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PORTUGAL - Experts trying to decipher ancient language - HISTORY

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Bianca
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« on: February 28, 2009, 08:55:20 pm »








Amilcar Guerra, a University of Lisbon lecturer, points to symbols on a stone tablet at the Southwest Script Museum, Feb. 5 2009, in Almodovar, southern Portugal.

The tablet featuring 86 characters provided the longest running text of the Iron Age extinct Iberian language called Southwest Script and was found recently by archeologists on a dig outside Almodovar.

(AP Photo/
Armando Franca)
« Last Edit: March 02, 2009, 08:18:29 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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Bianca
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« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2009, 09:02:51 pm »









                                         Experts trying to decipher ancient language
         





Barry Hatton,
Associated Press Writer
FEB. 28, 2009
ALMODOVAR,
Portugal

– When archaeologists on a dig in southern Portugal last year flipped over a heavy chunk of slate and saw writing not used for more than 2,500 years, they were elated.

The enigmatic pattern of inscribed symbols curled symmetrically around the upper part of the rough-edged, yellowish stone tablet and coiled into the middle in a decorative style typical of an extinct Iberian language called Southwest Script.

"We didn't break into applause, but almost," says Amilcar Guerra, a University of Lisbon lecturer overseeing the excavation. "It's an extraordinary thing."

For more than two centuries, scientists have tried to decipher Southwest Script, believed to be the peninsula's oldest written tongue and, along with Etruscan from modern-day Italy, one of Europe's first. The stone tablet features 86 characters and provides the longest-running text of the Iron Age language ever found.

About 90 slate tablets bearing the ancient inscriptions have been recovered, most of them incomplete. Almost all were scattered across southern Portugal, though a handful turned up in the neighboring Spanish region of Andalucia.

Some of the letters look like squiggles. Others are like crossed sticks. One resembles the number four and another recalls a bow-tie. They were carefully scored into the slate. The text is always a running script, with unseparated words which usually read from right to left.

The first attempts to interpret this writing date from the 18th century. It aroused the curiosity of a bishop whose diocese encompassed this region where the earth keeps coughing up new fragments.

Almodovar, a rural town of some 3,500 people amid a gentle landscape of meadows punctuated by whitewashed towns, sits at the heart of the Southwest Script region. It created a museum two years ago where 20 of the engraved tablets are on show.

Though the evidence is gradually building as new tablets are found, researchers are handicapped because they are peering deep into a period of history about which they know little, says professor Pierre Swiggers, a Southwest Script specialist at the University of Leuven, Belgium. Scientists have few original documents and hardly any parallel texts from the same time and place in readable languages.

"We hardly know anything about (the people's) daily habits or religious beliefs," he says.

Southwest Script is one of just a handful of ancient languages about which little is known, according to Swiggers. The obscurity has provided fertile ground for competing theories about who wrote these words.

It is generally agreed the texts date from between 2,500 and 2,800 years ago. Most experts have concluded they were authored by a people called Tartessians, a tribe of Mediterranean traders who mined for metal in these parts — one of Europe's largest copper mines is nearby — but disappeared after a few centuries. Some scientists have proposed that the composers were other pre-Roman tribes, such as the Conii or Cynetes, or maybe even Celts who roamed this far south.

Another translation difficulty is that the writing is not standardized. It seems certain that it was adapted from the Phoenician and Greek alphabets because it copied some of their written conventions. However, it also tweaked some of those rules and invented new ones.

Experts have identified characters that represent 15 syllables, seven consonants and five vowels. But eight characters, including a kind of vertical three-pronged fork, have confounded attempts at comprehension.

There's also the problem of figuring out what messages the slate tablets are intended to convey. Even when they can read portions of text, scientists don't really understand what it is saying — like a child mouthing the words of a Shakespeare play.

