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CMES Outreach Lecture Series: “We All Write Hieroglyphs: The Origin and Spread of the Alphabet”

Wed, October 20, 2010 • 5:30 PM • Texas Union, Quadrangle Room (3.304)

Writing was independently invented some three or four times around the globe, in ancient Mesopotamia, China, Mesoamerica, and perhaps Egypt. But the alphabet was invented only once, about four thousand years ago, in Egypt, by people speaking a language related to Hebrew and Arabic. The earlier writing systems, such as Mesopotamian cuneiform, consisted of hundreds or even thousands of signs and therefore took a long time to learn. The alphabet consisted of fewer than thirty signs, and could be learned in a day or two.

Is that why nearly every writing system in use today, apart from Chinese and Japanese, is derived from that first alphabet? Or are there other reasons for the spread of the alphabet around the world? 

John Huehnergard is Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin where he teaches Semitic linguistics, writing systems, and ancient Near Eastern History. He and his students recently solved the mystery of why five ancient alphabets appear on the iconic Main Building Tower on the University of Texas campus

 This lecture is FREE and open to the public. K-12 educators who pre-register can get CEUs for attending and will get a CD with the presentation PowerPoint and other classroom resources related to the topic of Dr. Huehnergard’s lecture. Validated parking is also available for a limited number of pre-registered participants on a first-registered, first served basis.  

To register, visit: https://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=dF9xclVvUEVfWGVRb2VRcjRSTzZ2VVE6MQ

Questions? Contact Christopher Rose at csrose@austin.utexas.edu or (512) 471-3582.

The Middle Eastern Studies Outreach Lecture Series is designed to bring the resources of one of the largest and best-known Middle Eastern Studies programs in the United States to non-specialists on campus, K-12 educators and homeschoolers, and the public. Top scholars in their fields communicate their work to the public, and in particular to the K-12 community. The talks are interactive educational experiences intended to provoke lively discussion and enrichment for all.

Sponsored by: Center for Middle Eastern Studies Outreach Program


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