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Touillon-Ricci, Mathilde (2022) Individuality and Identity in Cuneiform: Personalising Writing Practices in the Neo-Sumerian (Ur III) and Old Assyrian Periods. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London and The British Museum. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00038334

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Abstract

Writing is a product of the hand as much as of the mind; not an innate ability, it is a learned and practised skill, a combination of rules and standards performed by individuals. Inscribed objects, beyond their documentary content, materialise the writing process and the context in which it was performed. This research aims to further our understanding of the material aspects of cuneiform writing beyond its documentary and historical nature, analysing the observable marks left on inscribed tablets by ancient writers. Understanding identity and individuality in cuneiform in terms of sameness and difference, this research investigates how idiosyncrasies and similarities can be formally expressed in writing. Individuality and identity in cuneiform are analysed through the study of two contrasting corpora: the institutionalised production of professional Ur III scribes at the epicentre of state bureaucracy in Mesopotamia in the 21st century BCE, and the practical literacy of Old Assyrian merchants trading between Mesopotamia and Anatolia in the 19th century BCE. Considering the artefactual value of inscribed objects, this research addresses the extent to which palaeographic and material features can vary, conform, or evolve over time, across sites and between groups and individuals. By contrasting datasets, this research interrogates the relationship between inscribed artefacts and writing practices through palaeographic and diplomatic features such as sign variants, writing sequence and text layout. Illustrating the application of a new integrated approach to writing practices to study cuneiform tablets as material objects, this research reaches new layers of information through the study of features such as script density or character forms and formation, thus providing new evidence about standardisation and personalisation of writing practices in the Ur III and Old Assyrian periods. This research was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council under the Collaborative Doctoral Awards scheme (CDA reference: AH/P004539/1).

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Mark Weeden, Jon Taylor and Andrew George
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00038334
Date Deposited: 22 Nov 2022 16:35
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/38334
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council

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