Boustrophedon is a style of writing where alternate lines of writing are reversed, with letters also being written in reverse like when they are held in front of a mirror. This is in contrast with modern European languages, where lines always begin on the same side, usually the left. The original term comes from an Ancient Greek word that meant ‘turn in the manner of’. It is generally seen in ancient manuscripts and other inscriptions and was a common way of writing on a stone in ancient Greece. However, it later became less and less popular. Many ancient scripts, such as Safaitic, Sabaean, and Etruscan were frequently or even typically written boustrophedon.
A modern example of boustrophedonics is the scheme of numbering used in sections within survey townships in the countries of the United States and Canada. In both of these countries, survey townships are divided into a 6×6 grid, hence coming up to 36 sections. In the U.S. Public Land Survey System, the first section of a township is in the northeast corner, and the numbering proceeds boustrophedonically until the 36th section is reached in the southeast corner. The Dominion Land Survey in Canada also uses boustrophedonic numbering but starts at the southeast corner.
The street numbering system used in the United Kingdom also sometimes proceeds serially in one direction and then turns back in the other. This is generally in contrast to the more common method of odd and even numbers on opposite sides of the street, increasing in the same direction on both sides.
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