Evidence suggests that the cost of wrapping and decorating a mummy was an expensive enterprise, and considering the wide range of people involved and the materials required, one would expect transactions concerning such costly items to have generated some paperwork. However, textual evidence for the production of mummies, burial assemblages, or tombs in Roman Egypt is almost non-existent, so much so that funerary art could almost be defined as art without artists, created by invisible hands. This article collects the available evidence and attempts to understand better the working life of the funerary artists and craftsmen of Roman Egypt.
Juan José Batalla
This chapter describes the primary ethnohistoric sources available for studying Mexica culture: codices and chronicles. The codices include both prehispanic and Colonial records that present information through logosyllabic writing and indigenous iconography that were often subsequently discussed in alphabetic writing. The chronicles were written by the conquerors, religious practitioners, political leaders, European-educated indigenous writers, and others. The chapter also examines sixteenth-century European-style illustrated books, such as the Relaciones Geográficas de Indias, as well as Nahuatl lexicons. In conjunction with archaeological, anthropological, and linguistic studies, the data contained in these sources allows analysis of all elements of Aztec culture, including history, economy, religion, daily life, and government.
The Egyptian writing system represents one of the oldest recorded languages known to humankind, along with Sumerian. But the system took centuries to adapt to what we now regard as its primary function: the encoding of continuous speech. Major changes in the historical and social-linguistic environment of late Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt (ca. 3250–2700 BC) left traces in the written communication and steered significant developments in the early writing system. After a brief introduction of the earliest evidence of writing in Egypt, this chapter will focus on the long and complex process of creating, extending, and standardizing the early hieroglyphic sign corpus. It will propose possible explanations for the dramatic decrease in the number of signs in the beginning of the third millennium BC.
Daphne Nash Briggs
This chapter has two parts. The first describes the origins, types, and uses of alphabetic and semi-syllabic writing systems in Iron Age Europe from the eighth century BC to c.AD 1000, and their spread through three main networks of long-range contact and exchange. It illustrates the typical progression from short labels naming craftsmen, owners, and the dead, to practical records of contracts and law codes, then canonical versions of elite oral tradition, and the ultimate generalized literacy of the urban civilizations. Inscribed coinage provides well-dated evidence in many otherwise non-literate places. The second part reviews first-hand accounts by travellers, historians, and geographers, from Hecataeus (c.550–476 BC) to Ahmad Ibn Fadlan and Adam of Bremen (tenth to eleventh centuries AD), tracking incremental changes over time in the range of what was known, and in motives for writing about foreign peoples.