script with images that may have constituted a visual code, and its potential for assessing literacy, is explored in the case of the Archanes Script and Cretan Hieroglyphic sealstones. Clay, metal, and stone objects carrying Linear A inscriptions of a non-administrative character are also systematically considered. The different ways scale, directionality, alignment, and the small scale of writing have informed the creation of these inscribed objects constitute one of the main questions posed. How small size could have affected the use of some inscribed objects in display events and rituals that included performance is also explored.

    In order to address the modes of perception of Minoan writing, the analysis relies on examining how the graphic symbols of the two scripts are arranged in the ‘graphic space’, namely the area where text is positioned and read. In this framework, directionality, alignment, and scale of the Hieroglyphic and Linear A signs are treated as indexes. Finally, the study focusses on the ways in which these parameters may have affected the experience of the inscribed artefacts by social actors, as well as the role of these objects in practices of remembrance.

    How to cite this chapter
    Flouda, G. 2013. Materiality of Minoan Writing: Modes of display and perception. In: Piquette K. & Whitehouse R (eds.), Writing as Material Practice. London: Ubiquity Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/bai.h
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    This is an Open Access chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (unless stated otherwise), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Copyright is retained by the author(s).

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    This book has been peer reviewed. See our Peer Review Policies for more information.

    Additional Information

    Published on Dec. 18, 2013

    DOI
    https://doi.org/10.5334/bai.h


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