Egypt and Sumer

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Professor Mindy McAdams's presentation about the ideas of Harold Innis and written communication in two ancient cultures

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Egypt and Sumer

  1. 1. Egypt and Sumer Presentation by Mindy McAdams MMC 2265 / Week 3.2
  2. 2. The Middle East today
  3. 3. Ancient Sumer, in Mesopotamia
  4. 4. The First Cities <ul><li>Ur – from about 5000 to 300 B.C.E. </li></ul><ul><li>Uruk – from about 3400 B.C.E. to ? </li></ul><ul><li>Nippur – from about 3200 B.C.E. to 100 C.E. </li></ul><ul><li>Ziggurats were huge temple buildings </li></ul>
  5. 5. Sumer / Mesopotamia
  6. 6. Stylus and Tablet <ul><li>Written signs were pressed into soft clay tablets </li></ul><ul><li>Writing device: A stylus with a wedge-shaped tip </li></ul><ul><li>Content: Records related to accounting, agriculture, trade and taxes </li></ul>
  7. 7. Early Cuneiform Writing
  8. 8. Over time, each sign was simplified to make it easier (and faster) to write with a reed stylus (which was pressed into a soft clay tablet)
  9. 9. Use of Writing Spreads <ul><li>Several nearby cultures (with different spoken languages) adapted cuneiform writing: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Akkadian </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Babylonian </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Elamite </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hittite </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Old Persian </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ugaritic </li></ul></ul><ul><li>(This did not happen with Egyptian writing) </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>Akkadian cuneiform included 200 - 400 symbols </li></ul><ul><li>Many of these had multiple pronunciations </li></ul><ul><li>Akkadian was spoken in Mesopotamia from about 2800 B.C.E. to 500 C.E. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Spoken vs. Written <ul><li>Sumerian is the oldest known written human language </li></ul><ul><li>No modern languages have descended from Sumerian </li></ul><ul><li>Cuneiform writing system was later used to write other languages </li></ul><ul><li>Did Egyptian writing evolve from cuneiform? </li></ul><ul><li>Does Chinese writing owe anything to cuneiform? </li></ul>
  12. 12. The End of Cuneiform <ul><li>The use of Aramaic became widespread under the Assyrian Empire </li></ul><ul><li>The Aramaean alphabet gradually replaced cuneiform </li></ul><ul><li>Last known cuneiform inscription was written in 75 C.E. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Ancient Egypt Cairo is 800 miles from Baghdad (Miami is 860 miles from New Orleans)
  14. 14. Abbreviated Egyptian Timeline <ul><li>Pre-Dynastic Period: c. 5000–3100 B.C.E. </li></ul><ul><li>Old Kingdom: 2686–2181 B.C.E. </li></ul><ul><li>(Dynasties III–VI, or 3 rd –6 th ) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>3 rd Dynasty: The first major stone building in the world, the Step Pyramid, was constructed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>4 th Dynasty: Many large pyramids built, including the Great Pyramid at Giza </li></ul></ul><ul><li>New Kingdom: 1570–1070 B.C.E. </li></ul><ul><li>(Dynasties XVIII–XX, or 18 th –20 th ) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Upper and Lower Egypt reunified </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. The Decline of Egypt <ul><li>Power of the pharaohs had declined by the 20 th Dynasty (about 1200–1070 B.C.E.) </li></ul><ul><li>Battles with invaders called the Sea Peoples weakened the kingdom </li></ul><ul><li>Ramesses III (died 1151 B.C.E.) was the last significant pharaoh of the New Kingdom </li></ul><ul><li>Egypt would never again dominate the region with such wealth and power </li></ul>
  16. 16. End of Ancient Egypt’s Glory <ul><li>Peace ended in Egypt with the Persian invasion of 525 B.C.E. </li></ul><ul><li>Egypt repeatedly struggled with invasions from Persia – for almost two centuries </li></ul><ul><li>The last Persian invasion was in 343 B.C.E. – during the reign of the last Egyptian pharaoh </li></ul><ul><li>Alexander the Great arrived in 332 B.C.E. </li></ul><ul><li>Egypt would not be ruled by an Egyptian again until 1952 </li></ul>
  17. 17. Writing on Stone (1)
  18. 18. Writing on Stone (2)
  19. 19. Writing on Papyrus Book of the Dead, c. 1300 B.C.E. (Papyrus of Ani: Scroll, 78 feet long)
  20. 20. Papyrus Papyrus is a plant that grew only in the Nile Delta. Young stems were cut into strips and pressed together.
  21. 21. “ After 2000 B.C.E., the central administration employed an army of scribes … literacy was valued as a stepping-stone to prosperity and social rank.” – Innis, p. 24
  22. 22. The Egyptian god Thoth was a scribe and, in some accounts, the inventor of writing.
  23. 23. Hieratic script (above) developed along with hieroglyphic writing in Egypt . Demotic script (right) came later.
  24. 24. Writing Systems: Definitions <ul><li>Pictographic: Each picture represents a word or an idea </li></ul><ul><li>Ideographic: Picture or symbol represents a thing or an idea, NOT a word or a phrase  </li></ul><ul><li>Logographic: Symbol or sign used to represent an entire word   </li></ul><ul><li>Syllabic: Each character or sign represents a voiced syllable   </li></ul><ul><li>Greek root / graphos written </li></ul><ul><li>Greek root / logos word, thought, speech, discourse </li></ul>
  25. 25. Writing Systems: Definitions <ul><li>Syllabic: Each character or sign represents a voiced syllable   </li></ul><ul><li>Phonetic: Based on sounds ( less than a syllable) </li></ul><ul><li>Alphabetic: Characters or letters represent sounds; may be syllabic or phonetic </li></ul><ul><li>Phonetic alphabet: Symbols for phonetic transcription of a language (or languages)  </li></ul>
  26. 26. Bias of Communication <ul><li>Innis says that each medium embodies a bias in terms of the organization and control of information </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Duration (survival, perpetuation) over time </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Extension (conquest) in space </li></ul></ul>
  27. 27. Time = Stone <ul><li>Time-biased media (stone, clay) are durable and heavy </li></ul><ul><li>Difficult to move; do not encourage territorial expansion </li></ul><ul><li>Do encourage extension of empire over time (durability) </li></ul><ul><li>Facilitate the development of social hierarchies (ancient Egypt) </li></ul><ul><li>Religious dynasties, eternal life, king as deity (conquest of time ) </li></ul>
  28. 28. Space = Papyrus <ul><li>Space-biased media are light and portable </li></ul><ul><li>Can be transported over large distances </li></ul><ul><li>Associated with secular and territorial societies </li></ul><ul><li>Facilitate the expansion of empire over space </li></ul><ul><li>Paper is an example: readily transported, but also has a short lifespan </li></ul><ul><li>Military expansion; de-emphasis on religion (conquest of space ) </li></ul>
  29. 29. The longevity of an empire depends on its ability to extend itself over both time and space.
  30. 30. Power Structures <ul><li>How is significant information stored in a society? </li></ul><ul><li>How is it transmitted ? </li></ul><ul><li>Who has access? </li></ul><ul><li>Who has the ability to read and write? </li></ul><ul><li>Does a new medium disrupt the power structure? </li></ul>
  31. 31. Egypt and Sumer Presentation by Mindy McAdams University of Florida

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