Entering the Future: the MASt biannual plan and strategy (2023/2024), new board, and social media expansion
§1. Rachele Pierini opened the Winter 2023 session of the MASt seminar by welcoming the participants to the January meeting. As previously announced, the Winter 2023 MASt seminar followed a different format than the usual format because of the special goals we set for this particular meeting. The MASt project is approaching its fourth year and is working with a larger and larger network of colleagues and array of subjects. Therefore, the editors Rachele Pierini and Tom Palaima decided that it was time to reflect on the past and establish new goals and directions for the future. Accordingly, they designed the Winter 2023 session so as to foster a collegial discussion on previous experimental sessions as well as formulating and exploring proposals for medium- and long-term visions.
§2. As a first concrete step, the editors presented a two-year plan for the MASt project. The main news is the modality of publication of the MASt seminars. We now have in place a carefully expanded editorial board and a new platform Classical Continuum. Together they provide a firm basis for three distinctive characteristics of our MASt project to flourish, namely (1) the peer-review process for the MASt papers and (2) the open-access policy of and (3) the rapid publication timeline for the MASt papers and subsequent discussion.
§3. In addition, the editors presented the strategy for social media, a new chapter in the MASt project.
§4. Finally, participants were invited to provide feedback on the MASt format, particularly on the past experimental sessions and the new plan and proposals to grow and keep the MASt project timely and updated while bearing in mind that a significant part of the MASt identity is the inclusive and friendly atmosphere that has characterized the MASt project since its inception.
The MASt board
§5. Pierini introduced the new MASt board, composed of highly experienced scholars from different fields of the Aegean Studies such as philology, linguistic, archaeology, Aegean scripts, palaeography, and history. The MASt board will also closely collaborate with steady members of the MASt network.
§6. Pierini also introduced the new platform for the publication of the MASt papers, Classical Continuum, a continuation of Classical Inquiries and the flagship journal of the Departments of Comparative Literature and Classics of Harvard University. Additionally, Pierini remarked that Classical Continuum is a free, peer-reviewed, open-access journal promoting rapid publication.
§7. The MASt board reads as follows.
Editor-in-chief: Rachele Pierini;
Editorial committee: Elena Džukeska, Joseph Maran, Leonard Muellner, Gregory Nagy, Marie-Louise Nosch, Thomas Olander, Birgit Olsen, Tom Palaima, Helena Tomas, Agata Ulanowska, Roger Woodard;
Secretary: Giulia Muti;
Editorial assistants: Linda Rocchi, Katarzyna Żebrowska;
Student assistant: Matilda Agdler.
§8. Pierini is Senior Researcher and Co-Director of the Centre for Textile Research at the University of Copenhagen. She is a philologist and a linguist, specialized in Bronze Age Aegean scripts. She particularly focuses on the Historical Linguistics of the Greek language since its Mycenaean attestations as well as the relationship between Mycenaean and the earliest reconstructible stages of the Indo-European. Pierini pioneered Mycenaean studies in her former institution, where they did not have a tradition of their own, and established there the Bronze Age Aegean studies as an area of research during her years as a PhD candidate. During the same years there, she also designed and taught courses on Linear B and mentored and supervised graduate and undergraduate students on the subject.
§9.1. Džukeska is Professor of Mycenaean Greek and Historical Grammar of Greek and Latin at the Institute of Classical Studies at the University of Skopje, North Macedonia. Her work focuses on comparative linguistics and the history of the Greek and Latin language. She is also interested in Greek technical and specialized languages, particularly the language of the Greek philosophers that largely contributed to the evolution of the Greek language as a whole.
§9.2. On a more personal note, Džukeska expressed her enthusiasm in being part of the MASt board as well as appreciation for the scientific quality of the MASt seminars. She also emphasized that a strong point of the MASt project is to provide a safe space to discuss a wide array of topics, a crucial step to expand own boundaries and the boundaries of our specialties in Aegean studies.
