Monday, August 15, 2005

LARTH marches on

The wireless is working at home now, and I can work from my own computer. Eugepae! One of the first things I did was to update my Emporical Images site with some new pics sent by a friend in Germany after his visit to Copenhagen. I want it to be an emporion for the empirical study of Antiquity, hence the name. Despite all the interesting-looking categories taking up space above it, the real heart of the site is in the Italic Military sections, in particular helmets.

In the fall of 2003, while studying at the Centro, I started a weekly study group called LARTH (Languages of Antiquity Research for Thrill and Honour). We met every Thursday (or was it Friday?) night for an introduction to a particular language. Each session included historical context, writing system, basics of grammar, and some original material for translation. My friend Pat Owens and I teamed up for the first session on Faliscan and Old Latin. Pat later presented Linear B Greek; I gave Umbrian, Oscan and an abortive attempt at Sumerian, and Ari Gerstman gave us Biblical Hebrew. I would note that Sumerian was not presented only because that night was too near to the end of the program and people's priorities lay elsewhere -- the handouts are in a box somewhere...

This summer, I was a Resident Assistant at the Lancaster site of the Center for Talented Youth, a program for academically-advanced 12-16 year-olds. I'd applied too late to get a TA position, but I think I had more fun as an RA than I would've as a TA. In any case, RAs organize afternoon activities for the students on a daily basis. I decided to revive LARTH for one activity period each session. I chose Etruscan and eliminated most of the hardcore linguistic material.

I gave an introduction the Etruscans and their language. After a brief tutorial with the alphabet, I had them cut out and assemble dice with Etruscan number-names, then using the rule that opposite sides add to 7 elicited the Etruscan names for 6 (huth), 5 (mach) and 4 (sha) given 1 (thu), 2 (zal) and 3 (ci). Next I (or rather my lovely assistants Marya and Alice) distributed the shards of terracotta planting pots we'd (deliberately) broken on the sidewalk behind the office. I had them write their names in Etruscan letters: for the second session, my supply request for a box of nails was approved, while the first session kids had to make do with markers. The questions that arose over how to represent sounds not present in Etruscan were illustrative of the difficulties the Etruscans themselves faced when writing Greek and other foreign names. This was as far as I got first session; the 43 kids who signed up generated more questions than I'd anticipated. Second session, with only about 20, we moved on to some fun with divination: they each cut out a diagram of the Piacenza liver and I showed them how to orient (or rather meridient) themselves and had them read the names of some principal divinities.

Both sessions were a blast and the kids had fun, too, besides lots of intelligent questions.

No comments: