Sunday, April 27, 2008
Nubians were never members of the Meroitic Confederation
Monday, April 21, 2008
Nubian Speakers were not Kushites of Meroitic Civilization
The textual evidence from the Romans suggest that the Noba/Nubians entered Nubia long after the Kushites had founded the Napatan and Meroitic civilizations, so eventhough they live in Nubia today, they are not representative of Kushite people. The Kushites were often in conflict with the Nubians.
In addition, Egyptian documents make it clear that the Blymmes also entered the area after the founding of the Napatan and Meroitic civilization, so even if some people claim that the Beja=Blymmes this is conjecture. Consequently, even if Beja= Blymmes, they do not represent the Kushite people who founded the Napata and Meroe civilizations, because both the Noba and Blymmes entered Kush after its founding.
Claude Reilly's Sudani and meroitic Hypothesis
According to Reilly, since the people presently living in the Sudan today speak languages associated with the Nilo Saharan Superfamily of languages, the Meroites probably spoke a language associated withthis family. This was a radical decision, because research has shown that none of the attested Meroitic terms accepted by mainstream scholars are related to any living language in the Sudan (there are some Meroitic terms borrowed from Egyptian).
Because there are no cognate Meroitic terms and lexical items in the Eastern Sudanic Languages, Reilly has begun to reconstruct Proto- Eastern Sudanic, and attempt to read Meroitic text using his Proto-Eastern Sudanic vocabulary. Even if I hadn’t deciphered the Meroitic writing this method would never lead to the decipherment of this orany other language.
Proto-Northern Eastern Sudani can not be used to read Meroitic because there is no documented evidence this group of languages was ever spoken in the Meroitic Empire. Reilly claims that lexicostatistics or glottochronology allows him to read Meroitic. Lexicostatistics is used to fit datable events among languages that theoretically are descendant from a common ancestor.The basic vocabulary is that part of the lexicon that shows slow change. These terms relate to basic cultural practices and universal human experiences.Reilly can not use this method to read Meroitic because there are only 26 attested Meroitic terms accepted by the establishment. None of these terms are cognate to Nubian or Taman terms except the name for a Meroitic god.
With only 1 cognate Meroitic and Northern Eastern Sudani languages, there is no way you can date the time Meroitic speakers and Nilo-Saharan speakers spoke a common ancestral language. Reilly claims to be able to decipher Meroitic using a method that compares basic culural words to date the time languages separated, can not be used to read Meroitic, because none of the attested Meroitic terms have Nilo-Saharan cognates. The absence of Meroitic and Nubian cognates prevents any fruitful comparisons between these languages.Paper
There are three ways to verify a protolanguage is congruent with reality 1) there is documentary evidence of the ancestor or near ancestor of the target language that allows comparison of adctual terms and grammars to the construct (i.e., reconstructed lexical items and grammars); 2) written evidence in the form of inscriptions exist from systematic excavation that compare favorably to the contruct; and 3) the power of prediction that this or that construct will conforms to objective reality.
Reilly's ideas that he can read Meroitic based on Kushite names from Kerma, which he calls proto-Meroitic names (even though he knows full well that a protolanguage is artificial and comes from reconstruction); and a list of Northern Proto-Eastern Sudani terms from the Nubian, Nara, Taman and Nyima languages meets none of these standards. This meets none of the standards because there is no documentary evidence for Northern Proto-Eastern Sudani dating to the Meroitic period. Moreover, the principle language he hopes to use to read Meroitic text: Nubian, was not spoken in the Meroitic Empire. A fact Reilly admits in his own paper where he notes that Nubians invaded the Meroitic Empire during the declining days of the empire.
Theodora Bynon, Historical Linguistics, wrote that ,"a protolanguage is no more than a theorectical construct designed to link by means of rules the systems of historically related languages in the most economical way. It thus summarizes the present state of our knowledge regarding the systematic relationships of grammars of the related languages....When dealing with past language states it is possible to assess the distance between construct and reality only in cases where we possess documentated evidence regarding an ancestor or a near ancestor, such as is provided by Latin, in the case of the Romance languages"(p.71).
