Epigraphy

Article

July 1, 2022

Epigraphy (from the Greek language επιγραφή: written on) is an autonomous science and at the same time auxiliary to History, whose main objective is the complete study of inscriptions, both in their structure, support, matter, form, written content, but also the role that such evidence plays.[1] The purpose of Epigraphy covers not only the deciphering, reading and interpretation of the inscriptions, in order to obtain as much information as possible from them, but also the study of the materials and supports (stone, metal, wood, bone , ceramics, among others) about which it has been written, and how it has been written, as well as the purpose, the function for which such element was conceived and destined. According to international conventions (especially for UNESCO), the existence of its own epigraphy is the marker that indicates the passage of a culture from prehistoric to historical, especially when among its inscriptions it has annals and chronicles. Epigraphy is directly related to sciences such as Ancient History, Archaeology, Philology and Palaeography and, in addition, with others such as Numismatics, History of Religions or Roman Law. Although he also studies the legends present on the coins, the specialized study of the inscriptions that appear on them is typical of numismatics.

History of epigraphy

The first written material that is documented with certainty is the cuneiform sign, within the Sumerian culture, around 3,800 BC. c. Epigraphy specializes according to its historical period and also according to the culture that produces it, although historically the most developed are cuneiform, Egyptian, Greek and Roman.

Types of registrations

It can be divided into different sections by virtue of the content or object of the inscriptions. There are seven main groups or types, based mainly on the systematization made for Roman epigraphy: Religious inscriptions, which are offered and dedicated to the divinities or gods; when they are the result of some promise they are called votives. Juridical or legal, which contain laws, edicts, decrees or official epistles. Public or monumental that are recorded in constructions of a public and official nature, for example buildings, triumphal arches, bridges, temples, etc. frequently expressing their authors or the reason and date of its construction. Historical: they generally commemorate important events, such as feasts. Honorary, dedicated to honoring the memory of a distinguished character. Funeral or sepulchral, ​​they are epitaphs that remember death and indicate someone's burial place. Minors, generally called domestic instruments: on objects of common use, such as those made of ceramics, glass, ivory, etc.; they can be mechanical or stamped (such as stamps on amphorae or tableware) or spontaneous (sgraffito, painted signs, etc.).[2]

Materials used

Roman epigraphy From the volcanic tuff that was preferably used in the oldest inscriptions (until 121 BC) since limestone was used for the inscriptions. When the incision technique was used, a stronger and smoother support such as travertine and then Carrara marble became necessary. The existence of tombstone workshops and sculptors in Rome, Pompeii and Ostia is documented, as half-finished works have been found, prepared to be "personalized" at the time of commission. The same is said for inscriptions prepared without data so that they were completed after the purchase. Two Jobs: The engraver, who with the ax or the chisel made the incision of the text. The quadratarius that was in charge of preparing the marks of the so-called epigraphic field: the margins and the space that the letters or between lines should use. The effect of