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Comparative Cultures. Mass Cultural Council Creative Schools Professional Development Grant Year 2. Where are you in Social Studies ?. Review of Tech Assets. WGBH All Powerpoint lessons available on Kimberley's Website Linked Portaportal. Out of the Euphrates: Origins of Writing.

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Comparative Cultures

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Comparative cultures l.jpg

Comparative Cultures

Mass Cultural Council

Creative Schools

Professional Development Grant Year 2

Where are you in social studies l.jpg

Where are you in Social Studies ?

Review of tech assets l.jpg

Review of Tech Assets

  • WGBH

  • All Powerpoint lessons available on Kimberley's Website

  • Linked Portaportal

Out of the euphrates origins of writing l.jpg

Out of the Euphrates: Origins of Writing

Mass Cultural Council

Creative Schools

Professional Development Grant Year 2

Petrographs to pictographs l.jpg

Petrographs to Pictographs

  • Most languages were never written down

  • Spoken language predates written language

  • The earliest 'writing'

    • pictographic symbols

  • Pictographs date to at least 5000 BCE

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Ideographic / logographic

  • First true writing system date

    • 3500 BC

  • they consist of logographic or logophonetic symbols etched on clay tablets

  • abstract form of writing

    • represent ideas and abstract objects

  • The best way to think of an ideographic system is that each symbol represents a word

  • Egyptian is both logographic and logophonetic

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syllabic system

  • Syllabary

    • each symbol represents a syllable

  • Less symbols required to write the language

  • Japanese (the Katakana Syllabary) has seventy-five basic symbols, three of which combine to form an additional thirty-six symbols.

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  • Last writing system developed

  • Each symbol represents a sound

  • Roman Alphabet

    • English, Spanish, French, German,

  • Cyrillic Alphabet

    • Greek, Russian and many languages of Eastern Europe

  • Arabic and Hebrew are also alphabetic

  • the earliest alphabetic system we know of is from modern-day Syria

    • North Semitic language group

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Theories on the advent of writing

  • invention for complex cultures with large populations

  • record keeping to correctly count agricultural products

  • for keeping the calendar to plant crops at the correct time

  • religious purpose i.e.: divination, communicating with deities

  • socio-political functions i.e.: reinforcing power of the ruling elite

  • Writing was invented independently

    • Mesopotamia, China, and Mesoamerica

    • Recent discoveries suggest that writing was invented in Egypt and Indus independently of Mesopotamia

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    Writing, Creation and the Gods

    • Sumerian

      • god Enlil was the creator of writing

    • Assyrian and Babylonian

      • god Nabu was credited as the inventor of writing and scribe of the gods

    • Similar to the Egyptian god Thoth,

    • Mesopotamian scribal gods also exhibit the power of creation via divine speech

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    Cuneiform denotes not one but several kinds of writing systems

    • Sumerian

    • Akkadian/Assyrian/Babylonian (Eastern Semitic)

    • Elamite

    • Eblaite

    • Hittite

    • Hurrian

    • Utartian

    • Ugaritic

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    Bullae and Tokens

    • Part of a number system

    • Bulla find from Nuzi (Northern Iraq)

    • Dated to1600 B.C.E.

    • Contained 49 small tokens

    • The lengthy cuneiform inscription on the outside translates to:

      • 21 ewes

      • 6 female lambs

      • 8 adult rams

      • 4 male lambs

      • 6 female goats

      • 1 male goat

      • 3 female kids

    • The Seal of the shepherd

    • Cylinder Seals make a repeating pattern

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    The Philadelphia TabletFound near Baghdad, Iraq3100-2900 BC

    • This tablet is one of the earliest on record

      • Records the transfer of 300 acres of land between two parties.

      • illustrates the transition from token oriented record keeping to cuneiform.

      • The tablet is divided into 3 columns, which are further subdivided in panels.

      • Solid lines mark both the columns and the panels.

      • Reading begins at the top left (column 1), moves down the three panels on that side. and continues around the bottom edge and on to the reverse side.

      • The text picks up again on the front at the top of column 2, which continues down and around to the back. Column 3 does the same.

      • Column 1 describes the acquisition of 180 iku (63.5 hectares) of land by a person or temple household of a deity.

      • Columns 2 and 3 describe how the 180 iku is divided into 4 fields.

      • The round holes in the tablet count the bur (or field size).

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    The Round School Tablet

    • Babylonian city of Nippur

    • Hammurabi Dynasty

    • "lentil" or "bun" shape

    • 4 rows of signs on the front of the tablet.

      • The teacher inscribed the signs in rows 1 and 2.