§10. Maran is Professor of Prehistory and Protohistory at Heidelberg University since 1996 and Director of the excavation at Tiryns on behalf of the German Archaeological Institute. A major focus of his research is the relation between monuments and social memory (a topic which he will discuss jointly with Eric Cline in the forthcoming Fall 2023 MASt seminar) and between architecture and society in the Bronze Age Aegean as well as the implications of intercultural contacts between Aegean societies and those in the surrounding regions of the Near East, the Balkans and the Central Mediterranean.
§11. Muellner is Professor Emeritus of Classical Studies at Brandeis University and Editor-in-chief of Harvard’s journal Classical Continuum. His work has a focus on Homeric epic and a special interest in historical linguistics, anthropological approaches to the study of myth, and the poetics of oral traditional poetry.
§12. Nagy is Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University. He worked and published on the Mycenaean tablets at an early stage of his career and he is now further deepening this field of research while also integrating it with his studies on archaic Greek literature and oral traditions. Two major focuses of his work have always been disseminating the knowledge of Classics and making it accessible to a wider audience as well as mentoring and supervising students, many of whom are now internationally renowned scholars. Accordingly, one of his ongoing goals, also in the MASt Project, is to integrate his research with collaborative as well as intergenerational mentorships and public engagement initiatives.
§13. Nosch is Professor at the University of Copenhagen. She is an historian and major focuses of her work are Aegean scripts, Aegean epigraphy, Mycenaean textile production, and cross-cultural study of textiles. She was General Secretary of CIPEM (Comité International Permanent d’Études Mycéniennes), the most important commission on Linear B studies, from 2010 to 2015; currently, she is President of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters.
§14. Olander is Associate Professor at the University of Copenhagen. He is an Indo-European linguist, specialized in linguistic phylogenetics, i.e. the study of the relationship between the various branches of the Indo-European language families. One of his latest publications focuses exactly on this topic: the 2022 collective volume, of which he is editor, The Indo-European Language Family: A Phylogenetic Perspective. Olander is also interested in archaeolinguistics and the interaction between archaeology and genetics, especially from the perspective of the spread of the Indo-European populations and languages.
§15. Olsen is Professor of Indo-European linguistics at the Department of Nordic Studies and Linguistics at the University of Copenhagen. She is former Associate Professor of Indo-European at the centre of excellence Roots of Europe—Language, Culture and Migrations, in which she has played a key role in research and organization since its creation in 2008. She is specialized in archaeolinguistics as well as in reconstructing the phonology, morphology and lexicon of the Indo-European languages, especially the kinship terminology and vocabulary of social institutions. She is working on Classical Armenian and the relationship between Armenian and Greek.
§16.1. Palaima is the Robert M. Armstrong Centennial Professor and the founding Director of the university’s Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory (PASP) in the Department of Classics at the University of Texas at Austin. He was also awarded a MacArthur fellowship in 1985 and received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Humanities at Uppsala University, Sweden, in 1994. Palaima has long worked on Aegean scripts, with a strong focus on paleography, scribal systems, the role of the Linear B tablets within the palace administration and economy, and the relationship between Linear B and the yet-to-be-deciphered Linear A. His work always aims at understanding human beings and human behaviors within their social, political and cultural contexts, including the impact of war and violence and the role of songs and songsters in communicating human thoughts and emotions.
§16.2. On a more personal note, Palaima emphasized the crucial role that the MASt project is playing in showing new approaches to the subject and critically discussing previous scholarship. He also stressed that a strong point of the MASt project is the intergenerational dialogue and the diversified background of its participants, from a variety of institutions and countries. Palaima credited Pierini for her vision of the MASt project, beautifully embodied in the current structure and future plans.
