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Power negotiations and distributions of knowledge: Glyptic iconographies and visual media strategies in late fourth millennium BC Greater Mesopotamia

Helgestad, B.E.; (2010) Power negotiations and distributions of knowledge: Glyptic iconographies and visual media strategies in late fourth millennium BC Greater Mesopotamia. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

In Greater Mesopotamia during the fourth millennium BC, several technological developments, as well as entirely new inventions, occurred concomitantly with wide-ranging social changes. Hence, already in the last few centuries of the millennium, several societies were radically different from those preceding them. Of particular importance are aspects such as networks of exchange, urbanisation, organisation and objectification of the labour force, and the interrelated complex administrative practises; particularly writing and glyptic technologies. Beyond writing, none of these aspects were entirely new inventions of this period; however, it is argued in this thesis that the scale and complexity were unprecedented. At the core of these radical changes, were the administrative technologies’ increasing ability to transfer complex information across both geographical distances, as well as time. Most of the relevant literature explores how this made possible increasingly complex administrative practises, and how large institutions actively utilised these administrative practises to negotiate their position within society. The glyptic iconography that is part of these technologies is most commonly approached as visual documentation of fourth millennium behaviours and material culture, or as elements in notational systems, where iconography primarily signifies the identity and authority of the seal-owners. It is argued in this thesis, however, that these representations not only communicated such utilitarian administrative information, but were also elements in visual media strategies, operating as secondary agents negotiating social power and reproducing social realities. The designs of the representations were carefully selected to ‘do’ something, to communicate specific messages, and influence their intended audiences to generate specific meanings. Both the intended audiences, as well as the producers of the representations, had access to exclusive distributions of knowledge, making the iconography meaningful. The control over such distributions of knowledge became increasingly important in social power negotiations, resulting in stratified systems of knowledge, reflected in the complexity of the glyptic iconography.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Power negotiations and distributions of knowledge: Glyptic iconographies and visual media strategies in late fourth millennium BC Greater Mesopotamia
Language:English
Additional information:Permission for digitisation not received
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Institute of Archaeology

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