We can reject Reilly's claim he can use this protolanguage to read Meroitic because there is no documented evidence of Northern Eastern Sudani speakers ever living in the historic Meroitic Empire, until after the Meroitic Empire was in decline. The absence of documentary evidence of any Nilo-Saharan language spoken in the Meroitic Empire during the Meroitic period precludes any possibility that Reilly's alleged Proto-Northern Eastern Sudani has any relationship to Meroitic or reality for that matter.
Before my decipherment of Meroitic the attested vocabulary of Meroitic was only 26 terms. Researchers proved decades ago that none of these terms have Nubian and Nilo-Saharan cognates. This makes Reilly's ideas about deciphering Meroitic using Proto-Northern Eastern Sudani a farce.
This is a farce because we do have document evidence of Meroitic, but none for the Nilo-Saharan languages. As a result, any proto-term from Northern Eastern Sudani Reilly compares with Meroitic will be conjecture since there is no documented evidence of Nilo-Saharan languages being spoken in the Meroitic
Empire.H.H. Hock, in Principles of Historical Linguistics (1986), observed that there are two major arguments against the idea that comparative reconstructions recover the "prehistoric reality" of a language.The first principle, is that languages change over time. This makes it almost impossible to "fully" reconstruct the lexcical items and grammar of the ancestral language. Secondly, there are few, if any dialect free languages. Constructs resulting from comparing lexical items and grammars from an available set of languages,produce a dialect free protolanguage, that is unnatural and "factually incorrect as shown by the insights of the wave theory" (p.568).
First, it must be stated that no “dead “ language has been deciphered using a proto-language. These languages were deciphered using living languages, Coptic in the case of Egyptian, Oromo and(Ethiopian) Semitic was used to decipher the Mesopotamian Cuneiform scripts. The basic problem with using a proto-language to read a dead language results from the fact that the proto-language has been reconstructed by linguist who have no knowledge or textual evidence of the alleged proto-language.
Secondly, there are subgroups in anyfamily of languages. This means that you must first establish the intermediate proto-language (IPL) of the subgroup languages in the target language family. Once the IPLs have been reconstructed, you can then reconstruct the superordinate proto-language (SPL). You can only reconstruct the SPL on the basis of attested languages. In addition, before you can reconstruct the IPLs and SPL a genetic relationship must be established for the languages within the Superfamily of languages, e.g., Nilo Saharan.
The problem with Reilly’s method, is there is no way he can really establish the IPLs in Eastern Sudanic because we have not textual evidence or lexical items spoken by people who lived in the Sudanin Meroitic times. As a result, the languages spoken by people in this area today may not reflect the linguistic geography of the Sudan in the Meroitic period.
This is most evident when we look at modern Egypt. Today the dominant language is Arabic, and yet Arabic has no relationship to Egyptian. If we accept Reilly’s method for deciphering Egyptian we would assume that once me reconstructed proto-Semitic , we could read Egyptian—but as you know Egyptian is not a Semitic language.
Secondly, researchers have compared the “attested Meroitic” terms to all the Nilo-Saharan languages. The results were negative, they do not relate to any Eastern Sudanic language. If the lexicalitems attested in Meroitic are not cognate to Eastern Sudanic terms, there is no way to establish a genetic relationship between these languages. Absence of a genetic relationship means that we can not reconstruct the imagined IPLs of Meroitic sister languages, sincethese researchers failed to find a connection between Meroitic and the Eastern Sudanic. As a result, Reilly’s reconstructions of Nilo-Saharan can offer no insight into the language spoken by the Meroites.
Granted, by comparing languages and associating them with a particular time period you can make comparative reconstructions that may eliminate dialectal diversity. But Reilly can not do this because none of the attested Meroitic terms have Nubian cognates. This along with the fact that we have no textual evidence of Nilo-Saharan during the Meroitic period demonstrating that Nilo-Saharan languages were spoken in the Meroitic Empire, especially Nubian,precludes using proto-Northern Eastern Sudani terms to read Meroitic.
