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Two - Dazzled and Absorbed

Delayed Reading in Altered Egyptian Hieroglyphic Writing

from Part I - Hidden Writing

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 August 2021

John Bodel
Affiliation:
Brown University, Rhode Island
Stephen Houston
Affiliation:
Brown University, Rhode Island
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Summary

This chapter examines writings from Bronze Age China that might at first glance seem to be hidden, asking about their audience and the intentions behind them. It begins at the late second millennium Anyang site with a pit deposit of inscribed oracle bones in the royal precinct. Arguing that the pit was part of a representation of sacrifice, it suggests that the buried writing was offered to the royal ancestors in thanks for their replies to the divination questions. Next it looks at inscriptions on bronze ritual vessels. These originated in the late second millennium as display texts addressed to deceased ancestors but early in the first millennium came to be consciously written for the living as well. A third case is stone tablets inscribed with covenant texts and buried in sacrificial pits at the fifth-century BCE Houma site. Here it seems that rulers seeking to enforce loyalty not only called the spirits to witness but also kept duplicate copies of the covenants as witnesses that could be called in evidence. The chapter concludes with some camouflaged writings from the latter part of the first millennium. These were designed to entertain highly literate readers by provoking mental gymnastics.

Type
Chapter
Information
The Hidden Language of Graphic Signs
Cryptic Writing and Meaningful Marks
, pp. 41 - 53
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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