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The alphabet emerged almost four millennia ago in the ancient Near East and now undergirds contemporary global communication. But the history of how we came to know about its origins and development offer a case study in the ways technologies of knowledge production construct their object of analysis. From classical texts to biblical debates, visual evidence and specimens, charts, graphs, antiquarian curiosities, to modern archaeology and epigraphy, the alphabet has been understood through a multiplicity of media. This talk gives an account of alphabet history but also, alphabet historiography, showing how radical shifts of time scale and evidence have changed our understanding of this crucial form of writing.

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