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Table Of Contents

INTRODUCTION
ALTERNATIVE METHODS IN THE STUDY OF THE ZAPOTEC SCRIPT
STRUCTURAL PROPERTIES OF THE ZAPOTEC WRITING SYSTEM
THE ANCIENT ZAPOTEC CALENDAR
FELINES AND THE ROYAL DYNASTIES FROM MONTE ALBÁN
THE JAGUAR LORDS AND THE PRIMORDIAL COVENANT
ZAPOTEC MORTUARY PRACTICES
ZAPOTEC SOCIAL ORGANIZATION DURING THE EARLY COLONIAL PERIOD
THE RITUAL CALENDAR, NAMES OF INDIVIDUALS, AND GENEALOGICAL RECORDS
Tomb 104 from Monte Albán
The West Room
The East Room
The Entrance to the Main Chamber
The Main Chamber
The Stela and Text II
Other Epigraphic Materials in the Tomb
PORTABLE GENEALOGICAL SLABS
The Carved Slab MNA-6-6059
Previous Studies of the Slab
An Alternative View of the Slab
GENEALOGICAL RECORDS DISPLAYED IN MAUSOLEUMS
A Carved Stone in a Private Collection
The Imagery on the Stone
The Carved Block as Part of a Larger Composition
Part IV- DISCUSSION
Acknowledgements
Bibliography
List of Figures
List of Tables
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Zapotec Text: knowledge, power, memory, ancient, oaxaca, script, writing, reading

Zapotec Text: knowledge, power, memory, ancient, oaxaca, script, writing, reading

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Published by urbanom
INTRODUCTION
Since the publication of “Zapotec Hieroglyphic Writing” (Urcid 2001) prevailing
methodological constrains in pursuing issues concerning the phonetic decipherment of the script has
prompted me to extend a broader semiotic cast onto the available inscriptions, focusing on their
semasiographic component and exploring not only semiological relations between image and text
but also paying particular attention to the physical backdrops by means of which writing was
displayed. From such a perspective, the definition of “decipherment” acquires a different meaning.
I still maintain that an understanding of how speech is graphically encoded in the script is critical to
elucidate the actual content of the inscriptions and that these are crucial steps for a more
comprehensive view of the Zapotec scribal tradition and its societal uses, but acknowledge that by
extending the contextual framework of analysis beyond the epigraphic one it is feasible to bring
insights concerning semantic meanings embedded in the visual communication and ultimately
throw light on the broader cultural code underlying the production and apprehension of writing.
The aim of this essay is therefore to highlight how the construction of knowledge (astronomical,
calendrical, mantic, and scribal) was linked to the production of social memory and ultimately to
political and economic power. My intent is not to cover such links throughout the known uses of
the script, uses than spanned more than a thousand years. Rather, I will focus on the scribal
production that occurred between the 5th and 9th centuries after the Common Era.
In doing so I will rely on the cornerstones that I laid out in “Zapotec Writing”, especially on
the conclusions regarding the structure of the Zapotec Calendar Round and the reconstruction of the
20-day name list of the mantic calendar. I will also incorporate or build upon the exegesis of some
inscribed materials published before and after “Zapotec Hieroglyphic Writing” that were aimed
mostly to Spanish readers and that appear in forums perhaps seldom read by English speakers. I
will begin the exposition by providing a general introduction to Zapotec writing and by commenting
explicitly on the methods that I have employed in studying the ancient script. Subsequently, I will
discuss two broader contexts in which writing was deployed: the monumental and the domestic.
While the former may have exposed particular inscriptions to wider audiences in a more direct way,
the latter may have accomplished the same albeit indirectly.
The example that I will use to illustrate the link between writing and political power centers
4
on the carved monoliths that were found forming the corners of the South Platform at Monte Albán.
While this example may seem already familiar, as it was amply detailed in chapter 5 of “Zapotec
Writing”, its recapitulation in this context is framed within a discussion of a series of rulers from
Monte Albán that can now be identified based on semasiographic and epigraphic data, and the
reiteration of the case serves to introduce a newly found carved monolith that was evidently part of
one of the two sequential narrative programs that were rendered in these monoliths.
INTRODUCTION
Since the publication of “Zapotec Hieroglyphic Writing” (Urcid 2001) prevailing
methodological constrains in pursuing issues concerning the phonetic decipherment of the script has
prompted me to extend a broader semiotic cast onto the available inscriptions, focusing on their
semasiographic component and exploring not only semiological relations between image and text
but also paying particular attention to the physical backdrops by means of which writing was
displayed. From such a perspective, the definition of “decipherment” acquires a different meaning.
I still maintain that an understanding of how speech is graphically encoded in the script is critical to
elucidate the actual content of the inscriptions and that these are crucial steps for a more
comprehensive view of the Zapotec scribal tradition and its societal uses, but acknowledge that by
extending the contextual framework of analysis beyond the epigraphic one it is feasible to bring
insights concerning semantic meanings embedded in the visual communication and ultimately
throw light on the broader cultural code underlying the production and apprehension of writing.
The aim of this essay is therefore to highlight how the construction of knowledge (astronomical,
calendrical, mantic, and scribal) was linked to the production of social memory and ultimately to
political and economic power. My intent is not to cover such links throughout the known uses of
the script, uses than spanned more than a thousand years. Rather, I will focus on the scribal
production that occurred between the 5th and 9th centuries after the Common Era.
In doing so I will rely on the cornerstones that I laid out in “Zapotec Writing”, especially on
the conclusions regarding the structure of the Zapotec Calendar Round and the reconstruction of the
20-day name list of the mantic calendar. I will also incorporate or build upon the exegesis of some
inscribed materials published before and after “Zapotec Hieroglyphic Writing” that were aimed
mostly to Spanish readers and that appear in forums perhaps seldom read by English speakers. I
will begin the exposition by providing a general introduction to Zapotec writing and by commenting
explicitly on the methods that I have employed in studying the ancient script. Subsequently, I will
discuss two broader contexts in which writing was deployed: the monumental and the domestic.
While the former may have exposed particular inscriptions to wider audiences in a more direct way,
the latter may have accomplished the same albeit indirectly.
The example that I will use to illustrate the link between writing and political power centers
4
on the carved monoliths that were found forming the corners of the South Platform at Monte Albán.
While this example may seem already familiar, as it was amply detailed in chapter 5 of “Zapotec
Writing”, its recapitulation in this context is framed within a discussion of a series of rulers from
Monte Albán that can now be identified based on semasiographic and epigraphic data, and the
reiteration of the case serves to introduce a newly found carved monolith that was evidently part of
one of the two sequential narrative programs that were rendered in these monoliths.

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Published by: urbanom on May 30, 2010
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