Farewell CREWS (and hello VIEWS)

Today is the last day of the CREWS project. We started in April 2016, and over the last six years it has been an absolute pleasure to work with my amazing team and all the colleagues who have taken part in the project through the visiting fellowship scheme, conferences and seminars. I’m blown away by their generosity and all that amazing intellectual stimulation – the project has developed in so many exciting ways from those initial ideas I first put down on paper seven years ago.

It may be the last formal day of the project, but this isn’t really the end of CREWS! The website will remain active, with all the resources already housed there (including the blog posts, free teaching materials and our ‘write your name’ sheets). I’ll also keep the YouTube channel active. There will even be new content occasionally, because there are some CREWS publications still in progress – and don’t forget that you can access all the already-published outcomes for free through the website too.

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A final CREWS project seminar

We are pleased to tell you that the CREWS project will be hosting one final seminar on its last day, Friday 30th September 2022 (at 3.00pm BST, by Zoom). All are welcome!

We will be joined by our long-distance Visiting Fellow Robert Martin of the University of Toronto, who is now working as archaeology co-ordinator for the Saugeen Ojibwe Nation. Sadly it turned out that Robert could not visit us in person in Cambridge, but he is nevertheless sharing his research with us and will give a paper on “A Late Bronze Age Early Alphabetic Inscription from Mycenae (Greece)”.

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Fonts in the Epigraphic and Manuscript traditions of Roman Antiquity: Guest post by Olena Mudalige

Hello, I am Olena Mudalige. I am a second-year PhD candidate at the Kharkiv State Academy of Design and Arts, studying Design. I previously completed a master’s degree studying art criticism and graphic practices and have qualified as an art critic and lecturer. I have come to the UK under the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ programme after leaving Ukraine on February 24 2022 and have become affiliated with the CREWS project through the European Research Area for Ukraine (ERA4Ukraine), https://euraxess.ec.europa.eu/ukraine scheme. I’m currently interested in the origins and early forms of writing and in the history of study of writing in the ancient world. Today I want to write a bit about different graphical traditions in Roman writing.

The small number of surviving Latin inscriptions is explained by the fact that they were applied to marble only in the second half of the 1st C. BC. Prior to this, inscriptions were applied to tuff and limestone, which were prone to erosion from wind and rain. Inscriptions were erected on public buildings, triumphal arches, columns, tombstones. They were a reflection of the cultural aspects of the history of Roman society and a means of public and solemn representation of the Roman Empire in a vast territory from the British Isles to Egypt, from Gibraltar to the deep regions of Asia.

The widespread use of writing in ancient Rome, the high percentage of the population which was literate, the growth of libraries, the opening of enterprises for correspondence and distribution of books, public readings – all this contributed to the development of the art of beautiful writing and the emergence of the profession of ‘font master’.

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Writing on Hadrian’s Wall

I’m doing a charity walk to celebrate the 1,900th anniversary of Hadrian’s Wall, so during September I’ll be trying to walk 84 miles – the length of the Wall – but without actually visiting (which also nicely avoids treading on all that archaeology). So what better excuse for a post on writing and literacy in this northern outpost of the Roman world?

First a note on my charity walk, and then on to the inscriptions! This is quite special to me because I grew up visiting Hadrian’s Wall frequently but haven’t been back since 2011 (how is that over ten years ago?!). So I’ve got my pedometer and I’ve measured my steps so that I can tell how far I’ve gotten each day, and even if it’s a challenge (because of some ongoing medical issues and not getting much of a chance to go walking) I’m determined to keep going. Partly that’s because I’m doing it for a charity I really believe in, Classics For All, who aim to bring teaching on the ancient world to a much wider proportion of schoolchildren than currently have access to it. You can find out more by clicking below, and if you feel inclined to donate I know it will be much appreciated by me and by all the amazing people working for Classics For All.


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Multilingual Syro-Anatolian Iron Age inscriptions – my research as a CREWS Project Visiting Fellow: Guest post by Claudia Posani

Hello, I am Claudia Posani and I am very glad to write an article for the CREWS blog. I am interested in Hittitology, with a particular focus on Syro-Anatolian Iron Age history and on hieroglyphic Luwian inscriptions.

I spent two months as a Visiting Fellow with the CREWS project. During May and June 2022, I worked on multilingual inscriptions of the so-called Neo-Hittite states (around 11th-8th centuries BC). These inscriptions include bilingual and also trilingual texts written on different supports, such as statues, steles and orthostats. They belong to the textual category of “royal inscriptions”, namely they express the voice of kings or rulers who speak in first person in the texts narrating their enterprises.

