The CREWS project was fortunate to be able to offer short Visiting Fellowships to scholars based elsewhere working on topics related to the CREWS research remit. This gave them the opportunity to spend time in Cambridge with the CREWS team, with access to the library and resources of the Faculty of Classics to help them complete a significant piece of research on writing systems. We are grateful to our funders, the European Research Council, and our host department, the Faculty of Classics, for making the scheme possible.
The aim of the scheme was to foster international collaboration and exchange of knowledge between scholars working on ancient writing systems across the world. We hope that spending time with the CREWS team offered a helpful environment in which visiting scholars could discuss and develop their ideas and research, with the benefit of access to University of Cambridge resources. At the same time, their research and its published outputs, alongside their input in discussions and activities during their stay, broadened the scope of the project and significantly enhanced the CREWS research remit.
Dr Willemijn Waal (Leiden; January/March 2019)
Willemijn is a classicist and Hittitologist. Since her PhD (2010) she has held several post-doctoral positions at the University of Leiden, the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich and the Institute for Aegean Prehistory (INSTAP). She currently works as university lecturer at the Department of Classics and Ancient Civilizations at Leiden University. Her research interests include early writing systems, orality and literacy in the ancient world and the interaction between the Aegean and the Near East in the Late Bronze Age. Recently, she has been working on the introduction of the alphabet to Greece, suggesting that this may have happened much earlier than is generally assumed.
During her CREWS visiting fellowship she is working on early writing in Anatolia and the Aegean. In both regions, pictorial writing systems emerge in the second millennium BCE: Cretan Hieroglyphs (and later Linear A and B) in the Aegean and the Anatolian (or Luwian) Hieroglyphs in Anatolia. As has often been pointed out, these scripts share some interesting similarities. Since close contacts existed since at least the Neolithic period, it is very well possible that they did not emerge in complete isolation. The project explores the possibility that these writing systems share a common origin. It further investigates to what extent these writing systems may be seen as the result of independent regional developments: though they are usually considered to be secondary inventions, many of the characteristics of the Aegean and Anatolian writing systems are in fact more typical for primary inventions.
Since she completed her visit at CREWS, Willemijn has been appointed Director of the Netherlands Institute for the Near East from 1st January 2020 (read more here).
Read a guest blog post by Willemijn here: Anatolian hieroglyphs, and our first CREWS Visiting Fellow
You can view a presentation of Willemijn’s research at the third CREWS conference here:
Cassandra Donnelly (UTexas; May-July 2019)
Cassandra Donnelly is a PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin in the Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory (PASP) program established by Dr Thomas Palaima in 1986. There, she is engaged in two main projects, her dissertation, “Writing and Economy in the Late Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean,” and the Palace of Nestor 4 project. The Palace of Nestor team is in the editing stages of publishing an RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging) and analog corpus of the Pylos tablets. Cassie’s job is editing the tablet drawings. Her dissertation work explores the interaction between Late Bronze Age writing systems through a close study of the Cypro-Minoan script, the Late Bronze Age script of Cyprus, which has also appeared on the Greek and Syro-Palestinian mainlands.
During her visit to Cambridge with the CREWS project she is looking at the interaction between the Cypro-Minoan and the poorly attested Reduced Cuneiform alphabetic script of Syro-Palestine. She will do so by focusing on the medium of the inscribed metal bowls, which are found throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. She’s incredibly excited to be surrounded by the great group of scholars that make up the CREWS team and to have her scholarship enriched by them.
Read a guest blog post by Cassie here: A Tale of Two Scholars, and the Center for Minoan Linguistic Research that never came to exist
You can view a presentation of Cassie’s research at the third CREWS conference here:
Dr Giorgos Bourogiannis (NHRF, Athens; April-June 2019)
Giorgos Bourogiannis 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). He is currently the principal investigator of the CyCoMed research project (Cypriot Connectivity in the Mediterranean from the Late Bronze Age to the end of the Classical Period), hosted by the National Hellenic Research Foundation, Institute of Historical Research. The project has received funding from the Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (HFRI) and the General Secretariat for Research and Technology (GSRT) under grant agreement no. 481.
