The Past in Pieces: Lego and Lost Civilisations

As I think I may have mentioned once or twice, I was a Lego-mad child. Of all the things under the tree on Christmas morning, Lego was always the most prized. Like many, I ‘grew out of’ Lego in my teens, only to come back to it as I’ve got older and had more disposable income. That distinctive rattle of a cardboard box full of little plastic bricks still has a Pavlovian effect on me, equal measures calming and relaxing. The cares of the world slip away and the inner ten-year-old is unleashed.

I’ve always concentrated my Legoine affections primarily on Space and Castle Lego, with occasional forays into Pirates. When I visited my mum last December, I dragged eight boxes of Lego from the shed and spent Christmas afternoon rebuilding a Space-themed Christmas present of 20 years earlier. By last week, the Castle itch was reasserting itself and I decided to indulge. For the first time in many years I bought some new Lego – my first new Castle sets since childhood. And I made a discovery.

Lego has double-axes now. And cows.

From there it was a small, obligatory step to this.

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I showed it to other classicists and Aegean prehistorians, and calls for bull-leaping soon followed. Continue reading

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Beyond El Dorado: Power and Gold in Ancient Colombia – Review

This British Museum exhibition certainly lived up to its name, with a stunning collection of golden artefacts – plus some equally nice if less shiny ceramics and textiles – created by the various different peoples who lived in what is now Colombia before the Spanish conquest in the 16th century C.E. As expected from the title, the focus was mainly on the use of these golden objects as part of these societies’ rituals and ceremonies. So there were items of jewellery to be worn during rituals, figurines of people or animals which may have had special spiritual meanings, and objects like ‘dipping pins’ for use in ceremonies (to be dipped into the coca-and-lime mixture used as a stimulant). There was also some explanation of the different techniques used in creating these objects, and in the different styles of gold-working found amongst the various different societies (such as the Muisca, Quimbaya, Calima and Tairona). In my opinion this was the most interesting part of the exhibition – the craftsmanship involved in making these golden objects was astounding, and both of these sections highlighted that very well.

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Linguistics Baking Part VI: The Labyrinth

Pylos labyrinth tabletJust for a change, I thought this time I’d do a cake that isn’t strictly speaking linguistic, though it’s still epigraphic: the labyrinth tablet from Pylos.

This drawing is actually found on the back of a tablet listing female goats (PY Cn 1287). Apparently the scribe found this list pretty boring, or perhaps they were kept hanging around waiting for whoever was bringing the information about the goats in question. Either way, they doodled this labyrinth on the back. It’s actually a reasonably complicated design – I had to trace it out on the icing to be sure of getting it to work, and the 1965 Cambridge Mycenaean Colloquium even featured a paper on how it could have been constructed* – and yet is drawn pretty neatly, so perhaps this was this scribe’s regular doodle of choice…? This isn’t unique as a doodle, by the way; there’s the odd drawing of a person or animal, plus a couple of tablets with a sequence that might (possibly) be the Mycenaean equivalent of an abecedary, giving the order of the first few syllabic signs in the sequence the scribes learned them. Continue reading

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GIS Recap: Weeks 1-3

Hello!  I am Charles Northrop, and together with Daniel Chiritoiu we are the GIS Consuls for Lent Term 2014!  We must offer our apologies: it has been a while without a GIS update.  However, after resolving some technical difficulties, we’re ready to resume our updates!  So far, the graduate community at the Faculty of Classics has seen a wide variety of pretty exciting papers that explored our field from different angles.  Let’s have a little re-cap:

To kick off the term in Week 1 (January 17th), Fran Middleton led us in a round-table discussion about athetesis, excision and digital editions.  We talked about the identity of a text, how editions affect that identity, and the ways in which digital editions will change the relationships that students, educators and researchers have with the texts they study.  We had a great discussion that continued all the way down to the Granta.

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Making Ancient Pancakes

Classical-Cookbook-UK-400x503For my birthday this year I was given the British Museum’s Classical Cookbook, by Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger. I haven’t had a chance to read through it fully yet, but it all looks very impressive (though could have done with more pictures – I don’t understand cookbooks without photos!) But this isn’t a review. Instead I’m going to document my first efforts at a piece of ‘authentic’ Classical cookery.

I decided to start with Greek pancakes. Because they’re simple and I already had all the ingredients – just flour, water, honey and sesame seeds to top. This recipe has been created from references in Galen and Hipponax.  Continue reading

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New Sappho Poems!

By now it has made the rounds on the internet and in major news outlets(!) that two ‘new’ poems of Sappho has re-emerged from the depths of obscurity.  The preliminary edition by Dirk Obbink (forthcoming in Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik) has been made available on the Oxford Papyrology website.   News of the newly discovered papyrus (which is held in a private collection in London) has hit the British media with the availability of the preliminary version of Obbink’s article, including a writeup on it in The Guardian and The Daily Beast, along with a translation by Tim Whitmarsh (currently of Oxford; soon to be our new Leventis Professor of Greek Culture; this translation is also appended further below).

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New Faculty project: Greek in Italy

Just thought I should share a link to the Faculty’s new AHRC-funded project on ‘Greek in Italy’ for those of you who missed the launch last night – you can read all about the project’s aims and follow its progress on their blog, There are already some interesting posts (with nice pictures) up, so take a look!

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