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!
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.)
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!”→
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.
On weekend we had two workshops "Writing systems from around the world" in a roleplaying convention @ropecon. Besides cuneiform we introduced something else we know (Mayan, Japanese, Greek etc) & used @crewsproject great sheets to introduce some scripts not-so-familiar to us 🙂 pic.twitter.com/EST99veeDu
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.
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.
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…
We are pleased to announce the launch of our Visiting Fellowship Scheme, an opportunity for a researcher working on ancient writing systems to come and spend 1-3 months in Cambridge with the CREWS Project.
The deadline for applications for this round of the scheme is 10th August 2018. Please visit this page for further information:
I have spent longer trying to figure out a good pun for this post than I spent baking the cakes, and I’ve finally just given up. I nearly made the entire thing out of Scottish tablet so I could work one in. It would have been the right colour and a pretty good consistency, but then I don’t like Scottish tablet, and what’s the point of making a timeline of the invention of writing in cake form if you won’t enjoy eating it afterwards? So instead this is all chocolate cake, coffee icing, coffee fondant, chocolate and strawberry laces. I can now inform my readership that strawberry laces do not go with any of those other foods. This blog truly is about learning. All dates are, naturally, BC.
So we start off with chocolate tokens, in geometric shapes (those splodges of chocolate definitely count as circles). Non- chocolate versions are…
I just saw that it is World Calligraphy Day today (noticing all these “(inter)national days of X” seems to be a product of hanging out on Twitter!). This got me thinking about what we mean when we say ‘calligraphy’. The word comes from Greek and means simply “beautiful writing” – which in practice can mean a whole range of things.
Page from the Lindisfarne Gospels. Image from HERE.
Today we tend to think of calligraphy as an art that involves writing in ink with special pens on fancy paper. You can do it in any writing system from around the world – Wikipedia has a nice range of examples in its calligraphy entry HERE. The above page from the 8th century AD illuminated Lindisfarne gospels is a typical piece of monastic medieval calligraphy from northern England, while below is an 11th century AD work from the Chinese Song dynasty, On Calligraphy by Mi Fu. Continue reading “Writing beautifully”→
We continue our journey through different mythologies to find all the stories about writing. This time it’s the turn of Norse mythology and the invention of runes. In the Poetic Edda, we are told that the god Odin (dedicated to wisdom and magic, among other things) hung himself on the tree Yggdrasil for nine nights, not receiving any kind of food or drink. This was a kind of self-sacrifice to himself that granted him the revelation of the runes. Since then, runes were used not only as a writing system, but also in magic and divination.