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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CyCoMed-iation (or why are we so fond of ancient Cyprus)

Guest post by CREWS Visiting Fellow Giorgos Bourogiannis

After three weeks in Cambridge, I am still feeling delighted to have been given the chance to work closely with the research team of the CREWS project. I am particularly thankful to the project’s director and principal investigator, Dr Pippa Steele for her hospitality and kindness. I am an archaeologist, rather than a linguist or epigraphist by training, but there is something I share with all members of the CREWS team: a very strong scholarly interest in ancient Cyprus.

This post has two main goals: The first one is to briefly view Cyprus through archaeological spectacles and to explain the island’s eminent position in the archaeology of the Mediterranean. The second goal is to present a summary of my own research project, CyCoMed (Cypriot Connectivity in the Mediterranean from the Late Bronze Age to the end of the Classical Period), which is what generated my visit to Cambridge and my collaboration with the researchers of the CREWS project.

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Map of the Mediterranean marking the position of Cyprus.

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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 indigenous languages

Did you know that 2019 is the UN’s International Year of Indigenous Languages? There are thousands of languages spoken in the world today, but many of them are strongly localised and in danger of dying out because of the small size of their speech communities, and because their speakers often choose to use successful global languages over their local languages. IYIL sets out to raise awareness of indigenous languages in order to benefit their speakers and to bring about a better appreciation of their important contribution to the world’s cultural diversity.

What I want to talk about briefly in this post is the writing down of indigenous languages, in the ancient world as well as the modern – really just a few collected thoughts on diversity of experience.

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New CREWS Visiting Fellow announcement

It won’t be long now before we advertise the new round of our Visiting Fellowship competition, but in the meantime we have some other news – we are delighted to tell you that we will be welcoming Dr Giorgos Bourogiannis to Cambridge as an externally-funded CREWS Visiting Fellow next term! Read more about his project below.

Giorgos Bourogiannis (National Hellenic Research Foundation, Athens)

gb.jpgGiorgos is an archaeologist and postdoctoral research associate at the National Hellenic Research Foundation in Athens. Since his PhD (2008) he has worked as a curator for the Naukratis project at the British Museum, Department of Greece and Rome, and has held the A.G. Leventis postdoctoral position at the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities (Medelhavsmuseet) in Stockholm, studying the unpublished evidence from the sanctuary of Ayia Irini on Cyprus (you can see a video about his work HERE).

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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!”

Hands-on with the Amarna Letters

We’ve talked a lot on this blog about how important it is to think about ancient writing in its physical capacity – as part of an object – not just as text. This is why we’re so keen on trying out ancient writing techniques for ourselves. But it’s not just making new things; it’s looking at real ancient tablets with an eye for their material characteristics and the practical techniques used to make them.

Last week I was lucky enough to visit the British Museum for a hands-on study session with some of the most famous tablets of the Near Eastern Bronze Age – the Amarna Letters.

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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.)

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Our Ancient Writing Display, and Other Ancient Writing at the Fitzwilliam Museum

Today is International Museum Day, a good day to celebrate the stellar work done by museum staff to make museums the places of learning and inspiration that we all know and love. It has been a real privilege to witness this in action through our special writing-themed display at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (a collaboration between the CREWS project and the Fitzwilliam and British Museums).

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If a display on ancient writing sounds interesting, do come and visit – it finishes on 10th June so there is still some time left. You can find it in the Cypriot Gallery at the Fitzwilliam. If coming to Cambridge isn’t easy for you, on the other hand, I hope you can have a sort of virtual tour by looking through our blog posts on each item: the whole list is HERE. Continue reading “Our Ancient Writing Display, and Other Ancient Writing at the Fitzwilliam Museum”