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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

Excavation of medieval shipbuilders reveals a Roman head of Mercury

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Excavations of a medieval shipbuilders has led to the discovery of a Roman settlement and a Roman head of Mercury.

The discovery was made at Smallhythe Place, a late 15th or early 16th century property managed by the National Trust near Tenterden in Kent, England.

Prior to the decline of the port and shipyard at Smallhythe during the 16th century, the local community played a crucial role in the shipbuilding industry, crafting vessels for notable figures, including members of royalty.

As part of a project funded by several UK institutions, over 60 volunteers from the National Trust participated in the excavation, along with professional archaeologists, students, and members of the Hastings Area Archaeological Research Group.

The excavation has revealed traces of a Roman settlement that was occupied between the 1st and 3rd centuries, including an incredibly rare figurine made of pipeclay that depicts the god, Mercury.

Mercury was a major god in the Roman pantheon and was associated with financial gain, commerce, eloquence, messages, communication (including divination), travellers, boundaries, luck, trickery, and thieves. He also served as the guide of souls to the underworld and was the messenger of the gods.

According to a press announcement by the National Trust: “This complete figurine probably would have depicted Mercury standing, either draped with a chlamys (a short cloak), or naked, holding a caduceus (a staff with two intertwined snakes).”

The team also unearthed thousands of artefacts, providing evidence of the evolution of Smallhythe Place from a Georgian farm to a midden dump, a shipbuilding site, and a brickworks.

The National Trust said: “To support our investigations, we received grants from the National Trust’s Inclusive Archaeology, Robert Kiln and the Roman Research Funds and from the Royal Archaeological Institute. During 2023, our project has received funding from the Society of Antiquaries and the William and Edith Oldham Charitable Trust.”

Header Image Credit : James Dobson

Sources : National Trust – Exploring Smallhythe Place: Archaeological Investigations by the River Rother

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

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Archaeology

Researchers find that Żagań-Lutnia5 is an Iron Age stronghold

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Archaeologists have conducted a ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey of Żagań-Lutnia5, revealing that the monument is an Iron Age stronghold.

Żagań-Lutnia5 was first discovered in the 1960s near the town of Żagań in western Poland, with previous studies suggesting that the monument could be associated with the Białowieża group of the Lusatian urnfield culture.

The Lusatian culture existed in the later Bronze Age and early Iron Age (1300–500 BC) in most of what is now Poland. It formed part of the Urnfield systems found from eastern France, southern Germany and Austria to Hungary, and the Nordic Bronze Age in northwestern Germany and Scandinavia.

A recent study led by Dr. Arkadiusz Michalak on behalf of the Archaeological Museum of the Middle Oder River has revealed two parallel sequences of magnetic anomalies at Żagań-Lutnia5 that represent the remnants of earthen and wooden fortifications.

The course of the fortifications were recorded in the northern, western and southern parts of the study area, however, a study of the eastern section was limited due to a sewage collector built in the 1990’s.

Exploratory excavations found four cultural layers with remains of huts and hearths, in addition to a burnt layer from the last phase of occupation that suggests a period of conflict.

According to the researchers, the monument was likely built by the same people who constructed the stronghold in Wicin and a number of verified defensive settlements within the area of the Elbe, Nysa Łużycka and Odra.

As a result of the study, Żagań-Lutnia5 has been added to the catalogue of verified Early Iron Age strongholds located in today’s Lubusz Voivodeship.

Header Image Credit : Provincial Office for the Protection of Monuments

Sources : Provincial Office for the Protection of Monuments – Archaeological research at the site of Żagań-Lutnia5

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

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