I’m very pleased to announce the publication of a conference held here in Cambridge a couple of years ago on ‘Understanding Relations Between Scripts: The Aegean Writing Systems’. It’s edited by my colleague Pippa Steele, and features chapters on a wide range of topics relating to the writing systems used in prehistoric Crete (Cretan Hieroglyphic, Linear A, and Linear B) and Cyprus (Cypro-Minoan, Cypriot Syllabic). I have a chapter in it looking at various issues to do with the development of the Linear B script; equally importantly, there’s a picture of the conference cake I made!
Probably the best linguistics baking ever – Phaistos Discuits! (via the CREWS Project)
We all love a good pun. And by ‘we’, I mean ‘I’, and by ‘good’ I mean ‘terrible’. So for a long time I’ve wanted to make ‘Phaistos Discuits’ – biscuit versions of the famous Phaistos Disc.
The Phaistos Disc is probably the most controversial inscription from ancient Crete, showing a ‘writing system’ (if that is what it is) that is almost unparalleled – a one-off as far as ancient inscriptions go. Despite some (really very unconvincing) attempts at decipherment, our understanding of this object remains extremely limited. However, it is just the perfect shape to turn into a biscuit!
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A quick post for the baking fans – the Cambridge News has a round-up of some very impressive Cambridge-themed cakes!
The Festival of Archaeology is a two-week celebration of archaeology in the UK, encouraging people to find out about the archaeology that’s going on in their local area – which seems like a good excuse to share some information about two excavations I’ve been following with particular excitement recently, plus some archaeological cakes!
First up is an excavation I was lucky enough to visit last summer – the Ness of Brodgar on Orkney. This Neolithic site, dating from c.3000-2400 BCE, is basically rewriting the entire archaeology of the Neolithic in the UK – ongoing excavations are revealing a huge complex of monumental buildings, with finds ranging from pottery to slate roof-tiles and even the remains of painted walls.
The latest offering in the linguistics cakes series was created for “Geoff-fest” – a celebration on the occasion of the retirement of Geoff Horrocks, Professor of Comparative Philology here in Cambridge. The Greek alphabet seemed an appropriate choice of cake decoration for Geoff, since he’s an expert on the whole history of the Greek language, ancient and modern – also, handily, it has 24 letters, which correspond exactly to two batches of cupcakes.
As well as the all-important tea and cake, we had an enjoyable series of papers from members of the department, from New Testament textual criticism to Wikipedia debates about Italic languages (more on which here) by way of possible references to writing in Homer and some impressive diagrammatic representations of Greek prepositions. All in all, a very fitting way to wish Geoff a happy retirement!
It’s become something of a tradition over the last few years for me to make linguistics-themed cakes, decorated with copies of inscriptions in various ancient languages and scripts (previous cakes can be found here). This term it was the turn of a language from ancient Italy known as Venetic, because inscriptions in this language have mostly been found in the area around Venice (dating between around 550-100 B.C.E.). As is often the case with ancient languages, many of the inscriptions which survive are on gravestones: this is a woman’s epitaph from the town of Este (near Padua).
I actually made the latest addition to the Linguistics Baking series back in Easter term for the most recent Linguistics Reading Group but didn’t have time to blog about it then. However, better late than never, so here (finally) is the Lycian Cake:
Lycian is a language that was spoken in south-western Asia Minor (now Turkey), and is attested in inscriptions dating from around the 5th-4th centuries B.C.E.; it’s part of the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European language family, so most closely related to other nearby languages like Hittite. The position of Lycia fairly near the Greek-speaking areas of Asia Minor along the Aegean coast meant that it experienced a considerable amount of contact with Greeks (in fact for part of the 5th century it was a member of the Athenian-controlled Delian League). This is most obvious when looking at the script, which (as can be seen from the cake) is an adaptation of the Greek alphabet. Most of the Lycian letters are taken directly from the Greek alphabet, and have the same or similar values: e.g. Ρ = r, Τ = t, Β = v. Others, however, have had their values changed – the letter that looks like Ε, for instance, actually represents i – and there are a few signs that were newly invented to write Lycian. For example, since E was being used for i, e is represented by the sign that looks like an arrow pointing up, while the third one along in the first row (looking a bit like a tree) is a nasalised e, ẽ – a sound that didn’t exist in Greek, but needed to be written in Lycian.
This particular text (like many of the surviving Lycian inscriptions) is an epitaph, and reads as follows:
ebẽñnẽ: xu-pã: this [accusative]: tomb [accusative]
m=ẽne pr-ñnawatẽ: [conjunction]-it [accusative]: built
me-de: epñnẽni: personal name: noun denoting some kind of relation, possibly ‘younger brother’
ehbi: hm̃prã-ma: possessive pronoun, dative singlar: personal name
se(j)=atli [conjunction]-reflexive pronoun, dative singular
‘M. built this tomb for his younger brother (?), H., and for himself’. Very sweet.
(Thanks to Pippa Steele for organising the Lycian Reading Group!)