Workshop on “Iconology, Iconicity and Classification”

(WG2&3, COST Action A31)

Meeting Place:
Institut für Altorientalistik, Schlaunstr. 2, Münster
Date: 22 – 23. 05. 2009

Local organizer: Prof. Dr. Reinhard Dittmann

Short resumé
The workshop was divided into several thematic sections (1): A first one dealing with general problems of the workshop's topic. Since Yesilyurt’s introduction was not present, the discussion focused first on how to decipher images of three Mesopotamian deities, who played an important part in the mythology and religion of the Ancient Near East, but up to now were never represented in visual arts; a lecture held by Wiggermann. This was followed by Klann’s astonishing insights as to the cortical representation of lexemes in DGS (Deutsche Gebärdensprache), which stimulated a long discussion. The following, Egyptian Session dealt with Goldwasser’s work on the proto-sinaic sign system from the Sinai as a contribution to the emergence of alphabetic writing, followed by an art-historical analysis of visual sequences of ritual action during the Amarna period. These papers too provoked vital discussions. The next section was devoted to sign languages. The combined introductory papers by Kutscher and Lincke gave an outstanding insight into similarities between sign language and logographic writing compared to Egyptian hieroglyphic sign formation. The section continued by contributions of Zwitserlood, Mittelberg and Heinig, who analysed problems of iconicity in visual language, on the one hand, and possible relations between gestures and Hieroglyphic Luwian signs on the other.

The next day started with the Mesopotamian section, beginning with Dittmann’s analysis of multiple sealed hollow balls of the pre-proto-cuneiform period in Babylonia and Southwest-Iran in the 4th millennium B.C. as a possible information carrier (2). This topic was continued at the end of the session by Wagensonner, analyzing the text-image-connectivity of the following proto-cuneiform phase and later periods, ending in the so-called astroglyphs of the 1st. Millennium B.C. Unfortunately Hockmann’s lecture on composition principles in early Sumerian art could not be given, since the speaker felt ill.

The section continued discussing problems of aspectivity and visual sequencing of ancient Mesopotamian art by Selz, followed by a contribution by Battini, who questioned the usefulness of making distinctions between “popular” and “official art." All these contributions gave stimulating discussions, especially in how far these early imageries are connected via the iconic information to principles of language.

This issue and related problems were also discussed in the following Meso-American session by Pharo and Whittaker culminating in Lacadenia’s analysis of Maya- and Aztecan inscriptions and analysing if the traditional classification of signs in these texts as pictograms, ideograms, logograms and phonograms are still useful. At least for the later texts he could show that these signs were logograms, which by simple phonetic complements were directly related to the Aztecan language.

In the China session, Wiebusch and ‘T’sou also dealt with the iconicity of the Chinese writing system on a purely sign analysis, on the one hand, and embedded in more socio linguistic classification systems on the other. Anderl in his paper gave a stimulating insight into the several levels of syncretism and the interrelation of texts and imagery of the Dunhuang cave.

It was agreed upon the fact that the workshop had given a much deeper understanding of the intercultural similarities and differences among the sign systems discussed and in the relationship between iconicity and language, then would have been thought of before. It is this interdisciplinary approach, which gives a new quality as to the understanding about human behavior on this topic, ranging from the time of proto-cuneiform and hieroglyphic systems to the recent German Sign Language.

(1) Please refer to the attached program.
(2) Reinhard Dittmann, Multiple Sealed Hollow Balls. A fresh look at the Uruk System almost Thirty Years later, in: Heather D. Baker/Kai Kaniuth and Adelheid Otto (eds.), Stories of Long Ago. Festschrift für Michael D. Roaf, Alter Orient und Altes Testament 397 (Münster 2012) 69-89.

Friday, 22nd May 2009

10:00 - 10:15 Welcome – Introduction
Dittmann – Selz
10:15 - 10:45 M. Yesilyurt (Münster): A theoretical approach on iconicity
10:45 - 11:15 F. Wiggermann (NL):DecipheringImages: The Case of Dumuzi
11:15 - 11:45 Juliane Klann, Walter Huber: Iconicity and the brain: Cortical representation of iconic and non-iconic lexemes in German Sign Language (Deutsche Gebärdensptrache = DGS)
11:45 - 12:00 Discussion
12:00 - 12:45

Egyptian Session I
C. Knigge-Salis (Basel): Written signs an depictions in ritual contexts; e.g. gestures of adorations.

12:45 - 14:15 Lunch Break
14:15 - 15:30 Egyptian Session II
Orly Goldwasser (Jerusalem): The The role of iconicity in the invention of the alphabet.
Ch. Bayer (Münster): Nefertiti in Motion. Visual sequences of ritual action in Amarna art Discussion
15:30 - 16:00 Discussion beginning with:
Racheli Shalomi-Hen (IS): to be announced - statement
Frank Kammerzell (Berlin): to be announced - statement
Eliese Lincke (Berlin): to be announced - statement
Camilla Di Biase-Dyson: to be announced – statement
16:00 - 16:15 Coffee Break
16:15 - 16:30 Sylvia Kutscher (Berlin): Introduction to the “Sign Language” session.
16:30 - 17:00 Discussion
17:00 - 17:30 Inge Zwitserlood (NL): Iconity in different domains of visual language
17:30 - 18:00 Irene Mittelberg (NL): Metonymic moments:Abstraction and contiguity relations in gesture.
18:00 - 18:15 Linda Heinig (Berlin): Preliminary remarks on Gestures as background of Hieroglyphic Luwian signs.
18:15 - 18:45 James Tai: (asked); no title available
19:30 Joint Dinner (notify R. Dittman)

saturday, 23rd May 2009

09:00 - 11:00 Mesopotamia Session
09:00 - 09:30 Reinhard Dittmann (Münster): Multiple sealead hollow balls - a fresh look at the Uruk-System, 23 years later
09:30 - 10:00 D. Hockmann (Münster): Principles of Composition in Early Sumerian Art
10:00 - 10:30 Discussion
10:30 - 11:00 Coffee Break
11:00 - 11:30

G.J. Selz: Remarks on aspectivity and visual sequencing.

11:30 - 12:15 L. Battini (Lyon): “Popular” art and “official” art: a possible and useful
classification in Mesopotamian iconography?
12:15 - 12:30 Discussion
12:30 - 14:00 Lunch Break
14:00 - 14:30 Klaus Wagensonner (Wien): Text-Image-Connectivity. Early Links between Iconography and Written Sources"
14:30 - 15:00 Coffee Break
15:00 - 17:00 Meso-America Session
15:00 - 15:30 Lars Kirkhusmo Pharo (Oslo): Research in Meso-American Writing Systems.
15:30 - 16:00 Gordon Whittaker (Göttingen): "Sign formation and iconicity in Mesopotamian and Mesoamerican systems".
16:00 - 16:30 Alfonso Lacadenia (Spanien): Iconicity in Maya Classifiers.
16:30 - 17:00 Discussion
17:00 - 17:15 Coffee Break
17:15 - 18:45 China Session
17:15 - 17:45 Christoph Anderl (Oslo): The Relationship between iconography and text in Dunhuang manuscripts with emphasis on their significance for syncretism of philosophical systems and rituals in Chinese contexts.
17:45 - 18:15 Thekla Wiebusch (Paris): Iconicity in the Chinese writing system
18:15 - 18:45 Benjamin T'sou: On Semantic References in Chinese Characters
18:45 - 19:45 Discussion; Final Discussion