We are delighted to announce the new CREWS Visiting Fellows, who will be coming to spend some time with us here in Cambridge next year. When we launched the visiting fellowship scheme last year, we aimed to host scholars working on similar research themes, giving them a chance to spend time with access to our resources and us a chance to interact and exchange ideas with them as members of the CREWS team. The first results have been extremely stimulating and productive. This year’s visits from Willemijn Waal, Giorgos Bourogiannis and Cassandra Donnelly have been wonderfully successful, not to mention greatly enjoyable, and I am very much looking forward to welcoming new friends and colleagues to spend time with us next year.


There were three main winners of our Visiting Fellowship competition, plus two who will spend shorter periods with us, all as CREWS Visiting Fellows. They are working on all sorts of wonderful things, including imaging techniques that help us to understand inscribed objects better, investigating distinctive traits in and social contexts of the epigraphic habits of different areas, new ways of trying to understand linguistic features underlying undeciphered scripts and the history of alphabetical ordering of information. Read more below!


Piquette_profile_pic.jpgKathryn E. Piquette (University College London)

Kathryn E. Piquette is a Visiting Fellow working on early writing in Egypt and the Middle East from the perspective of its consumption – through both sensory perception and practical embodied use. Focussing on the scripts developing in the late 4th to mid-3rd millennium in the lower Nile Valley and lower Mesopotamia, Kathryn will be comparing the range of materials used by script producers and evidence for different tools and techniques across artefact and written content types. The aim of her project is to examine the diverse conditions presented by these facets of materiality for script consumers. She will be employing a multiscalar approach in her analysis, aided by ATLAS.ti (a workbench for the qualitative analysis of large bodies of multi-media data), in order to provide a situated account of reader experience and other cognitive acts of meaning making. The questions underlying her research therefore revolve around the implications of the material and environmental contexts for embodied acts of perception by readers and other users of written artefacts.

Different views of an Egyptian relief made possible with Reflectance Transformation Imaging.

In her research, Kathryn has worked primarily on art and writing of Egypt and the ancient Middle East. Her PhD thesis examined the earliest evidence for writing in Egypt from the perspective of its composition and material practice. More recently, Kathryn has been conducting research at the intersection of ancient text and advanced digital imaging. In addition to previous study of the production technologies of early Egyptian and Mesopotamia scripts, she has been applying, developing, and integrating digital techniques for elucidating difficult-to-read Greek, Latin, and Aramaic writing on papyri (e.g. carbonised papyri from Herculaneum), and in lead and other metals, wax tablets (e.g. from Vindolanda) and stone. She has held research and teaching posts at Trinity College Dublin, University of Oxford, UCL, Free University Berlin, University of Cologne, and the University of Reading. Among her various publications is the co-edited open access volume “Writing as Material Practice: Substance, surface and medium”. Dr Piquette’s monograph “An Archaeology of Art and Writing: Early Egyptian labels in context” has recently appeared, also as an open access ebook, with a supporting online database of early Egyptian graphical culture.


martinaMartina Polig (Ghent University / Cyprus Institute, Nicosia)

Martina Polig is currently research assistant at The Cyprus Institute (Cyprus), as well as PhD student in a joint doctoral program between The Cyprus Institute and Ghent University (Belgium) under the supervisions of Sorin Hermon and Joachim Bretschneider respectively. Her research interests relate to 3D approaches for the study of archaeological artefacts and Heritage sites.

Her PhD research focuses on the Cypro-Minoan syllabary and the documentation and characterisation of its signs by means of 3D approaches. This entails a homogenous state of the art 3D documentation of as much of the Cypro-Minoan corpus (over 90%) as possible and the creation of a sign repository. This new documentation is going to digitally reunify the material dispersed over various museums, capture information, such as depth and angle, which could not be documented through traditional means and improve the readability of ambiguous signs by enabling a dynamic interactive 3D visualization (see the slideshow of 3D scans below). Based on the 3D documentation a palaeographic analysis will be carried out, investigating the variability of sign rendition in a diachronic and synchronic way, which will hopefully lead to a better definition of the signs, the identification of temporal and spatial trends and groups, as well as patterns related to the support.

