I’ve just returned from a trip to Greece to attend the 12th International Congress of Cretan Studies. The ICCS takes place every 5 years in different locations around Crete – this time, it was in the capital, Heraklion, which I’ve visited a couple of times before. It’s a huge conference – several days of two or three simultaneous sessions going on at once, and that was just the Prehistoric/Classical stream I was attending (there are also streams on Byzantine/medieval and post-medieval Crete). This year’s theme was ‘mobility’, and within that was an extraordinary large range of papers relating to the movement of people (migration, travel, changing settlement patterns), goods (trade and exchange), or ideas (practices, ideologies, beliefs). The prehistoric stream of the conference is, naturally, mostly archaeological, though there were some papers relating to the written documents from Bronze Age Crete which are the focus of my research – but going along seemed a good opportunity to hear more about the research that actual archaeologists are doing (as a researcher of writing systems, I tend to fall somewhere in between linguistics and archaeology, since the context of the documents is often as important as their content). Appropriately enough for a conference themed on ‘mobility’, the topics ranged widely, from architecture to ceramics to tombs, from reconstructing religious practices to population movements or administrative systems — and equally appropriately, there was a lot of running around up and down stairs between sessions trying to get to all the papers I wanted to hear!
I won’t bore readers by any more lists of papers, but one particular highlight for me was the workshop organised by the Knossos Urban Landscape Project (KULP). This ongoing project has been conducting archaeological surveys of the area around Knossos – most well-known for its Bronze Age palace, but inhabited from Neolithic times onwards – in order to study how settlement in the area changed over a period of several thousand years. The Linear B tablets I study come from a very small time-period towards the end of the life of the palace of Knossos, so it was great to get this overview of the work that’s being done to elucidate the whole history of this site, from small Neolithic settlement to elaborate Bronze Age palace to (eventually) a large Hellenistic/Roman trading community.
Of course, despite the large numbers of papers, there was also time to enjoy the Cretan sunshine, catch up with friends and colleagues (most important of whom was, of course, Erofilis the Knossos cat), and do a bit of sightseeing – so here are a couple of photos from the recently-reopened Koules fortress in the harbour, featuring some history of the city and the fortress, a roof terrace with sea views, and a display of finds from nearby shipwrecks. There was quite a bit more sightseeing after the conference finished, when I headed off to the island of Santorini for a mini holiday – expect another post on that (with lots of photographs) shortly!