More Codebreakers and Groundbreakers


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!



Linguistics baking: Venetic

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).

2016-05-11 14.25.09copy Continue reading “Linguistics baking: Venetic”

Linguistics Baking Part IX: Lycian

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 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 – 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: hprã-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!)



Graduate Interdisciplinary Seminar – 29.11.2013

This week’s GIS was a special session for MPhils and 1st-year PhDs to give short presentations about their proposed thesis topics – because two subjects in an hour and a half just didn’t seem like enough, so why not have six? The talks ranged over Greek and Latin literature, archaeology, and linguistics, with some lively discussion and feedback following each one.  Continue reading “Graduate Interdisciplinary Seminar – 29.11.2013”