Goodbye Cambridge, hello Athens!
I’ve been a postdoctoral Research Fellow at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, for the last four years. As part of this fellowship, I’ve continued the work I began during my PhD, looking at ways to understand more about the remaining ‘undeciphered’ signs of Linear B – the sound-values of fourteen of this writing system’s eighty-seven syllabic signs are still uncertain, nearly 70 years after the script as a whole was deciphered. My monograph based on my thesis, The Undeciphered Signs of Linear B: Interpretation and Scribal Practices, which has just been published with CUP, not only tries to establish as much as is currently possible about the most likely types of sound-value each of these signs may have, but also uses them to explore wider issues about the Linear B writing system’s creation from its parent script Linear A and its use by the Mycenaean scribes to write administrative documents. Other publications arising from my PhD include an article called “The mystery of the Mycenaean labyrinth: the value of Linear B pu2 and related signs”, which looks at one particular sign whose exact sound-value is debated, due largely to its appearance in the word ‘labyrinth’ (da-pu2-ri-to), and the implications its interpretation has for the relationship between Linear B and Linear A, and a book chapter “Processes of script adaptation and creation in Linear B: the evidence of the “extra” signs“, which explores similar issues to do with the initial creation of Linear B but also investigates the script’s ongoing development as the writers who used it created new signs to fit in with the needs of the administrative records they were writing.
Linear B tablet recording various kinds of livestock
Based on this initial work on the activities of the writers of the Linear B tablets – the Mycenaean ‘scribes’ – I also started a new project to look further into these writers’ practices in creating their documents. An article on “Orthographic variation as evidence for the development of the Linear B writing system” continued the theme of analysing how the writing system was created and developed over time with use, with a specific focus on how the existence of spelling variation can shed light on this development, while my most recent article, “Scribes as editors: tracking changes in the Linear B documents” looked at how Mycenaean writers edited their own and others’ written records, and the implications these editing practices have for our understanding of the tablets’ roles as administrative documents.
As the title of this post implies, I’ve now arrived in Athens for the next stage of my research career – a two-year Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship at the British School at Athens. (I’ll be writing more soon about what an MSC Fellowship is!) My research project is called “WRiting At Pylos: palaeography, tablet production and the work of the Mycenaean scribes” (acronym: WRAP): in it, I’ll continue some elements of my previous research into scribal writing practices, this time with a focus on palaeography – the study of different writers’ handwriting; by investigating the variation in handwriting found at one Mycenaean site, Pylos, I want to understand more about how individuals wrote and hopefully also shed some light on how they were trained to do so. I’m also branching out into a totally new area for me, experimental archaeology, with the ‘tablet production’ part of the project – I’ll be working with members of the Fitch Laboratory at the BSA on experiments to understand more about the processes involved in producing the clay tablets on which the Linear B texts were written. I’m obviously very excited to be able to learn new skills like this and collaborate with the experts here.
Of course, research is only one element of what I’ve been doing in Cambridge over the last four years and what I’ll continue to do here in Athens for the next two. I’ve taught a wide range of subjects to undergraduate and graduate students, from how to read Linear B to classical Greek literature, and I hope to continue this by teaching on some of the courses run by the BSA (which include general archaeology courses for undergraduates and school teachers, as well as specialist postgrad courses on various topics – based on my own experience attending the Knossos pottery course a few years ago, I can highly recommend these, although of course at the moment we’re all waiting to see whether they will be in-person or remote next year). I also hope to continue my involvement with the UK Women’s Classical Committee, in particular with the #WCCWiki Wikipedia editing project, which aims to improve the public representation of women in Classics, archaeology, ancient history and other related fields: while in Greece I’d like to work in particular on editing pages for Greek women archaeologists (something I started a little while ago by working on Semni Karouzou‘s page). And of course, I’ll be using this blog to share news about my ongoing research and other activities, so you can follow me here and/or on and Twitter to find out more!
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 885977.