A new published article based on my CREWS project research has just appeared in print, with a focus on non-administrative documents written in Linear A.

Periploi article

Here is a link to a PDF copy:

• ‘Writing ‘systems’: Literacy and the transmission of writing in non-administrative contexts’ in Jasink, E.M., Weingarten, J. and Carraro, F. (eds.) Non-scribal Communication Media in the Bronze Age Aegean and Surrounding Areas: The semantics of a-literate and proto-literate media, Periploi 9, Firenze 2017, 81-100.

Periploi cover.jpg

I was very pleased to be asked to contribute to this volume, which is published by Firenze University Press in open access, and edited by three colleagues: Anna Margherita Jasink, Judith Weingarten and Silvia Ferrara.

It looks a various forms of communication around the ancient Mediterranean (the Aegean, Anatolia, Cyprus, Egypt and the Near East) that can be considered in some sense ‘non-scribal’. This covers a range of phenomena, from marking systems on the borderline of what we might call ‘writing’ to the use of sealing practices inside and outside of daily administration.


My contribution is aimed at studying Linear A as used outside of strictly administrative contexts – so not the clay tablets and sealings that form the majority of attestations, but rather the texts on other kinds of objects, like ceramic vessels, (sometimes precious) metal objects, figurines and stone ‘libation tables’ (like the one shown to the right). Were these written by the same people as the administrative documents? Are there any differences in the way they use writing? Were the authors trained in the same way as scribes/administrators?

So one of the ideas behind the paper was to think about what sorts of pieces of evidence we might use to approach these questions. For instance, in Linear A clay documents the writing always runs from left to right, but we have a couple of objects where the writing runs in a different direction, like the little pin with an inscription running right to left pictured below. Does this tell us anything useful about different spheres of literacy in Bronze Age Crete? Other issues could include the distribution (both chronological and geographical) of non-administrative inscriptions, or differences in palaeographic features (i.e. the shapes of signs).


In this article I used my previous experience of studying Late Bronze Age writing in Cyprus (the writing system labelled ‘Cypro-Minoan’) as a way of thinking about how to approach these questions too. Cypro-Minoan is found on a whole range of different kinds of objects, and the inscriptions show a high degree of diversity. In former scholarship, these differences have been treated in a completely different way to the sorts of differences we see in Crete. The idea was to compare the situations in Cyprus and Crete and see if we can learn any lessons, both from the material itself and from the history of scholarship on these two islands. If you are curious to hear more, please do have a look at the article!


~ Pippa Steele (Principal Investigator of the CREWS project)

Pippa Steele


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