      • The student then copied the text into rows 3 and 4.

      • Sumerian signs were already 1000 years old

      • The signs in row 1 were pronounced gi-gur

        • "reed basket."

      • Row 2 reads gi-gur-da

        • large reed basket.

      • This lesson was both for handwriting and vocabulary.

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    The Key to Deciphering Cuneiform: inscriptions on a cliff

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    Cylinder Seals

    • Developed as part of Ancient Near Eastern numerological system

      • tokens and bulla: perhaps representing barley and wheat

      • later these were flattened out and became pillow tablets

    • Amulet-like cylinders worn on cords

    • Depictions of mythological events and mighty deities bring the wearer under the protection of personal deity

    • Personal identity

      • many temples had seals

        • Priests or administrators had seals for their positions

      • each individual clan or tribe had their own seal

        • individual family member seals

    • The impressions are the important research aid

      • depictions are regionally specific

      • inscriptions and pictures showing dress styles, mythology and kings.

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    Archaeological Record

    • Cylinder Seals were made of wood, bone, stone, faience, and ivory

      • Which do you think survived?

    • Found buried with owners

    • Millions of sealings

      • Less Cylinder Seals

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    Earliest Cylinder Seals

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    Sumerian Period

    Early Sumerian steatite seal showing a god in a boat with a river scene of reeds and plants, birds or chevrons, star of divinity, three dots and an early inscription in a panel that is turned 90 degrees.

    The script is nearly pictographic, and the short, wide seal form is more characteristic of Jemdat Nasr than the Dynastic period. The engraving style is also in a Jemdat Nasr wheel-cut style.

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    Uruk Period

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    Neo-Assyrian Period Banquet scene. Serpentine cylinder seal and impression

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    Akkadian Period

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    Property and Personal Identity

    • Cylinder seals occupy a 3000 year time frame

      • closely linked to the use of cuneiform.

    • Some examples carved to look like the distal end of a bone

    • The stones are rounded to allow a repeating pattern over a large or small area

    • Seals can be made of any stone

      • Uruk period they were of softer stones such gypsum, later they were made of harder stones.

      • Lapis attests to trade between the Afghanistan area and Mesopotamia

    • They are carved in the reverse of cameo called intaglio.

    • Seals are considered rare and a fine art form

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    Personal Identity

    • First time individuals can be identified

    • Owner wore on bracelet or necklace

    • Seals can tell a story

      • I am Anu, son of Enki, servant of Uttu

      • Ianna, intercedes on my behalf

    • Some known identities: Scribe, Female Scribe, Weaver, Stone Cutter, Accountant, Metalworker

    • “Nintur, Shepherd”

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    Clay tablets & envelopes


    Storage jars

    Bales of commodities


    Worn as amulets

    Signed legal contracts

    What did they Seal?

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    How did they do it?

    • Carved in reverse, so it will read correctly when rolled out

    • Carved into the cylinder – intaglio

    • A pattern repeats when rolled on wet clay

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    Modern Cylinder Seals Iranian artist Ahmad Nadalian

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    Tools for making your seal

    • Air-dry clay

    • Plastic knife

    • Tooth pick

    • Plastic straw

    • Wooden skewer

    • Scissors

    • 12-18 inch length of cord

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    Design Time

    • You have five minutes to lay-out a design for your seal on the worksheet

    • Remember that the carvings are reversed

    • Think about your identity and what you want the seal to say about you

    • You can use letters, pictures, numbers, designs or any combination

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    Method for making seals

    • Roll out clay to make it smooth give shape

    • Punch into clay

    • Crave out clay

    • Incise clay

    • Press into clay

    • They are carved into the stone called intaglio.

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    Make your Cylinder Seal

    Cut piece of clay

    Roll clay into shape and form small cylinder

    Decorate cylinder - letters are formed in reverse, scenes, motifs

    Pierce clay with wooden skewer

    Let dry overnight

    Thread cord through straw

    Remove stray leaving the cord in place

    Roll out your seal in paint on paper.

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    Looting in modern Iraq

    • Larsa

    • Sumerian capital

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    • Written in a alphabetic cuneiform

    • Clay tablets written in Ugaritic provided the first evidence of the "modern" ordering of letters

    • This writing system was employed in the city of Ugarit, located in western Syria from around 1300 BCE

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    • Punic

    • Neo-Punic

    • Phoenician proper

    • Late Phoenician cursive

    • Phoenician papyrus

    • Siloam Hebrew

    • Hebrew seals

    • Ammonite

    • Moabite

    • Proto-Canaanite

    Phoenician alphabet l.jpg

    Phoenician alphabet

    • developed from North Semitic prototype

    • was in use until about the 1st century BCE

    • trade spreads alphabet

      • All corners of the Mediterranean

    • ancestor of the Greek alphabet

      • of all Western alphabets.