Using proto-Northern Eastern Sudani terms to read Meroitic will fail to provide a linguistically realistic situation in Nubia 2000 years ago. This is especially true for Nubian, which was not spoken in the Meroitic Empire. The Nubian speakers lived far to the north of the Meroitic Empire, a fact Reilly acknowledges in his paper.
Literacy in the Napatan and Meroitic Civilizations
Due to the ethnic diversity of the Napatans, it is clear that at least from the Napatan period of Kush the rulers of the empire had decided that no single language spoken in the empire would be used to record political, administrative and religious information. To maintain an equilibrium within and among the Napatan nationalities Egyptian was used as the lingua franca of the empire.
The leaders of the Napatan empire probably used Egyptian because it was an international language, and few Kushites were of Egyptian ethnic origin.Egyptian remained the lingua franca for the Kushites during the Napatan and early Meroitic periods in Kushite history. After the Assyrians defeated the Egyptians the ethnic composition of the Kushite empire began to change. As a result, many Egyptians began to migrate into Kushite, to avoid non-Egyptian rule.
Beginning with the Assyrian defeat of the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty large number of nomadic people from the Middle East began to migrate into Egypt. These people began to take over many Egyptian settlements, while other Egyptians fled to Nubia and Kush to avoid non-Egyptian rule.Other political and military conflicts after the Assyrians led many Egyptians to migrate out of Egypt into Nubia and Kush. Herodotus’ mentions the mutiny of Psamtik I’s frontier garrison at Elephantine—these deserters moved into Kush.
Moreover, the archaizing trend in Kush among the post Twenty-Fifth Dynasty Kings testify to a possible large migration of Egyptians into Kush.In 343 BC Nectanebos II, fled to Upper Egypt. Later according to the Natasen period stela we evidence of other Egyptians migrating into Kush from Egypt (Torok, 1997, p.391).
Between the 260’s-270’s BC Upper Egyptian Nationalists were fighting the Ptolemy (Greek) rulers of Egypt. The rebellion was put down by Ptolemy II. This military action led to Egyptians migrating out of Egypt into Kush (Torok, pp.395-396). These rebellions continued in Egypt into the 2nd Century BC (Torok, p.426).
Between Ptolomy II and Ptolemy V, the Greeks began to settle Egypt. This was especially true in the 150’sBC and led to many Egyptians migrating back into Egypt. By the time the Romans entered Egypt, many Egyptians had already left Egypt and settled. Roman politics also forced many Egyptians to migrate into Kush. This was compounded by the introduction of the Pax Agusta policy of the Romans which sought the establishment of Roman hegemony within territories under Roman rule . This led to the emigration of many Romans into Egypt.The Kush was a multi-ethnic society. It included speakers of many languages within the empire.
During most of Kushite history the elites used Egyptian for record keeping since it was recognized as a neutral language.As more and more Egyptians, led by Egyptian nationalists, fled to Kush as it became under foreign domination the Egyptians formed a large minority in the Empire. Because of Egyptian migrations to Kush, by the rule of the Meroitic Queen Shanakdakheto, we find the Egyptian language abandoned as a medium of exchange in official records, and the Meroitic script takes its place.By the rise of Greeks in Egypt, the cultural ideology , like the people were changing.
This is supported by the transition from Demotic writing (7th 5th Centuries BC) to Coptic (4th BC-AD 1400). The Coptic people are the best evidence for the change in the Egyptian population.After the Egyptians became a sizable minority in Kush, the Kushites abandoned Egyptian as a lingua franca. Egyptian was replaced by the Meroitic writing.
Due to the fact that Meroite leaders were trying to maintain unity within the Meroitic Confederacy/Empire they did not record any ethnic lexical items in the Meroitic inscriptions , that I have read so far, except ethnonyms and toponyms.
The Kushana Hypothesis and Meroitic Writing
Conditions #1 and #2 were met by Griffith when he deciphered the Meroitic script in 1910, and his discovery of the proper names of the Meroitic gods and individuals in the Meroitic text.
Griffith also discovered the directions in which the Meroitic writing was written. The recognition for the solubility of Meroitic was reinforced by the publication of it because it provided up-to-date material on Meroitic and the idea of using the comparative method to decipher Meroitic.
