Continuing our thoughts on visual communication systems that are non-alphabetic, I ran across a couple of interesting examples today in a 2007 article by Lester Olson on visual rhetoric.
Olson, L. (2007). "Intellectual and conceptual resources for visual rhetoric: A re-examination of scholarship since 1950." Review of Communication 7(1): 1-20.
In that, he mentions:
A fresco found in the ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacan (at one time the largest in the Americas) that showed "a rain priest walking or dancing in profile and wearing an elaborate headdress and costume." More importantly, at least for our discussion, "his speech-scroll, adorned with seashells and plants, indicates that he is praying for water and agricultural prosperity, which were highly valued in his society."
Also, Olson mentions wampum belts. Here is a separate reference I found about that:
"Important matters such as treaty agreements were likely to be marked by an exchange of Wampum belts, with designs in two colors, which thereafter served as visual reminders of the event itself, and to call to memory the arrangements agreed on" (Russel 1980: 185).
Here's one that shows an 1863 agreement between the Hurons and Jesuit missionaries.
Those obviously didn't hold up well when dominated by a heavily biased U.S. court system operating with an alphabetic bent, but does that make them inherently inferior, or simply the unfortunate system on the losing side of a major power struggle?