Sensational new Linear B tablet discovery in Athens

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Linear B tablet (replica)

Archaeologists working on a rescue excavation in Athens city centre have just announced the discovery of a series of clay tablets inscribed in the Linear B script, the first to be found in the city. The tablets date from the end of the Bronze Age, c.1200 BCE, and provide exciting new evidence for ritual practices in Mycenaean Greece. According to the excavation director, Professor Ilithios Apriliou, the texts refer to a ritual taking place on the first day of the month¬†Apate, tentatively identified as the fourth month of the Mycenaean year. Participants in the ritual are recorded as receiving varying quantities of barley, while other tablets list offerings of wine and olive oil to the god Hermes (Hermahas in Mycenaean Greek). The most enigmatic of the tablets appears to act as an introduction to the whole series; while much of its text is currently obscure, Prof. Apriliou believes it describes a part of the ritual in which participants compete to tell the most outrageous stories in honour of the trickster god Hermes. The tablet is, however, badly damaged, and this interpretation relies heavily on Prof. Apriliou’s suggested restorations; an alternative reading, in which the festival is simply opened by a council of elders, is equally possible, and only close further study – and, it is to be hoped, further discoveries of tablets – will reveal the true nature of this mysterious ancient celebration.

Update: some helpful explanations (and a few more classical news items from April 1st) here!

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!

‘If the shoe fits’…Roman shoes at Vindolanda

A brief note to share some exciting news from the Roman fort of Vindolanda (home of the famous writing tablets), where this year’s excavations have produced 421 Roman shoes, including children’s shoes and even baby boots! More details and some wonderful pictures on the Vindolanda blog.

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)

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International Congress of Cretan Studies

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ICCS poster at the new Heraklion Cultural and Conference Centre

I’ve just returned from a trip to Greece to attend the 12th International Congress of Cretan Studies. The ICCS takes place every 5 years in different locations around Crete – this time, it was in the capital, Heraklion, which I’ve visited a couple of times before. It’s a huge conference – several days of two or three simultaneous sessions going on at once, and that was just the Prehistoric/Classical stream I was attending (there are also streams on Byzantine/medieval and post-medieval Crete). This year’s theme was ‘mobility’, and within that was an extraordinary large range of papers relating to the movement of people (migration, travel, changing settlement patterns), goods (trade and exchange), or ideas (practices, ideologies, beliefs). Continue reading “International Congress of Cretan Studies”

Arthur Evans’ Gardens

The British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans (1851-1941) is best known for his excavation and reconstruction of the Bronze Age palace of Knossos, on Crete (which I’ve posted about before), but also spent a considerable amount of his life in Oxford, where he was Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum (which now houses his archive as well as a considerable collection of finds from Knossos).

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Jarn Mound Wild Garden

Evans built a large house, called ‘Youlbury‘, on Boars Hill (just to the south-west of Oxford), which, sadly,¬† no longer exists (much of the former grounds is now a Scout Camp). One place that can still be visited in the area, though, is the Jarn Mound Wild Garden, created as a public garden by Evans (along with the Oxford Preservation Trust), and I thought I’d share a few pictures of a recent visit there. Continue reading “Arthur Evans’ Gardens”

Celebrating UK Archaeology

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.

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The Ness of Brodgar site in summer 2015

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