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Paul Hartzer wrote:
> This reminds me of other cultures that had inventions with used in
> ways that "Western Civilization" thought overly restrictive,
> particularly wheels in Mayan civilization only being used in toys
> (http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview/id/349187.html) and
> forks used in China only for farming
> (http://chinahistoryforum.com/lofiversion/index.php/t27579.html). As
> in those cases, there are reasons why movable type might have been
> seen as impractical. In logographic writing systems, stamps are
> impractical because of the number that are needed (although the
> Chinese did invent movable type several centuries before Gutenberg
> [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movable_type]);

They did indeed. In fact, wasn't it from the Chinese that the idea of 
printing came to Europe?

In any case, the majority of those who consider the disk to be genuine 
and to contain writing, consider that we have a _syllabary_. IIRC there 
are 45 symbols used in the inscriptions. this may not, of course, 
represent the complete syllabary, but we can guess that we would be 
talking about 50 symbols - not a great number. If they guy(s) who carved 
the stamps for the disk could manage 45, the few extra would be neither 
here nor there.

Having used them to create a couple of inscriptions (one on each side of 
the disk), it does seem to me to be a little incredible that he/they 
didn't think of using them for other inscriptions or that other people 
didn't think of copying them.

 From what we can tell, the different writing systems in ancient Crete 
were all syllabaries. To have a set of stamps to make impressions on 
clay tablets would seem imminently practical.

If the disk is genuine, then the reason this process didn't catch on for 
writing could, it seems to me, very well be that they weren't used for 
_writing_ in the first place!

The mention of wheels in Mayan civilization being used as toys is 
interesting. If these stamps were used to produce a game-board then they 
may well have been regarded as 'toys' or something to do with play and 
not associated with writing at all.

[snip]

> in wedge-based writing
> systems (such as cuneiform and Latin), 

Latin, wedge based? I don't understand.

[snip]
> stamps (as opposed to a few dozen). Plus, probably the greatest
> efficiency involved in movable type is not in the creation of the
> first impression (indeed, creating that first impression can be very
> laborious, compared to just writing out a copy), but in the ease of
> reproducing a large number of impressions, something that's not
> needed until literacy is fairly widespread, to meet the demand.

We just have no idea how widespread literacy was in the Minoan period. 
It is fairly clear that clay was _not_ the normal medium for writing. We 
do have a few pottery items with characters _painted_ on them. It is 
likely, however, much writing was done on papyrus or even, maybe, velum 
- and these material are, alas, perishable - except in hot,dry places 
like Egypt. It would seem that Crete was a good deal more wooded in 
proto-historic times and would likely have a climate a bit damper than 
that of today.

> In
> other words, I think the Ancients didn't have movable type not
> because there was anything particularly clever or counterintuitive
> about it, but because they didn't feel the need for it.

In the Roman period literacy was widespread (the graffiti at Pompeii 
make this fairly clear!) - and I'm darned sure the Romans would've made 
good use of printing had the notion of movable types been known to them 
- a wonderful medium for imperial propaganda.

Of course, if the disk is a hoax (and I suspect it may be), then not 
even the Minoans used movable types to make either a game-board, 
calendar or, maybe, a written text
   :)

-- 
Ray
==================================
http://www.carolandray.plus.com
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"Ein Kopf, der auf seine eigene Kosten denkt,
wird immer Eingriffe in die Sprache thun."
[J.G. Hamann, 1760]
"A mind that thinks at its own expense
will always interfere with language".