The first CREWS conference: Understanding Relations Between Scripts II: Early Alphabets

Last week the CREWS Project held its first international conference. Read about it here!


Last week the Faculty of Classics at the University of Cambridge played host to the CREWS Project’s first international conference, Understanding Relations Between Scripts II: Early Alphabets.[1] This was a wonderful opportunity for us to bring together experts on ancient writing systems from around the world and discuss each other’s research.

As with all good academic conferences, despite having a unifying theme – early alphabets – the range of papers was extremely broad. We heard about writing systems from across thousands of years of history and thousands of miles, from the earliest probable alphabetic inscriptions from the Sinai peninsula or the Egyptian desert at Wadi el-Hol, through the Phoenician and Ugaritic alphabets of the Levant, to ancient Greece, Italy and Spain. We heard from epigraphers, linguists and archaeologists, and people who stand somewhere in between.

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Sock Puppets and Cult Leaders: The False Prophet Alexander

My friend Daniel has written an excellent post about the cult of Glycon, the ancient sock-puppet snake-god Abonoteichus. I highly recommend checking it out.


Content warning:  Cults, Sexual Abuse, Snakes

One of the strangest stories from the ancient world comes from the pen of the Second Century CE writer Lucian of Samosata.  Lucian, a Greek-speaking Syrian, was part of the great flowering of Greek culture under the Roman Empire that we refer to as the Second Sophistic.  To generalize greatly, the Second Sophistic was characterised by great erudition, self-consciously elaborate language, and a playful attitude toward history, myth and literature.  Lucian is one of the most emblematic of this movement, and many of his works are wonderful examples of wit, learning and subtle self-parody.

The work I’m discussing today, though, is a bit more exotic.  Apparently at the request of a friend named Celsus, Lucian recounts the career of a notorious con-man who has become known as the False Prophet Alexander.  Combining stage-magic, razzmatazz and careful puppetry, this man briefly created a new religion,

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CREWS at the Cambridge Science Festival 2017!

I wrote a bit for the CREWS blog about the outreach event I attended for the Cambridge Science Festival.

UntitledIt’s been a busy week for the CREWS Project. We’ve just held our first conference – Understanding Relations Between Scripts II: Early Alphabets – which we’ll be writing more about soon, but before that, last weekend we took part in the Cambridge Science Festival at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

The Science Festival is a major event giving the public the chance to find out more about the research that goes on at Cambridge. There are countless talks and events all across the University, aimed at a broad range of audiences. In particular, the Science Festival attracts families and small children, so we were keen to be involved and to share our enthusiasm for ancient writing.

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Under-Appreciated Monsters of the Ancient World #2 – The Devourers

louvre-stele-quotbaal-foudrequot_0It’s time for another under-appreciated ancient monster from antiquity – or rather multiple monsters – because today we’re looking at the Devourers (ʾaklm), demons from Ugaritian mythology who faced off against Baʿal Hadad, the storm-god and patron deity of the city. Unfortunately no pictures of the Devourers exist, so I’ve had to make do with this image of Baʿal himself, on a stele from Ugarit and now in the Louvre.

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