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Title: The origins of writing, and its relation to art on Bronze Age Crete
Author: Decorte, Roeland Pieter-Jan Ewoud
ISNI:       0000 0004 7228 0515
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis sheds first light on the complex narrative behind the earliest appearance of writing in Europe. A radical new framework of interpretation, recognising art and writing as different ends of a single mode of graphic expression, is applied to the material culture of Early to Middle Bronze Age Crete as a context-conscious alternative to the strict and anachronistic divisions imposed by traditional models. This allows for a novel way of viewing and identifying structures of meaning embedded in otherwise familiar evidence. A comprehensive synthesis of the archaeological evidence for the undeciphered Bronze Age Cretan writing systems is offered, contextualising the thesis and its arguments within a new narrative of mostly autonomous script formation on Crete. Detailed analysis of the material record is started in the Early Bronze Age, where a previously unrecognised system of Prepalatial glyptic iconography is demonstrated to have maintained uniform distribution and presentation for roughly eight centuries, appearing in the exact contexts, and ostensibly fulfilling similar functions, as later writing. This newly identified system is argued to have provided the conceptual background against which later writing emerged. The thesis subsequently discusses the Archanes Script, the first accepted ‘true’ writing to appear west of Egypt, which has been severely understudied and highly ill-understood. Redefining the Archanes Script completely, a first signary is constructed, and new documents discovered. A further chapter argues for the possible existence of other, as of yet unidentified, linear writing systems on Crete. This is followed by a study of the Cretan Hieroglyphic writing system; the unjustified omission of supposedly ‘decorative’ signs in many of its documents is identified, the script’s corpus nearly doubled, and ‘a complete turnaround in the way in which we approach and define Cretan Hieroglyphic’ proposed.
Supervisor: Broodbank, Cyprian Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Origins of Writing ; Classics ; Archaeology ; Aegean ; Bronze Age ; Proto-writing ; Minoan ; Crete ; Archanes Script ; Cretan Hieroglyphic ; Linear A ; Epigraphy ; Undeciphered Scripts ; Glyptic ; Earliest European Writing