Breath of the Wild and telling stories through archaeology

I’ve been planning to write something about the archaeology of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for a while now (ever since my post on cyclical time in Zelda), and recently Eurogamer asked me to write something for their website. So here’s my debut as a freelance games feature writer. Enjoy!

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2017-07-27-zelda-breath-of-the-wild-archaeology

Untitled

Ancient Sages and Arcane Texts: The Myth and Magic of the Phoenician Alphabet

When ancient accounts of writing take you to some unexpected places: I’ve written a post over on the CREWS Project blog about how ancient accounts of the origins of the Phoenician writing system link into Hellenistic cultural contacts and the emergence of western esotericism.

Hermes_mercurius_trismegistus_siena_cathedralLet me tell you a story of the forgotten wisdom of the ancients, preserved in secret libraries of elder ages and deciphered by visionary sages, let me tell you about men who became gods and gods who became men. Let me tell you the strange mythology linking the origins of the Phoenician alphabet with the birth of the Western occult tradition.

The origins of writing systems are fascinating, but sometimes it can be just as interesting to lay the reality to one side and look at where the people of the ancient world thought their writing systems came from. My colleague Natalia has been doing this with her series of blog-postslooking at myths about writing. Here, though, I want to look in a bit more depth at the stories told about the development of the Phoenician alphabet.

Because they get a bit weird.

View original post 1,924 more words

Unlocking the Secrets of Karpathia the Keybearer

This week marks 65 years since Michael Ventris announced his decipherment of Linear B, so it seems like a good opportunity to write about something from the tablets that I’ve long been curious about.

py_ep_7041335827682772

The Linear B documents from Mycenaean Greece are notoriously laconic, mostly consisting of accounts and administrative records. Among these, even the slightest glimpse of personal character or hint of drama is enough to make a tablet stand out. My absolute favourite is Ep704, from the palace of Pylos. This tablet is mainly a record of land-allocations to temple personnel at Sphagianes, but the last line throws up some intriguing questions.

Karpathia the Keybearer holds two communal (plots); although she is obliged to work these two, she does not work them.

Continue reading

Under-Appreciated Monsters of the Ancient World #3 – Rabiṣu (The Lurker)

Rabisu_Poster_22x28

Film poster for ‘Resurrection: Rise of the Rabisu’, which I can’t find much information about and definitely doesn’t look rubbish.

For this little-known monster we head out to Bronze Age Mesopotamia. The Rabiṣu appears in a wide assortment of cuneiform texts, but it’s not exactly clear what it is (this amorphousness is pretty characteristic of Mesopotamian demons). Its name seems to come from the verb rabāṣu – to lie down or lurk, and many texts describe it lying in wait to strike unfortunate men who venture across its path, whether it’s hiding in a dark and dank well or has found its way into your own home. Continue reading

Imagining the Future in Bricks: The Designs of Lego Space (Part 2 – the 90s)

1993-ice-planet-112583-112683-eu

Last time we left it with the transition into the 90s and the beginning of the controversial neon era of Lego space. This is where it gets difficult for me to analyse things at all objectively. Although I had inherited some early Classic Space from my uncle and had picked up the odd small Futuron and Space Police set, it was with the early 90s sets that I was the right age to really get obsessed in a big way. Everything about these sets is, for me, coloured by nostalgia and immense affection. For a lot of the Lego fan community, this is a ‘silver age’, a come-down after the heights of Classic Space, but nothing will ever supplant the holy trinity of M:Tron, Ice Planet and the second Blacktron theme in my affections. Even so, let’s try and look at them as analytically as we can. Continue reading

Imagining the Future in Bricks: The Designs of Lego Space (Part 1 – 70s and 80s)

Space Lego.

d7ec9ccb26db0bf13e817c484c610909

Have there ever been two words that go together quite so evocatively and conjure such boundless possibility? From 1978 to 1999 Lego released an unbroken sequence of original space sets, more than twenty years’ worth of spaceships, bases, rovers and robots. I was lucky enough to grow up right in the middle of this, a geeky kid as fascinated by space and science fiction as I was by knights and castles. Needless to say, I had a lot of space Lego.

I’ve written elsewhere about my own experience of a childhood lived through Lego bricks, about how those little plastic pieces lent physical reality and material texture to my imagination, how they continue to encode memories of my early life. What I’m interested in here is the world of Lego Space itself, and how it drew from outside inspiration. These ship designs and imagined spaces that mean so much to me – loosely defined but vividly depicted – where did they come from?  What were the influences on the small group of predominantly Danish designers who created them? Continue reading

Phaistos Discuits!

I’ve finally made Phaistos Discuits! Full post over on the CREWS Blog.

We all love a good pun. And by ‘we’, I mean ‘I’, and by ‘good’ I mean ‘terrible’. So for a long time I’ve wanted to make ‘Phaistos Discuits’ – biscuit versions of the famous Phaistos Disc.

The Phaistos Disc is probably the most controversial inscription from ancient Crete, showing a ‘writing system’ (if that is what it is) that is almost unparalleled – a one-off as far as ancient inscriptions go. Despite some (really very unconvincing) attempts at decipherment, our understanding of this object remains extremely limited. However, it is just the perfect shape to turn into a biscuit!

DSC_0117_01

View original post 292 more words