Thursday, July 17, 2008

Antiquity of Oued Mertoutek Inscription

Antiquity of the oued mertoutek InscriptionControversy surrounds my dating of the Mande/ Libyco-Berber/Ancient Libyan inscription found at Oued Mertoutek by Wulsin(1940).

I have proposed a 2nd millennium date for this documentwhile Wulsin dates the inscription to the 5th century of theChristian era.At Oued Mertoutek Wulsin found an engraving of an ovicaprid(sheep/goat) with an ancient Libyco-Berber inscription placedinside the figure.

Although the patina for the inscription andthe goat/sheep figure were the same , Wulsin claimed that the goat/sheep figure dated to the 1st-3rd millennium BC, and the writing dated back to the horse period of the "Saharan Rock Art" which he assumed was 500-600 AD. The separate dates for the Oued Mertoutek engraving areclearly inconsistent, given the identical patina of the figureand the writing.

There is no way the figure and inscription couldbe separated by 1500-2500 years and still show identical patina.Reason, dictates summary rejection of Wulsin's hypothesissupporting the late introduction of writing to the Sahara.Wuslin based his dating of the Libyco-Berber writing on the Oued Mertoutek engraving on the Hamitic paradigm.

This paradigmmaintains that writing, the horse and other cultural featureswere given to Africans by Semitic speaking culturally superiorpeople from the East. In Wulsin's day, researchers believed thatthe horse arrived in North Africa and the Sahara around 500 AD.If we accept the discredited Hamitic hypothesis for theintroduction of writing to the Sahara, we would have to push theday for the introduction of writing back 800-1400 years. Because1) the chariot period which is associated with Libyco-Berberwriting is believed to have begun in the 2nd millennium BC; and2) archaeological and epigraphic evidence suggest that writingexisted in the Sahara by at least 800 BC.Close (1980) and Galand have reported that an inscribed pottery vessel with Libyco-Berber inscriptions was found atTiddis, which dates back to 300 BC. This is 800 years earlierthan Wulsin's date for the Oued Mertoutek inscriptions.

In addition, Close (1980)claims that other evidence indicatesthat Libyco-Berber inscriptions can be pushed back to between600-700 BC. This archaeological evidence clearly contradict Wulsin's estimation of the Oued Mertoutek inscription's age.Other evidence for the antiquity of the Oued Mertoutekinscription comes from there association with Saharan chariots.The inscriptions and chariots share the same patina.

These chariots have been dated to around 1200 BC according to Desanges(1981, p.433). Originally, researchers believed that the Saharan chariotswere introduced into the Sahara by Egyptians and/or the Peoplesof the Sea. This hypothesis is now discredited because there arefew similarities between the Saharan and Aegean portrayals ofChariots (Desanges, 1981,p.432).

In addition, whereas the Horse Period was considered to be500-600 AD in Wulsin's day, today the horse period is datedbetween 1500-500 BC (Sahnouni,1996, p.29). The horse depicted inthe Sahara was not the Arabian horse typified by the Berber andTaurag horsemen. Barbary horses drew the Saharan chariots horses (Desanges, 1981, p.432).

This horse is smaller than theArabian horses which were not introduced into Africauntil the Christian era. The lack of similarity between theSaharan, and eastern chariots, and the horses that drew themindicate the unique nature of Saharan civilization.The archaeological evidence makes it clear that Wulsin(1940, p.129) made a mistake in his dating of the Oued Mertoutek inscription. The fact that the contemporary epigraphers date theLibyco-Berber inscriptions back to 700 BC and those associatedwith the Saharan chariots date to 1500 BC, support my contention that the Oued Mertoutek inscriptions date to the 2ndmillennium, just like the goat/sheep figure which shares thesame patina as the writing according to Wulsin (1940, p.128)himself.

Some researchers refuse to date the Libyco-Berberinscriptions earlier than 700 BC, because the Semitic alphabet was not used until around 800 BC. They claim that Libyco-Berber can not be any older than 800 BC because the Semitic alphabet issuppose to be the parent of the Libyco-Berber writing.

This is a false analogy. Firstly, this view has to berejected because the Libyco-Berber script includes many signswhich are different from Semitic scripts. Although these signsare not found in the Berber alphabet, they are found in the IndusValley, Linear A and Egyptian pottery signs.

J.T. Cornelius (1954, 1956-1957) illustrated how theLibyco-Berber signs are identical to the Egyptian, South Indianand Linear A writing. Moreover, a cursory comparison of theThinite postmarks from Upper and Lower Egypt compare favorably tothe Libyco-Berber signs ( Petrie, 1900; van de Brink, 1992).

