Help me translate these ancient-looking inscriptions
December 2, 2008 11:18 AM   Subscribe

I've scoured the interweb trying to translate the script on these stones with no luck. Help appease my curiousity!

Recently I took pictures of a few anachronistic looking inscriptions found on an old brownstone damn near what used to be a paper mill.

There are two variations of cuneiform and some Greek script. The Greek says GEOES MATER which sounds like "mother earth" to me.

I wasn't able to translate any of the cuneiform, though I did find some symbols from this chart match the more legible of the two.

The weathering of the stone where these were chiseled was less than the rest of the block so I'm assuming they were made fairly recently. Regardless, any info will be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!
posted by jofuu to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Some of those look very much like runes.
posted by jquinby at 11:36 AM on December 2, 2008

Yeah, I'm going to agree with jquin and say that some of those are runic - Check these out.
posted by unixrat at 11:45 AM on December 2, 2008

I know I've seen that 'little hat' cuneiform before and it's going to kill me until we find out.
posted by unixrat at 11:50 AM on December 2, 2008

Definitely runes. Can't tell which futhark or which language.
posted by QIbHom at 11:53 AM on December 2, 2008

Response by poster: Wow! With any luck will figure this out right quick... When I get home from work I'll make a point of enhancing the images in photoshop to isolate the script and make it all more readable.

Thanks guys
posted by jofuu at 12:02 PM on December 2, 2008

It's possible that the Greek bit is a red herring. "Mater" is mother in Latin. In Greek, it's "
μητέρα". Not sure about "Geoes" - I've come up completely dry on that one.
posted by jquinby at 12:15 PM on December 2, 2008

There might be some Ogham there too - on the bottom of the first too pictures, but I'm not sure. Definitely runic though.
posted by AnyGuelmann at 12:17 PM on December 2, 2008

There are runes (MG_0951) =and= there is cuneiform (IMG_0955). There also seems to be another line of script I can't make out between the large runes and the greek letters in the first image. This is one seriously weird gravestone.

I can't get Unicode to work on this machine, but check out the Wikipedia page on cuneiform for help in figuring out the characters.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:21 PM on December 2, 2008

Best answer: OK, I'm just a recovering goth/pagan chick who's spent some time around Asatru folks, but looking at the runes, it's a bit of a jumble. I'm not sure what it means, as some of the runes are actually upside down from their normal positions? For example, in img0951, the first letter on the left is Algiz, but it's upside down from the way I'm used to seeing it. The second looks to be Nauthiz, the third is possibly Uruz, but it's looking a bit too much like a Lambda. Anyone else have an idea of what it is? Fourth is Fehu, fifth is Gebo.

Img0952 shows what looks to be the continuation of the line with Naudiz again, then Algiz upright and then... who knows? It looks like a backwards Wunjo but... it also looks like something out of Tolkein.

I don't know if this applies, but some people use runes in magic and might inscribe what they're asking for on something meant as an offering or just to put it down. The meanings of each of these runes kind of make me think this might be the case here. Fehu is wealth, prosperity of the moveable kind (money, herd of cattle), Gebo is a gift and the endless cycle of giving (pay it forward, from me to you and back again), Uruz is usually representative of strength, health and force of will. Algiz is the rune for protection. (think a hand or a barrier stopping things coming through). Wunjo is joy, the prosperity and good will of fellowship. Nauthiz is the rune for need... lack... an absence that needs addressing.

So maybe someone's written something coherent here, or they're just asking for a bit more money, success, popularity, health and divine favour of protection in their lives.

And yes, I think the lines with the scratchy bits going above and below the lines are ogham... but I might be seeing things.
posted by Grrlscout at 1:21 PM on December 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Unfortunately it seems my photoshop and/or photography skills aren't what they should be... working off the originals I couldn't highlight the shadows well enough to make them more clear or bring out the (overlooked) scratching between texts.

@slap*happy - It's actually part of a mill's dyke system used to hold back the water when it was high so they could power the mill.

@AnyGuelmann/Grrlscout - What are the chances of finding a writer of Ogham in New England around the 18th/19th century? The date "1867" is carved on a stone that is part of the same structure. Wikipedia says it was used until the 10th century... Would a particular person practice for posterity or somesuch?

@Grrlscout - I agree with your theory that these runes are asking for something. Wealth, prosperity, reciprocity (the gift thing), et al, sound like the sorts of things a merchant or artisan might ask for. Good luck with your recovery! :)

I'm assuming the stone came from nearby as there's a brownstone quarry only a few miles away. Could this be some sort of marking system for a shipment of stone or some such? I might have to track down a stonemason...
posted by jofuu at 3:10 PM on December 2, 2008

Response by poster: @jquinby - You're right - it certainly doesn't appear to be greek, that was my mistake... I think geoes is a conjugation of the word of the word geo (earth, obviously).
posted by jofuu at 3:20 PM on December 2, 2008

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