By the 13th century BC, the Syrian city of Ugarit hosted an extremely diverse range of writing practices. As well as two main scripts – alphabetic and logographic cuneiform - the site has also produced inscriptions in a wide range of scripts and languages, including Hurrian, Sumerian, Hittite, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Luwian hieroglyphs and Cypro-Minoan. This variety in script and language is accompanied by writing practices that blend influences from Mesopotamian, Anatolian and Levantine traditions together with what seem to be distinctive local innovations.
Script and Society: The Social Context of Writing Practices in Late Bronze Age Ugarit explores the social and cultural context of these complex writing traditions from the perspective of writing as a social practice. It combines archaeology, epigraphy, history and anthropology to present a highly interdisciplinary exploration of social questions relating to writing at the site, including matters of gender, ethnicity, status and other forms of identity, the relationship between writing and place, and the complex relationships between inscribed and uninscribed objects. This forms a case- study for a wider discussion of interdisciplinary approaches to the study of writing practices in the ancient world.
Part I. Background, theory and methods 1. Introduction: Ugarit and its scripts 2. The social archaeology of writing
Part II. Late Bronze Age writing practices in regional context 3. Writing in the Bronze Age Levant 4. Standardisation, vernacularisation and the emergence of alphabetic cuneiform 5. Influence and innovation: networks of writing practice and culture
Part III. Writing and society at Ugarit 6. The contexts of writing at Ugarit 7. Writing and the social construction of place 8. Who wrote? Literacy in Ugarit 9. Writing practices and minority communities 10. Social change in Late Bronze Age Ugarit 11. Writing practices and elite identity: imperialism, resistance and vernacularisation 12. The impact and legacy of alphabetic cuneiform 13. Conclusion: the social context of writing practices at Ugarit
Philip J. Boyes is a research associate at the Faculty of Classics, Cambridge, working on the social context of writing at Ugarit as part of The Crews Project. He has previously worked on the archaeology of the east Mediterranean and Levant in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages.
"Quite illuminating... [A] well-read book, with impressive knowledge of the relevant secondary material."
~Palestine Exploration Quarterly
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