26 July 2009

A seminar on ancient languages and epigraphy. Gandia 2009.

Last week I attended the XXV Seminari de Llengües i d'Epigrafia Antigues, organized by the Acadèmia de Cultura Valenciana and directed by José Aparicio. It took place in Gandia, a city on the Mediterranean coast near Valencia, famous for its wide sandy beaches. However, the programme of the seminar was so full, with lectures and other activities, that we didn't have much time to enjoy the sunshine or the beaches, but I must say it really was worth the effort. One of the most interesting activities was a trip to an archaeological site, the Iberian settlement of El Molón, in Camporrobles (see picture on the left), about 100 kms west of Valencia. We had an excellent guide for this tour: the archaeologist Alberto Lorrio (University of Alicante), who has directed the excavations at El Molón in recent years. He gave us an informative and detailed description of the site, highlighting the fact that it shows a mixture of Celtiberian (i.e. Celtic) and Iberian elements, as it was located on borderline territory in ancient times. Professor Lorrio spoke both as an expert in Iberian and Celtiberian archaeology (you can see a list of publications here) and as someone who really loves his job and who has fought hard for the preservation of El Molón and other sites. The tour was most enjoyable, the only little problem being the scorching heat in the July afternoon!

The participants in the Seminar were among the leading scholars in the field of pre-Roman languages and epigraphy of the Iberian Peninsula: Javier Velaza (Univesitat de Barcelona), Xaverio Ballester (Universitat de Valencia), Eugenio Luján (Universidad Complutense de Madrid), Joan Ferrer (Universitat de Barcelona), Jaime Siles (Universitat de Valencia) and others. There were also some students, both under- and post-graduate, from various classical departments. The lectures covered a wide variety of topics: archaeology, toponymy, Iberian language, ancient scripts, etc., and the ensuing debates, in which both professors and students participated, provided an interesting opportunity for the exchange of ideas. In one of the lectures, for example, we were shown a recently discovered Iberian sculpture, representing the head of an animal. There was a short inscription in Iberian alphabet on the stone, and we discussed the possible reading of the text. The most amusing activity, however, was to try to guess the animal species that was depicted in the sculpture. There were all kinds of suggestions: a horse, an Iberian lynx, even a monk seal, and it seems, using parallel evidence from other classical sources, that the latter was the likeliest option, which came as a surprise (at least to me). If I have the chance, I'll publish a picture of this Iberian monk seal in a future post.

During the seminar, a new issue of Elea was presented. Elea is a journal in which some of the papers from previous seminars are collected. In this issue (nº 9, see picture), there are some interesting articles from the 2006, 2007 and 2008 seminars. Furthermore, the editors have included a selection of classical papers on pre-Roman languages and scripts, by authors such as Jürgen Untermann and W. Meyer-Lübke, which is quite useful for the researcher.

Attending this seminar has been an enriching experience for me, especially because it has shown me a different, more personal approach to the world of academia. I must also thank the organizers for their brilliant job.

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