Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


3 October 2015

In the land of Lilliput: Writing in the Bronze Age Aegean

Artemis Karnava World Archaeology 47.1 (2015), 137-157


A neglected aspect of ‘miniaturization’ is the development of the so-called ‘pictographic’ or ‘iconographic’ writing systems. ‘Picture-writing’ is the term used to describe the beginnings of various scripts, whereby the initial inspiration for the visual rendering of the signs is suggested to have been an array of tangible objects, or parts thereof. This article investigates the ‘miniaturization’ of objects to script signs and the cognitive processes at play during most of the second millennium bce in the Aegean. The Cretan Hieroglyphic, Linear A and Linear B had a standard and constantly renewed relation with this virtual ‘borrowing’ of object forms for the needs of the scripts themselves and the administrative systems that commanded them. This process ran parallel to other ‘miniaturization’ favourites of the same period, namely the ‘miniaturization’ of clay pots, animals and humans as well as representations of human activities. The eventual relations between these different ‘miniaturizations’ are also examined.


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