Writing Gods & Myths V: East Asia

Since Robert and I attended last August a special symposium on Japanese, Chinese and Korean writing during the AWLL workshop in Japan, I think it would be fair to continue this series of posts with these cultures.

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Fuxi and Nüwa with measuring tools

We will start with Fuxi, the first of the mythical emperors of China. He is often pictured as half man and half snake, like his wife Nüwa, and he is a mythical civilising character who brought hunting, fishing, cooking and marriage rituals among other things to his descendants: the Chinese people.  Although it was never used as a real means of written communication, he created the written signs of pa kua or ba gua, the trigrams used as the base of the I Ching, the most important divination text in Chinese culture. According to legend he was inspired to create the trigrams by the marks on the back of a tortoise he saw by the Yellow river. Continue reading “Writing Gods & Myths V: East Asia”

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Blog post on Rob’s previous research on the Greek perfect

CREWS researcher Robert Crellin has a post on the Philological Society blog talking about his previous research on Greek verbs, and the publication of his doctoral research.

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If you are interested in finding out more about Rob’s earlier work on the Greek perfect tense and its semantics (i.e. what meanings it is used to represent) and syntax (i.e. how you use it in a sentence), you can read the whole post HERE.

Coming up at CREWS…

Here at the CREWS project we are excited to be involved in a number of activities that are coming up in the next couple of months. Here is a round up…

Cambridge University hosts the Festival of Ideas in late October, bringing to the public all the most exciting aspects of research going on at the university – but in the most accessible and fun waysprehist.jpg we can think up!

First up, we will be at the McDonald Institute’s Prehistory and Archaeology Day, where trying your hand at ancient writing will be just one of the activities on offer. This is an all day event on Saturday 21st October at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit.

Also coinciding with part of the Festival of Ideas is a brand new exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, Codebreakers and Groundbreakers. This exhibition will examine various aspects of the codebreaking process by focusing on two important 20th century events: the breaking of the Enigma code by Alan Turing and the decipherment of Linear B by Michael Ventris. Opening on 24th October, it will be running until early February – so if you have a chance to come to Cambridge in this period, please do drop by and have a look! Continue reading “Coming up at CREWS…”

Punic in Wales? An intriguing inscription

Punic is the name we give to a language spoken in north Africa, a continuation of the earlier Phoenician language (originating in the Levant, around modern Syria and Lebanon), and written for the most part in a developed form of the same writing system. Punic inscriptions have surfaced in several areas around the Mediterranean, but one of the furthest-flung examples comes from a less exotic location – Holt, a town on the Welsh border, a bit to the south of Chester. So what was Punic doing there?

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Image from A. Guillaume ‘The Phoenician Graffito in the Holt Collection of the National Museum of Wales’, Iraq 7 (1940), 67-8.

Continue reading “Punic in Wales? An intriguing inscription”

The CREWS Team Complete!

The CREWS Project has recently welcomed Sarah Lewis to the team, as our Project Assistant and Administrator. Sarah joins us from Regent’s University London, where she was a Data and Research Officer, and is excited to be part of the CREWS Project Team as it has many links to her broader interest in languages, sociolinguistics and language development. sarahSarah gained an MA (Hons) in Applied Linguistics from the University of Sheffield in 2006, where she particularly focussed on language development and the social context of language use in L1 and L2 learners.

It is lovely to have the whole team together and we are all looking forward to a new academic year full of interesting new research and outreach activities – keep an eye on the blog for more news on these soon.

 

AWLL’s 11th Workshop in Writing Systems and Literacy – Natalia and Rob in Japan

None of us had ever thought that the study of Ancient Writing Systems would take us to Japan. Luckily, the Association for Written Language and Literacy gave us this opportunity. Robert and Natalia represented the CREWS project in the 11th Workshop in Writing Systems and Literacy, held by this association at the end of August at the Nanzan University in Nagoya, with the title “Writing Systems: Past, present (… and future?)”. Our colleague Anna Judson was there with us as well and she also has written a post about it, you can read it HERE.

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Continue reading “AWLL’s 11th Workshop in Writing Systems and Literacy – Natalia and Rob in Japan”

Ancient Literacy and Cypriot Mercenaries

Earlier this week, Natalia’s post on Cypriots and Iberians told us a little about the Cypriot Syllabic script, which up to now has not featured very much on the CREWS blog. In fact, as someone who has been working on the languages and writing systems of ancient Cyprus for years, this is a subject close to my heart! In this post I wanted to pick up on the question of literacy in ancient Cyprus – and as you will see, the movements of Cypriot mercenary soldiers are an important part of the puzzle.

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Relief sculpture with Cypriot Syllabic inscriptions. http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/241924

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What did Cypriots and Iberians have in common?

Did you know that Iberian and Cypriot scripts share the shapes of some signs? Although Iberian scripts do not really fall into the research of the CREWS project, they are fascinating and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to make them appear in our blog. In spite of the long distance between the Iberian peninsula and Cyprus, which were not directly connected in the 5th century BC (approximate date of the first written samples in Iberian), indeed, there are some signs both in Iberian and Cypriot scripts that have the same shape, but with different values. How was this possible?

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Iberian inscription on lead from Ullastret.

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The Bulwer tablet, with Cypriot syllabic writing. Trustees of the British Museum.

Continue reading “What did Cypriots and Iberians have in common?”

Back to the Phaistos Disc

Readers who know German may be interested in a short piece on the Phaistos Disc in Süddeutsche Zeitung today, for which I gave a brief interview. You can read it in full HERE.

(If you don’t read German and want to know more, don’t worry – the Wikipedia page on the Phaistos Disc is quite neutral and can give a lot of the basics about the object.)

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http://www.sueddeutsche.de/wissen/sz-serie-was-steht-denn-da-scheibe-aus-der-bronzezeit-1.3636554

Continue reading “Back to the Phaistos Disc”

Writing beautifully

I just saw that it is World Calligraphy Day today (noticing all these “(inter)national days of X” seems to be a product of hanging out on Twitter!). This got me thinking about what we mean when we say ‘calligraphy’. The word comes from Greek and means simply “beautiful writing” – which in practice can mean a whole range of things.

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Page from the Lindisfarne Gospels. Image from HERE.

Today we tend to think of calligraphy as an art that involves writing in ink with special pens on fancy paper. You can do it in any writing system from around the world – Wikipedia has a nice range of examples in its calligraphy entry HERE. The above page from the 8th century AD illuminated Lindisfarne gospels is a typical piece of monastic medieval calligraphy from northern England, while below is an 11th century AD work from the Chinese Song dynasty, On Calligraphy by Mi Fu. Continue reading “Writing beautifully”