"We have a lot of doubts," says Guerra, who has written scholarly articles about Southwest Script. "We can read characters and see the phonetics in action ... but when we try to understand what they actually mean we have a lot of problems."
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« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2009, 09:04:27 pm »



A stone tablet engraved with symbols at least 2,500 years old is seen at the Southwest Script Museum on Feb. 5, 2009 in Almodovar, southern Portugal.

The museum has on display 20 tablets engraved with symbols of the Iron Age extinct Iberian language called Southwest Script.

(AP Photo/
Armando Franca)









There are clues, however.



The symmetrical, twisting text gives the impression of a decorative flourish. Some stones also feature crudely rendered figures, such as a warrior carrying what appear to be spears. The lower part of the rectangular stones is left blank as if intended to be stuck in the ground.

That has led experts to a supposition: The tablets were gravestones for elite members of local Iron Age society. Repeated sequences of words perhaps mean "Here lies..." or "Son of...," Guerra explains. Since most people probably couldn't read, the ornamental elements lent distinction.

These are educated guesses, says Guerra, as he surveys the hilltop dig by a small river where the big stone was found last year. His team here has excavated through centuries of occupation: Islamic (Almodovar is a corruption of the Arabic word al-mudura, meaning encirclement or enclosure), Roman and pre-Roman. Nowadays, it is within view of a wind farm's turbines.

Last year's find has helped, but it wasn't the breakthrough scientists had hoped for, Guerra says. If all the Southwest Script found so far were transcribed onto paper, it would still barely fill a single sheet. Without an equivalent of the Rosetta stone, which helped unlock the secrets of hieroglyphic writing, efforts to reconstruct the ancient language are doomed to slow progress.

"We have to be patient — and hopeful," Guerra says.
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« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2009, 09:14:27 pm »

« Last Edit: February 28, 2009, 09:33:25 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2009, 09:19:38 pm »






                                     
« Last Edit: February 28, 2009, 09:21:03 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2009, 09:44:15 pm »








Amilcar Guerra, a University of Lisbon lecturer, shows on Feb. 5, 2009 where his team found a stone tablet with symbols at least 2,500 years old while working at the Roman ruins outside Almodovar, southern Portugal.

The tablet, features 86 characters that provide the longest running text of the Iron Age extinct Iberian language called Southwest Script.


(AP Photo/
Armando Franca)
« Last Edit: March 01, 2009, 04:04:58 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2009, 07:48:08 am »



Southwestern script in the context of paleohispanic scripts
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« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2009, 07:51:02 am »









                                                    SOUTHWEST PALEOHISPANIC SCRIPT


 
                                      Southwestern script in the context of paleohispanic scripts







Herdade da Abobada (Almodôvar)


The southwest script or southwestern script, also known as Tartessian or South Lusitanian is a paleohispanic script that was the means of written expression of an unknown language usually identified with the same name, among them the most popular is Tartessian.

The southwestern inscriptions had been found mainly in the southwestern quadrant of the Iberian Peninsula: mainly in the south of Portugal (Algarve and southern Alentejo), but also in Spain (south of Extremadura and western Andalucia).

The name of this script is very controversial. The more neutral name is southwestern, because it refers only to the geographical location were the inscriptions had been found, but it needs some additional precision in a general context.

Some researchers name this script Tartessian considering this script the script of Tartessos.

Others prefer to name this script as South Lusitanian, because almost all the southwestern inscriptions have been found in the south of Portugal (an area included in the Roman province of Lusitania), where the Greek and Roman sources locate the Pre-Roman Conii or Cynetes people, instead in the zone generally considered Tartessian (between Huelva and the Guadalquivir valley).

But on the other hand, the name South Lusitanian is inconvenient, as it may wrongly suggest a relation with the Lusitanian language.

