Great Discoveries & Current Research

The Decipherment of Linear B

In 1952, Michael Ventris made the spectacular discovery that the language represented by the ‘Linear B’ tablets unearthed by Sir Arthur Evans in Crete, was in fact an early form of Greek. At a stroke this pushed the beginnings of Greek history back a thousand years. Ventris’ papers were left to the Institute of Classical Studies, and a Mycenaean seminar continues to this day, using the resources of the Library.

The Rediscovery of Menander

Beginning in the late 1950s, extensive remains of the plays of the Greek comic poet Menander (ca. 342–291 BC) came to light in fragments of ancient papyrus rolls. This was a true resurrection of a long-lost literary giant. Sir Eric Turner and Professor Eric Handley, working in the Library, between them restored five plays to the world: The Carthaginian; The Flatterer; The Hated Man; The Ghost; and The Twice-Deceiver.

The Aegean Seals Project

Thousands of Bronze Age seals, beautifully engraved miniatures on precious stones and other material, tell us much about ancient life and art in Minoan Crete and Mycenaean Greece. The Institute is an integral partner in an international team publishing and commenting on these amazing artefacts. The work is done in the Library.

The Ancient Theatre Project

This long-established, international project identifies and catalogues the vast corpus of archaeological materials relating to ancient Greco-Roman theatre: representations of stage scenes, actors in costume, masks and other theatrical equipment in many different media – sculpture, vase painting, terracotta figures, bronzes, mosaics, and gems. A dedicated archive is housed in the Library.

The Naukratis Project

Naukratis was the earliest site of Greek settlement in Egypt, in the seventh century BC. This international collaborative project combines the historical and scientific restudy of the early excavations with a new programme of state-of-the-art fieldwork.  The collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of the work affords new insights into how Greeks, Egyptians and others lived, traded and interacted in this city and sheds new light on the lasting impact of these cultural exchanges.

Imagines Italicae

This 'monumentally important work for Italic epigraphy and linguistics' (Bryn Mawr Classical Review) publishes the surviving records of the many peoples of Italy who spoke the languages called 'Italic', which disappeared as the Romans took control and as Latin became the common language of Italy. Edited by Michael Crawford (Hon. Librarian 1994-2016) and colleagues, the project provides for the first time a complete corpus of these texts, accompanied by photographs or drawings, a critical apparatus, an English translation where possible, a bibliography, and a full account of their discovery and archaeological context. It provides the essential tool for all those working on the languages and history of Italy before the Romans.