A Study in Stone

Welcome to A Study in Stone: The History of Epigraphy. This exhibition will give you a fascinating insight into the history of classical inscriptions. Like many of the artefacts in our collection, Latin and Greek inscriptions often have interesting collecting histories.

Via Appia Imaginaria

Via Appia Imaginaria 

Piranesi's Veduta di Roma 

1756

Collecting histories make it possible for us to trace how inscriptions travelled from their original locations in Greece or Italy to places such as Lowther Castle in the UK before ending up in museum collections around the world. We invite you to share in the stories, not only of the people from antiquity honoured on these burial memorials, but also of modern travellers who collected them, and of scholars who catalogued them. It is through the interest and dedication of these people that we have the wonderful written accounts, illustrations and artefacts that we share with you today.

Most inscriptions in stone were written in Latin and Greek capitals. Many words were abbreviated to single letters, maximizing the use of space wherever possible. Although this exhibition focuses on funerary inscriptions in stone, messages carved in Latin and Greek were used, for example, to record official laws (often in bronze), list achievements on honorific statues and monuments, to create calendars and fasti, even to stamp pottery and to record personal messages.

Today epigraphists are interested in both the cultural contexts in which inscriptions were used as well as the material they contain.

'The history of classical antiquity could not be written without epigraphy...'

-Professor John Bodel.

A Study in Stone