A theory of the origins of writing
based on architectural anthropology

By Nold Egenter

This study deals with an interesting set of subjects. Walter Andrae's evolution theory of the Ionian column questions conventional theories based on Vitruvius. The term 'style' is outdated. In addition, Andrae leads us deeply into the earliest levels of the first Mesopotamian cities (Uruk). There sacred signs made with bundeled reed materials functioned as symbols of most important deities (like the Ishtar deity in Uruk). They protected the city and were the nuclear institutions of the earliest temples. We get an impression of the importance of 'semantic architecture'. With the same fibroconstructive type of signs we hit also on the earliest script of the world, Sumerian signs scratched on clay tablets. Conventional interpretations of this earliest rather puzzling script are highly controversial. However, with the concept of 'semantic architecture' we can 'read' the first script. Evidently they were used to tax the pastoral and agrarian populations around the city by using their sacred territorial demarcations as semantic codes.

In its basic outlook the study questions the art historian's method. Its historically deductive and hermeneutic paradigms produce pseudo-architectural speculations which are destructive for the human habitat. By seriously dealing with defined topics like in the present example, we might build up a body of reliable knowledge, which can tell us what architecture really is. And - most important - what it means for man in general. We will urgently need this 'anthropological' knowledge about architecture, sooner or later in the 21st century!

 In the framework of cultural anthropology the study shows a surprising result. Very different cultures like Mesopotamia and China have very similar origins of script. Both scripts are related to fibroconstructive prototypes on earliest sources. Both also indicate strong relations to social structure and ontology (Ishtar, 'she'), both seem to be related to the formation of early cities. We have to assume cross cultural parallelisms in neolithic and Bronze Age sedentarisation processes.

Browsing through the illustrations

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