The world is in a state of upheaval at the moment, and we’re all looking for things to make us feel less anxious. Maybe Classics can help.
Today’s interview is with Anna P. Judson
Is there a source from the ancient world that you find yourself coming back to when you want to feel better?
This Linear B clay tablet from the Mycenaean palace of Pylos, with a drawing of a labyrinth on the back.
When did you first come across this tablet?
I must have first seen a picture of it sometime during my MPhil degree in 2011-12, when I started learning to read Linear B and spent a lot of time practicing on drawings and photographs of tablets. Later on I was able to see the real thing on a study visit to Greece – it’s on display in the National Archaeological…
Content note: racism, in particular anti-Black racism, and white supremacy (this note also applies to all linked articles); ableism
Slight departure from the usual Linear B-related content around here, but I want to share a fantastic collection of photographs depicting the Olympian gods – which I already shared on social media, but here I have more space to reflect a bit on these photos’ significance and also share some relevant resources. The photo series is entitled “20 gods and goddesses for 2020” (in Spanish: “20 Dioses y Diosas para 2020”) by photographer Ana Martinez and stylist Mario Ville Kattaca. Here are just two of my favourites (though choosing was incredibly difficult):
I’m finding it hard to believe it’s been over two years since I visited the archaeological site my research focuses on – the Mycenaean ‘Palace of Nestor’ at Pylos in Messenia (south-western mainland Greece). The nostalgia’s been brought on by the team behind the excavation of the ‘Griffin Warrior Tomb‘ sharing some links earlier today to virtual tours of reconstructions of what the palace may have looked like before it was destroyed around 1200 BCE. Here’s the most extensive, from ‘Ancient Athens 3D‘: since it doesn’t have captions, I’ve provided a bit of commentary below, along with pictures of what these parts of the palace actually look like now. Enjoy the tour!
The tour starts with the front porch, and then heads through into the courtyard inside.
Front porch (reconstructed)
Front porch (as it is now)
Courtyard with surrounding colonnades and balconies (reconstructed)
Courtyard as it is now, with column base
It then detours outside to the ‘Southwestern Building’, showing the frescoes in its porch. There’s another, more detailed reconstruction just of this building available here. Finally, the tour goes back into the main building, through the courtyard and a small vestibule (more frescoes) to the megaron or throne room, with its large central hearth and elaborate frescoes of griffins surrounding the throne. Here you can see not just the reconstruction and the actual view of the room now, but also some of the fragments from which the frescoes have been reconstructed.
Throne room reconstruction
Throne room as it is now
Fragments of the griffin fresco
As you can see from all these pictures, quite a lot of imagination can be needed when trying to reconstruct how a two-story, highly decorated building which now survives only as low walls and painted fragments might originally have looked!
I encourage you to check out the other spotlight talks too – there are three other fantastic talks on using research into human-animal interactions in antiquity while volunteering in zoos; 18th-century British painter Angelica Kaufmann’s use of classical antiquity; and a project for researchers of ancient gender and sexuality in Brazil. You can find all of them in this YouTube playlist.
(NB: the event is currently fully booked, but there is a waiting list in operation: see here for details. Most of the talks on publishing and disseminating your research are pre-recorded and available on YouTube here).
A great post from Pippa Steele about depictions of writing in the ancient world!
The overwhelming tendency to talk about writing systems as linguistic codes (which they usually are in some sense) has often ignored other important aspects of writing. For instance, one way way we can study writing is as a practice or action, because writing is a thing you do. At CREWS we have been particularly interested […]
I have a new page on Humanities Commons, a free, not-for-profit site for sharing open-access research. Publications available there already include papers on a set of Linear B inscriptions painted on the side of jars used for transporting oil or wine; on the Mycenaean Greek word for “labyrinth”; on the structure and use of the Linear B writing system, and how this can be used to analyse the script’s development over time; on using palaeography (handwriting analysis) to reconstruct aspects of scribal practices and training; and on how Linear B was originally deciphered and shown to represent an early form of the Greek language. Head over to https://hcommons.org/members/annapjudson/ to check them out!
I’m delighted to be able to share some exciting news about the next stage of my research into Linear B and the Mycenaean scribes – after my current postdoctoral Research Fellowship at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge comes to an end in the autumn, I’ll be moving to the British School in Athens on a two-year Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship. These EU fellowships are designed to promote movement to and around Europe by postdoctoral researchers so they can go to whatever institution is best placed to support their research – I’m thrilled to be able to benefit from the vast range of knowledge and experience at the BSA, in particular that of Mycenaean archaeologist and Linear B specialist Professor John Bennet, who will act as my research mentor, and of members of the Fitch Laboratory, with whom I plan to collaborate. I’m equally excited, of course, at the prospect of spending two years living and working in Athens!
Last month I was teaching some classes on interpreting the texts of the administrative Linear B tablets from Late Bronze Age (‘Mycenaean’) Greece, and one of the texts we looked at read as follows:
‘Kerowos the shepherd (poimēn) at A-si-ja-ti-ja watching over the quadrupeds (kwetropopphi) of Thalamatās: 1 man’ (Pylos Ae 134)
In some ways, this is nice and straightforward by Linear B standards: we can linguistically interpret pretty much every word (and even where we can’t, their meaning is clear from context and other examples of the same – a-si-ja-ti-ja is evidently a place-name) and produce a translation of the whole sentence (there are some linguistic quibbles over exactly how the syntax works, but it doesn’t really affect the overall meaning). In other ways, it’s entirely characteristic of Linear B in that it’s so laconic that translating it produces as many questions as it answers. In particular, the question my students asked was ‘So what kind of animals are these quadrupeds?’- ‘quadrupeds’ being a literal translation of kwetro-popphi ‘four-footed [things]’ (in later Greek, tetrapous). I realized when they asked this that I simply didn’t know, and in fact had never really thought about it – so I decided to look into it. Continue reading “Queries about Quadrupeds in Linear B”
I did an interview for the Cambridge archaeology postdocs’ blog, talking about my research, blogging, cake, and more! Also featuring some SF, fantasy, and classics-inspired fiction recommendations, Wikipedia editing, and my favourite view in Cambridge
What is the first word that comes to your mind when you think of Cambridge and why?
Not a word, but an image – the view of Kings Chapel while walking along the Backs. It may be a bit of a cliché, but I never get tired of that view, even walking past it most days! Even better if the cows are out in the meadow or the swans are on the river.
Can you tell us a little about you, and your research interests? As you analyse the Mycenaean scribes’ writing practices, what differences and commonalities between documents have you identified? Is there any sign of authorship or personal style?