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.

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More classical board games: Cyclades

2017-02-12-17-19-45Not a game that I’ve made this time, but one I bought some time ago: when I found out there was a board game called ‘Cyclades‘ about a bunch of Greek cities fighting for control of the Cycladic islands with the help of various gods and mythical creatures, I pretty much had to get a copy and give it a go. I finally just got around to trying it out with my usual crew of fellow-Classicist-board-game-fans and can report it was a great success (and not just because I won. OK, a little bit because I won.)

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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!

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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.

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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”

More linguistics baking

Baking cakes and cookies with inscriptions on them (as regular readers will know I’ve been doing for some time) is getting increasingly popular – here are two recent examples, the first with examples of various different writing systems including Ugaritic cuneiform, the second with a wonderful (if inadvertent) recreation of the conditions which often lead to inscriptions on clay tablets surviving from the ancient world (places, in this case ovens, catching on fire…). Watch this space for a new piece of Linguistics Baking hopefully coming soon!

Update: it turns out that a fellow-linguistics-baking-enthuiasts was writing another post at exactly the same time as I was writing this. Pippa Steele, who’s running a new project (called CREWS – Contexts of and Relations between Early Writing Systems) in the Cambridge Classics Faculty on the history of the Greek alphabet and other ancient writing systems, would love to hear from anybody else who feels like trying out some baked inscriptions – as would I, so please do share any creations with me (via comments, or apj31 [at] and/or Pippa (crews [at], or @crewsproject on Twitter)!