It’s a tradition for the Cambridge classical linguists that in Easter (summer) term, instead of our usual research seminars, we all get together to learn a bit about an ancient language that most of us don’t usually study, and to try to read through a few inscriptions. It’s become equally traditional that I provide refreshments for these reading classes in the form of an inscribed cake. This term, my colleague Robert Crellin from the CREWS Project has been teaching us all some Middle Egyptian, and so I’m pleased to present my latest linguistic baking project, Egyptian hieroglyphic cake:
I’m very pleased to announce the publication of a conference held here in Cambridge a couple of years ago on ‘Understanding Relations Between Scripts: The Aegean Writing Systems’. It’s edited by my colleague Pippa Steele, and features chapters on a wide range of topics relating to the writing systems used in prehistoric Crete (Cretan Hieroglyphic, Linear A, and Linear B) and Cyprus (Cypro-Minoan, Cypriot Syllabic). I have a chapter in it looking at various issues to do with the development of the Linear B script; equally importantly, there’s a picture of the conference cake I made!
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] cam.ac.uk) and/or Pippa (crews [at] classics.cam.ac.uk, or @crewsproject on Twitter)!
A quick post for the baking fans – the Cambridge News has a round-up of some very impressive Cambridge-themed cakes!
The latest offering in the linguistics cakes series was created for “Geoff-fest” – a celebration on the occasion of the retirement of Geoff Horrocks, Professor of Comparative Philology here in Cambridge. The Greek alphabet seemed an appropriate choice of cake decoration for Geoff, since he’s an expert on the whole history of the Greek language, ancient and modern – also, handily, it has 24 letters, which correspond exactly to two batches of cupcakes.
As well as the all-important tea and cake, we had an enjoyable series of papers from members of the department, from New Testament textual criticism to Wikipedia debates about Italic languages (more on which here) by way of possible references to writing in Homer and some impressive diagrammatic representations of Greek prepositions. All in all, a very fitting way to wish Geoff a happy retirement!
It’s become something of a tradition over the last few years for me to make linguistics-themed cakes, decorated with copies of inscriptions in various ancient languages and scripts (previous cakes can be found here). This term it was the turn of a language from ancient Italy known as Venetic, because inscriptions in this language have mostly been found in the area around Venice (dating between around 550-100 B.C.E.). As is often the case with ancient languages, many of the inscriptions which survive are on gravestones: this is a woman’s epitaph from the town of Este (near Padua).
I actually made the latest addition to the Linguistics Baking series back in Easter term for the most recent Linguistics Reading Group but didn’t have time to blog about it then. However, better late than never, so here (finally) is the Lycian Cake:
Lycian is a language that was spoken in south-western Asia Minor (now Turkey), and is attested in inscriptions dating from around the 5th-4th centuries B.C.E.; it’s part of the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European language family, so most closely related to other nearby languages like Hittite. The position of Lycia fairly near the Greek-speaking areas of Asia Minor along the Aegean coast meant that it experienced a considerable amount of contact with Greeks (in fact for part of the 5th century it was a member of the Athenian-controlled Delian League). This is most obvious when looking at the script, which (as can be seen from the cake) is an adaptation of the Greek alphabet. Most of the Lycian letters are taken directly from the Greek alphabet, and have the same or similar values: e.g. Ρ = r, Τ = t, Β = v. Others, however, have had their values changed – the letter that looks like Ε, for instance, actually represents i – and there are a few signs that were newly invented to write Lycian. For example, since E was being used for i, e is represented by the sign that looks like an arrow pointing up, while the third one along in the first row (looking a bit like a tree) is a nasalised e, ẽ – a sound that didn’t exist in Greek, but needed to be written in Lycian.
This particular text (like many of the surviving Lycian inscriptions) is an epitaph, and reads as follows:
ebẽñnẽ: xu-pã: this [accusative]: tomb [accusative]
m=ẽne pr-ñnawatẽ: [conjunction]-it [accusative]: built
me-de: epñnẽni: personal name: noun denoting some kind of relation, possibly ‘younger brother’
ehbi: hm̃prã-ma: possessive pronoun, dative singlar: personal name
se(j)=atli [conjunction]-reflexive pronoun, dative singular
‘M. built this tomb for his younger brother (?), H., and for himself’. Very sweet.
(Thanks to Pippa Steele for organising the Lycian Reading Group!)