Firstly, let me welcome any new readers who have come over from Twitter (where the project now has a presence as @crewsproject). For this post we are going on an exotic excursus away from the Mediterranean, to ancient(ish) Mesoamerica.
Recently I had the pleasure of attending a seminar on Mayan glyphs, given by Steve Houston (of Brown University). It struck me that Mayan provides a fascinating alternative view of the concept of writing – ‘alternative’ because it seems in many ways counter-intuitive, not only to a modern literate person, but even to someone like me who has been working on ancient writing systems for years.
Figure 1. Mural from San Bartolo, with glyphs top left. One of the earliest examples of Mayan writing, c.100 BC.
This is a fully funded studentship, and the successful candidate will begin a PhD on the early development of the Greek alphabet in October 2016. Interested parties should read in detail the information given on the page linked to above, which explains the application process.
Please note that due to restrictions of funding, the studentship is open to UK/EU nationals only.
As promised, today’s post is going to deal with the first line of the CREWS logo. As some of you may already have observed, the first line is written in Linear B, which is one of several writing systems that will be studied as part of the CREWS project.
Linear B was the writing system used in the administration of the Mycenaean palaces of Crete and mainland Greece roughly between 1400 and 1200 BC. We call it Linear B because the archaeologist Arthur Evans gave it this label following his discoveries at the Cretan site of Knossos at the beginning of the 20th century, contrasting the abstract ‘linear’ nature of its signs with the more pictorial-looking earlier system that he labelled Cretan Hieroglyphic. There was another category, Linear A, which again applied to an earlier system but one that looked much more like Linear B.
Although it has stood the test of time, the label ‘Linear B’ is not very helpful except as a basic identifier of the writing system being referred to. Linear B is primarily a syllabic system, in which each of the core signs represents an open syllable (i.e. a vowel on its own such as a or i, or a consonant+vowel combination such as te or ku: a table of these core signs is shown in Figure 1). The language written in Linear B was the earliest surviving form of Greek, which we refer to as the Mycenaean Greek dialect.