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Session 3: Visual and Textual Forms of Communication

Visual representations are one of the oldest forms of human expression, preceding even writing. Nonetheless, both forms rely on position, form, and actions in space to convey meanings. At the same time, these meanings can change when read, as they are subjected to a myriad of perceptual processes: compared, contrasted, viewed from different angles, they can be mentally assessed and rearranged in multiple ways that contribute to understanding, inference, and insight. Both visual representations and written communication can be affixed to movable objects such as cylinder seals, clay tablets, pottery or statues, or be embedded in unmovable features such as architecture, rock reliefs, and wall paintings. Images and text can convey a plethora of messages to express identity, belief, feelings, perceptions, dominance, or power. The aim of this session is to search beyond the artistic value of the visual representation or the semantics of the written communication, and try to decipher the messages they carry. Whether they functioned as a combination of text and images, or only one form was used, what did they aim to convey? Is it possible, with the knowledge we have today about the cultures that produced them, to decode their embedded meanings?