CyCoMed studies Cypriot archaeological, textual, and when applicable, numismatic evidence from carefully-selected case studies in the Mediterranean, in order to investigate how Cypriot activity and perhaps presence overseas is reflected by and on material and epigraphic evidence. During his CREWS Visiting Fellowship he will work on writing systems of ancient Cyprus and the attestation of Cypriot inscriptions at extra-insular sites, and the possible role of material and epigraphic evidence discovered abroad as a possible statement of a Cypriot cultural identity. He will also look at how different types of Cypriot evidence relate to each other, what is their source, context and distribution over a long period of time, with due consideration of how patterns of interaction in the ancient Mediterranean changed over time and what was the Cypriot role in them.
Dr Kathryn E. Piquette (UCL, January-March 2020)
Kathryn E. Piquette is working on early writing in Egypt and the Middle East from the perspective of its consumption – through both sensory perception and practical embodied use. Focussing on the scripts developing in the late 4th to mid-3rd millennium in the lower Nile Valley and lower Mesopotamia, Kathryn will be comparing the range of materials used by script producers and evidence for different tools and techniques across artefact and written content types. The aim of her project is to examine the diverse conditions presented by these facets of materiality for script consumers. She will be employing a multiscalar approach in her analysis, aided by ATLAS.ti (a workbench for the qualitative analysis of large bodies of multi-media data), in order to provide a situated account of reader experience and other cognitive acts of meaning making. The questions underlying her research therefore revolve around the implications of the material and environmental contexts for embodied acts of perception by readers and other users of written artefacts.
In her research, Kathryn has worked primarily on art and writing of Egypt and the ancient Middle East. Her PhD thesis examined the earliest evidence for writing in Egypt from the perspective of its composition and material practice. More recently, Kathryn has been conducting research at the intersection of ancient text and advanced digital imaging. In addition to previous study of the production technologies of early Egyptian and Mesopotamia scripts, she has been applying, developing, and integrating digital techniques for elucidating difficult-to-read Greek, Latin, and Aramaic writing on papyri (e.g. carbonised papyri from Herculaneum), and in lead and other metals, wax tablets (e.g. from Vindolanda) and stone. She has held research and teaching posts at Trinity College Dublin, University of Oxford, UCL, Free University Berlin, University of Cologne, and the University of Reading. Among her various publications is the co-edited open access volume “Writing as Material Practice: Substance, surface and medium”. Dr Piquette’s monograph “An Archaeology of Art and Writing: Early Egyptian labels in context” has recently appeared, also as an open access ebook, with a supporting online database of early Egyptian graphical culture.
You can view a presentation by Kathryn at the third CREWS conference here:
Martina Polig (Ghent University / Cyprus Institute Nicosia, February-March 2020)
Martina Polig is currently research assistant at The Cyprus Institute (Cyprus), as well as PhD student in a joint doctoral program between The Cyprus Institute and Ghent University (Belgium) under the supervisions of Sorin Hermon and Joachim Bretschneider respectively. Her research interests relate to 3D approaches for the study of archaeological artefacts and Heritage sites.
Her PhD research focuses on the Cypro-Minoan syllabary and the documentation and characterisation of its signs by means of 3D approaches. This entails a homogenous state of the art 3D documentation of as much of the Cypro-Minoan corpus (over 90%) as possible and the creation of a sign repository. This new documentation is going to digitally reunify the material dispersed over various museums, capture information, such as depth and angle, which could not be documented through traditional means and improve the readability of ambiguous signs by enabling a dynamic interactive 3D visualization (see the slideshow of 3D scans below). Based on the 3D documentation a palaeographic analysis will be carried out, investigating the variability of sign rendition in a diachronic and synchronic way, which will hopefully lead to a better definition of the signs, the identification of temporal and spatial trends and groups, as well as patterns related to the support.
