Abstract: Puzzling Out Ancient Languages, or, how an evil bird becomes a word and a horizontal wedge becomes a fish


At the outset of the 19th century, scholars knew of many ancient languages but other than those that had never disappeared (Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, for example), most ancient languages could scarcely be read. Today, most of these ancient scripts can be understood (with a few notable exceptions) and these inscriptions provide historians with significant evidence about the ancient world. Over the course of this talk, Dr. McGeough will introduce the languages of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, describe the history of the alphabet, explore how ancient scripts were deciphered, demonstrate some of the peculiar features of ancient writing, and examine some of the different approaches world cultures have taken to expressing their ideas in written words. 

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