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British School at Athens Epigraphy Course

Miriam Hay (Taught MA student) reports:

The 2013 Postgraduate Epigraphy Course at the British School at Athens, from 24th March to 7th April, offered a theoretical and practical grounding in epigraphy to attendees. It brought together students from universities up and down Britain and beyond, with a wide variety of interests and specialisms, all looking for an introduction to what the study of inscriptions could bring to their own research.

We began the fortnight with sessions in the School’s own museum, which outlined the history and classification of inscribed objects, and gave us the opportunity to handle some artefacts ourselves, including examples of pottery, weights and sling bullets. We were also given an overview of different methods of recording the text from a stone, from tracing onto acetate to squeezes, and the ethics, limitations and appropriate uses of these methods. To conclude we made our first tentative attempts at producing our own squeezes from some of the School’s collection of stones.

The second stage of the course, alternating with further illuminating lectures from Prof. Leslie Threatte on dialects and Prof. David Braund on the inscriptions of the Black Sea region, were the trips to see epigraphy ‘in the wild’. We started with the main sites in Athens – the Acropolis, Agora and Kerameikos cemetery – and then later the Amphiareion at Oropus. The town of Rhamnous with its unfinished temple of Nemesis was a particular highlight: we had a stunning view of the sun-bathed town against the sea and Euboea in the background, before walking through its streets to see the inscriptions outside the walls, including a bench transformed by incisions into a gaming table. The final trip was to Delphi; it is only by walking through the site along the processional route that the impact of the unique inscriptional space can be fully grasped.

During the final week we each investigated one or two inscriptions, studying the stones at the Epigraphical Museum and following up with research in the School’s library. This gave us the chance to apply the knowledge and skills we had acquired to produce our own editions, and to put together a presentation on our findings for the group at the end of the fortnight. One of the benefits of the course was the flexibility to accommodate everyone’s areas of interest; thus in light of my interest in Christian epigraphy, I was assigned two Late Antique stones to examine, one of which I was particularly lucky to see, as it was usually kept locked away in the rarely accessed room of late material. Learning how to produce my own edition turned out to be the best way to gain confidence in using the real publications, and we all came away having found out something new about our stones. I had also intended to conduct research while in Athens for my own project on the display of inscriptions in museums (to be published online this summer), and not only were the trips to museums as part of the course very useful for this, the course leaders themselves were very helpful and supportive of the project.

I am very grateful to the British Epigraphy Society for their generous support in funding my trip, and can only encourage other postgraduates to consider applying to the British School at Athens Epigraphy Course themselves.