Other name proposals include Bastulo-Turdetanian and Algarvan.
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« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2009, 07:53:56 am »



A possible southwestern signary
(Rodríguez Ramos 2000)
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« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2009, 07:57:45 am »



Fonte Velha
(Bensafrim,
Lagos)
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« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2009, 08:02:45 am »



Herdade da Abobada (Almodôvar)
« Last Edit: March 02, 2009, 08:11:38 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2009, 08:05:49 am »








Writing system



Excepting the Greco-Iberian alphabet, and to a lesser extent this script, paleohispanic scripts shared a distinctive typology: They behaved as a syllabary for the stop consonants and as an alphabet for the rest of consonants and vowels.

This unique writing system has been called a semi-syllabary.

There is no agreement about how the paleohispanic semi-syllabaries originated; some researchers conclude that their origin is linked only to the Phoenician alphabet, while others believe the Greek alphabet had also participated.

In the southwestern script, although the letter used to write a stop consonant was determined by the following vowel, as in a full semi-syllabary, the following vowel was also written, as in an alphabet.

Some scholars treat Tartessian as a redundant semi-syllabary, others treat it as a redundant alphabet.

The southwestern script is very similar to the southeastern Iberian script, both considering the shape of the signs
or his value. The main difference is that southeastern Iberian script doesn’t show the vocalic redundancy of the syllabic signs. This characteristic was discovered by Ulrich Schmoll and allows the classification of a great part of the southwestern signs in vowels, consonants and syllabic signs.

Unlike the northeastern Iberian script, the decipherment of the southeastern Iberian script and the southwestern script is not still closed, because there are a significant group of signs without consensus value.






Inscriptions



This script is almost exclusively used in near a hundred large stones (steles), probably with funerary purpose.

Almost always the direction of the writing is right to left, but also boustrophedon or spiral. The fact
that almost all the southwestern inscriptions had been found out of archaeological context does not permit fixing a precise chronology, but it seems clear that it was used in the 5th century BC.

However it is usual to date them from the 7th century BC and consider that the southwestern script
is the most ancient paleohispanic script.

A total of 75 southwest script stelae are known.

Of these, 16 can be seen in the Southwest Script Museum (Museu da Escrita do Sudoeste, in Portuguese), in Almodôvar (Portugal), where a recently discovered stele with a total of 86 characters (the longest inscription found so far) will also be on display.
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« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2009, 08:10:30 am »










References



^ Southwest Script Museum - official site

^ Dias, Carlos (2008), "Descoberta perto de Almodôvar a mais extensa inscrição em escrita do sudoeste", in Público, Ano XIX, n.º 6742 - 15/09/2008, p.18.

^ Photo of the recentely discovered stele with a total of 86 characters.
Correa, José Antonio (1996): «La epigrafía del sudoeste: estado de la cuestión», La Hispania prerromana, pp. 65-75.

Correia, Virgílio-Hipólito (1996): «A escrita pré-romana do Sudoeste peninsular», De Ulisses a Viriato: o primeiro milenio a.c., pp.88-94

Guerra, Amilcar (2002): «Novos monumentos epigrafados com escrita do Sudoeste da vertente setentrional da Serra do Caldeirao», Revista portuguesa de arqueologia 5-2, pp. 219-231.

Hoz, Javier de (1985): «El origen de la escritura del S.O.», Actas del III coloquio sobre lenguas y culturas paleohispánicas, pp. 423-464.

Rodríguez Ramos, Jesús (2000): «La lectura de las inscripciones sudlusitano-tartesias», Faventia 22/1, pp. 21-48.

Schmoll, Ulrich (1961) : Die sudlusitanischen Inschriften, Wiesbaden.

Untermann, Jürgen (1997): Monumenta Linguarum Hispanicarum. IV Die tartessischen, keltiberischen und lusitanischen Inschriften, Wiesbaden.






