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Palimpsest as a Layered Progression of Change Through Use

The Search for Definition

In order to discuss occurrences of palimpsest, it is first necessary to define what the term "palimpsest" has come to mean. The original usage of palimpsest referred to a parchment that had been scrubbed (as best as possible) and re-written upon. This usage still applies, but the definition has been expanded and the term "palimpsest" can now be applied to a great number of things. A piece of parchment that has been scrubbed and reused, a painting that has been painted over numerous times, a wall of graffiti, a concept passed on and manipulated by each person who contributes to it, a land or architecture that has been changed by an inhabiting culture, the culture itself as it progresses through time and necessarily alters itself in order to survive—these are all examples of palimpsest. Yet, with such broad usage, a discontinuity of definition begins to develop and the varying occurrences of palimpsest need to be compared in order to find a discreet common ground and thereby a definition.

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