Writing and recording are key cultural activities that allow humans to communicate across time and space. Whereas Old World writing evolved into the alphabetic system that is now employed around the world, the indigenous peoples in the Americas autonomously developed alternative systems that conveyed knowledge in a tangible medium. New World systems range from the hieroglyphic script of the Maya, to the figural and iconic pictographies of the Aztecs, Mixtecs, and Zapotecs in Mexico and the Moche in Peru, to the abstract knotted khipus of the Andes. Like Old World writing, these systems represented a cultural category that was fundamental to the workings of their societies, one that was heavily impregnated with cultural value.
The fifteen contributors to Their Way of Writing: Scripts, Signs, and Pictographies in Pre-Columbian America consider substantive and theoretical issues concerning writing and signing systems in the ancient Americas. They present the latest thinking about these graphic and tactile systems of communication. Their variety of perspectives and their advances in decipherment and understanding constitute a major contribution not only to our understanding of Pre-Columbian and indigenous American cultures but also to our comparative and global understanding of writing and literacy.