§17. Tomas is Professor of Bronze Age Archaeology and Head of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Zagreb, Croatia. Her main research interests concentrate on the transition between Linear A and Linear B scripts, the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean during the Bronze Age, Mycenaean epigraphy and administration, and the relationship between the Aegean, the Balkan Peninsula, and Central Europe during the Bronze Age.
§18. Ulanowska is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Archaeology University of Warsaw. A major focus of her work are Aegean, textile, experimental archeology, and seals and gender studies. She particularly deepened the topic of textiles in an internship conducted at the Polish Academy of Science of Łódź. Ulanowska pioneered a program about hands-on approaches to textile production in her own institution. Since 2011, she has taught classes on textile archaeology that focus on the Bronze Age Aegean and are based on experiential learning. Additionally, she directed the project “Textiles and Seals”, which also includes a website and a database, and directs and coordinates the international project “Euroweb. Europe through Textiles”, a COST action funded by the framework “New Horizon, Europe” that gathers 32 countries and almost 200 officially affiliated scholars.
§19. Woodard is Andrew V.V. Raymond Professor of Classics at the University at Buffalo. He works extensively on Greek literature, Greek and Indo-European religion and myth, the Greek alphabet and other writing systems, Indo-European linguistics, and the interaction between the Near East and Greece.
§20. Muti is an archaeologist specializing in Mediterranean islands and textile production, with a focus on prehistoric Cyprus. She received her PhD in Archaeology from the University of Manchester in 2020. She worked as a project curator for the Being an Islander: Art and Identity of the Large Mediterranean Islands project and exhibition (The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge). She currently holds the “E.J. Peltenburg Postdoctoral Fellowship in Cypriot Prehistory” (CAARI, Nicosia) to research changes in textile production and technology and their socio-economic value in the period encompassing the transition between the Middle and Late Bronze Age in Cyprus.
§21. Rocchi is Leverhulme Abroad Fellow at the Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen. Her work focuses on ancient Greek history, particularly on legal and institutional history, and her research interests also include epigraphy and papyrology. She obtained her PhD at the University of Edinburgh in 2022.
§22. Żebrowska is a PhD candidate at the University of Warsaw and an experienced editorial assistant who already has experience with international publishers and collective volumes as well as collaborations in long-term projects. Her research interests focus on the archaeology of prehistoric Sicily and the Aegean region. She specializes in the Italo-Aegean contacts, funerary architecture, especially in relation to landscape, as well as textile archaeology, in particular the functionality of textile tools.
§23. Agdler is a student of Indo-European linguistics at the University of Copenhagen. Currently, she is particularly interested in historical semantics, including the study of reconstructed linguistic meaning and its impact on our understanding of prehistoric culture and society.
Other regularly participating members
§24.1. Eric Cline, who will also be one of the speakers in the Fall 2023 MASt seminar, introduced himself as an archaeologist “digging all over the place but mostly at Tell Kabri and Megiddo in the last two decades”. Cline anticipated that the content of his MASt presentation in the Fall will be based on his forthcoming book, just accepted by Princeton University Press.
§24.2. The book, Cline remarked, aims at explaining the events following the collapse of the Late Bronze Age and at straddling the divide not only between Bronze Age and Iron Age but also between the Aegean and Near East. In particular, he specified, eight case studies are presented to illustrate what happens when society goes through a transformational episode. Having examined the case studies, Cline continued, the second half of the book explains to the general public why scholars do not conceptualize the Dark Age as such anymore. Cline stressed that he borrowed some technical terms from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and adapted the terminology currently used in disaster science (e.g., transformation, adaptation, coping, lack of coping) to the Late Bronze Age scenario. He also specified the term “anti-fragile” is instead borrowed from Nassim Nicholas Taleb and used to illustrate the case of the Phoenicians, who flourished in a time of chaos.