Condition #3 was met in 1978 when Hintze published his work on Meroitic grammar. This allowed me to test other languages similar to Meroitic to find the cognate language.
I chose Kushana for two reasons. Firstly, Philostratus in , claimed that the Gymnosophists of Kush, who settled along the Nile, descended from the Brahmins of India, having been forced to migrate after the murder of their King. This passage pointed to the Kushana, who left China in 176 B.C., after the murder of their king. The Kushana were of high caste.
The Meroites and Kushana often referred to themselves as Kuš . Because both of these groups called themselves Kushana, it suggested that they may be related, given the Classical tradition for a migration of "Indians" to Kush. Moreover, C.B. Rawlinson, in "Notes on the early History of Babylonia," pp. 221-222, discussed the Kushites of Asia and Africa.
Using the evidence of classical traditions pointing to the Kushana as possible settlers of Meroë gave me the confidence to compare Kushana to Meroitic. This comparison proved fruitful.
The key to understanding the use of Kushana/Tokharian to write Meroitic depended on the multi-lingual/ethnic character of the Kushana language. Although this language is considered Indo-European, I believe that it was used as a trade language in Central Asia to give the people of the region a common medium of exchange.
The Meroitic empire was made up of many groups: the Kusa/Kushites, Blemmyans, Medes, and Reherahas according to Hakem and Millet. I believe that the Meroites recognized the possibility of using Tokharian, which I believe was a trade language , in Meroitic Kush to unite the diverse people living in the region because it was not of Egyptian origin.
There is disturbing linguistic evidence that hinders the proper placement of Kushana/Tokharian in the I-E family. This results from the fact that it is more closely related to the western branch of I-E, than Indo-Iranian its closest neighbor. The Tokharian isoglosses in I-E are ranked as follows: (1) Germanic, (2) Greek, (3) Indic, (4) Baltic, and (5) Iranian.
The Tokharian lexicon has also been influenced by Tibetan, Chinese, and Uighur. This is suggestive that Tokharian was a trade language and that Greek and Slavic words came into the "lingua franca" after the Greek conquest of Bactria. The borrowing pattern in Tokharian is consistent with the spread of the Greek language by a small politically dominant minority of Greek settlers into a far larger and previously long-established non–I-E speaking majority. My decipherment of Meroitic is based on the Kushana theory.
The Kushana theory is that a group of “East Indian” scholars introduced the Meroitic writing system to the Meroites.
The Kushana hypothesis was based on the following evidence, 1) no African language has been found to be a cognate language of Meroitic 2) the Classical literature says that the Kushites lived in Asia and Africa; 3) the Gymnosophists, or "naked sages" of Meroe came from India.
Before I began work on Meroitic, other researchers had already falsified the African theory for Meroitic's cognate language. Meroitic is not related to languages spoken in this area. Griffith and Haycock tried to read Meroitic using Nubian and failed. K.H. Priese tried to read the Meroitic text using Eastern Sudani; he also failed.
The fact that not even Nubian, a language spoken by a people who were engaged in constantly conflict with the Meroites , failed to be the cognate language of Meroitic made it clear that we must look elsewhere for the cognate language spoken by the Meroites.
The idea that the Meroites spoke Nubian has been revised by Rilly. Recently Rilly has suggested that we may be able to read Meroitic using Proto-Eastern Sudanic. We must reject this alledged break through in Meroitic linguistics on two points, he believes Nubia can be used to interpret Meroitic when the Nubians were never part of the meroitic Confederation; and 2) you can not read a dead language based on proto-terms because a proto-language is purely theorectical and can not be proven as ever existing in the real world.
Flavius Philostratus, the writer of the Vita Apollonii, Vol.1 , claimed that the Gymnosophists of Meroe originally came from India (see F.C. Conybeare, Philostratus:The Life of Apollonius of Tyana(p.45),1950). Given the fact that the Kushana had formerly ruled India around the time that the Meroitic writing was introduced to the Kushite civilization, led to the hypothesis that the ancestors of the Gymnosophist may have been Kushana philosophers.
