May 9, 2020 @ 10:00 am - 12:30 pm
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Lost Languages: Uncovering Ancient Writing and Pictographs (Now Online)
Please note: This class will now have online meetings. Your teacher will contact you with information on how to join the online classroom. To participate, students must have a stable internet connection with a computer or device with a webcam and microphone.
From strange proto-alphabets in Celtic Spain to the cave-writing of prehistoric China, ancient scripts give us tantalizing clues to the origins of writing and the literary mind. In this Research for Writers seminar, we will survey some of the world’s oldest and most mysterious writing systems, many of which have yet to be deciphered. We will begin by examining three successful decipherments: how a young scholar in France solved the puzzle of Egyptian hieroglyphs; how an architect revealed the meaning of Linear B; and how an intrepid British major deciphered Babylonian cuneiform. From there we will explore the most intriguing of the world’s undeciphered scripts, including the Zapotec writing of ancient Mexico, the Etruscan alphabet of pre-Roman Italy, and the perplexing rongorongo of isolated Easter Island. We will conclude with perhaps the most challenging and controversial of all ancient writing systems: the elegant pictographs of the Indus River Valley civilization, a culture apparently without temples, palaces, or state-sponsored warfare, whose language is lost and whose writing remains an irresistible enigma.