In order to reach such ambitious goals, she receives the scientific support of Massimo Perna, an expert in Aegean palaeography and director of the International Centre for Research on Aegean Civilisations (C.I.R.C.E.) of the University Sassari in Oristano (Italy) and Gerfrid G.W. Müller from Würzburg University and the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz, expert in Ancient Near Eastern Philology and leader of a large-scale 3D cuneiform project.
During her Visting Fellowship (Feb-March 2020) she will be working on defining the structure and content of the sign repository. In particular the different factors that impact the shape of a sign, the relationship among signs and their support have to be identified and described.
You can view a presentation of Martina’s research at the third CREWS conference here:
Dr Brent Davis (University of Melbourne, February 2020)
Brent Davis is the author of Minoan Stone Vessels with Linear A Inscriptions (Aegaeum 36, Peeters 2014). Over the past several years, he has been developing a new linguistics-based method of comparing the languages behind undeciphered Aegean scripts, called syllabotactic analysis; applying this method to two scripts in tandem produces metrics expressing the likelihood that the same language underlies both scripts.
In a recent article in OJA (37: 373-410, 2018), he used this new method to demonstrate that Linear A and the script on the Phaistos Disk are very likely to encode the same language; this research led to the 2019 Michael Ventris Award for Mycenaean Studies. With the assistance of the Ventris Award, Brent is now at work on a series of new syllabotactic analyses aimed at comparing the languages behind Linear A, Cretan Hieroglyphic, and Cypro-Minoan. He will be a CREWS Visiting Fellow during the first half of February next year, when he will present on and workshop the interim results of these new analyses.
Dr Rostislav Oreshko (LUCL/Centre for Hellenic Studies (Harvard University), October 2020-January 2021)
Rostislav Oreshko’s research embraces Anatolia, the Aegean and the Balkans in the 2nd and early 1st millenniums BC, and he is especially interested in the ethnolinguistic and sociolinguistic history of the region, migrations, onomastics, as well as linguistic and cultural contact. He completed his PhD thesis, dedicated to the analysis of the early Hieroglyphic Luwian inscription SÜDBURG, in 2012 at the Free University of Berlin. After that he carried out postdoctoral projects at the University of Hamburg (2013-2016) and the University of Warsaw (2016-2018), primarily focusing on the peoples of western Anatolia (Lycians, Lydians, Trojans etc.) and the reflection of ethnolinguistic realities of Anatolia in the Homeric tradition. Since 2016 he is a Visiting Fellow in Homeric Studies of the Center of Hellenic Studies of Harvard University (Washington, DC) and is working at present as a Guest Researcher at Leiden University Center for Linguistics on the problem of the Balkan migrations to Anatolia and especially on the language and culture of the Phrygians.
During his stay in Cambridge he will concentrate on the paleography and dating of the Old Phrygian inscriptions, which in part builds on the incentives and results of his work on the Phrygian graffiti in 2019 in collaboration with the Gordion Excavation Project (University of Pennsylvania). The largely unexplored question of Phrygian paleography is both interesting and important, as it bears both on the problem of precise dating of the Phrygian monuments – as, for instance, the famous Midas Monument, whose dating ‘oscillates’ between the 8th and 6th centuries BC – and on the more general question of the early history of alphabet in the Eastern Mediterranean.
More specifically, he will concentrate on the three following questions connected with the earliest phases of the Phrygian alphabet: 1) identification of the earliest Phrygian graffiti and establishing its paleographical characteristics; 2) definition of the precise phonetic value of several rare letters of the Phrygian alphabet (↑, Ψ and the c-like letter) and their regional context; 3) origin, chronological distribution and paleographic development of the letter Y in central and north-west Phrygian alphabets.
