5,000-year history of writing

Neolithic symbols, ideograms, ancient civil codes, shards bearing the identities of those about to be ostracized, papyrus containing comments on Euripides’ ancient tragedies, divinations of Chinese oracles, Latin translations, historic accounts of Byzantium, Slavic, Native American and Runic script and music symbols are just some of the exhibits in the exhibition «History of Writing Around the World since 3000 BC» currently on show in Athens. The purpose of the exhibition is to let the public see the ways our ancestors recorded their thoughts on stone, shell, clay, papyrus and paper. It has been organized by Athens University in cooperation with the University of Wurzburg in Germany and the Athens Epigraphical Museum. Housed in the Costis Palamas building (48 Sina and Academias St) are 80 exhibits, including 47 from the Wurzburg collection. The remaining 33 pieces are copies of typical examples of Greek scripts made available by the Athens Epigraphical Museum. They include a clay sign dating from 3000 BC found in the town of Uruk, in southern Iraq, describing livestock products and a Chinese oracle prediction written on a piece of a shoulder bone, dating from ca. 1200-1180 BC. Greek alphabet Visitors will also be able to see part of a larger Greek exhibit presenting the Laws of Gortyns, a legal text consisting of 12 columns, believed to have been inscribed between 480 BC and 460 BC in Crete. The rector of Athens University, Professor Georgios Babiniotis, told Kathimerini this was the first time such an exhibition had been held in Greece, particularly with an emphasis on the Greek script and alphabet. «Greeks are known to be the first people in the world to invent a true alphabet, one that is particularly functional,» he said. «They established a system in which each letter depicts a sound, with very few exceptions.» Babiniotis added that the Latin alphabet that prevails today originally derived from the Western Greek alphabet (that of Halkis), taken to Lower Italy (Magna Graecia) where it became established as the script of the Romans – probably initially with the Etruscans – and later spread throughout much of the rest of the known world. The exhibition will remain open daily, including weekends, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m until the end of November. Guided tours are available by arrangement with Athens University’s protocol department (telephone 210.368.9724).

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