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Lost Canaanite language decoded on ancient clay tablets



Researchers have decoded a lost Canaanite language, written on two clay tablets from 4,000-years-ago.

The tablets were discovered in Iraq during the 1980’s, one ending up in a private collection in England, the other at the Jonathan and Jeanette Rosen Cuneiform Collection in the United States.

The provenance of how the tablets ended up in the west is unclear, but they were likely found during the time of the Iran-Iraq War, from 1980 to 1988.

Both tablets record phrases in an unknown language of the Amorites, an ancient Northwest Semitic-speaking people from the Levant, who also occupied large parts of southern Mesopotamia.

The phrases are written in a cursive Old Babylonian cuneiform, alongside translations in the Old Babylonian dialect of the Akkadian language (which itself was deciphered in the middle of the 19th century), enabling the scholars to read the unknown language for the first time.

Essentially, the tablets are similar to the Rosetta Stone, a stele inscribed with three versions of a decree issued in Memphis, Egypt, during the Ptolemaic dynasty. The top and middle texts of the Rosetta Stone are in Ancient Egyptian using hieroglyphic and Demotic scripts respectively, while the bottom is in Ancient Greek, making the Rosetta Stone key to deciphering the Egyptian scripts.

Researchers, Manfred Krebernik, and Andrew R. George, have been analysing the tablets since 2016, with the results of the their study now published in the latest issue of the French journal Revue d’assyriologie et d’archéologie orientale (Journal of Assyriology and Oriental Archaeology).

By looking at the grammar and vocabulary, the researchers have determined that the lost language is part of the West Semitic family of languages, which includes Hebrew and Aramaic.

“The singularity of the two tablets’ content may indicate that they come from the same scriptorium. They are sufficiently similar in handwriting to suggest that they may even be the work of the same individual scribe,” said the researchers.

The contents on Text 1 describes the names of deities, stars and constellations, foodstuffs and clothing. Text 2 is entirely devoted to bilingual phrases drawn from social intercourse.

The presence of alkam ana ṣ ē r ī – ya “come here to me” near the end of Text 1 and of alkam “come here” at the beginning of Text 2, suggests that the latter is a sequel document and further reinforces the argument that the tablets are the work of the same person.

Header Image Credit: Rudolph Mayr – Rosen Collection

This content was originally published on – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Early medieval carved stone of a warrior figure found in Glasgow




Archaeologists excavating the grounds of Govan Old Church in Glasgow, England, have discovered an early medieval carved stone figure dubbed the “Govan Warrior”.

Govan Old Church is the home of the Govan Stone Museum, a collection of early medieval and Viking-Age sculptures found in the grounds, including 30 sculptures from a lost kingdom of Old Welsh-speaking Britons known as the Ystrad Clud who dominated the Clyde valley from the 5th to 11th centuries AD.

Excavations have been conducted by the University of Glasgow and Clyde Archaeology, in which a carved stone of a warrior was uncovered during a community fun day organised as part of the Glasgow Doors Open Days Festival.

The carved stone depicts a man standing side on and carrying a round shield and a shaft. According to the researchers, the discovery dates from around 1,000-years-ago and is unlike any of the other carved stones found at Govan Old.

According to a press statement by the University of Glasgow: “The Govan Warrior is unique within the existing collection due to its stylistic characteristics, which has drawn parallels with Pictish art and carvings from the Isle of Man. Unlike the other stones in the Govan collection, whose chunky style of carving is so distinctive that it has been described as a school of carving in its own right (the ‘Govan School’), the Govan Warrior is lightly incised, which may bring parallels with famous Pictish stones like the Rhynie Man from Aberdeenshire.”

Professor Stephen Driscoll said: “It’s a style that makes us think both about the Pictish world and also about the Isle of Man and it’s interesting that we are halfway between these two places. Govan is the ideal place for these two artistic traditions or styles to come together.”

University of Glasgow

Header Image Credit : Govan Heritage Trust

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Iron Age port discovered on Baltic Sea island of Gotska Sandön




An excavation project, in collaboration with archaeologists from Södertörn University, Uppsala University’s Campus Gotland, Gotland Museum, and the Swedish National Heritage Board, has led to the discovery of an Iron Age port on Gotska Sandön.

Gotska Sandön is an island and national park in Sweden’s Gotland County, situated 24 miles north of Faro in the Baltic Sea.

Earlier in 2023, archaeologists found two 2,000-year-old Roman coins on one of the island’s beaches. Both coins are made of silver, with one coin dating from AD 98-117 during the reign of Emperor Trajan, and the other coin dating from AD 138-161 during the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius

In the latest excavations, archaeologists have now discovered evidence of twenty hearths on the same beach as the Roman coins discovery.

According to Johan Rönnby, a professor of marine archaeology at Södertörn University, the site is an Iron Age port, not in the sense of quays we imply in the modern era, but instead a place where Iron Age people regularly landed their boats and formed an encampment.

Although the purpose of the encampment is speculated, the researchers suggest that it may have been linked to an emerging seal hunting industry.

“Seal hunters may have come from the island of Gotland and landed on Sandön to boil seal blubber. This could have been what the hearths were used for, but we don’t yet know – there may be other reasons why the site looks like it does, such as it being a trading post,” said Rönnby.

Excavations and carbon-14 dating of one of the hearths has indicated that they also date from 2,000-years-ago, suggesting a possible link between the encampment and the Roman coins.


Header Image Credit : idw

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