The historical evidence of the Kushana having ruled India made the Classical references to Indians in Meroe, an important source for the construction of alternative theories about the possible location ofthe cognate language of Meroitic.
There is external evidence, which supports my theory. A theory explains observed phenomena and has predictive power. I have theorized that due to the claims of the Classical writers that some of the Meroites came from India (F.C Conybeare (Trans.), Philostratus: The life of Apollonius of Tyana Vol.2, (1950) pg.271). According to the Life of Apollonius, the Indian Meroites were formerly led by a KingGanges, who had "repulsed the Scythians who invaded this land [India from] across the Caucasus" (Conybeare, Vol.1, Pg.273). Pilostratus also made it clear that the Indians of Meroe came to this countryafter their king was killed.
The presence of this tradition of an Indian King of the Indian-Meroites conquering the Scythians predicts that the Indian literature should record this historical episode. This prediction is supported by aJaina text called the Kalakeharya-Kathanaka, which reports that when the Scythians invaded Malwa, the King of Malwa, called Vikramaditya defeated the Scythians (H. Kulke & D. Rothermund, History of India(London, Routledge: 1990, pg.73). This king Vikramaditya may be the Ganges mentioned in the Life of Apollonius.Confirmation of the Ganges story,supports the Classical literary evidence that their were Indianized -Meroites that could have introduced the Tokharian trade language to the Meroites.
In addition to the classical mention of the Indians settling Meroë, we also have a horde of Kushana coins that were found on the floor of a cave at the present monastery-shine at Debra Demo in modern Ethiopia in 1940. Moreover, there were other Indians in North Africa in addition to Kush/Meroe. For example, at Quseir al-Qadim there was a large Indian speaking community (see: R. Salomon, "Epigraphic remains of Indiantraders in Egypt", Journal of the American oriental Society, (1991) pp.731-736; and R. Salomon, Addenda,Journal of the American Oriental Society, (1993) pg.593). These Indians were in Egypt writing messages in their own language, around the time we see a switch from Egyptian hieroglyphics to the Meroitic writing system. All of this supported the traditions of the Meroites that speak of a knowledge of the Kushana/Indians among the Meroites.
The evidence that the Classical references to an Indian-Meroite King who conquered the Scythians is supported by the Indian literature, provides external corroboration of the tradition that some of the Meroites were of Indian origin. The presence of Indian traders and settlers in Meroe (and Egypt), makes it almost impossible to deny the possibility that Indians, familiar with the Tokharian trade languagedid not introduce this writing to the Meroites who needed a neutral language to unify the diverse ethnic groups who made up the Meroite state. In relation to the history of linguistic change and bilingualism, itis a mistake to believe that linguistic transfer had to take place for the Meroites to have used Tokharian, when it did not take place when they wrote in Egyptian hieroglyphics.
In summary the classical literature makes it clear that there was a connection between the Gymnosophists (of Meroe) and the Indians. The fact that historical events mentioned in the classical sources are found in the Indian literature confirm the view that there were Indian-Meroites who could have introduced the Tokharian trade language to the Meroites. The fact that the Nubians who were probably not part of the"Meroitic state", used hieroglyphics and Coptic to write their language without abandoning their native language support the view that the Meroites could have also used Tokharian to write Meroitic. And that eventhough the Kushites wrote Meroitic inscriptions in Tokharian, theywould not have had to abandon their own language.
The evidence presented above provides internal and external validity for my theory based upon the sources I have cited previously. The sources I have used are impartial, to disconfirm my hypothesis someone needs to show that my propositions are not fully informed[i.e., there were no Indians North Africa and Kush when the Classical writers maintained they were] and present rival explanations based on the evidence. The fact that the claims made by the Classical writers issupported by the Indians themselves if further strong confirmation of the Kushana hypothesis.
The hypothesis based on the classical literature, was enough to support the original Kushana Hypothesis. The predicting power of the original theory, matches the observed natural phenomena which was confirmed elsewhere by cognate place names, ethononyms, lexicalitems and grammatical features, indicate that my theory has not be falsified.