§25. Janice Crowley anticipated that she will present her forthcoming book ICON. Art and Meaning in Aegean Seal Images at the Summer 2023 MASt seminar, of which she will be a speaker. She stressed that the monograph aims to present to a wide audience the seal images in a thematic and chronological order and, subsequently, to step into a more technical interpretation. The focus of the book is the seals’ iconography because this is the most difficult aspect for non-specialists to understand, Crowley concluded.
§26. Hedvig Landenius Enegren is a steady a member of the MASt project and was also a speaker in the Fall 2021 MASt seminar. She is an archaeologist and her work focuses on Linear B tablets, Mycenaean prosopography, textile tool technology, prehistoric textiles in the Mediterranean basin, and the economic impact and role of textiles in the ancient world. Landenius Enegren is currently affiliated with the Swedish Institute of Classical Studies in Rome, with a project on textile tools from the institute’s excavations (1950–1970s). In the biennium 2012/2014 she was a Marie Curie Fellow at the Centre for Textile Research at the University of Copenhagen and co-organized with Marie Louise Nosch in 2015 the 14th Mycenological Colloquium. Landenius Enegren is a contributor to the Manuale di Lineare B (2016) and the Inscriptiones Graecae XV/1 (2020).
§27. Brent Vine introduced himself as a Classicist and Indo-Europeanist with a particular interest in Greek, its history and background, including Mycenaean Greek. Vine also expressed appreciation of the fact that MASt can now count many linguists in the group.
Discussion and feedback on the Summer session
§28. Pierini introduced the next point to be discussed, i.e. the Summer session of the MASt seminar. In last year’s MASt plan, the 2022 Summer meeting was intended to be devoted to PhD dissertations. Many goals were successfully achieved. Yet, the editors faced some challenges that have to be addressed by rethinking the plan. In the 2023 MASt plan the original proposal for the Summer session was to focus on projects, among which also PhD dissertations are included. The new plan marked a step forward but there was not yet full satisfaction. Below is a summary of the discussion we engaged in and the decision we made during the Winter 2023 MASt meeting.
§29. Crowley praised the capacity of the Summer session of the MASt seminars to bring together people from diverse backgrounds and offer a unique chance to young scholars to make their voices heard by more experienced scholars, at a very high level of intellectual engagement. Crowley then suggested that, instead of having two presentations from early research scholars, the MASt Summer sessions should have four or five short presentations. This, she emphasized, would facilitate getting the exposure and creating a small group to support each other.
§30.1. Tom Palaima raised the issue of protecting new research from rapid dispersion without publication and giving the correct amount of time to young researchers to create their research environment as well as the right time to gestate their ideas and create their own academic and research identity.
§30.2. In addition, Palaima reflected, the connection between the MASt project and Classical Continuum, a rapid publication project and a bonafide journal, helps to solve the question of publishing new research in a journal that facilitates new researchers while enhancing response by the academic environment.
§31. Roger Woodard remarked that presenting research ideas within the MASt framework is a way to claim them without the risk of dispersing them. However, he continued, an idea should not be put into print without it being fully developed. He then added that the MASt presentations should be about fairly brief portions of a larger project or some succinct summary of integrated ideas.
§32. Agata Ulanowska highlighted that European institutions have a slightly different perspective and encourage the participation of early career researchers in conferences and other dissemination events. In some cases, she observed, PhD students are required to have a publication record before they defend the thesis. As such, the opportunity offered by the MASt Summer session could be key for them—Ulanowska concluded.
§33. Rachele Pierini pointed out that there is a different scenario in the US and in Europe for PhD candidates, early career students, and early career researchers, who are required to meet different conditions and obligations. As organizer, one of the challenges she faced in designing the Summer session of the MASt seminar was exactly to find a format guaranteeing equal opportunities and accessibility to early career researchers all over the world, regardless of their geographical provenience—Pierini remarked.
§34. Crowley added that, being more familiar with the United States and British and Australian systems, she visualizes the typical participant to the Summer Session as a PhD candidate having just submitted or obtained their PhD. Being at this relatively advanced stage of their research would constitute a safeguard for presenting their original ideas.
