A Minoan-Mycenaean scribal legacy for converting rough copies into fair copies
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CitationNagy, Gregory. 2020.01.03. "A Minoan-Mycenaean scribal legacy for converting rough copies into fair copies." Classical Inquiries. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.eresource:Classical_Inquiries.
AbstractIn an earlier work, Nagy 2011 (in the Bibliography), where I studied traces of dialectal variation in the Greek language as spoken in the Mycenaean era and as written by way of the so-called Linear B script, I argued that the scribes who used this script in that era could write their texts not only on sunbaked clay tablets but also on parchment, that is, on leather specially prepared to serve as a surface for writing. Since the production of parchment was and always has been quite “labor-intensive” and therefore very costly, the medium of baked clay would have been far more economical for the writing of rough drafts—or let me call them “rough copies.” By contrast, however, as I went on to argue, at least some “fair copies” of texts could have been written on rolls made of parchment. There is an irony built into this argument, since the same fires that destroyed the Mycenaean palaces toward the end of the second millennium BCE accidentally preserved the “rough copies,” written on clay, by way of fire-baking the clay. Thus the “rough copies” were accidentally converted into permanent records for us today, while whatever “fair copies” existed in the past would have gone up in flames, lost forever. But we may well ask: is there really any evidence for saying that Mycenaean texts written on parchment ever even existed? In the paper I already cited, I did in fact argue for the existence of such evidence, but now I will try to deepen my argument, and I will start by taking a closer look at a word attributed to speakers of Greek on the island of Cyprus—a word attested only in the post-Mycenaean era, dating only as far back as sometime around the middle of the first millennium BCE. This word, as I will show in more depth here, referred to a class of scribes who prided themselves on their practice of writing texts on rolls of parchment. In the illustration that introduces my posting here, I show a photograph of a Cypriote statue that I think represents such a scribe.
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