Visible Language in Giza and Assos

# Visible Language in Giza and Assos

## Oil tablet, Egypt, 2323-2150 BC

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This artifact is reminiscent of the burial tags discovered at Abydos that Woods references (understandable, given that they’re both Egyptian artifacts). Though the purpose of the pieces is themselves utilitarian–the tags to identify small jars in a burial chamber and the tablet to denote different oils in the mummification process–both have more time and labor put into them than strictly necessary. This oil tablet is made of polished marble, much more ornamental than other durable materials (or even unpolished marble). I love this piece because it’s such an interesting meeting of decoration and function: it’s beautiful and well-cared for but very specific in design. It almost looks like an artist’s palette.

## Fragmentary inscription detailing weights and measures, Greece, 4th century BC

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According to the description, this fragment was part of a larger marble inscription on display in the marketplace (agora) of Assos, Greece.

Given that this piece of marble was displayed in a public space, I find it a little surprising that the letters themselves are so small. How would it be easily visible to everyone that needed to access its information? I’ve guessed that either there was so much information on the complete inscription that the print had to be small, or the creators of it didn’t actually want it read. Since the intention of the inscription is to help people actually gauge weights and measurements, perhaps the ones responsible for the market didn’t want everyone to have access to this information.

### Physical Properties, compared and contrasted

When comparing these two artifacts, what surprised me most was the state both are in; Though the Egyptian oil tablet is at least fifteen centuries older, it is in much better condition than the fragmentary inscription. Already, that’s telling in the different uses these objects served. The fragmentary inscription probably saw much more use and weather than the oil tablet, which may have been kept with great care and probably only taken out for use in specific instances.

I chose these two artifacts because of their functional nature. Though each object has multiple purposes, one thing they have in common is their functionality. They serve a practical purpose beyond decoration or religious rites (not that there is anything wrong with religious textual objects, just that that seems to be a lot of what’s preserved in art museums).

I find it kind of difficult to reconcile the point Wood makes regarding all structures of writing coming from the four pristine systems. Therefore, the writing on the fragment is some kind of evolutionary grandchild of the writing on the oil tablet. But they’re so different! When looking at these two textual artifacts, it’s hard to distinguish that they’re both built of logograms and phonograms, probably because I’m not familiar with either of these languages.