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Research Project

Signs of Writing: The Cultural, Social, and Linguistic Contexts of the World’s First Writing Systems

2013 – 2016

Project Summary

These scholars adopted a comparative and interdisciplinary perspective to study the contexts and structural properties of the world’s first writing systems.

Research Team

Amalia Gnanadesikan

Amalia Gnanadesikan

Associate Research Scientist at the Center for Advanced Study of Language

University of Maryland

Amalia Gnanadesikan's research focuses on two areas: South Asian languages and writing systems. She is a specialist in Dhivehi—the language of the Maldives—with a reference grammar currently in press at de Gruyter-Mouton and a Dhivehi-English dictionary largely completed. She is also co-editor...

Edward Shaughnessy

Edward Shaughnessy

Lorraine J. & Herrlee G. Creel Distinguished Service Professor in Early Chinese Studies, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations

University of Chicago

Most of his career has been devoted to the cultural and literary history of China’s Zhou dynasty (c. 1045-249 B.C.), the period that has served all subsequent Chinese intellectuals as the Golden Age of Chinese civilization; after all, it is not only the period founded by the sage kings Wen (d....

Christopher Woods

Christopher Woods

Professor of Assyriology and Sumerology; Avalon Professor in the Humanities; Williams Director, Penn Museum

University of Pennsylvania

Research Interests:
Sumerian writing and language; linguistics; origins and development of writing and writing systems; early Mesopotamian history, state formation, socio-political development, religion, literature, mathematics, and administration.

To learn more about his work,...

Xianhua Wang

Xianhua Wang

Professor in the School of History and Culture and Director of the Center for Research in Western and Eastern Cultures

Sichuan University, China

Wang Xianhua is professor of ancient world history and director of the Institute of Afrasian History and Philology at the School of History & Culture, Sichuan University, China. He holds an MA in Hebrew Bible from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a PhD in Assyriology from the...


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