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Sinai Turquoise inscription (S375a) PART 3

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  • Brian Colless
    PART 3 Note that Parts 1-2 are appended for reference. Additional queries (1) ...
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 3, 2008
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      PART 3

      Note that Parts 1-2 are appended for reference.
      Additional queries
      > The fish is S.

      <Do you mean equivalent to the Hebrew letter Samech? or to a phonetic /
      s/ (which in BH can also be the letter Sin). >

      I will try to summarize what I have found concerning sibilants in
      texts written in the West Semitic logo-syllabic and consonantal

      Samek (s) : Shin ($) : Sin (s') : Th (th[eta]) : Sade (s.)

      'sm (ox-fish-water) Hbr 'asam 'store granary (Sinai 368)
      'st (ox-fish-cross) Akd i$ittu 'store, granary, treasury' (S 375)
      'kb$n m$ 'melt-furnace' Hbr mss 'melt'; kib$an 'furnace, kiln'
      kn$ (hand-snake-sun) 'gather' Phn Aram kn$ Hbr kns
      m$knt 'dwelling-place' H mi$kan, Ugr m$knt
      $d 'field' Ugr Phn $d H s'adeh
      $h. 'pit' H $yh.
      $lh. 'irrigation channel' H $elah.
      ns.b 'foreman' (H nis.s.ab) rb ns.bn 'chief foreman' [Note m. pl. -m
      and -n]
      s.btm 'handfuls' (= Hbr) Arb d.bt. 'grasp'
      s.rh. 'excavation chamber' (Hbr, Nabatean s.-, Arb d.-)
      (Note , these 2 cases eliminate d. from the proto-alphabet)
      th-l-th (th < thad, breast') 'three' H $l$ Ugr Arb th-l-th (S 375)

      str 'guard' skr 'deliver up' (both Hbr Samek)
      lh.s 'whisper' lbs 'clothe' (both Hbr $)
      h.isanim 'asamim 'stores, granaries' (see 'sm above)

      <And why limit yourself to the 22 consonants of BH instead of the 29
      or 30 of the (reconstructed) proto-Semitic some of which were
      obviously used in the Levant (e.g. the "rayin" of Aza in Hebrew and
      Gaza in Greek)?>

      The example th-l-th (Sinai 375) shows that I am admitting more than 22.

      True, in 1988, in my first study of the proto-alphabet (in Abr-
      Nahrain) I tried the hypothesis that there were no more than 22
      phonemes, but I did mention the possibility that Z and Dh had separate
      signs, but I could not find the other one.

      Now, however, in this very text (S 375a) we can find both. On the left
      side we see the two parallel horizontal strokes =, for Dh ('This');
      and on the right side we can discern (so Hamilton) Z, which is a pair
      of triangles |><|, in a sequence Z K T (manacle-hand-cross). And what
      Semitic root could that be? ZKY 'pure'?


      The DH and Z pair is also found on a brief inscription from Thebes


      And my complete statement on the number of phonemes in the proto-
      alphabet is at:


      The table of signs I offer there shows 26 consonants in the proto-

      `ayin + ghayin, Z + Dh, T. + Z., $ + Th, H. + Kh

      There were two variant signs for S(amek): fish (became obsolete) and
      spinal column (persisted).

      My questions are:

      What is 'pure' on the right side?

      And what is the meaning of the vertical column on the left side?
      Here is my division, four words (Left side): Dh ' ` SHh
      Dh = Hebrew ze (This is)

      I will have to reveal the solution soon.

      Brian Colless
      PART 2

      Answers to some questions and responses I have received.

      Note that Part 1 is appended for reference.

      Regarding the letters on the left-side column (see my drawing, at

      K Dh `Alep `ayin S Hh

      1) Is it really an `alep (ox-head)?

      If you have the two photographs published in Maarav you can see the
      bull's horns more clearly in one of them, but it is uncertain which
      corner is the snout! However, we can not doubt that it is meant to

      2) Is it really Hh (H.et)?

      The vertical lines for the Hh are more visible on one of the
      photographs, but the example of Hh at the top has vanished on it! My
      drawing is built on the foundation of the 8 Inscriptifact photographs.
      I have two of the coloured ones enlarged on my big iMac screen at the
      moment. What a sight!

      The interesting detail in this pictograph is the three compartments,
      but, as I have said, it is stiil meant to be a house with a courtyard
      (Hhasir) not a fence (as is commonly supposed); the house-plan, viewed
      from above, can be positioned any way (as with the two examples here),
      but a fence has to be | | | |.

      3) Is the fish really S (Samek)?

      The fish is S. That is the fatal flaw in the Albright scheme (D is for
      dag; wrong, D has always been for dalt, door, as the Hebrew and Greek
      names attest). However the spine Samek ('support') was an alternative
      S and the one that survived into the Phoenician alphabet.

      See my new table and all my cryptcracker articles for this basic plank
      of my platform.

