Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


1 January 2020

The First ‘European’ Writing: Redefining the Archanes Script

Roeland P.‐J. E. Decorte Oxford Journal of Archaeology 37.4 (2018): 341-372


This paper investigates a series of glyptic inscriptions attested on Crete at the end of the third and beginning of the second millennium BC, collectively referred to as the ‘Archanes Script’. These minute engravings are considered to represent the earliest appearance of writing west of Egypt, and the first ‘true’ writing in the Aegean. Though mentioned in passing in almost every study of Bronze Age Aegean writing, few scholars have ever offered a definition of what exactly they consider the ‘Archanes Script’ to be. No work or scholarly consensus exists delineating which signs constitute its signary, or even which documents comprise its corpus. Study of the seals as objects in their own right, examining script signs alongside associated iconography, material qualities and form, has been rare. This paper offers the first complete overview and redefinition of the Archanes Script since its discovery in the 1960s and initial definition by Paul Yule in 1980.


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