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!
Athens’ Acropolis Museum is, naturally, best known for its display of sculptures from the Parthenon (in a mixture of originals and casts, many of the originals being, controversially, in the British Museum). Stunning though this top-floor display is, with views straight across to the Parthenon from the galley (see photo, unfortunately taken on a rather cloudy day), it’s not actually my favourite part of the museum – that prize goes to the first-floor display of the older archaic sculptures, dating from the 7th century to the early 5th century BCE (the Parthenon was built in the mid-5th century). Some of these sculptures are from the pediments of earliertemples on the Acropolis, destroyed during the Persian invasion of 480/479 BCE; others are freestanding statues set up on the Acropolis as dedications to the goddess Athena. (I can’t post photos here as you’re not allowed to take photos of the collections, but there is a nice selection of pictures available on the museum’s website). Continue reading “Archaic statues and Eleusinian mysteries at the Acropolis Museum”
Every February, Cambridge plays host to a festival called “E-luminate“, which the organisers describe as “a celebration of the infinite possibilities created by light at the intersection of art and science” – as well as talks, concerts, and workshops, the most popular feature is always the illuminations on various buildings in the centre of town. One of these is on the outer wall of my college, Gonville & Caius: called “The Colours of Caius College“, it illuminates part of the facade in bright multi-coloured lights:
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!
For any teachers who might be readers of this blog, the Faculty is taking bookings now for school visits during the next academic year – groups of Key Stages 3-5 students from maintained schools can visit the Museum of Classical Archaeology, listen to a talk by a Classics lecturer, and tour a college, plus there’s a free lunch on offer! (and help with travel expenses is available too). Students don’t have to be studying any particular topics, just to be interested in learning more about the ancient world.
Check out the Faculty’s outreach site here, and if you’re a teacher interested in bringing your students, talk to our outreach co-ordinator Jennie Thornber (jlt39 [a] cam.ac.uk; 01223 767044).
There’s a nice temporary display that’s just gone up in the Museum of Classical Archaeology here in the Faculty, called “Tails from Mycenae” – it’s a case displaying various different depictions of animals on Mycenaean artefacts (i.e. from late Bronze Age Greece, c. the 16th-13th centuries BCE), put together by four current Classics undergradutes (Katie Phillips, Caroline Clements, Georgia Lowe and Anya Morrice). It’s nice to see such a range of different kinds of artefacts even in one small case – from pottery fragments and figurines to (replicas of) daggers and golden disks, plus of course Linear B tablets (I helped out a bit by providing a transcription of a tablet listing sheep, goats, pigs, and cattle). It’s also a good chance to see stuff that isn’t usually on public display at all in the Faculty – most of what you see in the museum is casts of statues, but as this case shows, the collection is actually quite a bit more diverse than that!
Cambridge readers can head to the Museum to see the display (free admission, Mon-Fri 10-5, Sat 10-1 during term time) – and by the way, this is also an excellent excuse to look around the rest of the Museum if you haven’t seen it before! For non-Cambridge readers, there’s a couple more pictures of the display below. And thanks to Katie, Caroline, Georgia, and Anya for putting the whole thing together!
Just thought I would put in a quick plug for the Cast Gallery’s current exhibtion, which launched on Friday: ‘The Labours of Herakles’ by New Zealand artist Marian Maguire. The exhibition is a series of interesting and beautifully-done etchings and lithographs depicting Herakles as a participant in the history of New Zealand – mostly focusing on the impact of colonisation, but also other events such as Gallipoli or the women’s suffrage movement. A personal favourite is the one entitled ‘Herakles Writes Home’, done as a Greek vase-painting showing Herakles the colonist in his cabin – the details of the illustration are wonderful, right down to the titles of the books on the shelf (ranging from a Greek/Maori dictionary to Mrs Beeton). But the whole series is well worth popping into the Cast Gallery for a look! (For readers not in Cambridge, you can also see them here, though the images are unfortunately rather small – these are works that really need to be seen in person to appreciate all the details!)
Depicting just the torso and upper legs of a male figure seated on a rock, the Belvedere Torso is a remarkable fragment of classical sculpture. Although fractured, what remains is a powerful evocation of masculine physicality: the broad shoulders, the colossal chest with its rippling muscles, those mighty legs; the sheer mass of this body is breathtaking. It truly is a tour de force of ancient sculpture.
Anyone interested in contributing should get in touch via the comments or firstname.lastname@example.org, but for now, the series starts off with Jennie Thornber, Education and Outreach Coordinator, telling us about her favourite cast, the Baby Boy with an Egyptian Goose. Continue reading “My Museum Favourite”