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Ancient Libraries: 400s BCE

Let's examine the rise of writing and libraries in Mayan culture and in India.

The earliest Maya script is dated to 300 BCE in what is now San Bartolo, Guatemala. Using logograms similar in function to modern Japanese, Maya writing was primarily used by scribes who were part of the Maya priesthood. The glyphs were later painted on ceramics, carved in wood or stone, or recorded on bark-paper codices.

Jetavana Buddhist Monastery
Sravasti, India

Sudatta Anathapindika was a wealthy disciple of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha (563BCE-483BCE), the spiritual teacher. Anathapindika purchased Jeta Park and built a Buddhist monastery also known as a vihara. The Buddha would dwell alternately between Jetavana and Migaramatupasada.

An account from the 600s BCE indicates that the monastery was in ruins, but notes that "there were chapels for preaching and halls for meditation, messrooms and chambers for the monks, bathhouses, a hospital, libraries and reading-rooms, with pleasant shady tanks, and a great wall encompassing all. The Libraries were richly furnished, not only with orthodox literature but also with Vedic and other non-Buddistic works, and with treatises on the arts and sciences taught in India at the time" (Watters, 1904, 386)

Jetavana Wikimedia Commons PD

The photo above shows the Jetavana ruins (Saratthi, Wikimedia).

Postal Infrastructure
India

Although inter-library loan and bookmobiles were far off in the future, early postal service allowed the movement of correspondence such as letters. During the Maurya Empire, chariots were used to provide delivery services to royalty.

Resources

Watters, Thomas (1904). On Yuan Chwang's Travels in India 629-645 A.D. Royal Asiatic Society. Available: http://www.archive.org/stream/cu31924071132769


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