    • Phoenician colonial scripts

      • Cypro-Phoenician (10th-2nd century BCE)

      • Sardinian (c. 9th century BCE) varieties

      • Punic and neo-Punic alphabets of Carthage, > 3rd century CE

        • Punic was a monumental script and neo-Punic a cursive form

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    no vowels

    • 22-character alphabet

    • no vowels are used

    • early inscriptions ran on continuously with no division between the words

    • c. 1000 – 700 BC some words have points or vertical strokes to divide them

    • c. 700 BC words separated by spaces

    • Aramaic script replaced old Phoenician

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    Coffin Lid of King

    • The earliest Phoenician inscription

    • Ahiram epitaph at Byblos in Phoenicia

    • dating from the 11th century BCE

    • written in North Semitic alphabet

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    Trade Records & alphabet

    • efficient method of keeping records

    • pen, ink

    • papyrus, parchment and paper

    • wax-writing tablet was found in an ancient Uluburun shipwreck (Canaanite Phoenician)

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    Uluburun shipwreck


    737 Found K15 on map

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    Alphabet Tables

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    Table of the Phoenician AlphabetNames of Characters, Phonetics, Derivatives and Modern Equivalents

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    Oldest Abecedary

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    Tel Zayit abecedary

    • inscribed with an extremely fine point

    • limestone boulder

    • The boulder was later incorporated into the wall of a building, with the inscribed side facing the interior of a stone-paved room.

    • firmly datable archaeological context (10th c BCE)

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    Ancient China

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    Ancient China

    • Chinese civilization

      • Yellow River valley

    • Recent archaeological discoveries

      • complex cultures of Neolithic China

    • distinct and independent cultures in various regions

    • interacted with and influenced each other 

      • Yangshao culture (5000-3000 BC) of the middle Yellow River valley, known for its painted pottery,

      • Longshan culture (2500-2000 BC) distinguished for its black pottery.     

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    Invention of writing

    • In China, the is attributed to an ancient sage named Ts'ang Chieh,

    • minister in the court of the legendary Yellow Emperor - Huang Ti

    • While not divine, this invention occurred in mythological times

    • Served as communication tool between heaven (realm of gods and ancestors) and earth (realm of humans)

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    Archaeological Evidence -China

    • Scientifically excavated objects can be placed more accurately in time and place

    • Texts often go through a process of accretion over time

    • many passages added later

    • Thousands of early archaeological sites have been excavated in China, most of them graves

    Fu hao s tomb c1250bce bce l.jpg

    Fu Hao's Tomb  c1250bce bce

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    Oracle Bones

    • The earliest surviving examples of writing

    • 13th and 14th c. BCE.

    • divination records

    • results inscribed on oxen shoulder blades & turtle shells

    • 2/3 not deciphered

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    small seal script

    • characters of uniform size and shape

    • move away from the earlier pictographic forms of oracle bone script

    • text conforms to a regular grid

    • arranged in vertical columns

    • fairly regular horizontal alignment

    • lack of variation in line quality

      • painstaking execution with a fairly rigid brush

      • or the use of a stylus

    Calligraphy l.jpg


    • European term = "beautiful writing“

    • ornamenting words on the page

    • highly stylized, regular, and decorated with flourishes

    • lacking in personal expression

    • tended to curb spontaneity, producing fairly static forms 

    • minor art and  

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    Calligraphy is European concept

    • Chinese culture is embedded in characters.

    • It was highly regulated

    • Went through recognized stages

    • Poets pushed the envelope of character modifications

    • It is still considered a major art form and has been for hundreds of years

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    most widely practiced writing styles

    • favored spontaneity

    • the brush was thought to act like a seismograph in recording the movements of arm, wrist, and hand

    • established as a "high art" form

      • Prior to Tang dynasty 627 to 649 CE

    • continuously enjoyed a high status among the arts

    • practiced today  

    • calligraphic skill serves as a basis for painting technique

    • the rise of calligraphy to "high art" status preceded that of painting by hundreds of years

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    Drawing exercise

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    Undeciphered Scripts

    • Linear A

    • Indus Valley Script

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    Most recently deciphered

    • Mayan Hieroglyphs

    Mayan hieroglyphs l.jpg

    Mayan Hieroglyphs

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    Next meeting

    • January 7, 2010

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