Scribes and Spooks: Exorcists in Ancient Mesopotamia

A little while ago an unexpected thing happened to me. While happily going about my research, I recalled something I’d read not long after I started working for the CREWS Project – a reference to a Mesopotamian family who worked as exorcists. I’d always found this a fun concept and tweeted about it. And, well… it turned out a lot of other people liked this idea too.

For a while now I’ve been meaning to dig up the original reference and write something about Mesopotamian exorcists that had a more solid foundation than my off-the-cuff and hazy memories. This is good material for a CREWS Project blog post, because the link between writing and exorcism in ancient Mesopotamia was much closer than you might expect. And what better time than Hallowe’en? Draw the curtains, make your incantations against Pazuzu and rotate your heads 360 degrees (don’t really do this) as we take a trip into the demon-haunted and bewitched world of Mesopotamian exorcism.

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Ancient writing at the Festival of Ideas

The last couple of weeks here in Cambridge have been dedicated to the Festival of Ideas, which featured a few events focused on ancient writing.

9017d0f91b10520efc3af725377d9fda.pngCREWS had its own event on Friday 19th October as part of an evening of fun in the Museum of Classical Archaeology (AKA the Cast Gallery) at the Faculty of Classics: Raiders of the Secret Scripts, mostly aimed at an adult audience. Philip and Rob were on hand to guide people through an exercise in reading Ugaritic cuneiform, while anyone interested in Linear B could try their hand at counting animals in a clay tablet, with me and our CREWS-friend colleague Dr Anna Judson there to help with the hard bits.

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Visuality of text, a workshop at Warwick University

pic.jpgLast Saturday 20th October, our colleagues from Warwick University organised the workshop “Visuality of Text: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Display of the Word”, an opportunity that the CREWS project could not miss. What made this workshop especially interesting was the truly interdisciplinary nature of this event, which brought together academics researching material writing and professionals and artists whose work involves the display of texts.

The workshop started with three historical case studies from very different periods that showed the use of text on objects. Archaic Greek sculpture was covered by Nick Brown, Harry Prance presented on Byzantine eucharistic objects and Katherine Cross focused on Anglo-saxon weaponry.

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CREWS in Riga, Helsinki and Cambridge

riga.pngCREWS people have been busy with various conferences this year. In April Rob was involved in organising the conference, “A Corpus and Usage-based approach to Ancient Greek: From the Archaic Period until the Koine”, in Riga, together with colleagues from the University of Leipzig University and the University of Latvia (see here).

The aim was to bring together scholars working on all aspects of Greek language in the way it was actually used, rather than just focusing on an idealised presentation of the language, as has often been the case in more traditional approaches. This approach has, of course, been made possible in the last few decades with the phenomenal increase in computing power and data-storage, making large-scale corpus studies feasible that simply would not have been possible a century or even half a century ago. Continue reading “CREWS in Riga, Helsinki and Cambridge”

Writing in Time and Space: the writing ‘systems’ of Doctor Who

doctor_who_season_11_logo_thumb800Anyone who’s followed the CREWS blog will know that we’re fond of a bit of sci-fi and fantasy. We’ve talked about the writing systems of Star Wars, Game of Thrones and Indiana Jones. But ever since I was a kid, my absolute favourite piece of science fiction has been Doctor Who. Since it’s finally back this weekend, what better time to look at how it handles writing?
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An incomplete guide to epigraphy in Greece

This year I spent four and a half months in Greece doing some epigraphical fieldwork, as a visitor to the British School at Athens. This offered me the chance to see many museums and archaeological sites in the country. From my visits I have prepared a small guide of where to find different kinds of inscriptions typical in Greek epigraphy. Please, note that it is incomplete, since it only accounts for the museums and sites that I have visited in the last months during my research and a short vacation in Greece. Feel free to leave comments to let other readers know about wonderful pieces of epigraphy in other Greek museums.

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The tomb of Clytemnestra in Mycenae. Photo from HERE.

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Announcing the new CREWS Visiting Fellows!

Over the summer we conducted a competition for the first round of our Visiting Fellowship Scheme, to enable a scholar working on topics relevant to the CREWS project to come and spend some time with us in Cambridge. We had a very strong field of applicants, and were very pleased to be able to make two awards this year, to our top two candidates: Cassandra Donnelly and Willemijn Waal. You can read more about them, and their research projects, below. Continue reading “Announcing the new CREWS Visiting Fellows!”

CREWS around the world

In a recent post we asked people to get in touch and let us know if they had used CREWS materials in teaching or other activities, to help us keep track of how we are reaching people – and what more we can do. We would like to thank everyone who has replied to our plea so far, and we are absolutely delighted with the communications we have received.

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Reaching out with ancient writing

Write your name in the Cypriot syllabary picAt the CREWS project we are conducting new research on ancient writing systems, but the research itself is only one aspect of what we do. There’s no point in finding things out if you don’t communicate them after all. And we love passing on our enthusiasm for ancient writing! That is why we are trying to develop our outreach activities and teaching materials (see more below), and we also report on these aspects to our funding body, the European Research Council.

We want to hear from YOU. Have you used CREWS blog posts in a teaching capacity (e.g. in school or university or just with the kids at home)? Have you used our write-your-name sheets? Have you encountered us at an outreach event? Do you have any requests or resommendations for us?

If the answer to any of these is yes, please consider getting in touch to tell us. You can leave a comment on this post or use our contact form or email. Continue reading “Reaching out with ancient writing”

Indiana Jones and the Ancient Inscriptions

When I was little, I wanted to be Indiana Jones. I grew up on those films, and archaeology was the first profession I dreamed of. The more I watched them, the more I was drawn to some particular scenes that involve pieces of writing – looking back, it feels as though my career began when I became curious about how to become someone who could look at an ancient inscription and work out what it meant.

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In the world of Indiana Jones, being able to read an inscription tends to be linked with cracking codes and solving mysteries. In some ways, that is what I do for a living now (how lucky am I?) – although not usually in life-or-death situations or while being chased by Nazis. Continue reading “Indiana Jones and the Ancient Inscriptions”