Speaking Pictures, Writing Words: On the Interplay of Communication in Ancient Mesopotamia

Davide Nadali

Pictures and words are the primordial ways of communication used by human beings: indeed, one might even conjecture which communication medium arose first. The present paper aims to analyse the deep relationship between pictures and words in ancient Mesopotamia, showing how communication is in fact the result of cooperation between the two: in particular, how pictures prevailed over and preceded words (also today we are used or we prefer to express our thoughts and emotions through pictures). It seems that pictures confer a stronger and more effective power in communication: the materiality of pictures as opposed to the immateriality of words discloses the possibility of asking questions of not only what pictures are, but how they are. Indeed, material culture deeply affects both the mind and the body and this entanglement closely links the sensual experience (perception, shaping, and use of things) to the emotional experience (reception of and reaction to things). In this respect, pictures are special objects of the material world and they can do things to people or even make people to do things that words cannot do.

Davide Nadali is Associate Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology at the Sapienza University of Rome.

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Full Bibliographic Reference

Nadali D. 2019, Speaking Pictures, Writing Words: On the Interplay of Communication in Ancient Mesopotamia, SMEA NS 5, 47-58.

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KEYWORDS

Mesopotamia; writing; art; materiality; cognitive archaeology
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