Start of term news: board games, exhibitions, and playing with clay!

It’s the beginning of term here in Cambridge, so time for meeting new students, organising teaching for the term, and generally filling up the diary. It also seems like a good time to share various upcoming events that Cambridge-based readers may be interested in, plus a piece of board-game-related news!

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Me writing a cuneiform tablet.

On October 21st, the Cambridge Archaeological Unit is hosting a ‘Prehistory and Archaeology Day’ (10.30-4pm, 34 Storey’s Way). There’ll be plenty of different activities to try out, from rock-art-painting to pottery-making – and of course, there’ll be several researchers from Classics and Archaeology there to teach people to write on clay in ancient scripts like Linear B, cuneiform, and Egyptian hieroglyphs! The event is free and there’s no need to book, just drop in — more information here.

The second piece of ancient-writing-related news is that from October 24th there will be an exhibition in the Fitzwilliam Museum called ‘Codebreakers and Groundbreakers’. To quote the museum’s website:

Codebreakers and Groundbreakers will bring together, for the first time, the remarkable intellectual achievements and parallel narratives of two groups of ‘codebreakers’ working at the same time, but independently: those involved in breaking the Second World War codes and those who deciphered the ancient script of Linear B – Europe’s earliest comprehensible writing system.

In a display including an Enigma machine, a rare loan from GCHQ, and unique archival documents held at the University of Cambridge, the exhibition will explore and celebrate the genius of Second World War codebreakers such as Alan Turing and Bill Tutte; as well as Michael Ventris and John Chadwick (himself a Bletchley codebreaker) who deciphered Linear B. It will also encourage visitors to explore ‘codebreaking’ in all its forms.

Exciting stuff for anyone interested in ancient writing and/or codes! I’ve also written the content for an interactive display about reading and interpreting the Linear B tablets, so please try that out and let me know how it works! Like all Fitzwilliam exhibitions, this is also completely free – though since I also wrote a chapter for the catalogue about the decipherment of Linear B, I feel obliged to put in a plug for that (and in general for the Fitz gift shop which has a lot of nice stuff!). More information here. Anyone thinking of visiting the exhibition with children may also like to check out ‘Codes in Clay‘, an event for 8-12 year olds (and accompanying adults) to visit the exhibition and then have a go at, you guessed it, writing your own clay tablets and also doing a bit of code-breaking. It’s on Saturday October 28th – this event requires booking (tel: 01223 332904 or email: education@fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk) and costs £8 per child.

Finally, the board game news: I blogged around this time last year about Esagil, a board game set in ancient Babylon invented by an ancient Mesopotamian researcher here in Cambridge. The board is an accurate, to-scale map of the city of Babylon, featuring ancient artefacts to collect and cards with real Babylonian incantations. It’s a great, fun way to learn about ancient Mesopotamia – and it’s now available to pre-order for delivery before Christmas! Check out the new Esagil Games website for details, or follow them on Facebook.

I’d love to meet/hear from any readers who come to any of these events, visit the exhibition, or try out the board game – let me know in the comments what you thought, or come say hello at the Prehistory Day or Codes in Clay!

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Author: Anna P. Judson

Classics researcher at Cambridge

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