All of these writing systems date to the 3rd millennium BC. Secondly, these writing systems correlate well with Wulsin'sdating of the goat/sheep figure at Oued Mertoutek.

This congruency supports a 3rd millennium date for the Oued Mertoutek inscriptions, and explains the fact that both the goat/sheep and Libyco-Berber inscriptions share the same patina.

In conclusion, the Oued Mertoutek inscription probably datesback to the 3rd Millennium BC. Two factors dispute Wulsin'sdating of the Oued Mertoutek inscription: 1) the archaeological evidence which has pushed back the dating of Libyco-Berberinscriptions to between 300-700 BC; and 2) the dating of theHorse Period in Saharan history to 1500 BC, rather than 500-600AD. The dating of the Horse period in the Sahara isnow pushed back to 1500 BC.

This factor alone disconfirms thehypothesis of Wulsin, that the Oued Mertoutek inscription waswritten around 500-600 AD, because Wulsin had formed thisconclusion based on the dating of the Horse Period of SaharanRock Art. Changes in the dating of the Horse Period from those accepted by Wulsin 50 years ago automatically changes our dating of the Oued Mertoutek inscription.The ancient origin of Libyco-Berber writing is further confirmed by the common symbols shared by the Oued Mertoutekinscriptions, and contemporary 3rd Millennium writing systems inMesopotamia, Crete, Egypt and the Indus Valley. This along withthe same patina for the goat/sheep figure and Oued Mertoutekinscription is congruent with the determination that the OuedMertoutek inscription is 5000 years old.

Based on the Patina of of the Oued Mertoutek monument I can give it an early date.Below is a Saharan inscription with the bar and dot pattern.The fact that the Vai script has dot and bar signs make it clear that ancient African writing systems did have dot and bar symbols.The Mande did not have writing in ancient times.

Dr. Leo Wiener in Africa and the Discovery of America, suggested that the Olmec probably used a Mande writing system [18]. Dr. Wiener after comparing the writing on the Tuxtla statuette was analogous Manding writing engraved on rocks in Mandeland. Wiener (1922) and Lawrence (1961) maintain that the Olmec writing was identical to the Manding writing used in Africa. [19]

There are many inscriptions written in this script spreading from the Fezzan to the ancient Mande cities of Tichitt There are many inscriptions written in this script spreading from the Fezzan to the ancient Mande cities of Tichitt.The Tichitt dwellings were built by Mande speaking people and date back to 2000-800 BC.

Researchers claim that the inscriptions are along the chariot routes and other sites in Dar Tichitt.. This suggest that some of the inscriptions may date back to 1500-2000BC, this is the date for the appearance of the horse in the Sahara.(See: Nicole Lambert, Medinet Sbat et la Protohistoire de Mauritanie Occidentale, Antiquites Africaines, 4(1970),pp.15-62;Nicole Lambert, L'apparition du cuivre dans les civilisations prehistoriques. In C.H. Perrot et al Le Sol, la Parole et 'Ecrit (Paris: Societe Francaise d'Histoire d'Outre Mer) pp.213-226;R. Mauny, Tableau Geographique de l'Ouest Afrique Noire. Histoire et Archeologie (Fayard);R.A. Kea, Expansion and Contractions: World-Historical Change and the Western Sudan World-System (1200/1000BC-1200/1250A.D.) Journal of World-Systems Reserach, 3(2004), pp.723-816 ).

The writing found among the Vai and along the Chariots routes leading to Tichitt is related to the Mande, Saharan and Libyco-Berber writing. Many of these inscriptions like the inscription at Oued Mertoutek date back to Olmec times.


Close, A.E. (1980). Current research and recent radiocarbondates from northern Africa", , 21,pp.145-167.Cornelius, J.T. (1954). The Dravidian Question, Culture>, 3 (2), pp.92-102.Cornelius, J.T. (1956-1957). Are Dravidian DynasticEgyptians?, India, 1956-1957, pp.89-117.Desanges, J. (1981). The Proto-Berbers. In of Africa II> (Ed.) by G.M. Mokhtar (pp.423-440). Berkeley,CA:UNESCO.Petrie, W.M.F. (1900). Dynasties>, London: Egypt Exploration Society. No.18.Sahnouni,M. (1996). Saharan rock art. In ,(Ed.) by Theodore Celenko (pp.28-30). Bloomington,IN:IndianapolisMuseum of Art.van den Brink, E.C.M.(1992). Corpus and numerical evaluationof the Thinite potmarks. In Dedicated to Michael Allen Hoffman> (pp.265-296). Oxbow Books.Park End Place, Oxford: Egyptian Studies AssociationPublication. No.2.Wulsin,F.R. (1940). Northwest Africa>. Papers of the Peabody Museum of AmericanArchaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University. Vol.19 (1).

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