La Sapienza - Università di Roma

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Project Inscribe: A New ERC Grant for Sapienza

The European Commission has assigned an ERC Consolidator Grant 2017 to Project Inscribe - Invention of Scripts and their Beginning, presented by Professor Silvia Ferrara, from the Sapienza University Department of Classics. Project Inscribe will investigate the origins of writing.

Writing is one of man’s most important inventions. Independent writing systems, which were all based on images, first appeared thousands of years ago in different areas of the world: cuneiform writing in Mesopotamia and hieroglyphics in Egypt (at the end of the 4th millennium BC), the Chinese System in China (about 1200 BC) and Mesoamerican characters in Central America (about 900-400 BC). Over the centuries, a wide range of writing systems evolved from these four original ones, including the western alphabet with which this text is written. And some writing systems have still not been deciphered to date.

Prof. Ferrara will use ERC Grant Project Inscribe to adopt a new multidisciplinary and comparative approach that, through the lenses of archaeology, anthropology, cultural evolution, cognitive studies, and deciphering strategies, will investigate the history of early writing, including its earliest appearance in Europe.

The objective of Project Inscribe is to contextualize and define the preconditions that led to the invention of writing, to understand the origins of the shapes of characters and the mechanisms of linguistic notation.  The same multidisciplinary approach will also be used to analyse Cretan Hieroglyphs, Linear A, and Cypro-Minoan to produce the first digital corpus of these three Aegean writing systems.