Friday 2 October 2009

Ancient Blogging

If the Ancients could have blogged, what would they have talked about? Whenever I go to somewhere like the British Museum I'm always fascinated by the examples of ancient writing on display. Unfortunately the description panel next to the artifact usually reads something along the lines of "Ancient Text, Cuneiform, c 2400BC"... But what I really want to know is what does it say?
Is this some important document of State, a record of ancient Legislation, a religious document or a Declaration of War? Or is is some ancient Mesopotamian shopping list?
Things just get worse when you look at Egyptian Hieroglyphics. By their very nature they seem more exotic and evocative than other scripts of the same period. Often the artifacts on display have a religious significance but rarely do the museums have a full translation available to read. These words and the way they have been put together are a window on the soul of the writer and would help us understand the origin culture much better.
One of the few examples where a full translation is sometimes provided is in relation to the Vindolanda tablets. Discovered in 1973, the Vindolanda Tablets are wooden 'letters' dating back to 85 AD. They include mundane daily details such as an invitation to a birthday party or an expense claim for a Roman soldiers food and clothing. Hundreds of examples have been found and it has even been possible to track 'conversations'. This is like reading an ancient blog. These aren't letters about world events and important messages of State. These are the ordinary concerns and petty problems of real people. People that for all the centuries that has passed since then are still very much like us.

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