The ability to reliably predict a linguistic relationship between Kushana and Meroitic, was further confirmation of the Kushana Hypothesis, because the linguistic connections were deducible from prediction. I controlled the Kushana Hypothesis by comparing the statements of the classical writers, with historical, linguistic anthropological and toponymic evidence found not only in Africa, but also India and Central Asia [where the people also used Tokharian as a trade language to unify the various people in Central Asia]. I constructed three testable hypotheses in support of the Kushana theory, and it seems only fair that these variables must be disconfirmed, to falsify the Kushana Hypothesis.
Hypothesis 1: If the meroites used a writing system of non-African origin a tradition mentioning this fact will exist. (Hypothesis confirmed. Classical literature mentions Indian scholars in ancient Meroe.)
Hypothesis: 2. If the classical literature mentions Indians who lived in Egypt influencing the Meroites their should be historical evidence relating to this tradition. (Hypothesis confirmed .Classical literature mentions a King who left his country is mentioned in the Jaina text called the Kalakeharya-Kathanaka.)
Hypothesis: 3. If Classical literature is true about the Indian origin of the Gymnosophists Indians will be found living near the Meroites around the time the Meroitic inscriptions appear. (Hypothesis confirmed. Artifacts and coins with Indian inscriptions have been found in Egypt and Ethiopia.) Failure to disconfirm this theorem, implies validity of myprediction.
My confirmation of the above , and 1) the presence of Kushites in Africa and Asia; 2)the presence of Kushana sages in India who may have migrated to Meroe;3) cognate lexical items; 4)cognate verbs and 5) cognate grammatical features; indicates systematic controlled, critical and empirical investigation of the question of Kushana representing the Meroitic cognate language.
You can read more about my decipherment of Meroitic in the following articles:
Winters,Clyde Ahmad. (Juin 1984b). "A Note on Tokharian and Meroitic", Meroitic Newsletter\Bulletin d"Information Meroitiques , No.23 , pages 18-21.
Winters,Clyde Ahmad. (1989b). "Cheikh Anta Diop et le dechiffrement de l'ecriture meroitique",Cabet: Revue Martinique de Sciences Humaines et de Litterature 8, pp. 149-152.
Winters, Clyde Ahmad.(1998). Meroitic funerary Text. Part1,Inscription Journal of Ancient Egypt 1,(1), pp. 29-34.
Winters, Clyde Ahmad.(1998). Meroitic funerary Text. Part1,Inscription Journal of Ancient Egypt 1,(2), pp. 41-55.
Winters, Clyde Ahmad. (1999). The inscriptions of Tanyidamani.Nubica IV und Nubica V., pp.355-388.
You can read more about my decipherment at thefollowing web site: http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Bay/7051/mero.htm
I have written a short dictionary of Meroitic terms that you can find at the following web site: http://geocities.com/olmec982000/meroitic.pdf
My most recent article discussing Meroitic history and deciphering Meroitic documents titled the Meroitic Evidence for a Blemmy Empire in the Dodekaschoinos can be found at the following site: http://arkamani.org/meroitic_studies/Kalabsha.htm Enjoy.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
African Traders and the Maya Indians
Friday, April 18, 2008
The Syllabic Characters in the Codex Tro-Crotesianus
The Comalcalco bricks make it clear that the Mayan Indians taught many different forms of writing at their Universities. The "Salazar Brick" is a bilingual Olmec-Maya text. Decipherment of this brick allows us to read the Mayan inscriptions by looking at the syllabic signs contained in the Mayan heiroglyphics.
The Mayans had a syllabic writing systems model on the Olmec script. An examination of the Ekchuan 'Black Trader' God and inscriptions from the Codex Tro-Crotesianus will be used to support this hypothesis.
Bishop Diego de Landa recorded a Maya script of 29 signs. Many scholars using Landa's alphabet have been unable to read the entire script. The syllabic nature of the Mayan writing explains the more than 287 characters associated with this writing, not including variants which appear in the Maya Codices. The reason we have so many Mayan signs results from the uniting of groups of syllables to make Maya words and sentences.