§35. Pierini stressed that the MASt project is now linked to a fully peer reviewed journal, which marks a step forward. However, the issue of different requirements from different countries remains, and the challenge is still to find a formula guaranteeing fairness and inclusivity regardless of the provenance—Pierini continued.
§36. Hedvig Landenius Enegren observed that the MASt seminars welcome the presentation of a very wide array of approaches and perspectives, thus providing a truly unique opportunity for both young and experienced researchers. In addition, she continued, the peer review process before publication guarantees the scientific quality of the final product.
§37. Kim Shelton pointed out that MASt, in so doing, would push the PhD students in sharing and articulating their work. This, she observed, is very important at an advanced stage of the PhD as it means to encourage the students to re-emerge from having been lost in their own self and subject matters. Potentially, she added, the MASt environment could even encourage them to talk to each other before and after the session, as well as automatically having a whole group of mentors that are supportive of them.
§38. Brent Vine asked whether it is mandatory to restrict the Summer sessions to PhD students who are about to finish their dissertation or whether it would be worth including students at any stage and degree.
§39. Palaima welcomed the idea to be flexible and proposed to open the Summer sessions to a general rubric of advanced graduates or advanced students.
§40. Cassandra Donnelly emphasized that she finished her dissertation recently and experienced the final couple of months as some of her least communicative moments. She also reflected that the most productive times as a graduate student were when she was able to make the most connections, which happened in the final years of her PhD dissertation, right when she had started to have an idea of what she wanted to do. Donnelly endorsed Shelton’s idea of encouraging the younger students to create a cohort amongst themselves.
§41. Pierini expressed her concern as organizer that a proposal such as “advanced students” is a subjective definition, whereas a criterion must be objective. Instead, she proposed to remove the criterion entirely, establish a call for papers, and let the board evaluate and select the proposals.
§42. Palaima and Landenius Enegren seconded the idea to let the board decide what papers will be presented and in what session.
§43. Brigit Olsen and Donnelly agreed on removing criteria and submitting proposals directly to the board.
Discussion and feedback on the strategy for social media
§44. Pierini moved forward with the next point of discussion, i.e. the social media strategy. She highlighted that the short-term plan is to create a MASt profile on up to three social media platforms and publish two posts each week to share excerpts from the published MASt papers and presenting the speakers and the board members. In addition, Pierini stressed that the medium- and long-term plan aims to enhance dissemination and participation by spreading the information widely and, possibly, livestreaming the MASt seminars. However, some board members highlighted that the latter point implies further consequences that are worth addressing and weighting. Accordingly, a decision was made to update the discussion in Fall 2023 by organizing a staff meeting with the MASt board and the steady members to evaluate whether to introduce the livestream modality into the MASt seminars.
§45. Giulia Muti, who will work directly with the social media MASt platforms, explained that the social media plan is meant to be a starting point to familiarize with the internet community to be updated as it develops. The goal, she illustrated, is to begin by opening MASt pages or profiles on three main social networks (e.g. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and publish weekly two posts or short stories. Examples of posts, she remarked, will cover the topics discussed in the previous and forthcoming seminars, with references and links to the published reports, and bio notes of the speakers.
§46. Pierini confirmed that a follow-up internal meeting is already in the calendar of the MASt team and scheduled in six months from now so as to monitor the progression on the social media plan and have data upon which to build future plans and strategies.
§47. Ulanowska kindly offered to share the Euroweb social media experience with the MASt team.
§48. Vassiliki Pliatsika suggested the creation of a platform or social media space where early career researchers can ask questions to senior scholars.
§49. Pierini observed that this might be a solution to boost the presence of younger scholars within the MASt seminars as well as the intergenerational dialogue. A proposal might be to gather questions and short presentations throughout the year through social media platforms and then have a MASt session in which senior scholars provide answers to the questions and feedback on the short presentations.