See also



Pre-Roman peoples of the Iberian Peninsula

Prehistoric Iberia

Timeline of Portuguese history: Pre-Roman Western Iberia (Before the 3rd century BC)

Timeline of Portuguese history: Roman Lusitania and Gallaecia (3rd century BC to 4th century AD)






External links



Tartessian / South-Lusitanian Script - Jesús Rodríguez Ramos

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southwest_Paleohispanic_script"

Category: Undeciphered writing systems



RETRIEVED FROM

wikipedia.org
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« Reply #13 on: March 03, 2009, 07:42:15 pm »










                                   Squiggles in stone reveal old words to modern scholars






The New Zealand Herald
Mar 03, 2009
ALMODOVAR

- When archaeologists on a dig in southern Portugal last year flipped over a heavy chunk of slate and saw writing not used for more than 2500 years, they nearly broke into applause.

The enigmatic pattern of inscribed symbols curled symmetrically around the upper part of the rough-edged, yellowish stone tablet and coiled into the middle in a decorative style typical of an extinct Iberian language called southwest script.

"We didn't break into applause, but almost," says Amilcar Guerra, a University of Lisbon lecturer overseeing the excavation. "It's an extraordinary thing."

For more than two centuries, scientists have tried to decipher southwest script, believed to be the peninsula's oldest written tongue and, with Etruscan from modern-day Italy, one of Europe's first.

The stone tablet has 86 characters and is the longest-running text of the Iron Age language found.

About 90 slate tablets bearing the ancient inscriptions have been discovered, most incomplete.

Almost all were scattered across southern Portugal, though a handful turned up in the neighbouring Spanish region of Andalucia.

Some of the letters look like squiggles. Others are like crossed sticks. One resembles the number four and another recalls a bow-tie. They were carefully scored into the slate. The text is always a running script of unseparated words, usually reading from right to left.

The first attempts to interpret this writing date were made in the 18th century. It aroused the curiosity of a bishop whose diocese encompassed this region where the earth keeps coughing up new fragments.

Almodovar, a rural town of about 3500 people amid a gentle landscape of meadows, is at the heart of the Southwest Script region. It created a museum two years ago where 20 of the engraved tablets are on show.

Though the evidence is gradually building as new tablets are found, researchers are handicapped because they are peering deep into a period of history about which they know little, says Professor Pierre Swiggers, a southwest script specialist at the University of Leuven in Belgium.

Scientists have few original documents and hardly any parallel texts from the same time and place.

"We hardly know anything about [the people's] daily habits or religious beliefs," he says.

Southwest script is one of just a handful of ancient languages about which little is known, says Swiggers. The obscurity has provided fertile ground for competing theories about who wrote these words.

It is generally agreed the texts date from between 2500 and 2800 years ago. Most experts have concluded they were written by a people called the Tartessians, a tribe of Mediterranean traders who mined for metal in these parts - one of Europe's largest copper mines is nearby - but disappeared after a few centuries.
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« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2009, 07:45:57 pm »









Some scientists believe the authors were other pre-Roman tribes, such as the Conii or Cynetes, or maybe even Celts who roamed this far south.

Another translation difficulty is that the writing is not standardised. It seems certain that it was adapted from the Phoenician and Greek alphabets because it copied some of their written conventions.

But it also tweaked some of those rules and invented new ones.

Experts have identified characters representing 15 syllables, seven consonants and five vowels. But eight characters, including a kind of vertical three-pronged fork, have confounded attempts at comprehension.

Even when they can read portions of text, scientists don't really understand what it is saying - like a child mouthing the words of a Shakespeare play.

"We have a lot of doubts," says Guerra, who has written scholarly articles about southwest script.

"We can read characters and see the phonetics in action ... but when we try to understand what they actually mean we have a lot of problems."

There are clues. The symmetrical, twisting text gives the impression of a decorative flourish. Some stones also feature crudely rendered figures, such as a warrior carrying what appear to be spears. The lower part of the rectangular stones is left blank as if intended to be stuck in the ground.

That has led experts to a supposition: The tablets were gravestones for elite members of local Iron Age society. Repeated sequences of words perhaps mean, "Here lies ..." or "Son of ...", Guerra explains. Since most people probably couldn't read, the ornamental elements lent distinction.
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