Ancient alcohol riddles
>:"Few riddles in the Akkadian language survive.
The tablet dates to the time of the Biblical Exodus, and is thought to
have been written near the Persian Gulf.
It was written in cuneiform script.
The text has large parts missing, and also appears to have been carved
by an inexperienced scribe.
The text was translated by Michael Streck of the University of Leipzig
and Nathan Wasserman of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2092775/Tablet-crude-jokes-riddles-beer--dating-time-biblical-Exodus.html#ixzz1ktIYO09T
This discovery (on a tablet published in 1976 by JJ van Dijk; I met
him at an Orientalist congress in Paris a while before that, in the
section on SE Asia!) encourages me to accept my translation of the
Beth Shemesh ostracon, from the end of the Bronze Age. One side bears
the question, and the other side has the jocular answer about
wassailing and wenching. This is not the first occasion I have
mentioned it here (it was published in 1991 in Abr-Nahrain, Ancient
Near Eastern Studies); but I have just tidied my brief presentation of
it on my collesseum site, and I hope you can find time to consider it.
Beth Shemesh Riddle: Wine Whine
Q: A nice pleasant voice?
A: Slurring after carousing in the wine-house with a maid.
Go to Ancient scripts: West Semitic,
specifically Beth Shemesh Ostrakon: Carousing in the wine bar
The word for "wine" is the cognate yn (attested in Ugaritic), Hebrew
Wadi el-Hol Inscription: wine flowing in the desert
The original WS form was wn (*wayn). As I have mentioned in this forum
aforetime [a neo-archaism], the word wn ("wine") is found in the Wadi
el-Hol inscription from the desert of Egypt, near Thebes; a vertical
line followed by a horizontal line, constituting one text in two parts
(1 + 1 = 1 QED). Ever since we first heard about it in the New York
Times in November 1999, I have discussed this important document
many times in this bazaar (and "bizarre" has been a common reaction to
I have now refined my criteria for dating WS proto-alphabetic
inscriptions (from Egypt, Sinai, and Canaan), and I can see that the
examples from the Sinai turquoise mines belong to the the Middle
Kingdom and the New Kingdom. I am now convinced that the Hol text is
one of the oldest-known proto-alphabetic (Proto-Canaanite) documents,
probably from the time of Pharaoh Amenemhet III (12th Dynasty, late
Middle Kingdom, 19th Century BCE), as John Darnell (who re-discovered
it) has maintained all along.
As I said from the start, the first word on the vertical line is MShT
(cp. Hebrew mishteh, "symposium"), and (in consultation with John
Darnell) I would now translate it as "drinking-place" (rather than
"drinking-party" or "banquet"); the spot where it is located would
have been another of the designated drinking-places (in the desert)
for celebrations in honour of the goddess. For Egyptians this was Hat-
hor; for the "Asiatics" it was `Anat (who is named and depicted there).
The horizontal line begins with the sequence RBWN, obviously (given
the context) rb wn, "plenty of wine".
This must be the oldest-known instance of the word wain/wine. It
precedes Hittite wiyana, Hellenic woinos, and Latin vinum.
My most recent presentation of my case is here:
[V] Drinking-place for the top-class celebration for `Anat. God (El)
will provide [H] plenty of wine ....
I must confess that I never touch the stuff; I get my resveratrol from
eating black grapes, not from drinking red wine.
Brian E. Colless
Research Associate, School of History,
Massey University, New Zealand
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