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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter May 21, 2007

Nonsense Inscriptions and Literacy

  • Henry R Immerwahr
From the journal Kadmos


The large number of unmeaning inscriptions that are found on Attic vases have received relatively little attention. The present article draws on the author's collection of Attic vase inscriptions where these inscriptions have been included for the first time. The aim is to find out what they can tell us about literacy among vase painters. It can be shown that writing nonsense inscriptions is an ornamental practice not infrequently adopted by literate vase painters, but that it also enabled those with poor knowledge of the alphabet to adorn their products with inscriptions. The level of literacy in the Ceramicus was decidedly mixed.

Published Online: 2007-05-21
Published in Print: 2007-02-20

© Walter de Gruyter

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