For Immediate Release

Lecture: Visible Language: On the Origins and Development of Writing

(Cambridge, September 7, 2010) This talk highlights recent discoveries in the field of comparative writing systems, including social and biological implications of the surprisingly similar origins of writing around the world. These similarities have much to teach us about culture and identity in the ancient world, and speak with equal poignance about the structure of the human mind.

The talk will touch on writing as art (calligraphy), great moments in the history of decipherment (the decoding of ancient scripts), and why the superficially user-friendly emoticons and pictographs of the internet age are — despite frequent claims for their cross-cultural superiority over alphabets — both less versatile and more ambiguous than phonetic writing. The speaker is Marc Zender, Associate Curator, Peabody Museum.

Additional talks in this series include detailed looks at the writing systems of early China, Egypt, Europe, the Mediterranean, Mesoamerica, and Mesopotamia. Join us this Fall for an exploration of the origins and development of the written word!

About the Peabody Museum
The Peabody Museum is among the oldest archaeological and ethnographic museums in the world with one of the finest collections of human cultural history found anywhere. It is home to superb materials from Africa, ancient Europe, North America, Mesoamerica, Oceania, and South America in particular. In addition to its archaeological and ethnographic holdings, the Museum’s photographic archives, one of the largest of its kind, hold more than 500,000 historical photographs, dating from the mid-nineteenth century to the present and chronicling anthropology, archaeology, and world culture.

Hours and location: 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., seven days a week. The Museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for students and seniors, $6 for children, 3–18. Free with Harvard ID or Museum membership. The Museum is free to Massachusetts residents Sundays, 9 A.M. to noon, year round, and Wednesdays from 3 P.M. to 5 P.M. (September to May). Admission includes admission to the Harvard Museum of Natural History. For more information call 617-496-1027 or go online to: The Peabody Museum is located at 11 Divinity Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Museum is a short walk from the Harvard Square MBTA station.

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Media Contact:

Faith Sutter
Communications Coordinator
Peabody Museum
Tel: 617-495-3397 

Altar Q from the ancient Maya city of Copan, Honduras, depicts 16 rulers of a dynasty. The first ruler, second from the left, sits on top of the glyph: "lord."

High resolution image available on request. 

Visible Language: On the Origins and Development of Writing, the first in the Peabody Museum Visible Language series of free lectures, begins Thursday, September 16 at 5:30 pm at the Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford St., Cambridge.

A public reception follows at the Peabody Museum.