The main feature of these documents consists of offering the same text written in two or more languages. The texts I was dealing with were written in Hieroglyphic Luwian, Phoenician, Aramaic and Assyrian. These different languages (Luwian belonging to the Indo-European, the other to the Semitic language family) were written adopting different writing systems. Consequently, we can read on the same support the same text written in hieroglyphic script, cuneiform characters and alphabetic signs.

Multilingualism in Syro-Anatolian states is certainly connected to the historical background of these polities, which were strongly characterised by mutual contacts and cultural hybridity. Nevertheless, one point captured my interest: could textual multilingualism/multiscriptalism be connected to royal propaganda and to the intention of presenting a specific image of the king?

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Mind the Gap: Abbreviations, Contractions and Alphabetic Symbolism: Guest post by Brien Garnand

In the Bronze Age, two incompatible alphabetic writing systems developed independently in Canaan—to the North, Ugarit’s alphabet had an interface derived from syllabic cuneiform and, to the South, miners in the Sinai used a hieroglyphic ideogram interface. From the outset, both of these regional scripts relied upon omission, where readers had to fill in gaps by supplying missing vowels. Also from the outset, both symbolic systems used individual graphemes to represent individual consonants. Both systems had their strengths, similar to the communications format war of the 1980s between Sony (Betamax) and JVC (VHS). If that reference seems obscure, you might compare these parallel but incompatible alphabetic technologies to the choice of Blu-ray versus HD-DVD, or Chrome versus Safari—although both performed well, only one format thrived. The cuneiform version had the benefit of deriving from a common international cuneiform system, using common clay scribal media and tools, and having the advantage of disambiguating three specific vowel combinations with the consonant ˀalp (ˀa, ˀi, ˀu). This Ugaritic version would play the part of Betamax in our analogy, a version with a bit more precision but perhaps not as accessible.

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A new approach to old writing: using Graphology and RTI technology on Linear B: Guest post by Lavinia Giorgi

Hi there! I am Lavinia Giorgi, a PhD student in Mycenaean philology at Sapienza University of Rome (Italy). My PhD research deals with the management and circulation of bronze in the Mycenaean world focusing on the reconstruction of the bronze production chain mainly through the analysis of the Linear B tablets, but also taking into account the Hittite and Ugaritic texts and the el-Amarna letters and combining philological data with archaeological evidence.

In the meantime, I am collaborating with THE PAITO/PHAISTOS EPIGRAPHIC PROJECT, which aims to provide a new critical edition of the Linear B tablets of Knossos mentioning pa-i-to, Phaistos, a place located in southern Crete, adopting the digital photography technologies of RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging) and 3D Laser Scanning.

The research I did in Cambridge as a visiting fellow within the CREWS project is part of THE PAITO/PHAISTOS EPIGRAPHIC PROJECT because it focused on the word pa-i-ti-ja, the ethnic feminine adjective derived from pa-i-to.

The word is attested in 9 tablets, covering several topics, dating from different periods (15th-13th century BC) and were written by different scribes. In particular, two of these tablets, KN Ap 639 and KN E 777, are kept at Ashmolean Museum, so, thanks to my stay in Cambridge I was also able to directly access them and take RTI photographs of both.

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A brief introduction to the introduction of cuneiform on the Armenian Highlands: Guest post by Annarita Bonfanti

Hi! I am Anna Bonfanti, former PhD candidate at the University of Pavia (Italy), and my research is (still) focused on different aspects of the Urartian culture: the adoption and adaptation of the cuneiform writing system by the Urartian royal class appeared to be a particularly important and curiously understudied topic.

Firstly, a brief introduction to the topic in general: Urartu is the exonym commonly used to indicate an Iron Age statal entity whose core area was located on the Armenian Highlands, around lake Van (modern-day Eastern Turkey).

It emerged as a more or less cohesive state in the second half of the 9th century BCE, and it gradually declined until it disappeared, probably at the beginning of the 6th century BCE. What’s curious about this state is its peculiar adherence to an Assyrian model, both in the arts and in literature, so much so that the study of the Urartian culture was initially conceived as a minor branch of the Assyriological studies. My thesis, originally born as a study of the different traces left by contacts with other populations in the Urartian culture, ended up being a reflection on the reasons why the Urartian culture owes so much to the Assyrian model.

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