Aurebesh – an alphabet long ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Being a life-long fan of Star Wars, and having recently rewatched Rogue One, I was just thinking about writing in the Star Wars universe…

If you’re not a Star Wars fan, no need to stop reading – in fact, the point of this post is to highlight the phenomenon of creating a writing system for a fictional universe. And these days it is a common phenomenon, especially given that fictional other worlds are often created in visual media like television, film and comics. If your creations live in a literate world (and potentially speak a created language too), then choices have to be made about how to represent writing in that world.

This is Aurebesh, a writing system created for the Star Wars universe and used to represent the most common language, Galactic Basic Standard Language (heard in the films for example as English):

Aurebesh.jpg

Image from HERE.

The very linear, ‘boxy’ nature of the signs lends itself to representation on a computer screen as well as other media, I think. You can read more about the writing system HERE.

Interestingly, when the system was created its name was based on the Phoenician/Greek/Roman alphabetic system, with the first two signs (aurek and besh) making the name of the alphabet, Aurebesh. This is just the same as our word ‘alphabet’, which is taken from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and beta. (And in fact, aurek and besh – along with the other letters – sound rather close to letters from the Phoenician and Greek alphabets.)

I realise now that Aurebesh is not the only writing system in the Star Wars universe – far from it in fact. You can read more about other systems if you are interested HERE, but I will just show a picture of some Ewokese, the language and writing system used by the Ewoks:

Scroll_of_the_Mantigrue2 Ewokese.jpg

Image from HERE.

The next time you are watching a film or TV show set in a different world, do look out for what writing looks like. One of my favourites is the Tengwar writing system created by J.R.R. Tolkien for Elvish writing in The Lord of the Rings and other books set in the same world. No doubt that will make a nice blog post for another day…

In the meantime, please tell us your favourite fictional writing systems! You can comment here or find us on Twitter (@crewsproject – hashtag #fictionalphabets). And do check out Philip’s recent post on writing systems in the world of the Legend of Zelda video games HERE!

~ Pippa Steele (Principal Investigator of the CREWS Project)

Pippa Steele

Hands-on with Cuneiform

When I joined the CREWS Project and started my research on the context of writing at Ugarit, one of the challenges was getting to grips with Akkadian. Ugarit was a tremendously cosmopolitan and multilingual city, at the crossroads between the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia and Anatolia and this means that the writing we have from the city comes in a wide range of languages and scripts. The most common are Ugaritic – usually written in a form of alphabetic cuneiform  – and Akkadian. Continue reading “Hands-on with Cuneiform”

A Taste of Ancient Writing

 

Philip Boyes, the new Research Associate on the CREWS project, officially started work this week – and he made cookies to celebrate! Well, there was some discussion as to whether they are cookies or biscuits… but whatever you call them, they taste delicious.

 

Philip's biscuits.png

 

You can read more about them over on Philip’s blog.

 

As you can see, they are inscribed with several different ancient writing systems – of which you may recognise some from the project logo! There’s also Cretan Hieroglyphic (third from the top on the right) and Cypro-Minoan (the ones at the top of the second and third columns), which were writing systems used in Bronze Age Crete and Cyprus respectively.

 

CREWS 8 cropped

 

Why not try making your own ancient cookies? All you need is a recipe and a pointed object for writing on them. And if you do, please send us photos! (You can send them to the new CREWS email address, crews@classics.cam.ac.uk, or tag us on Twitter, @crewsproject.)

Reitia, Venetic goddess of writing

 

I have been promising for a while to say something about the Venetic goddess of writing. Last term, my colleague Dr Katherine McDonald gave a short seminar series on the Venetic language, which was used in the Veneto area of Italy in the second half of the 1st millennium BC (at least, this is when most of the evidence for it dates from).

 

The Venetic language has clear affiliations with other Italic languages, which can be seen for example in some words that look very similar to what we find in Latin (such as ego for the first person pronoun “I”). It was written in an alphabet that seems to have been derived from an Etruscan alphabet (itself derived from the Greek alphabet), although it has some peculiarities of its own, including a complex system of punctuation for syllables.

Continue reading “Reitia, Venetic goddess of writing”

Handwriting in Roman London

 

A couple of months ago a major epigraphic discovery was announced: a number of wooden writing tablets, dated to the 1st century AD, had been found in an excavation in London. This was a considerable archive, with 405 tablets of which 87 have been analysed and translated by Dr Roger Tomlin of Oxford. A picture of one is shown in Figure 1 below.

 

57 AD tablet

Figure 1. Wooden writing tablet from Roman London dated to 8th January 57 AD.

 

Why should we get excited about this find? Well, for one thing these objects allow us a rare chance to observe Roman handwriting. We have plenty of surviving Latin but the vast majority has come through one of two routes: either through being copied down over and over again since ancient times (which is why a lot of our earliest copies of Classical authors date from the medieval period) or through being written on a durable medium such as stone or pottery that has survived to be read today. Neither of these gives us access to what Latin looked like when it was written down by hand directly by an ancient Latin speaker him/herself.

 

One of the reasons why Roman handwriting is hard to find has to do with the materials that were usually written on. One place to look for handwriting is in graffiti, such as have been found on the walls of Pompeii – a favourite example of mine is shown as a drawing in Figure 2 (labyrinthus hic habitat Minotaurus written around a depiction of a labyrinth). But graffiti on walls are rare and you are much more likely to find a scrawled graffito on a sherd of pottery than on a wall, with Pompeii representing an unusual chance to observe mural graffiti.

 

Minotaurus 2

Figure 2. Minotaur graffito from Pompeii.

  Continue reading “Handwriting in Roman London”

World Emoji Day

 

Did you know that today is World Emoji Day?

 

Emojis have become an important part of modern writing systems, especially as used online. They may not (yet) be accepted as playing a role in a formal register of writing, but that does not mean that they are not valid written signs.

 

In fact, emojis are in some ways similar to ideograms, the term we use for individual written signs (e.g. in ancient writing systems such as Linear B) that refer to whole concepts. A smiley face conveys that you are happy or have been made to smile, but instead of writing this out in a sentence you can convey it with a single written sign.

 

LB horse

The Linear B ideogram for a horse.

  Continue reading “World Emoji Day”

More Mayan, and Variation in Writing Systems

 

On Wednesday 13th July, the CREWS project hosted its first academic event, a seminar presented by Dr Christian Prager of the University of Bonn. The topic was “Of Codes and Kings: Digital Approaches in Classic Maya Epigraphic Studies”, and gave our speaker the opportunity to tell us all about the digital database of Mayan inscriptions that he is helping to build.

 

1-Prager talk

Continue reading “More Mayan, and Variation in Writing Systems”