Pan, Plato, and the Nymphs: exploring Vari Cave

Natalia has co-written a fascinating blog post about her adventures in the Cave of the Nymphs, taking place during her research trip based in Athens.

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Mount Hymettus is known to the local people of Attica as the ‘Mad Mountain’, η Τρελοβούνι. Situated on the western side of the Attica peninsula and stretching above the coastal towns of Elliniko, Glyfada, and Voula, this mountain and its undulating topography are eclectic — if not ‘mad’. The granular limestone of the mountain makes the landscape perfect for the formation of caves, and indeed there are over 300 caves documented for this area alone. A little over seventy of these were used in antiquity, and they have variously yielded archaeological remains from the stone age right through to more recent times. On a recent weekend off from life in Athens, we (Natalia and Michael) escaped the metropolis and took an adventure up to Hymettus. In this blog post, we recount what we saw in just one of these caves, ‘Vari Cave’, also known as the ‘Cave…

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What makes one clay tablet better than another?

As someone who works on the written documents of the ancient Aegean and Cyprus, I come across clay tablets a lot. Clay was a very useful medium for writing in the ancient world because it was quite easily available and could be formed into different shapes, and all you need in order to write on it is a stick. Luckily for us, a clay tablet also has a good chance of surviving for thousands of years provided it has been baked.

A while ago I posted a picture of one of my favourite clay tablets on Twitter, a Linear B document that we label PY Ep 704 (which is code for saying that it comes from Pylos and deals with landholdings). (Photo courtesy of Silvia Ferrara.)

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Farewell CREWS Display

Our special display on ancient writing systems at the Fitzwilliam Museum finished two weeks ago, and I went along to the museum for the display’s de-installation. It was sad seeing it removed – it feels more like five minutes than five months since it was installed in January. But the de-installation was actually very interesting, and was a great way of rounding off my experience of being involved with a museum display.

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The unofficial guide to epigraphic fieldwork: what is it and how to enjoy it?

I am very lucky to be able to spend a few months in the British School at Athens (BSA) and to travel around Greece to do some epigraphic fieldwork for my Thesis. But when I was organising my stay here, many friends and relatives asked me what it is exactly that I was going to do here and why I needed to see the inscriptions for myself if there are editions and photographs. I write this post to answer those questions and to explain the whole process of the epigraphic fieldwork before, during and after the visits to the museums.

The reality is that sometimes there are no photographs for the inscriptions that you work with. The edition may be old and, if no one else cared to take photographs, you are left with only a drawing that may be more or less trustworthy. Even with some photographs it is difficult to see the text clearly and that is precisely why they are accompanied by a drawing (not the other way around). The importance of epigraphic photographs and drawings is that they show what the editor sees, so they are in the end an explanation to how he reads and interprets the inscription. However, I was taught not to trust drawings or photographs (if you keep reading you will see why), so I decided to go and see for myself some of the most problematic and important inscriptions of my Thesis.

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Archaeological site of the Athenian Agora.

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Star Wars, Writing Systems and Rationalising Imaginary Worlds

We’re big Star Wars fans here on the CREWS Project, and with a new film out now seems like a good time to revisit the topic of writing in the Star Wars galaxy. Pippa’s written before about Aurebesh, the most well-known Star Wars writing system, but as she mentioned in that post there are actually a lot more, and they’re a nice illustration of the changing way popular media uses writing-systems in its world-building.

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Aurebesh

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Our Ancient Writing Display, and Other Ancient Writing at the Fitzwilliam Museum

Today is International Museum Day, a good day to celebrate the stellar work done by museum staff to make museums the places of learning and inspiration that we all know and love. It has been a real privilege to witness this in action through our special writing-themed display at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (a collaboration between the CREWS project and the Fitzwilliam and British Museums).

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If a display on ancient writing sounds interesting, do come and visit – it finishes on 10th June so there is still some time left. You can find it in the Cypriot Gallery at the Fitzwilliam. If coming to Cambridge isn’t easy for you, on the other hand, I hope you can have a sort of virtual tour by looking through our blog posts on each item: the whole list is HERE. Continue reading “Our Ancient Writing Display, and Other Ancient Writing at the Fitzwilliam Museum”

CREWS Display: A Cypriot Seal with a Fish-man

We have finally come to the last object in our special display at the Fitzwilliam Museum. Don’t be too sad yet though, because there is still more than a month to come and see it (until 10th June 2018) if you have a chance to visit Cambridge.

This week’s object is a little stamp seal from ancient Cyprus, featuring a fish-man with Cypriot Syllabic writing behind him to the top-left, probably 7th-6th C BC. At just 2.1 x 1.2 cm, it’s the second smallest item of our set. Now part of the Fitzwilliam Museum’s own collection, we do not know exactly where it came from but its Cypriot provenance can be confirmed because of its Cypriot Syllabic inscription.

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CREWS Display: Coffin Fragment with Egyptian Hieroglyphs

The object we are looking at this week from our special display at the Fitzwilliam Museum is a fragment of an Egyptian coffin from the early Middle Kingdom (c. 2055 — c. 1985 BCE), possibly from Asyut. The coffin fragment is painted with yellow earth on the outside, but inscribed with hieroglyphs on the inside.

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