CREWS Visiting Fellows, coming soon

I am delighted to announce the outcome of the third and final round of the CREWS Visiting Fellowship, which will see a further three scholars coming to spend time with us here in Cambridge working on ancient writing systems. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused some delays with our fellowship programme, and there is sadly still some uncertainty about when Visiting Fellows from our second and third rounds will be with us – but we are very much looking forward to welcoming them when circumstances allow. In the meantime, you can read a bit more about the new fellows and their research below. Featuring ancient Byblos, Old Phrygian and machine-learning tools for restoring Greek, Latin and other inscriptions!

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Teaching with CREWS

Do you want to learn more about writing in the ancient world? Then read on!

I am excited to tell you that we recently received a small grant to develop some teaching materials based on our research on ancient writing systems and practices! Firstly, we want to make as many resources as we can available to the wider public, and we hope that lots of people will enjoy and learn from these – especially in these dark times when so many of us are isolated from each other, looking for something to take our minds off the news, and so many children are learning at home. This post is going to give you an idea of resources that are already available, and ones that are coming soon.

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Lego Pippa and Philip demonstrating ancient writing techniques to a crowd of fascinating onlookers. Lego tableau by Philip Boyes!

Eventually we aim to release packages of materials aimed at children aged 8-11, so do look out for more news on this if you teach in primary education or have children the right age! Continue reading “Teaching with CREWS”

Studying Writing in Bronze Age Cyprus

This term has been Cyprus term at the CREWS project. We have been very lucky to have two Visiting Fellows with us – Cassie Donnelly and Giorgos Bourogiannis – who are Cypriot specialists and are working on different aspects of writing in ancient Cyprus. It also happens to be the time of year when we run a seminar where we teach and discuss a particular ancient writing system. So of course we chose Cypro-Minoan, the script of Late Bronze Age Cyprus, for our seminar theme, and you may not be surprised to hear that some practical experimentation was involved… and indeed some themed cake and chocolates!

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Teaching about money’s origins—and its possible cryptographic futures—with Proto-cuneiform

Guest post by Professor Bill Maurer

Richard Mattessich (1998) opened his paper in the Accounting Historians’ Journal on 3rd millennium BCE protocuneiform with a quotation from Leonard Bernstein: “The best way to know a thing, is in the context of another discipline” (Bernstein 1976: 3). For two weeks in January, 2019, a class of 114 undergraduate students at the University of California, Irvine, drew made-up protocuneiform tables based on Nissen et al. (1993) after reading Mattessich’s accountant’s perspective on them. They did so as part of a class on “The Future of Money.” The class is still going on, and is being conducted entirely online, except for an end-of-term in person meeting with a panel of payments industry experts and final exam.

Protocuneiform tablets were chosen as the earliest surviving examples of economic transactions utilizing a type of proto-writing that would later develop into the more abstract wedge-shapes of classic cuneiform.  The earliest examples date from the late 4th millennium BC (around 3200-3000), from the area of Uruk, and commonly include ‘pictographic’ signs denoting the goods being counted alongside numerals. (You can read more about ‘Proto-Cuneiform’ on the CDLI here and here.)

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Proto-cuneiform tablet, probably from Uruk, c.3100-2900 BC. Image 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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Jabba’s Guide to Bronze Age Diplomacy

More on Late Bronze Age eastern Mediterranean diplomacy from Philip – in which Jabba the Hutt provides an unexpectedly useful mirror for the Great King of Alashiya (Cyprus) known to us from cuneiform documents.

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I just mentioned Jabba the Hutt in the academic book I’m writing. At first it was a bit of a joke, something that would never make it through the first edit, but actually, the more I think about it, the more I think it’s helpful. I’m going to drop one of those terrible academic clichés now, so forgive me, but when it comes to the Late Bronze Age Mediterranean, Jabba might actually be Good To Think With. Let me explain.

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Pan, Plato, and the Nymphs: exploring Vari Cave

Natalia has co-written a fascinating blog post about her adventures in the Cave of the Nymphs, taking place during her research trip based in Athens.

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Mount Hymettus is known to the local people of Attica as the ‘Mad Mountain’, η Τρελοβούνι. Situated on the western side of the Attica peninsula and stretching above the coastal towns of Elliniko, Glyfada, and Voula, this mountain and its undulating topography are eclectic — if not ‘mad’. The granular limestone of the mountain makes the landscape perfect for the formation of caves, and indeed there are over 300 caves documented for this area alone. A little over seventy of these were used in antiquity, and they have variously yielded archaeological remains from the stone age right through to more recent times. On a recent weekend off from life in Athens, we (Natalia and Michael) escaped the metropolis and took an adventure up to Hymettus. In this blog post, we recount what we saw in just one of these caves, ‘Vari Cave’, also known as the ‘Cave…

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