You can view a seminar presentation by Rostislav here:
You can view a presentation of Rostislav’s research from the third CREWS conference here:
Charles ‘Pico’ Rickleton (Art director and designer, October-December 2021)
Pico works at Flying Object, a creative studio based in London, as their in-house art director and at Studio Forage, an experimental design collective, focused on storytelling through critical design. His personal practice is concerned with reading experiences, language, ethnographic objects and speculative thinking. During his time with CREWS he will be working on a research project that deals with the confluence of these interests in the context of an extinct writing system.
His CREWS project engages in a little bit of fantasy and attempts to reincarnate the Cypriot syllabary, taking it on a journey up until the present day. He aims to create a divergent historical timeline, as if from a parallel universe. A universe in which the syllabary has remained in use as the predominant writing system for the Greek language on the island of Cyprus. Throughout this imaginary timeline the syllabary will be forced into situations it has previously never had to occupy. For example, how would it have adapted to be written in ink with a brush on a smooth flexible substrate like paper? Or could it be forced into mono-spaced glyphs for use as on a typewriter?
He uses a variety of broad research sources and techniques alongside material and typographic experiments to aid in imaging these situations – starting with the material evidence we have for the syllabary and using speculative design thinking to extrapolate this up until the present, informed by precedents from other writing systems both extinct and still in use.
View a presentation of Pico’s work at the third CREWS conference here:
Dr Csaba La’da (University of Kent, November 2021)
Csaba A. La’da’s research focuses on the social and cultural history of Hellenistic and Roman Egypt and on papyri and inscriptions in Greek and Egyptian languages and scripts. His project for a CREWS Visiting Fellowship in June 2020 involves studying the history of alphabetisation (i.e. the method of arranging textual data in alphabetic order) in Greek.
According to the current scholarly consensus, the concept of an alphabetic arrangement of textual information in Greek was developed in Alexandria in the third century BC by Callimachus for his Pinakes, a catalogue of the holdings of the Alexandrian library.
There is however new papyrological and epigraphic evidence available that calls this consensus into question. Further, before the Greeks the Egyptians appear to have had a well-developed and widely applied concept of alphabetisation. In addition, some parts of the Hebrew Bible show the practice of alphabetic arrangement. Dr La’da’s research will consider the early history of alphabetisation in Greek and the potential Egyptian and/or north-west Semitic influences on Greek in developing the method of alphabetisation in the early Hellenistic period.
View a presentation of Csaba’s research at the third CREWS conference:
Dr Beatrice Pestarino (University of Haifa/Harvard University)
Beatrice Pestarino is an ancient historian specialised in Ancient Cyprus. She is interested in the socio-economic development of the Cypriot city-kingdoms into which the island was subdivided in the Archaic and Classical periods. She recently published her first book Kypriōn Politeia, the political ad administrative systems of the Classical Cypriot city-kingdoms which reconstructs the political and administrative systems of these centres in the 5th and 4th cent. BC.
Her CREWS research explores the introduction of the Greek alphabet in Cyprus in the Archaic period. Looking at inscriptions and other evidence, she investigates the social context of this introduction and the relationship between writing and identity, especially ideas of Greekness among the elites.
Read a guest post by Beatrice: The introduction of the Greek alphabet in Ancient Cyprus
You can view a presentation of Beatrice’s research at the third CREWS conference here:
Annarita Bonfanti (University of Pavia, May 2022)
Annarital Bonfanti is a PhD candidate at the University of Pavia. Her research is focused on different aspects of the Urartian culture: the adoption and adaptation of the cuneiform writing system by the Urartian royal class appear to be a particularly important and curiously understudied topic.
