The Hands That Write: Life and Training of Greco-Roman Scribes

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2023

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Abstract

This dissertation answers the question, “How were scribes in the ancient world trained?” The following social history elevates the marginalized voices of ancient scribes, emphasizing their personhood and their agency as human individuals. Chapter 1 establishes the scope of the thesis along with the evidence used and the methodologies employed to approach this evidence. Chapter 2 examines the social backgrounds of ancient Mediterranean scribes, using documentary archives, apprenticeship contracts, and funerary inscriptions to glimpse into their lives and their training. Chapter 3 draws from papyrological evidence to reconstruct the “curriculum” scribes used to develop professional scripts for copying books and writing documents. Chapter 4 details how scribes mastered scribal tools and techniques, balancing ancient archaeological evidence alongside the specialized artisan knowledge preserved by well-attested scribal traditions. This synthesis of evidence focuses on the lived experiences of the creators of our physical texts, thereby uncovering previously unexplored realities about how these texts were written and read.

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Freeman, Michael Abraham (2023). The Hands That Write: Life and Training of Greco-Roman Scribes. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/27643.

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