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”
The time has come for the long-promised post on the second line of the CREWS project logo. Standing for Contexts of and Relations between Early Writing Systems, the acronym CREWS is expressed in four different writing systems in the logo, and the top line, written in Linear B, was dealt with in the post KO-RE-E-WI-SU.
The second line is written in the Greek alphabet, specifically in an early version of the Greek alphabet typical of the 8th and 7th centuries BC. As you may have noticed, it does not read from left to right (which was later to become the standard direction of Greek alphabetic texts), but from right to left. Writing from right to left (“sinistroverse”) was quite common in the early stages of the Greek alphabet’s usage, and possibly adopted from the Phoenician predecessor from which it was derived. Direction of writing was not standardised at this stage, however, and texts were sometimes also written from left to right (“dextroverse”) or even with alternating direction in each line (“boustrophedon”, literally as the ox ploughs).
As promised, today’s post is going to deal with the first line of the CREWS logo. As some of you may already have observed, the first line is written in Linear B, which is one of several writing systems that will be studied as part of the CREWS project.
Linear B was the writing system used in the administration of the Mycenaean palaces of Crete and mainland Greece roughly between 1400 and 1200 BC. We call it Linear B because the archaeologist Arthur Evans gave it this label following his discoveries at the Cretan site of Knossos at the beginning of the 20th century, contrasting the abstract ‘linear’ nature of its signs with the more pictorial-looking earlier system that he labelled Cretan Hieroglyphic. There was another category, Linear A, which again applied to an earlier system but one that looked much more like Linear B.
Although it has stood the test of time, the label ‘Linear B’ is not very helpful except as a basic identifier of the writing system being referred to. Linear B is primarily a syllabic system, in which each of the core signs represents an open syllable (i.e. a vowel on its own such as a or i, or a consonant+vowel combination such as te or ku: a table of these core signs is shown in Figure 1). The language written in Linear B was the earliest surviving form of Greek, which we refer to as the Mycenaean Greek dialect.