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Silvia Ferrara

Professoressa ordinaria

Dipartimento di Filologia Classica e Italianistica

Settore scientifico disciplinare: L-FIL-LET/01 CIVILTA EGEE

Curriculum vitae


Researcher ORCID 0000-0003-2498-7666

Date of birth 12/05/1976

ERC project:


Presentation on my research: (ENG) (IT)


Specialised on ancient writing systems, Silvia Ferrara has developed multi-stranded techniques on the decoding of the Aegean Bronze Age scripts, the earliest in Europe, and published the results on international peer-reviewed journals. She is also an expert on the invention of writing in the world, Mesopotamia, China, Mesoamerica and Egypt. She has published two monographs with Oxford University Press, and a wide array of articles in the top-end tier journals in the field. Her latest monograph, Writing and Cognition, Harnessing Shapes into Signs is in the works with Cambridge University Press and will be out in later 2024.

The book with Feltrinelli, La Grande Invenzione was published in 2019 and  translated into several countries, in the USA as The Greatest Invention (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), UK (Picador), Germany (Beck), France (La fabuleuse histoire de l’invention de l'écriture, Seuil), Spain (Anagrama), Greece (Patakis), China (Chonquing) and Saudi Arabia.

A second book with Feltrinelli, Il Salto. Figure, segni, parole. Viaggio all’origine dell’immaginazione (2021, translated into French as Avant l’écriture. Signes, figures, paroles, published by Seuil and into German as Der Sprung. Eine Reise zu den Anfängen des Denkens in der Steinzeit, by Beck). The French edition won the 2023 literary prize of the Fondation Martine Aublet, hosted at the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac, Paris.


She is writing another book for Feltrinelli entitled Isole, slated to come out in mid-2025.


Invited as keynote to more than 100 international conferences, she also gives master-classes all over the world.


In 2017 she was awarded an ERC Consolidator grant for a project entitled INSCRIBE (Invention of Scripts and their Beginnings, which will run to 2024) With her team Ferrara sheds light on the invention of writing from a multi-disciplinary comparative approach comprising archaeology, anthropology, cultural evolution, linguistics, cognitive studies and decipherment strategies. In 2020 her team deciphered the mathematical values of the fractions in Linear A, a writing system from the island of Crete.



2018 – Full Professor of Aegean Philology, Department of Classical Philology and Italian Studies, University of Bologna.

2017– Principal Investigator, ERC Consolidator Grant INSCRIBE (Invention of Scripts and their Beginnings)

2019 –2022 Member, National Committee of Guarantors for Research (CNGR), Ministry of Education, Italy

2019 –2022 Resident Member, Institute of Advanced Studies (ISA) Humanities, University of Bologna

2019 –Senior Research Fellow, Sapienza School for Advanced Studies (SSAS), Sapienza University of Rome.

2019 –Member of the Artificial Intelligence Interdisciplinary Centre, University of Bologna.


2017 – 2018 Associate Professor of Aegean Civilisations, Classics Department, Sapienza University of Rome.

2013 – 2019 Junior Research Fellow, Sapienza School for Advanced Studies (SSAS), Sapienza University of Rome.

2011 – 2017 Assistant Professor of Aegean Civilisations - Rita Levi Montalcini Program, Rientro dei Cervelli, Classics Department, Sapienza University of Rome.

2006 – 2010 Junior Research Fellow in Archaeology, St John’s College, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.


2001 – 2006 PhD in Classics, Department of Greek and Latin, University College London, United Kingdom, ‘The Undeciphered Cypro-Minoan Script: An Interdisciplinary Approach’. Supervisor: Professor John Bennet.

1999 – 2001 MPhil in Classics and Archaeology, Classics Department, University of Oxford, United Kingdom (transferred to PhD in 2000).

1995 – 1999 University College London, Institute of Archaeology: 4-year BA in Archaeology, Classics and Classical Art (First Class Honours, top of the 1999 class).

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