For the third of our posts looking at the objects in the CREWS Display at the Fitzwilliam Museum, we’re going to turn our attention to probably the oldest item we have on display: this cuneiform tablet.
I have been meaning to post something about the Bisitun (or Behistun) inscription for ages now, but never seem to get round to it. Noticing that today is International Mountain Day has finally spurred me to action – though this will have to be a short post for now because I don’t have time at the moment to do this wonderful monument the justice it deserves.
The inscription can be found 100m up a cliff, on Mt Behistun in present-day Iran. It’s huge (15 x 25 m) and incorporates images as well as trilingual text in Old Persian, Elamite and Babylonian. All three languages are written in different types of cuneiform, i.e. wedge-shaped writing that was adapted and developed by different societies of the Near East. By the time of this inscription (late 6th or early 5th C BC), cuneiform had already been in use for thousands of years, so what we are seeing here are very late manifestations of a multi-stranded tradition of writing with a very long history. Continue reading “Writing on High”
None of us had ever thought that the study of Ancient Writing Systems would take us to Japan. Luckily, the Association for Written Language and Literacy gave us this opportunity. Robert and Natalia represented the CREWS project in the 11th Workshop in Writing Systems and Literacy, held by this association at the end of August at the Nanzan University in Nagoya, with the title “Writing Systems: Past, present (… and future?)”. Our colleague Anna Judson was there with us as well and she also has written a post about it, you can read it HERE.
We’ve talked before on this blog about the importance of hands-on experience with inscriptions. Seeing and handling the real thing gives a much clearer idea of the practical realities of reading and writing an ancient script than working from a transcription or even a drawing or photograph.
So I was very lucky this week to be able to visit the British Museum with Cambridge’s Assyriologists, for a behind-the-scenes tour and a hands-on session with some of their many cuneiform tablets.
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”
We’ve talked in the past about the Linear B and Greek alphabetic script in the first two lines of the CREWS logo. Today we’re going to skip ahead and have a look at the last line. This is written in Ugaritic alphabetic cuneiform.
Ugarit was a city on the coast of what’s now northern Syria, not far from the Turkish border. The site was occupied since the Neolithic period, but it’s the Late Bronze Age city of the end of the second millennium BC that we know most about and which has really captured the attention of scholars. In that period, up until its destruction in the early 12th century BC, Ugarit was a major trading hub, involved in commercial and diplomatic networks stretching from the Aegean to Mesopotamia and beyond. When archaeologists began excavating the site in the early 20th century, as well as texts in several of the known languages of the period, they found numerous clay tablets in an unknown script. Continue reading “krws and Ugaritic Cuneiform”