Articles

Our new article will be out in the next issue of the Annual of the British School at Athens no. 116. It will be in Open Access soon!

 

WHAT IS THE ‘ARCHANES FORMULA’? DECONSTRUCTING AND RECONSTRUCTING THE EARLIEST ATTESTATION OF WRITING IN THE AEGEAN

 

Silvia Ferrara, Barbara Montecchi and Miguel Valério

 

Abstract. This article examines the earliest attestations of writing on Crete at the beginning of the second millennium bce, the so-called ‘Archanes formula’. The aim is to reassess its origin, purpose, significance and ‘reading’ through a multi-step analysis taking in details of palaeography, correlations with iconographic seal motifs, and material culture. Key issues are considered, namely the extent to which is it comparable with the Linear A ‘libation formula’ a-sa-sa-ra-me, or, conversely, whether it should be singled out as a separate writing tradition. To address these questions, the ‘Archanes formula’ is brought under close scrutiny, vis-à-vis the graphic repertoires of Cretan Hieroglyphic and, in parallel, Linear A. Our conclusions point towards a strong connection with the Cretan Hieroglyphic milieu, in terms of sign shapes and direct links to seal imagery. In this light, the earliest writing in the Aegean is revisited not so much as a script in itself, nor as a prequel to Linear A religious sequences, but as a direct manifestation of the iconic glyptic practices of the Hieroglyphic tradition.

 

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/annual-of-the-british-school-at-athens/article/abs/what-is-the-archanes-formula-deconstructing-and-reconstructing-the-earliest-attestation-of-writing-in-the-aegean/657BDB5299A3691044B618C80E8B9B65

REVIEW OF L. GODART AND A. SACCONI 'LES ARCHIVES DU ROI NESTOR, CORPUS DES INSCRIPTIONS DE LINEAIRE B DE PYLOS', BMCR

 

Silvia Ferrara

 

DOI: https://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2020/2020.12.28/

 

NUMERACY AT THE DAWN OF WRITING: MESOPOTAMIA AND BEYOND, HISTORIA MATHEMATICA

 

Miguel Valério and Silvia Ferrara

 

Keywords: Numeracy; Abstract; Concrete; Writing; Tokens; Numerical notations

Abstract. Numeracy and writing constitute different phenomena, whose paths of formation often appear intertwined. Here we reassess the theory that numeracy evolved universally from a concrete to an abstract concept of number, and that that shift is correlated with the invention of writing. First, we gather contemporary linguistic data and early Mesopotamian epigraphic evidence that indicates that the ‘concrete’ vs. ‘abstract’ dichotomy is not useful to understand the emergence of numbers. Then, we discuss evidence from other regions where writing was probably invented independently, in order to investigate the conceptualization and formation of early numerical notations.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hm.2020.08.002

 

 

THE MATHEMATICAL VALUES OF FRACTION SIGNS IN THE LINEAR A SCRIPT: A COMPUTATIONAL, STATISTICAL AND TYPOLOGICAL APPROACH (2020)

 

Michele Corazza, Silvia Ferrara, Barbara Montecchi, Fabio Tamburini, and Miguel Valério

 

Keywords: Linear A script: Minoan Crete; Fraction signs; Constraint programming; Numerical notations

Abstract. Minoan Linear A is still an undeciphered script mainly used for administrative purposes on Bronze Age Crete. One of its most enigmatic features is the precise mathematical values of its system of numerical fractions. The aim of this article is to address this issue through a multi-stranded methodology that comprises palaeographical examination and statistical, computational, and typological approaches. Taking on from previous analyses, which suggested hypothetical values for some fractions, we extended our probe into assessing values for some problematic ones. The results achieved, based, on the one hand, on a close palaeographical analysis and, on the other, on computational, statistical and typological strategies, show a remarkable convergence and point towards a systematic assignment of mathematical values for the Linear A fraction signs. This contribution sets the agenda for a combinatorial, novel, and unbiased approach that may help advance our comprehension of some standing issues related to ancient undeciphered writing systems.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2020.105214

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REBUS AND ACROPHONY IN INVENTED WRITING (2020)

 

Miguel Valério and Silvia Ferrara

 

Keywords: Rebus, acrophony, phonetisation, script formation

Abstract. Rebus and acrophony are crucial in the development of ancient invented scripts from Mesopotamia (cuneiform), China, Mesoamerica (Maya), Egypt, and scripts which may have been created through exposure to literate cultures (Anatolian Hieroglyphic and Nahuatl). Yet, these two linguistic mechanisms have been understudied from a terminological, contextual and comparative perspective. This article aims to address issues regarding their definition, development and application in script formation. The scope of our study is all attested writing systems that are largely iconic in their sign repertoire, and whose phonetic values were generated anew based on an underlying language (hence ‘invented’). This allows us to chart how writing systems are created ex novo and what trajectories of development are put into practice when phonetisation takes place. We show some reliable patterns of universal mechanisms, observable from a comparative perspective. We also demonstrate that these patterns attest to a verifiable degree of phonological awareness that ties the process of phonetisation to the path to script formation. We further highlight that the tendencies discerned from deciphered writing systems provide ways to test hypotheses in the study of iconic writing systems which are undeciphered, such as the Indus Valley script and the Rongorongo of Easter Island.

