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(3,263 words)

Author(s): Röllig, Wolfgang (Tübingen) | Wachter, Rudolf (Basle) | Rives, James B. (Toronto)
[German version] I. Definition Writing is understood to be a set of signs for the visual preservation of human language. Within cultural history, creating and employing writing require (1) its usability, (2) a considerable degree of language analysis and (3) a triggering idea. Since writing can be mastered effortlessly even by six-year-olds and - once in existence - can be used for the most varied cultural purposes, the decisive factor for the moment of its invention is the idea. However, one should…


(3,931 words)

Author(s): Frahm, Eckart (Heidelberg) | Wachter, Rudolf (Basle)
Frahm, Eckart (Heidelberg) I. Ancient Orient and Egypt (CT) [German version] A. Introduction (CT) In the narrower sense of the word, decipherment is the successful attempt to comprehend the systematics of a text which is based on an unknown script to such an extent that it becomes possible to reconstruct indisputably not only the phonology but also the semantic content of the texts written in this script. The basis of every decipherment is a statistical evaluation of the available inscriptive material, the fi…


(802 words)

Author(s): Wachter, Rudolf (Basle)
[German version] An imprecise term: for antiquity it is primarily taken to mean ‘incised inscription’ ─ especially in contrast to the ‘ dipinti’, painted inscriptions. On the one hand, though, not everything scratched on was thought of as graffiti (e.g. a letter on a  writing tablet, a Mycenaean clay tablet with  Linear B or an inscription on Etruscan  mirrors and  Praenestine cistae), and on the other, hardly any ancient type of text or any ancient writing medium (concerning form and  writing utensils) is limited ex…

Writing Systems, Study of

(1,466 words)

Author(s): Wachter, Rudolf (Basle)
Wachter, Rudolf (Basle) [German version] A. Tasks (CT) The study of writing systems (WS) is an historically oriented auxiliary field with three general goals: 1) chronicle the history of WS and types of writing; 2) analyse the WS of so-called 'dead' languages in order to clarify the language systems that underlie them; 3) provide models and possible parallels for deciphering scripts. Wachter, Rudolf (Basle) [German version] B. Writing and Tradition (CT) Writing is a code for the optical preservation of human speech which is (like music, for example) an acoustic phe…

Nestor Cup

(534 words)

Author(s): Wachter, Rudolf (Basle)
[German version] The so-called NC (late geometric kotyle/skyphos, East Greek, c. 735-720 BC) was discovered in 1954 in the grave (c. 720-710 BC) of a 12-14-year-old boy on Ischia (Pithecussae) [1; 2]. It is important by virtue of the three-line inscription (CEG 454) in the Euboean alphabet, (old picture in Greece, languages; cf. drawing and photos in [1; 2]), carved in after firing: Νέστορος : ἔ̣[˘ε̄ν τ]ι̣ : εὔποτ[ον] : ποτε̄́ριον· | hὸς δ' ἂν το̃δε πίε̄σι : ποτε̄ρί[ο] : αὐτίκα κε̃νον | hῑ́μερος hαιρε̄́σει : καλλιστε̣[φά]ν̣ο̄ : Ἀφροδῑ́τε̄ς. ‘Nestor had a cup…


(1,236 words)

Author(s): Wachter, Rudolf (Basle)
[German version] How can the original pronunciation of a document written in a 'dead' language be determined? Descriptions of the positions of lips and tongue, the oral aperture, activity of the vocal cords etc. are largely missing for the individual sounds of the ancient languages of Europe (see e.g. the late information in Ter. Maur.); still, the technical terms recorded in Plato (Crat. 393e, 424c: φωνήεντα, ἄφωνα, ἄφθογγα) suggest phonetic study. Pliny the Elder (according to Prisc. 2,29,8ff.) distinguished three allophones (Phonetics and Phonology) of Latin /l/: an exilis (prob…

Italy, alphabetical scripts

(1,388 words)

Author(s): Wachter, Rudolf (Basle)
[German version] A. Introduction The alphabet was imported to Italy by the Euboean Greeks and adopted by the Etruscans in its entirety ( Alphabet, II. B.). The abecedary of Marsiliana d'Albegna ( c. 700-650 BC; see table) corresponds to the Italian prototype. The history of Italian writing can best be read from the abecedaries (*I.1ff. in [1], thus also quoted in the following). Apart from the scripts that derive from the Etruscan alphabet, Greek ones can be found in southern Italy (also in trading settlements further north …


(5,280 words)

Author(s): Müller-Kessler, Christa (Emskirchen) | Wachter, Rudolf (Basle)
[German version] I. Ancient Middle Eastern origins The early Semitic alphabet seems to have developed in parallel lines from various early stages of the proto-Canaanite language: ancient Hebrew (Gezer, Lachic, Shechem, Izbet Ṣarṭah in Palestine 17th-12th cents. BC) and proto-Sinaitic (Serabit el-Ḫadem c. 15th cent. BC). As its counterpart, cuneiform scripts from Ugarit (14th-13th cents. BC), Bet Shemesh/Palestine, Tell Nebi Mend/Syria and Sarepta/Phoenicia (13th-12th cents. BC) have also been found. The alphabet from these scripts ranged from between 27 and 30 characters. T…