This thesis examines the writing systems of two ancient societies: the Latin alphabet as a writing system within the Roman Empire and the hieroglyphic writing system within the Maya city-state. This thesis first situates writing as a technology and explains the common uses of writing systems in modern contexts, before turning to an examination of the past. Next, basic literary patterns—including estimated literacy rates, education patterns and opportunities, types of documents, and themes within writing—are examined within the context of both societies. After evaluating these literary patterns, as well as the social, political, and economic organization of both societies, this thesis examines the relationship between these writing systems and their respective societies. The literary patterns discussed in the context of these writing systems reflect the previously discussed socio-political-economic hierarchies within the two farming societies. Additionally, these literary patterns are used to examine the reflection of a society’s food surplus—one based on wheat within the Roman Empire and one supported by maize in the Maya city-state—within written documents, as well as the differences formed among these farming societies due to their respective forms of subsistence.

Semester/Year of Award

Spring 2020


Dr. Kelli Carmean

Mentor Professional Affiliation

Department of Anthropology, Sociology, and Social Work

Access Options

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars


Anthropology, Sociology, and Social Work