Landa made it clear that the Maya script was made up of drawings and signs within the drawings (Tozzer, 1941:p.169). This point of Landa's presentation on the Mayan writing, led me to attempt to break down Maya glyphs into their constituent parts to try and determine if the smbols inside the glyphs that resembled Olmec signs, could be given Mayan phoneticization and read in Yucatec Mayan.
Rafinesque was sure the Mayan writing was related to the Libyco-Berber writing in Africa. Yuri Knorosov and Eric Thompson recognized the syllabic nature of Mayan writing. For example, Thompson hypothesized that the footprint sign from Landa's list called "B", represented the Yucatec word be 'road'.
I began my attempt to read Mayan inscriptions based on the work of Knorosov who read the inscriptions based on the context of the inscription. The best source of the Mayan syllabic signs is the codex Tro-Crotesianus. Here there is frequent mention of Ekchuah or God M. According to Sahagun, the first foreign merchants sold mantles (chimalli) and waistcloths (maxtli).
Leo Wiener in Mayan and Mexican Origins , and Ivan van Sertima, They came before Columbus , published several illustrations of Ekchuah. I read the Mayan inscriptions by giving each of the syllabic signs of the Maya syllables the phonemic value the identical sign in the Olmec writing. After transliterating the Mayan syllables, I read each syllable in Yucatec Maya.
In Mayan times, most items of trade were carried by boat. The major product involved in the native trade was cocao, a crop they only grew in watered field.
Though most trading was by sea a special group of merchants carried goods overland under the protection of the god Ekchuah. The Merchants of Ekchuah were guided along these perilous trails by the North Star: Xaman. Ekchuah was also the diety of cocao growers , probably because this group early monopolized.
In Mayan times cocao beans were used as currency or ta-kin . The god EkChuan appears seventeen times in the Madrid Codex and once in the Dresden codex.
Ekchuan and many of the merchants carrying goods are given African features and painted black. These merchants usually carries a corded hamper and pouch and flint-tipped spear with a headband on his head.
The God of the North was called Xaman. Xaman is associated with richness and abundance. Below we use the syllabic method to read the Mayan Codex.
This panel reads : "The merchants of the god Ekchuah (come carrying) fine skins (co) (and) bitter cocao beans (ki ta kin). The cocao beans are shelled (po'o). (They are) Priest of the divinity (and) exist in a unique state. (They represent) Xaman god of the North".
There is another interesting inscription about the Afro-Mexicans from the Tro-Crotesianus codex.
In this inscription we can easily break down each glyph into there syllabic parts.
We can read this inscription moving from right to left. There are four rows of inscriptions. Row 1, is on the far right side of the panel. Row2, is the glyphs written above the fire stick. Row 3 consist the symbols on the immediate left side of the panel and; row 4, is the group of glyphs on the far left side of the panel.
Let's transliterate the signs
- i yu
- ta zay
- Chikin sign
- Sign of Ekchuah (Ta Fa gyo).
- Yum Kaaz (Lord of the North)
- Eb day sign
- ta zay co
"Row 1: These thick men (came to) the marketplace of Mayaland.(?)....Their thick pouches (full of goods) they were assembled at the Chikin market.
Row 2: Long ago the Merchants of Ekchuah transported (goods to the) gods.
Row 3: Thick men (came) to the market (from the) East. Pouches came to the market from the Lord of the North on Lamat day.
Row 4: They carry and transport (to the market) thick pouches assembled (with) skins (inside). (The merchants appeared on ) Eb (the lucky market day). They went to the May (Priest) (to) present bitter wine (at the temple)."
A.M. Tozzer (Ed.). Landa's Relacion de las Casas de Yucatan: A translation. Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology. Cambridge 1941.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Black Gods of the Maya
Above is another Mayan inscription relating to the Black merchants. Reading the inscriptions in the Mayan language left to right we have the following:
- Priest of the divinity exist in a unique state.
- Xaman god of the North.
- Co ki ta kin
- Pouch on the back of the traveling Merchant
- Po ta kinTranslation reading from right to left.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Here is another interesting Sumerian seal. On this seal we see the Sun God between two peaks.
