Alien’s ‘Standard Semiotic’, Pictograms and Icons

For one reason or another, we’ve had a bit of a fantasy writing systems theme lately in our blogging. Not so long ago I wrote something about the various invented writing systems of the Legend of Zelda games, and Pippa has told us about Aurebesh, from the Star Wars series. Just one more for now. Since there’s a new Alien movie out, we thought it’d be nice to take a look at the influential ‘Semiotic Standard’ pictographic system developed for use in spaceship signage in Ridley Scott’s original 1979 film.

alien_semiotic_standard_icons_by_scotch_and_soda-d351v1c

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Letter-Writing: Postage stamps featuring ancient writing systems

We’re well into December and the postal services are enjoying their busiest time of the year as parcels and cards fly backwards and forwards. What better time to share this little gem I came across during my research.

pru-ii-pl-1-syrian-stamp

That’s a 1956 postage stamp from Syria featuring the Ugaritic abecedarium KTU 5.6, well-known to regular readers of this blog. I was curious about it, and a few minutes’ research showed that this wasn’t the only Ugarit-themed stamp Syria has issued.

1964-syrian-stamp

This one from 1964 isn’t writing-based, but features this famous sculpture of a head, made of ivory and adorned with gold, silver, copper and lapis lazuli. It’s usually assumed to be a statue of a prince or princess, since it was found in the city’s Royal Palace.

ogaret-first-4-e

This got me wondering what other countries have featured ancient writing-systems on their stamps. Here are some of the ones I found: Continue reading “Letter-Writing: Postage stamps featuring ancient writing systems”

CREWS on the BA Blog

A post has just gone live on the British Academy’s blog about the CREWS project:

INTRODUCING A NEW INTERNATIONAL PROJECT ON ANCIENT WRITING

 

Pippa Steele

The post is a sort of personal reflection (hence the picture!), explaining how the CREWS project was inspired by my previous research during my time as a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow. Please follow the link above if you would like to read more.

 

~ Pippa Steele (Principal Investigator of the CREWS project)

 

Bringing the CREWS Project to YOU

The new issue of Pan European Networks’ Science and Technology magazine (Issue 19, June 2016) features a 3-page spread on the CREWS project.

 

PAN pub

If you would like to read more about the remit and the aims of the project – and why ancient writing systems and the people who used them are worth studying – then you can read the whole article for free online. Just click on the link below, and the article is on p72-4.

ARTICLE: The ABCs of History

In conjunction with the appearance of the article, I also did a fifteen-minute interview with Pan European Networks to say a little bit about the basis for the project’s research and how people can get involved with it, as well as the importance of European funding for endeavours like this one.

You can read the interview online here:

INTERVIEW: Set in Stone

These two links offer a great way of finding out a bit more about what we are planning to do with the CREWS project. There will undoubtedly be more such features that I will of course share (when someone asks me to enthuse on the subject of ancient writing systems, I find it hard to say no!), and in the future some more definite ideas about how YOU can get involved in the project.

 

~ Pippa Steele (Principal Investigator of the CREWS project)

Alphabetical Order (Again)

Since CREWS started up, the issue of alphabetical order has reappeared a few times, starting with the initial press release, which you can read about in more detail here (CREWS in the Press).

The French magazine article that I linked to last time (here) is also related to the concept of alphabetical order – but did you know that there are two different types of alphabetical order?

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CREWS Interview in French Magazine

Those of you who read French may be interested to read a brief interview that I gave for the magazine Science et Vie:

fig1

L’invention de l’alphabet: 3 questions à Philippa Steele, responsable du projet CREW de l’université de Cambridge

The interview is part of a longer feature on the development of alphabetic systems, which appears in full in the print version of the magazine.

In the near future there will be another blog post on this topic – watch this space.

 

~ Pippa Steele (Principal Investigator of the CREWS project)

CREWS in the Press

The CREWS Project has been running for a couple of weeks now, and I was very pleased to see all the enthusiastic responses to the press release that went live during the first week. You can read the original release here (arranged kindly by my colleague Ryan Cronin):

Easy as Alep, Bet, Gimel

I hope that the anecdote concerning alphabetical order in the press release was interesting to read about. The sheer longevity of this idea, and its relationship with not only writing but also the social context of writing, is very striking – and this will be just one aspect of ‘contexts’ and ‘relations’ in ancient writing that the project will look at over our five year period of research.

Some websites reported the ancient origins of alphabetical order as a new discovery, but actually this is not new at all: we have known about alphabetical order in Latin, Greek, Phoenician, Ugaritic and other ancient writing systems for many years. What is new, however, is the way in which we will study it as part of the project. We know that alphabetical order as an idea was passed on from one society to another – but what we do not know is exactly how or why this happened.

 

Ugaritic alphabet
Figure 1. Ugaritic cuneiform abecedarium on a clay tablet from Ras Shamra, Syria. http://www.csah.cam.ac.uk/images/ugarit-hi-res/view

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