Proper Names and the Development of Early Writing Systems

Author(s): David Stuart

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Decipherment, Digs, and Discourse: Honoring Stephen Houston's Contributions to Maya Archaeology" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

The 1980s saw dramatic new insights into the decipherment of ancient Maya writing, much of it spurred by collaborations with my friend and colleague Steve Houston. One of these was the recognition of inscribed "name-tags" on various types of portable objects and monuments, serving to specify the individual ownership of elite things and commodities, and perhaps developed in part to document the complex inter-relations among Maya dynasties by the Early Classic period. More recent discoveries of Preclassic Maya writing at San Bartolo, Guatemala, have added important new evidence to ponder about the origins of writing in the Maya area, and in Mesoamerica in general. These short texts do not "tag" objects, yet they are nonetheless almost exclusively examples of written names, used to identify images in the complex narrative of the mural paintings of the Las Pinturas complex. Houston, myself and others have explored the importance of naming in the advent of script in ancient Mesoamerica, but in this presentation I propose to go much further afield, exploring also the almost universal significance of proper names as key motivations in the development of ancient writing systems in the Near East and Asia.

Cite this Record

Proper Names and the Development of Early Writing Systems. David Stuart. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 451711)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 24247