 

Reference: Miguel Valério & Silvia Ferrara (2020) Rebus and acrophony in invented writing, Writing Systems Research, DOI: 10.1080/17586801.2020.1724239

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3D MODELLING OF THE MAMARI TABLET FROM THE RONGORONGO CORPUS: ACQUISITION, PROCESSING ISSUES, AND OUTCOMES (2019)

 

Lorenzo Lastilla, Roberta Ravanelli, Miguel Valério, and Silvia Ferrara

 

Keywords: 3D modelling, Laser scanning, Structured light, Precise 3D digitization, Rongorongo inscriptions

Abstract. Rongorongo is an undeciphered script inscribed on wooden objects from Easter Island (Rapa Nui) in the Pacific Ocean. The existing editions of the inscriptions, and their widespread locations in museums and archives all over the world today constitute a serious obstacle to any objective paleographical assessment. Thus, with a view to a potential decipherment, creating 3D models of the available corpus is of crucial importance, and one of the objectives of the ERC INSCRIBE project, based at the University of Bologna with Professor S. Ferrara as Principal Investigator. In this preliminary work, we present the results of the 3D digitization of the Mamari tablet, one of the longest inscriptions in Rongorongo, housed in the Museum Archives of the Congregazione dei Sacri Cuori di Gesù e Maria in Rome. The tablet is made of wood, with a shiny reflecting surface, characterized by a mainly dark texture. The 3D modelling was carried out with the ScanRider 1.2 laser scanner manufactured by VGER, based on Structured Light technology, taking care to ensure the legibility of each sign while preserving the overall shape of the object as precisely as possible. To overcome the difficulties inherent in the object’s complex fabric, the Mamari tablet was acquired in separate sections (joined together during processing through specific markers), thus managing to optimize the optical parameters of the laser scanner, such as the exposure of the camera and the depth of field of the projector. Furthermore, an evaluation of the 3D reconstruction precision was also carried out, highlighting a precision of few hundredths of millimeters, in agreement with the claimed nominal standard deviation. In addition to the 3D model produced, one of the main results of this endeavor was the definition of a successful method to scan such complex objects, which will be replicated to finalize the complete 3D modelling of the whole Rongorongo corpus of inscriptions.

 

Full reference: Lastilla, L., Ravanelli, R., Valério, M., and Ferrara, S.: 3D MODELLING OF THE MAMARI TABLET FROM THE RONGORONGO CORPUS: ACQUISITION, PROCESSING ISSUES, AND OUTCOMES, Int. Arch. Photogramm. Remote Sens. Spatial Inf. Sci., XLII-2/W18, 85–89, https://doi.org/10.5194/isprs-archives-XLII-2-W18-85-2019, 2019.

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3D HIGH-QUALITY MODELING OF SMALL AND COMPLEX ARCHAEOLOGICAL INSCRIBED OBJECTS: RELEVANT ISSUES AND PROPOSED METHODOLOGY (2019)

 

Lorenzo Lastilla, Roberta Ravanelli, and Silvia Ferrara

 

Keywords: 3D Modeling, Close-range Photogrammetry, Laser Scanner, Focus Stacking, Small Inscribed Objects

Abstract. 3D modelling of inscribed archaeological finds (such as tablets or small objects) has to consider issues related to the correct acquisition and reading of ancient inscriptions, whose size and degree of conservation may vary greatly, in order to guarantee the needed requirements for visual inspection and analysis of the signs. In this work, photogrammetry and laser scanning were tested in order to find the optimal sensors and settings, useful to the complete 3D reconstruction of such inscribed archaeological finds, paying specific attention to the final geometric accuracy and operative feasibility in terms of required sensors and necessary time. Several 3D modelling tests were thus carried out on four replicas of inscribed objects, which are characterized by different size, material and epigraphic peculiarities. Specifically, in relation to photogrammetry, different cameras and lenses were used and a robust acquisition setup, able to guarantee a correct and automatic alignment of images during the photogrammetric process, was identified. The focus stacking technique was also investigated. The Canon EOS 1200D camera equipped with prime lenses and iPad camera showed respectively the best and the worst accuracy. From an overall geometric point of view, 50 mm and 100 mm lenses achieved very similar results, but the reconstruction of the smallest details with the 50 mm lens was not appropriate. On the other hand, the acquisition time for the 50 mm lens was considerably lower than the 100 mm one. In relation to laser scanning, the ScanRider 1.2 model was used. The 3D models produced (in less time than using photogrammetry) clearly highlight how this scanner is able to reconstruct even the high frequencies with high resolution. However, the models in this case are not provided with texture. For these reasons, a robust procedure for integrating the texture of photogrammetry models with the mesh of laser scanning models was also carried out.

 

Full reference: Lastilla, L., Ravanelli, R., and Ferrara, S.: 3D HIGH-QUALITY MODELING OF SMALL AND COMPLEX ARCHAEOLOGICAL INSCRIBED OBJECTS: RELEVANT ISSUES AND PROPOSED METHODOLOGY, Int. Arch. Photogramm. Remote Sens. Spatial Inf. Sci., XLII-2/W11, 699-706, https://doi.org/10.5194/isprs-archives-XLII-2-W11-699-2019, 2019.

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