More Codebreakers and Groundbreakers

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A follow-up to yesterday’s post on the Fitzwilliam Museum’s new exhibition to add some information on the related exhibition also running at the Museum of Classical Archaeology (in the Faculty of Classics). This is showcasing two aspects of the Faculty related to the Fitz’s exhibition: our collections of archival material relating to excavations by the archaeologist Alan Wace at the palace of Mycenae (which uncovered a set of Linear B tablets), and the range of current linguistic-related research taking place in the Faculty. This includes work on Linear B in the Mycenaean Epigraphy Group (which I’m a part of); the CREWS project on relationships between other ancient writing systems; the Greek in Italy project, whose name is pretty self-explanatory; and the team working on a new ancient Greek lexicon (dictionary) – a project that was started by John Chadwick, Michael Ventris’ collaborator in publishing the decipherment. Like the Fitz, it’s free to enter, plus you get to see the wonderful collection of casts of classical statues as well!

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Codebreakers and Groundbreakers

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I mentioned this upcoming exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in my last post – I’m very pleased to say that ‘Codebreakers and Groundbreakers‘ is now open (and on until February 2018)! The exhibition brings together two apparently quite different stories – the discovery and decipherment of the Linear B tablets and the breaking of the Enigma codes at Bletchley Park during World War II – to emphasize the two main threads which connect them. Most obviously, both of them are about decipherment and making unreadable texts readable – whether that’s three-thousand-year-old clay tablets written in an undeciphered script and an unknown language, or messages that have been deliberately encrypted to (try to) stop them being read by a wartime enemy.

Continue reading “Codebreakers and Groundbreakers”

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. Continue reading “Start of term news: board games, exhibitions, and playing with clay!”

“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!

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!

Some start-of-term news

Just a quick post with a few things I wanted to share for the start of term! Firstly, a couple of posts over on the Cambridge Classics graduate blog, Res Gerendae: some handy tips for new PhD students (mostly just as relevant to students in other universities!), and an exciting exhibition that’s currently on in the Faculty’s Cast Gallery (but finishing on October 15th). By the way, I encourage any readers who haven’t checked out Res Gerendae yet to do so – it has a lot of great posts on a huge range of topics, and I’m sure there are many more interesting posts to come this term! (Any new Cambridge classics grads reading this – I also encourage you to sign up to write for RG – see my previous post on why this is a useful and fun thing to do!) Continue reading “Some start-of-term news”

Santorini, the volcanic island

As promised in my last post about the conference I recently attended on Crete, here’s one about the short holiday I took en route back to the UK – a couple of days on the island of Santorini (aka Thera), the largest of several islands formed around and inside a caldera (crater) left by a series of volcanic eruptions. The first thing to say: even before getting off the ferry, the views of the steep cliffs forming the side of the caldera are stunning, and they only get better once you’re at the top:

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View from Skaros headland towards Fira (the main town of Santorini)

Continue reading “Santorini, the volcanic island”