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martina scanningIn order to reach such ambitious goals, she receives the scientific support of Massimo Perna, an expert in Aegean palaeography and director of the International Centre for Research on Aegean Civilisations (C.I.R.C.E.) of the University Sassari in Oristano (Italy) and Gerfrid G.W. Müller from Würzburg University and the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz, expert in Ancient Near Eastern Philology and leader of a large-scale 3D cuneiform project.

During her Visting Fellowship (Feb-March 2020) she will be working on defining the structure and content of the sign repository. In particular the different factors that impact the shape of a sign, the relationship among signs and their support have to be identified and described.


DKrsDamjan Krsmanovic (University of Leicester)

Damjan Krsmanovic is an archaeologist based at the University of Leicester, whose work focuses on prehistoric Anatolia, and more broadly on the ancient Near East, Mediterranean and the Caucasus. His research interests include political authority, landscape archaeology, and ancient languages. Currently, he is the co-director of the LAG (Landscape Archaeology of Georgia) Project and conducting research reconsidering the socio-political dynamics of Iron Age central Anatolia through practices relating to politics, monumentality, language, and the landscape.

Phrygian tomb inscription from Midas (original orientation vertical, turned here to show text). Image from here.

His work in the CREWS Project will focus on the Phrygian language and epigraphic habit in the context of this research. The work will consider new research questions and revaluation of the Phrygian language beyond the predominantly linguistic focus it has received. It will include issues relating to materiality of writing; the social and political motivations behind the use of different writing media; and the way in which this relates to historical dynamics Iron Age central Anatolia.


csabaCsaba La’da (University of Kent)

Csaba A. La’da’s research focuses on the social and cultural history of Hellenistic and Roman Egypt and on papyri and inscriptions in Greek and Egyptian languages and scripts. His project for a CREWS Visiting Fellowship in June 2020 involves studying the history of alphabetisation (i.e. the method of arranging textual data in alphabetic order) in Greek.

According to the current scholarly consensus, the concept of an alphabetic arrangement of textual information in Greek was developed in  Alexandria in the third century BC by Callimachus for his Pinakes, a catalogue of the holdings of the Alexandrian library.

Metaponto Greek abecedarium beginning
Abecedarium showing the order of the Greek alphabet, photo by Katherine McDonald.

There is however new papyrological and epigraphic evidence available that calls this consensus into question. Further, before the Greeks the Egyptians appear to have had a well-developed and widely applied concept of alphabetisation. In addition, some parts of the Hebrew Bible show the practice of alphabetic arrangement. Dr La’da’s research will consider the early history of alphabetisation in Greek and the potential Egyptian and/or north-west Semitic influences on Greek in developing the method of alphabetisation in the early Hellenistic period.


PhotoBrent Davis (University of Melbourne)

Brent Davis is the author of Minoan Stone Vessels with Linear A Inscriptions (Aegaeum 36, Peeters 2014). Over the past several years, he has been developing a new linguistics-based method of comparing the languages behind undeciphered Aegean scripts, called syllabotactic analysis; applying this method to two scripts in tandem produces metrics expressing the likelihood that the same language underlies both scripts.

In a recent article in OJA (37: 373-410, 2018), he used this new method to demonstrate that Linear A and the script on the Phaistos Disk are very likely to encode the same language; this research led to the 2019 Michael Ventris Award for Mycenaean Studies. With the assistance of the Ventris Award, Brent is now at work on a series of new syllabotactic analyses aimed at comparing the languages behind Linear A, Cretan Hieroglyphic, and Cypro-Minoan. He will be a CREWS Visiting Fellow during the first half of February next year, when he will present on and workshop the interim results of these new analyses.


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