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What ancient Anatolian alphabet is this?
March 15, 2013 1:42 AM   Subscribe

I found some stone tablets written in a strange alphabet amongst a bunch of graves from different eras at the city museum of Tire, Turkey. The guy working the desk at the museum didn't know what they were. Pictures in extended.

The museum had gravestones from many different eras of the city's history -- Roman, Selçuk, the Beylik period, Byzantine and Ottoman graves, and also some Armenian writing and some Jewish gravestones (seen in the first picture). As far as I can tell, it's none of these. It seems that all the stones there were collected from around the area. 2 of the stones had this strange alphabet; here are some pictures:

The first
Close-up
The second stone

Does anyone have any idea what they might be? I looked up some alphabets of the region on Wikipedia, but couldn't find any matches. Triple bonus points if you're a scholar and can translate!
posted by Theiform to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
A few of those look like Cyrillic characters to me, like Г and Ш and Щ and П but those are all consonants. I wonder if it could be a non-Slavic language that got Cyrillized during the Soviet Union?

Languagehat is the guy for it and there are several other experts around here. Hopefully one of them will show up; you've tagged the post pretty well but maybe just add "linguistics" in case anyone is watching that.
posted by XMLicious at 2:19 AM on March 15, 2013


I'm not an expert in writing scripts, but I see letters from the Asomtavruli and Nuskhuri scripts (see the Georgian page on Omniglot), so I'm guessing that this is written in Khutsuri - probably something from the Georgian Orthodox Church.
posted by Paragon at 2:22 AM on March 15, 2013


Oh, yeah - I was seeing some matching glyphs in Georgian capital letters but with the addition of the Khutsuri script that Paragon links to, which has more of the ones that look a bit Cyrillic-like to me, that seems like a pretty good bet. I'm not an expert in any of this either.
posted by XMLicious at 2:34 AM on March 15, 2013


They look like an archaic Semitic language to me. The stone on the right in the first image is definitely standard Hebrew. Before written Hebrew had its current form, it was a bit closer in appearance to ancient Phoenician, from which it was derived. Ancient Arabic looked similar. My best guess would be that it is "Paleo-Arabic."
posted by RRgal at 6:26 AM on March 15, 2013


or one of the forms of Aramaic, a nearly-extinct Semitic language that is still spoken in parts of Turkey.
posted by RRgal at 6:43 AM on March 15, 2013


The ones on either side are Hebrew and the one in the middle looks like Phoenician to me, I think you have that stone on its side.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenician_alphabet
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:06 AM on March 15, 2013


Probably old inscriptions in the Armenian alphabet. See here, for example. Here's a Russian book from 1911 on Georgian and Armenian philology, it has many plates with similar inscriptions, but it's a slow PDF download.
posted by Nomyte at 10:41 AM on March 15, 2013


> I see letters from the Asomtavruli and Nuskhuri scripts (see the Georgian page on Omniglot), so I'm guessing that this is written in Khutsuri

An interesting guess, but there are no Khutsuri letters that look like Cyrillic Ш and Щ, so I don't think so.

> They look like an archaic Semitic language to me.

That was my first guess too, but I can't identify it with any of the scripts I have examples of. At the moment, if I had to guess I'd join Nomyte in saying Armenian (the ayb [a] does look like Cyrillic Ш), but we're all just guessing. I'll post this to my blog and see if anybody who actually recognizes it weighs in.

(I wouldn't think this would need saying, but just ignore the stones that have Hebrew lettering; there's no reason to think they're relevant at all.)
posted by languagehat at 2:53 PM on March 15, 2013


I posted the question; we'll see what turns up.
posted by languagehat at 3:22 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


An interesting guess, but there are no Khutsuri letters that look like Cyrillic Ш and Щ, so I don't think so.

Don't and fit the bill, though?

...okay, those seem to be getting replaced with something completely different in AskMe's default font on my computer but hopefully if you click through to the www.fileformat.info pages you'll see the versions that look very similar to Cyrillic Ш and Щ. They're from a "Georgian Supplement" Unicode block that was added much more recently than the main Georgian alphabet, so I hadn't seen them before Paragon linked to it.
posted by XMLicious at 6:08 PM on March 15, 2013


By George, you're right—don't know how missed those. I guess Georgian is just as likely as Armenian, then (though in fact Armenian is more likely because of the geography).
posted by languagehat at 12:27 PM on March 16, 2013


They're Armenian for sure. Let me ask for help translating.
posted by k8t at 2:44 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


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