Visual Code in the Nahal Mishmar Hoard: The earliest case of proto-writing?

Nissim Amzallag

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Visual codes including three types of signs (logograms, phonograms and determinatives) are the earliest stage in the development of writing. Until recently, the oldest known visual code identified so far, the early precursor of the hieroglyphs, has been discovered in pre-Dynastic Egyptian context (Tomb U-j, near Abydos, 3320 BCE). An examination of artifacts from the Nahal Mishmar copper hoard (end fifth millennium BCE) suggests the development of a visual code that employs these three types of signs in Southern Levant, many centuries before its earliest expression in Egypt and in Mesopotamia. This visual code is tridimensional, and its encoded messages focus on metallurgical processes and their cultural significance. The implications for our understanding of the Ghassulian culture and the development of writing in the Ancient Near East are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-91
Number of pages47
JournalAntiguo Oriente
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Cultural Metallurgy
  • Ghassulian Culture
  • Nahal Mishmar Hoard
  • Proto
  • Proto-Semitic
  • Rebus Principle
  • Visual Code
  • Writing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Classics
  • Archaeology
  • History
  • Archaeology


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