The 2023/2024 MASt plan and goals
§50. Below is a summary of the 2023/2024 MASt plan and goals that Pierini circulated in advance within the MASt network.
§51. To consolidate the growth of the MASt project and set the foundation for future expansion, we established the following goals for the biennium 2023/2024:
§52. Expand the meaning of “classics” by examining the societies inhabiting both sides of the Aegean area during the Bronze Age;
§53. Maintain the open access policy that the MASt papers have had since its foundation by publishing on Classical Continuum;
§54. Keep propelling community-building by implementing the MASt network and fostering collegial interaction in the debate session of the seminars;
§55. Compare the Bronze Age Aegean cultures in an interdisciplinary fashion: linguistically, archaeologically, philologically, palaeographically, iconographically;
§56. Foster multilingualism and multiculturalism by examining languages like the language(s) that Linear A encodes, Hittite, Akkadian, Ugaritic, Sumerian, Egyptian, Pregreek, and the Aegean substrate; by analyzing Greek historical morphophonology, Indo-European linguistics, and the relationship of Mycenaean Greek with the earliest reconstructible stages of the Indo-European and the other Indo-European language branches; and by exploring the interface between languages, culture, and archaeological finds of these societies;
§57. Gain a better understanding of our shared traditions and cultures by identifying key elements of Bronze Age Aegean societies and mutatis mutandis their legacy now into the 3rd millennium CE and reevaluating the development of theories as they have developed through time;
§58. Maintain a strong focus on primary sources: written sources, archaeological sources, iconographic sources, anthropological and historical comparanda, and linguistics and history of scholarship.
Discussion and feedback on the 2023/2024 MASt goals
§59. Pierini, then, moved the discussion to the fourth and last point of the meeting’s agenda, the discussion of the MASt project’s goals for the next two years. She invited the participants to provide feedback on how to expand the MASt horizons and promote interaction and inclusiveness.
§60. Woodard observed that, in terms of expanding its coverage, MASt could move into considering Bronze Age Anatolia, Syria, Palestine, and even Persia and Mesopotamia, as the Greek world interacted with all of these regions.
§61. Palaima agreed with Woodard and remarked that the MASt seminars have been pioneering in being seriously collegial. This way, he continued, both the speakers and all the participants have benefited from putting forward an idea. MASt is a place in which scholars can take advantage of the tremendous brain power and the diversity of interests at play as well as of other scholars operating in the most variegated fields—Palaima concluded.
§62. As editors, Palaima and Pierini observed that the discussions in the MASt seminars have always been very fruitful and productive. Respectful disagreement, they added, has always been not only welcomed but also encouraged since a thorough discussion of aspects like doubts, grey areas, and inconsistencies is crucial to bring the subject a step forward.
§63. Concerning the width of the topics covered in the MASt seminars, Crowley stressed that interconnections are fascinating but the focus on the Aegean world should always be kept the primary focus to prevent the risk of fragmentation.
§64. Pierini stressed that the Aegean area is and will always be the main focus of the MASt seminars, as the name MASt itself (Meetings on Aegean Studies) emphasizes. What is encouraged and welcome are comparisons since this approach implies a focus also on the Aegean material.
§65. Pierini invited all the participants to offer a final remark.
§66. All the participants agreed on acknowledging that the expanded editorial board is a major step forward for the MASt project. The cohesive, supportive, inter-disciplinary, and inter-generational environment of the MASt seminar was also highlighted. Finally, it was recommended to keep the presentations within the allocated 20-minute timeframe so as to have enough time for the collegial discussion, a major strong point of the MASt seminars.
§67. Rachele Pierini concluded the Winter 2023 MASt seminar by thanking all the participants and stressing that the success of the project is tightly interwoven with the excellent scientific quality of the presentations as well as the committed participation of the MASt network and the exceptional scientific quality of the comments the MASt members provide in the discussions.