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Archaeology

Lost Canaanite language decoded on ancient clay tablets

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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.

https://doi.org/10.3917/assy.116.0113

Header Image Credit: Rudolph Mayr – Rosen Collection

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Trove of Roman objects linked to feasting found at Ostia antica

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Archaeologists have uncovered a trove of Roman objects linked to ritual feasting at Ostia antica.

Ostia Antica is an ancient harbour town located at the mouth of the Tiber River. The harbour served as the main port for Rome, transporting goods and people from the coast along the Via Ostiensis.

Archaeologists recently excavated the area of Regio I – Insula XV, a “sacred area” or precinct housing several temples and sanctuaries. At the centre is the temple of Hercules,  a 31 x 16 metre monument which dates from the Republican Era.

Excavations have revealed a substantial well situated at the base of the temple of Hercules. Upon draining the well, it was discovered to hold a significant collection of objects dating from the 1st to 2nd century AD.

Among the objects are various ceramics, miniatures, lamps, glass containers, fragments of marble, and burnt animal bones (pigs and cattle). According to the archaeologists, the trove corresponds with ritual feasting associated with cult at the temple.

In a press statement by the Ministry of Culture: “The discovery of burnt bones confirms that animal sacrifices were carried out in the sanctuary, while the common ceramics, also bearing traces of fire, indicate that the meat was cooked and consumed during banquets in honour of divinity. The remains of one or more ritual meals were thrown into the well, the last ones probably when their function had ceased.”

Header Image Credit : Ministry of Culture

Sources : Ministry of Culture

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Labyrinthine structure discovered from the Minoan civilisation

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Archaeologists have discovered a monumental labyrinthine structure on the summit of Papoura Hill in Crete.

The discovery was made during the installation of a radar system in preparation for the construction of a new airport in the area.

According to experts, the structure dates from between 2000 to 1700 BC shortly before or at the start of the palaeopalatial Minoan period.

The Minoan civilisation was a Bronze Age culture that emerged on the island of Crete around 3100 BC. The culture is known for the monumental architecture and energetic art, and is often regarded as the first civilisation in Europe.

Image Credit : Greek Ministry of Culture

The chronology of the Minoans is characterised into three distinct phases – Early Minoan (EM), Middle Minoan (MM), and Late Minoan (LM).

The palaeopalatial structure is part of the MMI – II grouping in the Middle Minoan, a period in which the first palaces were built and saw the development of the Minoan writing systems, Cretan hieroglyphic and Linear A.

The structure comprises of 8 concentric stone rings that converge on a central circular building. The entire diameter of the complex measures 48 metres and covers an area of approximately 1800 square metres.

Within the central structure are four designated zones in which radial walls intersect vertically and form a labyrinthine structure. Zones A and B appear to be have the main concentration of human activity, evidenced by the presence of large amounts of animals bones.

According to the experts, this residential area likely had a truncated cone or vaulted appearance and is the first monument of this type excavated in Crete. It can perhaps be paralleled with the elliptical MM building of the Chamezi Archaeological Site, as well as with the so-called circular proto-Hellenic cyclopean building of Tiryns.

The Minister of Culture, said: “This is a unique and highly significant find. Solutions are in place to ensure the completion of the archaeological research and the protection of the monument.”

Header Image Credit : Greek Ministry of Culture

Sources : Greek Ministry of Culture

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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