One of the tricky things about dealing with ancient writing systems can be finding fonts that have the appropriate signs. Once you have a font, you also need a way of getting the right sign into your document. A very useful program for that is BabelMap, which allows you to scroll through all the writing systems supported by Unicode and select any characters you want, provided you have the appropriate font installed. There are both online and standalone downloadable versions.

Here are some of the fonts we’ve found useful:

Aegean

As the name suggests, Aegean covers a very wide range of Aegean writing systems, from the Phaistos Disc and Linear A and B to Classical Greek, including variant local forms. What is less clear from the name is that it also includes a very diverse set of signs from beyond the Aegean, including (but not limited to) Italic writing systems, Phoenician, Anatolian and even Ugaritic.

Aegyptus

Your one-stop-shop for all your Ancient Egyptian needs. It includes a full repertoire of hieroglyphs, Coptic and Latin with appropriate diacritics and special characters for transcription. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a good hieratic font available at the moment. If you know of one, let us know!

Phoinikeia Grammata

Although there’s a Phoenician character set in Aegean, I have to admit to never being entirely happy with it. It tends towards late, Punic letter forms and didn’t so accurately represent the early Phoenician I’ve worked with. Phoinikeia Grammata’s my rough-and-ready attempt to create an alternative. It’s not properly Unicode so won’t work with BabelMap. Instead Phoenician characters are assigned to the standard Latin keys. I hope the mapping is vaguely logical, but you can use the Windows Character Map to explore it for yourself. This font is free for any personal or educational use, but please don’t sell it.

Alphabetic Cuneiform

There are other Ugaritic/Alphabetic Cuneiform character sets out there, including in Aegean and Ugaritic 3.03 Unicode, but I wanted something that looked a bit more like actual signs on tablets so again, here’s my rough attempt. Unlike the other fonts I’ve seen, this includes flipped glyphs and alternative sign-forms for writing the R-L ‘short alphabet’. It’s set up the same way as Phoinikeia Grammata and the same licence applies.

Akkadian

This seems to be the best all-round font for Mesopotamian cuneiform, but it’s also worth looking at CuneiformOB and CuneiformNA if you want more control over the choice between Old Babylonian and Neo-Assyrian sign-forms.

Gentium Pro

Not an ancient writing system in itself, but this includes the full range of special characters and diacritics for transcription and linguistic discussion of other writing systems.

Advertisements