Social, linguistic and historical reasons are the base of this project of research: in Cambridge, as an introduction to this investigation, she will study the motives that lead a population, or a segment of it, to adopt a writing system, followed by an analysis of the literacy of the different social classes in the ancient Near East. The Urartian case study will be approached initially through an analysis of the use of writing in Urartu in the different phases of its history, creating a link between the Urartian cuneiform script and the socio-cultural context in which it was spread. She hopes that the research would be a good fit for the still relatively unexplored field of contact and relations with cultures, which can shed light on many aspects of societies.
Read a guest post by Annarita: A brief introduction to the introduction of cuneiform on the Armenian Highlands
View a seminar presentation of Annarita’s research here:
Dr Claudia Posani (May-June 2022)
Claudia Posani has a PhD in historical, archaeological and historical-artistic studies from the University of Turin. She is interested in Syro-Anatolian Iron Age history and in hieroglyphic Luwian inscriptions. She has studied these inscriptions under different points of view: an analysis focused on figures of speech and communication strategies has recently appeared in her book “Le immagini testuali nelle fonti neo-ittite. Uno studio sulle modalità comunicative e sulla relazione testo-immagine nel mondo siro-anatolico dell’Età del Ferro” (EOTHEN 24), Firenze 2021.
As a CREWS Visiting-Fellow she investigates Syro-Anatolian Iron Age bilingual/trilingual royal inscriptions from a new perspective, namely in order to recognize what the meaning of multilingualism was among the societies that produced those texts. What was the attitude of the king toward foreign languages? How was the image of such a king perceived by the audience?
Read a guest post by Claudia: Multilingual Syro-Anatolian Iron Age inscriptions
View a seminar presentation of Claudia’s research:
Dr Brien Garnand (Visiting Research Fellow, NINO Leiden University, May-June 2022)
Alphabetic writing commonly produces ellipses—the omission of letters, terms or phrases—in order to convey meaning with maximum efficiency. Taken to an extreme, certain intact and well-crafted stelae have just a single letter or a few initials that alone must convey a message similar to full inscriptions placed in the same archaeological and social contexts. Brien’s study focuses on Phoenician inscriptions from votive contexts in North Africa, namely Carthage and Cirta, with comparison to Greek and Latin initialisms and acronyms.
His research focuses on how restraint from unnecessary expression can aid efficiency and how gaps can be filled from context. In particular, we have a certain number of Phoenician-Punic inscriptions that use few or even single letters, yet these still convey a meaning that can be recovered due to regularly repeated syntactical patterns. My sample set includes certain votive inscriptions from the precinct of Ba‘al and Tinnit in Carthage, most from the 1920s excavations (see three examples illustrated here) and at least one from the current INP excavations, at the as well as further examples from the precinct of Ba‘al at Cirta / Constantine. We understand these abbreviated inscriptions as initialisms, or acronyms, which can only make sense within a system of rigidly formulaic expression. Again a Phoenician reader could supply meaning from context.
Another part of his work explores theories explaining how elliptical constructions still allow for understanding despite gaps (e.g. form-meaning correspondence). Such linguistic analyses normally apply to noun omission or verb omission (both common in Phoenician-Punic votive inscriptions), but initialism should serve as a related, albeit extreme, example of inscriptional efficiency.
Read a guest post by Brien: Mind the Gap: Abbreviations, Contractions and Alphabetic Symbolism
You can view a seminar presentation of Brien’s research here:
Lavinia Giorgi (Sapienza University of Rome, June-July 2022)
Lavinia Giorgi is a PhD student in Mycenaean philology at Sapienza University of Rome, with an interest in Mycenaean philology and palaeography, Aegean archaeology, and Mediterranean Bronze Age philology and archaeology. Her research focuses on the study of specific aspects of society, such as social hierarchy or ancient economy and resources management, through a combined analysis of ancient forms of writing/recording and archaeological evidence. Her PhD project deals with the reconstruction of the bronze production chain through the analysis of Linear B tablets and the integration of data with other written sources, such as Hittite documents, Ugaritic texts and Amarnian letters.
