skip to content

Faculty of Classics

 
linear b

The Mycenaean Epigraphy Group is dedicated to the study of Linear B, a script used in Bronze Age Crete and Greece (c.1400-1200 B.C.E.) to write an early form of Greek, known as ‘Mycenaean’. It also encompasses the study of other related scripts from Crete (Linear A and Cretan Hieroglyphic) and Cyprus (Cypro-Minoan and the Cypriot Syllabary), as well as of the societies that created and used these scripts.

Cambridge has a long tradition of Linear B scholarship, reaching back to Michael Ventris’ decipherment of the script in 1952 and its publication by Ventris and the Cambridge classicist John Chadwick in 1953. It holds the single most important Linear B reference collection and archives in the world, and remains a major research centre, as well as offering undergraduate and graduate courses studying Linear B.

The origins of the Mycenaean Epigraphy Group lie with John Chadwick. After the seminal research meeting at Gif-sur-Yvette in 1956 a wonderfully international spirit of communication was opened up among scholars working on the decipherment. This led to Mycenologists world-wide drawing together to form the Comité International Permanent des Études Mycéniennes (International Permanent Committee of Mycenaean Studies), under the auspices of UNESCO. One undertaking of the committee was that research centres should be set up in various different countries: these would hold literature and archives essential for working on Linear B and encourage scholarship on the material. Chadwick established the Mycenaean Epigraphy Group as the research centre for the United Kingdom.

The Mycenaean Epigraphy Room was founded in the 1960s in university offices in Laundress Lane, overlooking the Mill Pond. In those days the Faculty of Classics was located in a house in Silver Street, which housed a small administrative office, and buildings leased from Peterhouse in Little St Mary’s Lane. This building (which is now Peterhouse’s Library) housed a lecture theatre and the famous cast collection of the Museum of Classical Archaeology (commonly known as “the Ark”). When the Faculty moved to its present location, on the Sidgwick site, Mycenaean Epigraphy moved to a purpose-built room in the new building.

Many of the scholars now prominent in Mycenology throughout the world were trained at the Laundress Lane and Sidgwick sites, or have come as visiting scholars. Thanks to its unique collections, the Mycenaean Epigraphy Group remains a vibrant research centre and a leading hub for those working on Linear B and other related scripts.

Latest news

John Donaldson

27 September 2022

The Museum of Classical Archaeology is very sad to report the death on 21 September 2022 of its former Assistant Curator, John Donaldson. John worked in the Museum from 1988 until his retirement in in March 2013. Indeed, the Museum looks the way it does in large part because of John, who was as happy painting bases as he...

Joyce Reynolds FBA (1918–2022)

12 September 2022

The Faculty of Classics is deeply saddened by the news of the death of Joyce Reynolds FBA. She was Reader Emerita in Roman Historical Epigraphy, Fellow of the British Academy, and Honorary Fellow of Newnham College, where she was Director of Studies in Classics from 1951 to 1979. She was awarded the Gold Medal of the...

BBC Radio 4 - Reflections on Majesty, Mary Beard

12 September 2022

Mary Beard is one of ten writers and scholars invited by the BBC to reflect on their experience of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Follow the link below to listen: Listen here

Visual Interactions in Early Writing Systems (VIEWS) awarded ERC grant

16 March 2022

Philippa Steele, Senior Research Associate at the Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge, has been awarded a grant of 2 million euros by the European Research Council (ERC) to investigate the visual properties of pre-modern writing. The five-year project, Visual Interactions in Early Writing Systems (VIEWS), will...