“Tails from Mycenae”

2017-03-14 16.41.01There’s a nice temporary display that’s just gone up in the Museum of Classical Archaeology here in the Faculty, called “Tails from Mycenae” – it’s a case displaying various different depictions of animals on Mycenaean artefacts (i.e. from late Bronze Age Greece, c. the 16th-13th centuries BCE), put together by four current Classics undergradutes (Katie Phillips, Caroline Clements, Georgia Lowe and Anya Morrice). It’s nice to see such a range of different kinds of artefacts even in one small case – from pottery fragments and figurines to (replicas of) daggers and golden disks, plus of course Linear B tablets (I helped out a bit by providing a transcription of a tablet listing sheep, goats, pigs, and cattle). It’s also a good chance to see stuff that isn’t usually on public display at all in the Faculty – most of what you see in the museum is casts of statues, but as this case shows, the collection is actually quite a bit more diverse than that!

Cambridge readers can head to the Museum to see the display (free admission, Mon-Fri 10-5, Sat 10-1 during term time) – and by the way, this is also an excellent excuse to look around the rest of the Museum if you haven’t seen it before! For non-Cambridge readers, there’s a couple more pictures of the display below. And thanks to Katie, Caroline, Georgia, and Anya for putting the whole thing together!

Clay Play Day #2

Last term I wrote about the ‘clay play day‘ we held in my department: as the last in a series of seminars about the undeciphered Cretan script Linear A, we all got a chance to try out making and inscribing our own Linear A clay tablets. Since there was quite a bit of clay left over afterwards, I decided to have my own clay play day at home to make some tablets with inscriptions in Linear B – the script I mostly work on, which is related to Linear A but used to write Greek. This was partly an excuse just to mess around with clay a bit more, but I also figured some replica tablets would come in handy for teaching purposes, outreach events, etc – it’s hard to show what sort of size the tablets actually are via photographs on a PowerPoint. So here are some pictures of 1) a tablet in progress, using a photocopy of the published photograph and drawing to get the size right; 2) holding the finished tablet, for scale purposes; and 3) all three tablets I ended up making.

Continue reading “Clay Play Day #2”

Greek plays online

Last term I wrote a review of the fantastic Cambridge Greek play, a tragedy/comedy double bill of Antigone and Lysistrata: now the production team have made some video highlights of both plays available online. Have a look at the video below!

Continue reading “Greek plays online”

Time to Talk (about mental health)

Content advice: this post does not contain any detailed discussions of specific mental health issues, but linked sites may contain such discussions (these are provided with content warnings where possible).

tttd17-social-post-im-going-toToday (February 2nd) is ‘Time to Talk Day’: a day for talking about mental health problems, for reaching out to those who are currently experiencing such problems, and for educating people about the realities of mental health conditions to tackle the stigma that is still unfortunately often attached to these conditions.

Statistically, one in four people will experience a mental health problem every year, meaning that whether you know it or not, someone (probably several people) in your family, or your friendship group, or your workplace, will have or have previously had a mental health condition. From my own perspective as an academic, academia is very far from being an exception to this, with mental health problems being increasingly prevalent amongst university students and staff alike.

Continue reading “Time to Talk (about mental health)”

Practical epigraphy, or, Linear A Clay Play Day

p1080420This term in the Faculty we’ve been having a series of seminars looking at Linear A, an undeciphered script from prehistoric Crete (and the script out of which Linear B, which I mostly work on, was developed). We started off with a general introduction to what Linear A is – Sarah Finlayson gave us an overview of the different sites across Crete where Linear A inscriptions have been found, their chronology (roughly between the 19th to 15th centuries B.C.E.), and the general context in which they were written (some are from ‘palaces’, others from smaller administrative centres, and some come from religious sanctuaries). I then did a survey of the kinds of documents Linear A was used to write: these ranged from administrative texts on clay tablets or on small lumps of clay (used for, e.g., labelling objects, or sealing storage jars or store-rooms) to non-administrative inscriptions on clay or stone vases, metal objects, and even a couple of graffiti scratched onto walls (there are some pictures of different kinds of inscriptions here). Continue reading “Practical epigraphy, or, Linear A Clay Play Day”

Esagil: a Babylonian board game

Some more board-game-related news: next week I’m going to be helping out with an event in the Cambridge Festival of Ideas called “Esagil: Treasure Hunt in Babylon“. It’s a board game designed by Marie-Franรงoise Besnier, a researcher studying ancient Mesopotamia – here’s the event details and blurb:

Tuesday 25 October: 11:00am – 4:00pm
Wednesday 26 October: 11:00am – 4:00pm
Thursday 27 October: 11:00am – 4:00pm
Friday 28 October: 11:00am – 4:00pm

Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Downing Street, CB2 3DZ

Discover ancient Babylon! Seek a treasure for the great god Marduk in the maze of the city. Every encounter may change your fate… Will the odds be in your favour?

“Esagil” is a game for 2-6 players aged 8+, which approximately lasts 20-25 min. It is set in the ancient city of Babylon (1st mill. BC). The aim is to make an offering to the main god of Babylon, Marduk, in his temple, called Esagil. The offerings are sacred objects, “treasures” (all real Mesopotamian objects). The players will seek them in one of the numerous temples of the city. The winner is the first to bring his offering back to the Esagil.

The search is determined by the “if- cards” which tell the players what their next step will be. The “if- cards” are based upon real Babylonian omens. All of them were introduced by the word shumma, “if”: they recorded all kinds of signs and events that could happen in everyday life, which were understood as messages from the gods, such as a black cat crossing the road or the fall of a meteorite. “Esagil” is thus a fun way to learn about ancient Babylonian culture, especially religion and divination.

Come along and have a go at playing it (no need to book)! The Festival of Ideas is going on until October 30th and has a huge range of other events – talks, activities, exhibitions, performances, and more – check out the full event listing here, there’s pretty much guaranteed to be something for everyone!

Blog round-up: from PhDs to SF

A quick round-up of some recent blog posts by friends and colleagues that I think are worth checking out! I recently linked to some good advice for new graduate students from Res Gerendae; here’s another similar post from Katherine McDonald (featuring some more good advice re work/life balance, and a cute picture of a mouse).

Fans of Mycenopoly, or of board games in general, will enjoy this post by Daniel Unruh about the ‘gods playing games’ motif – when gods are depicted as playing board games to control human lives (as frequently seen in the Discworld, for example, or the classic film Jason and the Argonauts).

Finally, one for the SF fans: an interesting pair of posts by Philip Boyes on the close but problematic relationship between science fiction and archaeology: Part 1 and Part 2.

Oh, and here is a picture of a cat, because every blog post is improved by a picture of a cat:

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Happy reading!