About Re:marks

The creation of Re:marks, the journal of SIGNUM, builds on the success of Traditional Marking Systems: A Preliminary Survey (London, 2010), a collection of 26 essays by leading researchers in the field of mark studies that led to the creation of SIGNUM.

This first issue gathers a selection of the papers that were presented at the 1st SIGNUM International Conference on Mark Studies, held at the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm on October 18th & 19th, 2012. Articles explore the temporal depth and geographic breadth of the use of nonlinguistic marks, following the main conference themes.

Re:marks 1 (2013)
Edited by Joám Evans Pim & Oliver Timken Perrin
ISSN 2310-3795
161 pages

Order a printed copy at CreateSpace. Also available at Amazon.com and other online book stores.

Free PDF download available for Signum members [Apply for membership].


Contents of Issue 1

Some Problems Related to Early Medieval Turkic Tamga-Sign Studies
Sergey A. Yatsenko

A significant discrepancy now exists between empirical research regarding the tamga signs of many Turkic-speaking peoples (usually of an ethnological character based on recent materials) and complex theoretical comprehension of their semantics, evolution and interaction. The tamgas of various Turkic peoples were often used for a wide variety of functions. This paper considers some representative mistakes made in tamga interpretation; noteworthy among the issues considered is the correct distinguishing of Early Turkic tamgas as well as earlier (Bronze Age and Scythian) and later (Mongol) petroglyphs in Central Asia. The orientation of signs and their placement on animal bodies, as well as accumulations of several identical or similar tamgas are discussed based on their importance in making attributions.

Type Parlant Coins of the Cities of Asia Minor in the Archaic and Classical Periods
H. T. Akdogar & M. Tezcan

Coins are an important resource for mark studies. Ancient coins often bear mint marks, monograms, tamgas or schematized iconographic elements that can be associated with a particular polis. In the field of numismatics these coins have been called types parlants or “speaking type” because they bear a distinct emblem associated with a place. In a broadly historical context we explore the meaning of the nonlinguistic figurative elements or “heraldry” on the coins of some cities of Anatolia in the archaic and classical periods. Our findings are based on extensive research, using coin catalogues in order to determine whether the emblems on these coins reflect any known characteristics of the places they signify. Based on additional evidence provided by surviving Greek texts it is possible to show with certainty that some of the symbols struck on coins of this type can be related to specific places, based on the features or characteristics for which those places were known. Examples include Side (pomegranate), Phokaia (the Mediterranean monk seal of the family Phocidae), and Astakos (lobster). Coins of the types parlants are therefore of great interest for the light they shed on the historical intersection of linguistic and nonlinguistic signification elements in the indication of identity and place – not least because multivalent marks of this kind, appearing on currency, could be recognized with consistency across linguistic and cultural borders.

Tamgas and Literacy Among the Ancient Iranians
Niccolò Manassero

The aim of this paper is to examine in which ways tamgas (more properly designated nishan, when referring to the identity marks of ancient Iranians) were related to literacy among ancient Iranian peoples, from the period of Hellenism to the end of the Sasanian age. In such investigations I will rely upon some case-studies related with my own experience in the field, in order to show that tamgas refer to a kind of communication that is completely different from writing, inasmuch as it implies different forms of thought, different cultural values, and different social and political frameworks.

The Study of Lapidary Signs: A Discourse on Method
Jean-Louis Van Belle

In some favourable circumstances, the presence of stone-marks enables us to follow the construction of a building from its very conception to its setting up on the building-site, and even to discover some transformations that could have occurred later. This is particularly true for the 18th century in Belgium. We will attempt to explain this statement in the course of this brief article.

Publishers’ Devices As Indicators of Legal Continuity
Melinda Simon

This article discusses the use of publishers’ devices as signs of legal continuity. In cases in which the owner of a publishing house has died or has sold the business, the new proprietor usually attempts to keep the old publisher’s mark to let the public know that the high standards of the firm remain unaltered. Usually, the only difference between the old and the new design is the featured monogram.

From Marks to Ogham: Rethinking Writing in Gallaecia
Joám Evans Pim

This article suggests that past and present marking systems present in what today is Galiza and Northern Portugal⎯a region to which we will refer to as Gallaecia⎯are what could be labelled as a “living fossil” of a primordial form of nonlinguistic writing intimately related to genealogical knowledge, social relations and hierarchies, territoriality and mnemonics, encapsulating large amounts of oral information in apparently simple graphic designs. The thesis of the nonlinguistic character of primitive ogham is also developed, proposing that it be understood within the set of early mnemonic devices developed to “store” sets of genealogical, mythical and territorial information also linked to magical and prophylactic uses.

The Mark of Commerce: Uncertainty In Mark Predication
Oliver Timken Perrin

If we understand human mark use as a development of the environmental, object and resource marking common to many animal species it becomes possible to contextualize its many manifestations, in various times and places, as instances of a unified biological phenomenon. Marks can serve as a kind of statement about the environments in which they are found, or the objects, animals or persons on which they are placed; it is in this sense that the term “predication” is used here.

For a great number of species the marked environment provides a reliable basis for making behavioral determinations with survival value. In the natural world the usefulness of a given intraspecific mark appears to depend upon its reliability as a trace. I present a number of brief examples suggesting that this generally holds true for the non-commercial marks made and used by humans as a basis for behavioral integration.

Against this background, I attempt a very preliminary sketch of commercial marking, involving the sophisticated and intentional display of marks intended to stimulate remembered or imagined experiences of a given trait, quality, standard, or set of values—whether or not the marked product, service, office, object or place can justifiably be said to engender or participate in them. I suggest that the inherent ambiguity of commercial marks deployed to stimulate transactions might contribute to a general distrust toward all of the marks we encounter in our environments, even traditional marks unrelated to commerce that have been in use for hundreds of years or more.