      4) What about the clashing of 'a and `a (very hard to pronounce in
      the "oriental"way), and only found in the Bible in Aramaic (examples:
      Ezra 6:4 and 11), meaning 'tree, timber, beam'.

      We can probably exclude that word here.

      Now, the 'Aleph and the `Ayin are not necessarily in the same word.

      When they occur together in the Izbet Sartah ostracon as a word at the
      end of line 1, it is (in my interpretation, which I find very
      appealing and plausible) "I see", followed by the conjunction k (ki
      'that') the eye (` logogram, rebus) gives (ttn) the breath (rh.) of
      the sign ('t)...

      But here the clue given to us on the other side (a jackal) would
      indicate that the `A is a single word, and I take the `ayin to be a
      separate word also, and the remaining two letters could fit nicely
      with the fact that this stone was found in a dump in Turquoise Mine M
      (dump meaning a deposit for rubbish, or an accumulated pile of ore or
      earth, and I think the text is telling us that).

      Here is my division, four words: Dh ' ` SHh
      Dh = Hebrew ze (This is)

      Brian Colless


      PART 1

      I propose to use a resurrected inscription from the turquoise mines in
      Sinai to show that it is possible to read these proto-alphabetic
      texts (wilfully, needlessly, unnecessarily dubbed "Proto-Sinaitic").

      This one has a context and a clue or two too to ease the process of

      This exercise is also a test of my own table of signs and sounds,
      worked out on the basis of the rest of the collection of inscriptions
      (and by comparing the pictographs with their later forms in the
      Phoenician and Arabian alphabets, and the cuneiform alphabet used at
      Ugarit and elsewhere in Syria-Palestine)

      Remember the difficulties we face:
      frequent illegibility;
      inconsistency (no fixed form for each sign)
      variability (no set direction for the line of writing)
      no separation between words or sentences;
      letters sometimes used as rebuses (Door [Dalt] as D or d-l-t);
      no vowels represented in proto-alphabetic writing.

      SINAI INSCRPTION 375a/383

      This is another interesting stone from the Sinai turquoise mines. It
      was found during excavations in Mine M, close to the obituary
      inscription of Asa (358), together with the rations plaque (375) and
      other inscribed objects (Starr and Butin 1936, 20-26).

      To study it with me you will need the photograph and drawing available


      You should also print yourself a copy of my table of the evolution of
      the alphabet:

      It is available as part of my article on that subject:

      [The sample of the table which I just printed for myself was faint
      red, so it needs to be taken to a photocopier and darkened. It looks
      much better, and bigger, on the screen.]

      Lundberg and Zuckerman have put eight clear photographs of the object
      on the internet: four coloured, four monochrome. To gain access to
      these and photographs of other ancient texts, we go to the wonderful
      database of the West Semitic Research project, and request Sinai 375a:
      INSCRIPTIFACT (http://www.inscriptifact.com/)
      But you have to go through a few hoops to get access to the site.

      Each photograph of the set helps to identify the details of particular
      characters in the text, such as the cross in the middle of the stone,
      which does not always appear with all its four pieces standing out
      clearly. With the aid of these pictures, I can see most of the letters
      on the old photograph, but the lower left corner was blank.

      An interesting feature of the stone is the animal depicted on the
      other side. Hamilton (2006, 375) describes it as a jackal, or the Seth
      animal (2007, 33). (I have pondered over the origin of that mythical
      beast myself; its snout reminds me of an aardvark, or an anteater; or
      its destructive nature suggests a connection with the locust.) I think
      the letters on the left side of the inscribed sign refer to this

      Many of these Sinai texts have the basic form of labels, with Dh
      "this" introducing the object. The sign Dh is found in that column,
      below what appears to be an upright hand (K), and above the horns of
      the ox. Taking this as the starting point, the sequence runs:

      Dh ( two parallel horizontal lines: = )
      ' ('alep, ox-head)
      ` (`ayin, eye)
      S (fish; Hamilton follows the erroneous line that the fish is D)
      Hh (H., a house with two rooms and a yard, representing h.asir 'court,
      mansion'; there is another instance at the top of the stone; the
      courtyard can be rounded, and the one in the corner seems to have a
      bent line at the top; the two rooms can be adjacent with the yard
      section covering both; here the rooms and yard are all in parallel, in
      both cases).

      Note that Hamilton wants to turn the 'western' end of the long line in
      the middle (I do not show it extended so far but it does apparently
      pass right between the ox-head and the eye) into a snake, hence N, but
      I am not fully convinced.

      So my reading would be:
      Dh ' ` S Hh

      If we think Hebrew (or consult a Hebrew lexicon), and divide the
      letters into words, with introductory zeh (This), and keep the animal
      depicted on the back of the stone in mind, there is a ready solution

      Tell me if you can see what I see, or something different.

      Brian Colless
      Massey U, NZ

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