A Tale of Two Scholars, and the Center for Minoan Linguistic Research that never came to exist

Guest post by CREWS Visiting Fellow Cassandra Donnelly

The two months I have spent as a Visiting Fellow with the CREWS project were full of all things Aegean, from the Cypro-Minoan seminar series, to the Mycenaean Epigraphy Room, and the Aegean Archaeology Group’s Work-in-Progress conference. I am incredibly grateful to Pippa, the CREWS team, and the Linguistics E-Caucus for sustained discussions about Cypro-Minoan (or “super” Minoan, as it became known), Ugaritic, and other local Mediterranean script traditions.

While preparing a presentation on potmarks for the Cypro-Minoan seminar I was reminded of a little known episode in Cypro-Minoan historiography, the early correspondence of Alice E. Kober and John Franklin Daniel which centered on Cypro-Minoan (you can read their correspondence for yourself here).

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Pictured right: Alice E. Kober; Pictured left: John Franklin Daniel.

Continue reading “A Tale of Two Scholars, and the Center for Minoan Linguistic Research that never came to exist”

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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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Late Bronze Age Clay Time!

Guest post by CREWS Visiting Fellow Cassandra Donnelly

During the last week of April the Program for Aegean Scripts and Prehistory (PASP) hosted its first ever “Late Bronze Age Clay Time! Study Break” in the Classics Lounge in Waggener Hall at the University of Texas at Austin. Approximately twenty  undergraduate and graduate students, along with some staff and their children, produced a veritable archive of Late Bronze Age (LBA) tablets.

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We provided attendees with the clay (local-fire “Longhorn Red” clay from Armadillo Clay), three types of styluses, and one of three different instruction packets. The first type of instruction packet pertained to Mycenaean Greek and Linear B, the second to Ugaritic, and the third to Cypro-Minoan. Each packet included instructions for how to make one of three tablet types, a signary in the corresponding script, and a model text to write in the corresponding language. Each of the texts, once combined, tells the story of the Late Bronze Age copper trade as mediated by Cypriot traders. Continue reading “Late Bronze Age Clay Time!”

Notice: CREWS Cypro-Minoan seminar

This term we are running a Cypro-Minoan seminar, looking at writing and inscribed objects in Late Bronze Age Cyprus.

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These are primarily intended for academics working on the ancient world, but are open to anyone with an interest. If you would like to attend any or all sessions and are not someone already on our radar, and/or are not based in Cambridge, please do contact Pippa so that she can put you on our mailing list for updates and advice (e.g. so that you know about room changes or timetable changes) and so that we can keep an eye on numbers.

No prior knowledge of Bronze Age Cypriot writing is expected, and we will be  approaching the topic from multiple viewpoints, both epigraphic and archaeological – so really anyone working in any discipline is welcome. At some point(s) there will also be practical experiments and themed cake!

Please note that there will be no seminar on Wednesday 5th June. The five sessions will take place on 15th May, 22nd May, 29th May, 12th June and 19th June.

Writing and Society in Ancient Cyprus – Pippa’s new book

A couple of months ago my new book, Writing and Society in Ancient Cyprus, was published with Cambridge University Press. This was a long-term project, beginning with a series of lectures given at All Souls College, Oxford, in 2014 and culminating in a work that underpins the research undertaken at CREWS. In fact, it was in writing this book that the whole idea for the CREWS project began…

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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!”

What makes one clay tablet better than another?

As someone who works on the written documents of the ancient Aegean and Cyprus, I come across clay tablets a lot. Clay was a very useful medium for writing in the ancient world because it was quite easily available and could be formed into different shapes, and all you need in order to write on it is a stick. Luckily for us, a clay tablet also has a good chance of surviving for thousands of years provided it has been baked.

A while ago I posted a picture of one of my favourite clay tablets on Twitter, a Linear B document that we label PY Ep 704 (which is code for saying that it comes from Pylos and deals with landholdings). (Photo courtesy of Silvia Ferrara.)

Continue reading “What makes one clay tablet better than another?”

Article by Pippa on the Aegean scripts

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A quick post to let you know of an article I wrote on the syllabic writing systems of the ancient Aegean and Cyprus (though excluding Linear B). This was for the catalogue of an exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum called Codebreakers and Groundbreakers, which examined Michael Ventris’ decipherment of Linear B alongside Alan Turing’s breaking of the Enigma Code.

Other chapters in the volume focused on Linear B, while I was asked to write about the related syllabic writing systems of Crete and Cyprus.

You can read the article online here:

Other pre-alphabetic scripts of Crete and Cyprus

Continue reading “Article by Pippa on the Aegean scripts”

CREWS Display: Par(a)menon’s Tombstone

Pippa has already told us about the decipherment of the Cypriot syllabaries. With the next item of our display at the Fitzwilliam museum, I have the opportunity to outline how they were used to write in the Greek language.

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This is an inscription engraved on a stone that indicates the burial of a man. It was found in Marion (in the north west of the island) and dated around the 5th – 4th centuries BC. Continue reading “CREWS Display: Par(a)menon’s Tombstone”

CREWS Display: A Cypro-Minoan Clay Ball

For this week’s inscription post based on our CREWS display at the Fitzwilliam Museum, we’re going to be revisiting ancient Cyprus – this time in a much earlier period than we discussed for the Idalion Bilingual. This little item might look unassuming (it’s only a couple of centimetres in diameter, don’t be fooled by the photo!), but it is very important for trying to understand the earlier development of writing on Cyprus.

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Image courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.

The item in question is a small ball made of clay, with writing in what we call the “Cypro-Minoan” script around the outside, which is on loan to us from the British Museum. It was found at the Cypriot site of Hala Sultan Tekke, in the island’s south-east. Continue reading “CREWS Display: A Cypro-Minoan Clay Ball”