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From the unknown to the unknown: languages and cognition in the cradle of civilisation

Dr John MacGinnis

Wednesday 13 February at 5.30 pm

The process by which the cuneiform writing system emerged in ancient Mesopotamia is still not fully understood, nevertheless it rose to be the ancient near eastern vehicle of writing  par excellence and a scripta franca for a period of at least a thousand years. Over this immense time span cuneiform was employed as the vehicle for recording a multiplicity of languages. Yet we do not know for certain which language was encoded in the earliest inscriptions and even in the later periods some of these languages have proved markedly recalcitrant. This lecture will address the extraordinary career of this most persistent script, starting with the administrative setting and recording practices which formed its nursery, moving on to trace the linguistic trajectories made visible in clay, and concluding with the presentation of evidence newly excavated at the archaeological site of Ziyaret Tepe in southeastern Turkey which throws light both on the para-literate recording systems as well as hinting at the existence of a previously unknown language.

Dr John  MacGinnis is a Research Fellow at the Cambridge University McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, where he specialises in Assyriology and Near Eastern Archaeology. He has worked on sites across the Middle East including Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Sudan, Cyprus and Turkey. He has been Field Director of the British Expedition to Ziyaret Tepe since the commencement of the work in 2000.

This event is free, but tickets must be booked.  To book tickets please go to http://rairesearchmacginnis.eventbrite.co.uk/