Parution : Agency in Ancient Writing

Agency in Ancient Writing
Agency in Ancient Writing


Joshua D. Englehardt is profesor-investigador at the Centro de Estudios Arqueológicos of El Colegio de Michoacán, a CONACYT Level I National Investigator, and codirector of the Mesoamerican Corpus of Formative Period Art and Writing. He specializes in Mesoamerican archaeology and epigraphy, with a research focus on the development of Mesoamerican writing systems in the Formative period and the correlation of emerging scripts with diachronic changes in material culture. He is the editor of Agency in Ancient Writing and coeditor of These “Thin Partitions” and Interregional Interaction in Ancient Mesoamerica.

Résumé de l’éditeur

“Through the lens of agency, contributors successfully rethink the nature of ancient texts. In so doing they ably demonstrate that when a new theoretical orientation is applied to a taken-for-granted category of data it invigorates both the data and our understanding of the past.”—Marcia-Anne Dobres, University of Maine

Agency in Ancient Writing. . . is not only a welcome application of the famous theory of agency and structuration to early writing systems, but it affords a surprising but crucial opportunity to reassess the theory itself and to rehabilitate it from some of its more individuaistic and voluntaristic excesses.”
—Jack David Eller, Anthropology Review Database

Individual agents are frequently evident in early writing and notational systems, yet these systems have rarely been subjected to the concept of agency as it is traceable in archaeology. Agency in Ancient Writing addresses this oversight, allowing archaeologists to identify and discuss real, observable actors and actions in the archaeological record.

Embracing myriad ways in which agency can be interpreted, ancient writing systems from Mesoamerica, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Crete, China, and Greece are examined from a textual perspective as both archaeological objects and nascent historical documents. This allows for distinction among intentions, consequences, meanings, and motivations, increasing understanding and aiding interpretation of the subjectivity of social actors. Chapters focusing on acts of writing and public recitation overlap with those addressing the materiality of texts, interweaving archaeology, epigraphy, and the study of visual symbol systems.

Agency in Ancient Writing leads to a more thorough and meaningful discussion of agency as an archaeological concept and will be of interest to anyone interested in ancient texts, including archaeologists, historians, linguists, epigraphers, and art historians, as well as scholars studying agency and structuration theory.


  • List of Figures vii
  • List of Tables xi
  • Foreword / Jennifer L. Dornan xiii
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Introduction: Individual Intentionality, Social Structure, and Material Agency in Early Writing and Emerging Script Technologies / Joshua Englehardt and Dimitri Nakassis 1
  • Part I: Agency in the Formation of Early Writing and Notational Systems
    • 1 The Mediated Image: Reflections on Semasiographic Notation in the Ancient Americas / Margaret A. Jackson 21
    • 2 Bureaucratic Backlashes: Bureaucrats as Agents of Socioeconomic Change in Proto-Historic Mesopotamia / Clemens Reichel 45
    • 3 Are Writing Systems Intelligently Designed? / Adam D. Smith 71
    • 4 Agency in Death: Early Egyptian Writing from Mortuary Contexts / Laurel Bestock 95
  • Part II: The Material Agency of Early Writing and Incipient Scripts
    • 5 Reembodying Identity: Seals and Seal Impressions as Agents of Social Change on Late Prepalatial Crete / Emily S.K. Anderson 115
    • 6 Performance, Presence, and Genre in Maya Hieroglyphs / Michael D. Carrasco 139
    • 6 Contingency and Innovation in Native Transcriptions of Encrypted Cuneiform (UD.GAL .NUN) / J. Cale Johnson and Adam Johnson 165
  • Part III: Agency through Writing and Early Texts
    • 7 Structuration of the Conjuncture: Agency in Classic Maya Iconography and Texts / Joshua Englehardt 185
    • 8 Inscriptions from Zhongshan: Chinese Texts and the Archaeology of Agency / Wang Haicheng 209
    • 9 Structuration and the State in Mycenaean Greece / Dimitri Nakassis 231
    • 10 Epilogue: Agency and Writing / Ruth D. Whitehouse 249
  • References 257
  • List of Contributors 289
  • Index 293

Informations pratiques

  • Éditeur : Boulder : University press of Colorado
  • Date de parution : 2013
  • Description matérielle : 1 vol. (XVIII-299 pages) : ill., cartes, plans, jaquette illl. en coul. ; 24 cm
  • Bibliogr. p. 257-287. Index
  • ISBN 978-1-60732-199-6 (rel.) : 79 $. – ISBN 978-1-60732-209-2 (élec.) : 63 $


  • PARIS-BnF : Tolbiac – Rez-de-jardin – magasin : 2015-259054
  • LE CAIRE-Bibliothèque IFAO
  • PARIS-Collège France-Egypte
  • PARIS-Médiathèque MQB
  • Disponible en ligne (payant), url : <>.

Citer ce billet
Olivier Jacquot (2020, 20 mars). Parution : Agency in Ancient Writing. Amoxcalli. Consulté le 21 avril 2024, à l’adresse

Olivier Jacquot

Chargé de collections : manuscrits des fonds américains, Service des manuscrits ORientaux (SOR), département des Manuscrits (MSS), Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF)

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