Back to previous post: Briefing on the Investigation of Antiquity Loss

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Subway outlaws

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

September 20, 2003

Get out your decoder rings
Posted by Teresa at 10:52 PM *

Imagines Italicae (via Phluzein, via LanguageHat), the Institute of Classical Studies in London, has posted a couple of mystery inscriptions and is asking whether anyone has any idea what they say.

Bearing in mind that I have no idea what I’m talking about, none whatsoever, I am nevertheless of the opinion that the first inscription, which a fellow named Antonini thinks is some kind of Greek, looks to me more like some kind of Egyptian. It’s that first character in the second row—looks like a stylized version of one of the determinatives signifying a human being or a god. That is: the hieroglyph that looks like a person sitting with knees drawn up, seen from the side.

And now, if Erik’s around, he can tell me it’s nothing like.

The second inscription is a rip. They say it’s from a cup with “erotic representations”, but all they give you is a picture of the scratchy little three-letter inscription, with none of the representations. Bah.

Comments on Get out your decoder rings:
#1 ::: Joy Ralph ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2003, 10:30 AM:

Some of inscription 1 look a little like Linear B - or at least a little like the representation of Linnear B given here.
Caveat: my eye is untrained, and I'm comparing two computer-reproduced examples of presumably written script.

#2 ::: Joy Ralph ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2003, 10:30 AM:

Some of inscription 1 look a little like Linear B - or at least a little like the representation of Linnear B given here.
Caveat: my eye is untrained, and I'm comparing two computer-reproduced examples of presumably written script.

#3 ::: Joy Ralph ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2003, 10:37 AM:

Looks like I'm leaning to long on the keyboard this morning - strike that second 'n' in the second instance of Linear and that second copy of my post. [Of course this happens here, when I'm trying to be extra careful. Can I blame my cat?]

#4 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2003, 11:02 AM:

Given the second is on an erotic chalice, it's probably the equivalent of DNQ....

Or possibly WJC.

Sillily,
Tom

#5 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2003, 01:43 PM:

Actually, I'd bet on WTF, myself...

As drawn, the first ones do look like they're hieroglyphs draw by a Greek scribe, with Greek writing instruments. Hieroglyphs were drawn with brush, then, if on stone, carved. Several of them sing Egyptian -- the top row, 2nd right is very closely related to "pr" -- to go (which was often written without the extra "r" symbol represented by the mouth shape,) the symbol to the right of that is very similar to "ntr", which is one way of saying "God" (one way to translate Jehovan/Allah/God into Egypitan would be "ntr nfr" -- "The Good God"). The first on the second line looks similar to the determinative form of Set, Anpu (Greek: Anubis) or Tothh (can't find image.)

(You'll have to scroll. Sorry)

There are symbols that are close to the first/last of the top line, but not so angular (Sumerian, being pressed into clay, became angular, Egyptian, typically written by brush, stayed rounded.) The fourth of the first line looks like "shs", but rotated with a tail (rotate so the dot is on top) And that last symbol of the 2nd line (not the one alone in the lower right corner) almost screams Coptic or Greek, rather than Egyptian -- indeed, if the contest was "Pick the symbol that doesn't belong to this unknown language", that's the one that I'd pick, almost instantly. All the rest are pictoral, that one's not -- it looks like an intermediate step between Phoenican and Greek.

Indeed, they could be related, since proto-sinatic seems to derive from pictoral, but our bastardized Rho is several centuries newer than the rest of the symbols on the page.

#6 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 04:24 PM:

I think the top line is, "The snake was having a smoke when his TV got up and walked away. He was blowing a soapbubble when the new one was brought in on a dolly. He (she?) smoked another cigarette.

After that, it gets kind of vague. There's a sort of proto-Bagge character, and then modesty prevents me from saying more. "The rest," as Ron Cottingham once said, "is too terrible to tell."

Choose:
Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.