I’ve just given a talk for the Cambridge Festival of Ideas about the different kinds of written evidence that survive from Roman Britain and what they can tell us, so thought I’d write up a summary here for any interested readers who couldn’t come to the talk! The title “On the Edge” was chosen to fit in with the theme of this year’s festival, “Extremes”, and to reflect the position of Britain on the very edge of the Roman Empire (a journey from Rome to London in October could take up to 40 days), and for that matter the position of many of the surviving texts, which come from Hadrian’s Wall in the north of Britain, on the very edge of the Roman-controlled part of the island. A major theme of the talk was how, despite this remote position, Britain was very well connected with the rest of the Roman world, as the evidence of many of the written documents shows.
Cambridge-based readers of this blog may be interested to know about two events focusing on ancient writing that I’m involved in as part of the Festival of Ideas (which starts today, October 15th, and runs until the 28th):
Raiders of the Secret Scripts: this is a free, drop-in event for adults at the Museum of Classical Archaeology, 7-9pm on Friday 19th. Have a go at deciphering inscriptions to follow the trail around the gallery (all necessary information provided!), try your hand at writing a curse tablet, find out more about different ancient writing systems – and have a glass of wine at the same time! I’ll be there to help out and answer your questions, along with colleagues of mine from the CREWS project.
On the Edge: Writing in Roman Britain: this is a lunchtime talk in the Classics Faculty on Wednesday 24th, 1.15-2pm; it’s also free, but prebooking is required. The festival’s (fairly loose) theme is “extremes”, so I thought it would be fun to look at the written texts from one of the extreme edges of the Roman Empire. Britain has produced a remarkable range of documents – from gravestones to letters, legal documents to curses, and much more – including some remarkable recent finds of writing-tablets from the City of London. Come along to find out more about what these documents are, who wrote them, and what they tell us about life in Roman Britain!
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!
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!”
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-Françoise Besnier, a researcher studying ancient Mesopotamia – here’s the event details and blurb:
Tuesday 25 October: 11:00am – 4:00pmWednesday 26 October: 11:00am – 4:00pmThursday 27 October: 11:00am – 4:00pmFriday 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!