The Invention of Writing

Prophetic and Shamanic Rituals of North American Indians (1700–1900)

Pierre Déléage

The Invention of Writing

Pierre Déléage

Distributed for HAU

Translated by Catherine Howard
150 pages | 39 figures, 5 maps | 6 x 9
Paper $35.00 ISBN: 9781912808298 Will Publish March 2020
Writing has been invented four times in human history, by the Sumerians, the Egyptians, the Chinese, and the Mayans. Each of these peoples developed a restricted set of symbols capable of recording any possible discourse in their spoken language. Much later, between 1700 and 1900, prophets and shamans of the Native American tribes developed “bounded” writing methods, designed to ensure the transmission of ceremonial rituals whose notational principles differed profoundly from more-familiar forms of writing. Pierre Déléage draws on a deep and comparative study of historical and ethnographic evidence to propose the groundbreaking thesis that all writing systems were initially bounded methods, reversing the accepted historical perspective and making it possible to revise our conception of the origin of the other great writing systems. The Invention of Writing offers new conceptual tools for answering a simple question: Why have humans repeatedly expended the immense intellectual effort required to invent writing?
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