Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

The Ñuiñe Script: Writing and Society in northwestern Oaxaca (1600-1200 b.p.)

Friday, September 14, 2018

12:00pm – 2:00pm

Giddings Room 212, 128 Hope Street

Hosted by the Anthropology Department, talk given by Javier Urcid, Jane’s Chair Professor of Latin American Studies, Department of Anthropology, Brandeis University.

The Mesoamerican Ñuiñe script appears to have been a semasiographic and logo-phonic system used by multi-linguistic and pluri-ethnic elites to assert or contest membership in corporate groups that owned the means of production, including land, labor, and access to high-ranking political and religious offices. Most of the known inscriptions are emblematic and synecdochical representations of named individuals and their genealogical tracings. The script was partly coeval with the neighboring Zapotec and Central Mexican writing traditions, and evinces a complex process of scribal borrowing and lending with other Oaxacan, Teotihuacan, and Post-Teotihuacan scripts. It illustrates an alternative path in script development unrelated to uni-lineal, teleological transformations from “picture writing” to an “alphabet.”

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