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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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!”

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”

Farewell CREWS Display

Our special display on ancient writing systems at the Fitzwilliam Museum finished two weeks ago, and I went along to the museum for the display’s de-installation. It was sad seeing it removed – it feels more like five minutes than five months since it was installed in January. But the de-installation was actually very interesting, and was a great way of rounding off my experience of being involved with a museum display.

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Writing in the Sand: An upcoming event celebrating Coptic writing, language and culture

Writing and society go hand-in-hand: almost all writing is intended to be read by another person or by a group of other people. That is to say, that writing presupposes that people want to communicate with each other, and that they want, in some way, to relate to one another. It is no surprise, then, to find that writing is often used as a means of identifying oneself in respect of another group. This may be in terms of national, ethnic or linguistic identity, but it may also be in terms of religious identity.

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In an earlier post, I looked at the Ancient Egyptian writing system, that we know as hieroglyphics. In a future post I will be talking about how vowels are (occasionally) represented in that writing system. However, for now I want to look at another writing system also used to write the Egyptian language, but a much later variety, known as Coptic. Unlike other Egyptian writing systems (hieratic, demotic), which are related to hieroglyphics, Coptic is based on the Greek alphabet, with some letters added in for Egyptian sounds that did not exist in Greek. This is particularly interesting for my own research project in CREWS, since it means that, unlike the other Egyptian scripts, the vowels are written down. Continue reading “Writing in the Sand: An upcoming event celebrating Coptic writing, language and culture”

Coming up at CREWS…

Here at the CREWS project we are excited to be involved in a number of activities that are coming up in the next couple of months. Here is a round up…

Cambridge University hosts the Festival of Ideas in late October, bringing to the public all the most exciting aspects of research going on at the university – but in the most accessible and fun waysprehist.jpg we can think up!

First up, we will be at the McDonald Institute’s Prehistory and Archaeology Day, where trying your hand at ancient writing will be just one of the activities on offer. This is an all day event on Saturday 21st October at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit.

Also coinciding with part of the Festival of Ideas is a brand new exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, Codebreakers and Groundbreakers. This exhibition will examine various aspects of the codebreaking process by focusing on two important 20th century events: the breaking of the Enigma code by Alan Turing and the decipherment of Linear B by Michael Ventris. Opening on 24th October, it will be running until early February – so if you have a chance to come to Cambridge in this period, please do drop by and have a look! Continue reading “Coming up at CREWS…”

The CREWS Team Complete!

The CREWS Project has recently welcomed Sarah Lewis to the team, as our Project Assistant and Administrator. Sarah joins us from Regent’s University London, where she was a Data and Research Officer, and is excited to be part of the CREWS Project Team as it has many links to her broader interest in languages, sociolinguistics and language development. sarahSarah gained an MA (Hons) in Applied Linguistics from the University of Sheffield in 2006, where she particularly focussed on language development and the social context of language use in L1 and L2 learners.

It is lovely to have the whole team together and we are all looking forward to a new academic year full of interesting new research and outreach activities – keep an eye on the blog for more news on these soon.

 

Back to the Phaistos Disc

Readers who know German may be interested in a short piece on the Phaistos Disc in Süddeutsche Zeitung today, for which I gave a brief interview. You can read it in full HERE.

(If you don’t read German and want to know more, don’t worry – the Wikipedia page on the Phaistos Disc is quite neutral and can give a lot of the basics about the object.)

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http://www.sueddeutsche.de/wissen/sz-serie-was-steht-denn-da-scheibe-aus-der-bronzezeit-1.3636554

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Introduction: Robert Crellin

Hello!

My name is Robert Crellin, and I am very excited to have joined the CREWS project at the start of April. Up to now my research has mainly focused on the mechanics of verb systems in various ancient languages, but in this project my goal will be to look at the relationship between the writing systems used to write two ancient Semitic languages, Ugaritic and Phoenician. Ugaritic, as suggested by the name, was the language of the state of Ugarit, now Ras Shamra in Syria (a site that also forms the focus of research of my colleague Philip, see HERE). Phoenician was spoken, at least initially, in the Phoenician city states, including places like Tyre, Sidon and Byblos, but later, by virtue of the colonising activities of these city states, across much of the Mediterranean.

Ugaritic alphabet

An abecedarium from Ugarit.

The strange thing about the Ugaritic and Phoenician writing systems is that they share certain characteristics, such as the order of the letters, and the fact that both only very seldom write vowels, yet the forms of the letters and the means used for writing are very different: Ugaritic is written in a form of cuneiform, while the Phoenician that survives is written using letter shapes inscribed or written in the same way as we might write. I want to try to illuminate the processes by which this situation might have arisen, and in the first instance, I will focus on the phenomenon of vowel writing. Continue reading “Introduction: Robert Crellin”

Thank you ERC!

This week, the European Research Council is celebrating its 10th anniversary. As a body that provides large-scale funding for researchers and their projects, the ERC has made a staggering difference to the world of academia. A project like CREWS simply wouldn’t be possible without this type of funding – and when you multiply that by all the other wonderful projects funded by the ERC in both the arts/humanities and sciences, it adds up to a huge impact on our knowledge and understanding of the world.

10-LOGO_WHITE Continue reading “Thank you ERC!”