In 2018, PASP scholar Cassandra Donnelly was awarded the CREWS fellowship to pursue research on the Cypro-Minoan script. Here, she shares her travels, research and challenges.
As summer winds down and a new semester begins without me at Texas, I feel like it’s a good time to reflect on the past four months I have spent abroad (with eight more to go!) conducting research. A third of my way through my journey so far, I have studied Linear B tablets, Cypro-Minoan clay balls, inscribed miniature vessels (the cutest), and even a Cretan Hieroglyphic nodule. I’ve visited the Fitzwilliam, Ashmolean, and British Museums, and now the Cyprus Museum. Along the way, I have made stops in England (3 months), Italy (4 days), Greece and Israel (3 weeks), and have finally arrived in Cyprus where I will stay for the next six months. Enjoying the scenery, I have swum in the Cam, the Thames, a few of London’s best Lidos, and the Ionian, Adriatic and Levantine seas.
Cypro-Minoan Research in Cambridge
Along with the swims, I’ve immersed myself in researching Cypro Minoan subjects at Cambridge with the CREWS project. Dr. Pippa Steele, the director of the project, has created a welcoming environment where intellectual engagement goes part and parcel with individual research. Wednesday’s were the social day in my schedule. These were the days for CREWS project meetings and the E-Caucus linguistics and script seminars. Project meetings were a time for the CREWS scripts nerds to present research, ask questions, and, occasionally, debate key terms in writing systems studies such as “font.” The Eastern Mediterranean scholars among us shared the task of running a 5-week seminar with the theme “Cypro-Minoan.” Dr. Steele introduced the corpus, I contributed a lesson on the potmarks, Philip Boyes detailed the Cypro-Minoan presence on the Syro-Palestinian coast, and Giorgos Bourgiannis concluded the seminar with the spread of Cypriots and their syllabary in the Iron Age.
Most days in Cambridge were spent in the Classics Library. The resources and staff there are world class. I was quickly able to accomplish the goal I set at the outset of the fellowship, to assemble and analyse the list of all known Late Bronze Age Mediterranean inscribed bowls. The inspiration for my study is the inscribed silver bowl from Hala Sultan Tekke, a coastal trading centre on Cyprus’ south eastern coast. The bowl has always intrigued me since the inscription is in a rare offshoot of Ugaritic alphabetic cuneiform, sometimes referred to as the “short” or “reduced” cuneiform alphabet, which is usually found on the Levantine coast. The metal bowl writing medium, on the other hand, is right at home in Cyprus (where we have 9 examples) and foreign to the Levant, where no examples have been found. In addition to the Cypriot examples, my research acquainted me with Anatolian Hieroglyphic inscribed bowls (4 in number), and to examples of inscribed ceramic bowls from the Levant in both the Egyptian Hieratic script and the Proto-Canaanite alphabet (or Phoenician alphabet, as it later became known), and one example from Egyptian Thebes in Egyptian Hieroglyphic. I was immediately struck by the relative scarcity of such objects in the period under discussion, their concentration in the Eastern Mediterranean, and the number of “scribes” implicated in their production.
The involvement of scribes in the production of these bowls is interesting because the bowls seem to have been given as gifts by one official to another. Sometimes, the scribe not only creates the inscription but also is the giver of the gift too. One of the scribes in question is a Hittite official by the name of Taprammi, who we know from other Anatolian inscriptions in Hittite Hieroglyphs and from Ugaritic tablets found in Syria. From those, we learn Taprammi had several roles within the Hittite administration in both ritual and administrative posts. In those roles, he traveled widely. There is evidence Taprammi took a trip to Syria to conduct business negotiations with the king of Ugarit. (whether on behalf of the Hittite government or his own interests is unclear). His ability to write in Hittite Hieroglyphs appears to be just one of the skills he learned among others. This is in stark contrast to what we know about scribes trained in the cuneiform tradition whose sole role was to craft documents. The figure of Taprammi helps us to imagine the activities of Cypro-Minoan writers who also do not appear to have been trained along the lines of cuneiform scribal training.
After the inscribed bowls studies, I have now moved on to my dissertation work. The bulk of this will be completed within the Cyprus Museum, about which I will write more when I have another opportunity to reflect.
Away from home, other thoughts occur and not just on my studies. Many American academics in Classics and adjacent fields love to travel. We are interested in places far away from our homes and have dreams of travel. The reality is that most of us only get to travel intermittently, every summer if we are lucky enough, but not always even then. So I am going to try and make the most of this opportunity and pop back in a few months to let you know how it’s going.
Updated on September 19, 2019 by Garrett R. Bruner. firstname.lastname@example.org