Greek in Italy

Project Research Blog

The CREWS project

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If you’ve enjoyed following the the progress of the Greek in Italy project, then there is a new major research project in the Faculty of Classics that you will be interested in.


The CREWS project (Contexts of and Relations between Early Writing Systems) is a European Research Council funded project hosted at the Faculty of Classics, Cambridge, led by our colleague Pippa Steele.

Pippa has started a blog for the project, which began in April, and explains here the context and aims of the project. One of the things the project will do is to look at the relationships between different scripts in the ancient Mediterranean – these relationships definitely existed, but it’s not always clear exactly how they work or when they came about.

There are very few writing systems that look like completely ex novo creations (and indeed there is still plenty of debate on which ancient systems were entirely new creations). Most known writing systems are related to other ones. Did you know, for example, that the Roman alphabet that is used for modern English and many other languages is also closely related to the modern Hebrew, Greek and Cyrillic alphabets? Looking back at historical developments, we can reconstruct how they are related to each other, creating a picture somewhat akin to a ‘family tree’ – for instance the Greek alphabet is an ancestor of the Roman alphabet, while the Hebrew alphabet is more like a cousin to the Greek one, and so on. These relations tell us about other sorts of relationships too, because in order for a new writing system to be developed from an old one, there must also be contact between groups of people. Why and how did one group decide to adopt writing from another, and how did they make it their own? The relations between different writing systems give evidence for connections between different cultures and societies across the world.

We’re all looking forward to following this fascinating project as it develops.

There are several opportunities coming up to be part of the CREWS project team. There is currently a PhD studentship in early Greek alphabets available to start in October 2016, and there will also be post-doc opportunities linked to the project. You can find details through the CREWS website.

Author: KM

Cambridge, UK.

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