She also currently collaborates with THE PAITO/PHAISTOS EPIGRAPHIC PROJECT, which intends to provide a new critical edition of the Knossos tablets that mention pa-i-to, adopting the digital photography technologies of RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging) and 3D Laser Scanning.
During her time with CREWS she will work on a research project entitled “The Women of pa-i-to: a palaeographical approach” that aims to analyse the word pa-i-ti-ja recorded in the Knossos Linear B tablets from a palaeographic point of view. Pa-i-ti-ja is a female ethnic derivative of pa-i-to, Phaistos, located in southern Crete. The word is attested in 9 tablets, that refer to different topics, dating from different periods (15th-13th century BC), and written by different scribes. The selected tablets are a significant sample to investigate palaeographical issues related to Linear B writing. Indeed, the autopsy analysis of the tablets either from the RTI or directly, when possible, will allow to examine the ductus of the scribal hands, observing how each scribe engraved the signs. Doing so, it will be possible to understand the reason for the signs’ variant forms, especially when used by the same scribe, and to verify whether it is possible to assign documents to specific scribes. Furthermore, the focus on pa-i-ti-ja will allow to investigate the role of the Phaistian women in the socio-economic organization of Mycenaean Crete, as testified by the Knossos Linear B documents.
Read a guest post by Lavinia: A new approach to old writing: using Graphology and RTI technology on Linear B
Olena Mudalige (Kharkiv State Academy of Design and Arts, September 2022)
Olena Mudalige is a second-year PhD candidate at the Kharkiv State Academy of Design and Arts, studying Design. She previously completed a master’s degree studying art criticism and graphic practices and has qualified as an art critic and lecturer. She came to the UK under the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ programme after leaving Ukraine on February 24 2022 and became affiliated with the CREWS project through the European Research Area for Ukraine (ERA4Ukraine), https://euraxess.ec.europa.eu/ukraine scheme. She is currently interested in the origins and early forms of writing and in the history of study of writing in the ancient world.
Read a guest post by Olena: Fonts in the Epigraphic and Manuscript traditions of Roman Antiquity
Michel de Vreeze (September 2022)
Michel de Vreeze is a Near Eastern archaeologist working primarily on Bronze Age societies. He has a longstanding interest in early (alphabetic) scripts and the role they play in society. One of his ongoing interests are the enigmatic Late Bronze Age Deir ‘Alla tablets that were found in Jordan.
View a presentation of Michel’s work at the third CREWS conference:
Dr Robert Martin (University of Toronto, September 2022)
Robert Martin’s doctoral research began as an examination of the archaeological evidence that can be used to reconstruct maritime networks in the Bronze and Iron Age eastern Mediterranean. In particular the prototypical amphorae known commonly as the ‘Canaanite Jar’ provided a useful index of maritime network patterns, and thus the distribution and provenience analyses of this ceramic corpus was essential to his thesis. These maritime networks also became a vehicle for the transmission of certain technologies; in particular the dissemination of Early Alphabetic Writing, often credited to Canaanite/Phoenician mariners. During the course of his post-doctoral research, he has have been preparing to publish a Late Bronze Age Canaanite Jar, also referred to as a Maritime Transport Container (MTC), and this vessel, like many other examples, bears symbols, often termed ‘pot marks’ that correspond to Early Alphabetic Writing (Canaanite). This revelation will allow us to better connect another region to the sphere of interaction and use of Early Alphabetic Writing—the LBA Aegean—originating from the coast of ancient Israel. The delivery of this inscribed artefact to Greece (a terminal LBA Canaanite Jar), and other examples of inscribed jar handles may suggest that historical paradigms describing the spread of alphabetic writing as a singularly Iron Age phenomenon must be reconsidered.
We were also due to welcome two other Visiting Fellows during the course of the project, Thea Sommerschield and Damjan Krsmanovic. Unfortunately, because of delays due to the Covid pandemic and changes of circumstances, they were not able to take up their visiting fellowships.