Picture History of the Vai Writing
The Vai script gives us an understanding of the phonemic values of the so-called Libyco-Berber symbols. The Libyco-Berber writing is nothing more than a varient form of the original Mande writing represented best by the Vai signs. The Mande in their migration from the Fezzan in Libya across the Sahara into West Africa have left us numerous inscriptions giving us tetimony to their literacy.
Today the Vai script is still being taught to a future generation of Mande speaking youth who will continue writing in this interesting script for hundreds of years to come.
There is considerable evidence that the Vai writing was invented millennia before 1820. This view is supported by the presence of signs analogous to the Vai script being found on rocks from the Fezzan to the Niger Valley and beyond that make up the corpus of the Vai script .
Controversy surrounds the invention of the Vai script. Delafosse claimed that Vai informants told him the writing system was invented in ancient times. S.W. Koelle in Narrative of an expedition into Vy country West Africa and the Discovery of a system of writing,etc.(London,1849) claimed that the writing system was invented by Bukele in 1829 or 1839. David Diringer in The Alphabet (London,1968,pp.130-133) reported that there was a tradition that the writing was invented by a group of eight Vai. Marcel Cohen La grande invention de l'ecriture at son evolution (Paris,1958, p. 21) believed that the Vai writing system was not invented before the 18th century, but more probably at the beginning of the 19thth century.
The story about Bukele's dream is just a cover, used by Bukele to keep members of the Gola Poro society from being angered by Bukele's open teaching of the Vai script . We know that the symbols associated with the Vai script existed prior to Bukele's alleged invention of the Vai writing because it was known to African slaves in Suriname. In 1936, M.J. Herskovits and his wife on a field trip to Suriname recorded a specimen of writing written by a man while he was possessed by the spirit winti. Mrs. Hau, who examined the specimen wrote that "Most of the component parts of are to be found in the syllabaries of West Africa which we have just discussed" (see: K.Hau, Pre-Islamic writing in West Africa, Bulletin de l'IFAN, t35, ser.B,No.1 (1973)pp.1-45).
The British took over Suriname and ended slavery in 1799. Years before Bukele's alleged invention of the Vai writing. As a result, there is no way a descendant of a Suriname Maroon (runaway slave) could have produced the writing under possession by the spirit winti if the writing was invented by Bukele.
If you read the history of Bukele's alleged invention of the Vai script we discover that although Bukele dreamt of the Vai characters he was able to "reconstruct" the symbols not by deeply meditating on the dream, he: Later Dualu retired from his work as a steward and returned to his hometown in the Vai chiefdom. But he couldn’t forget the idea of having a means of writing. He asked himself, “Why can’t we have something like this for our own Vai people?” One night he had a vision in which he saw a tall white man who said, “Dualu, come. I have a book for you and your Vai people.” The man in the vision then proceeded to show him the shapes of the Vai characters used in the Vai writing system.
When Dualu awoke, he began to write down the characters he’d seen in his vision. Sadly, there were so many he could not remember them all, so he called together his friends and fellow elders and shared with them his vision and the characters he had written down. His fellow Vai elders caught his excitement and over time, they added more characters in place of those Dualu could not remember.
This is the main give-away that the writing existed before Bukele's alleged invention. Firstly, how could "his friends and fellow elders" help him recover the Vai signs, if the signs were not already invented--since these men had not had Bukele's dream.
Secondly, before Bukele popularized the Vai script he sought protection from King Fa Toro of Goturu in Tianimani for his school. The King granted protection to the inventors of the Vai script because "The king declared himself exceedly pleased with their discovery, which as he said would soon raise his people upon a levelwith the Porors and Mandingoes, who hitherto had been the only book-people" (see: S.W. Koelle, Outline grammar of the Vai language--and an account of the discovery and nature of the Vai mode of syllabic writing, London,1854).
Bukele needed a Kings support for the teaching of anyone the Vai writing because the first schools set up to teach the script at Dshondu and Bandakoro were burned down along with the Vai manuscripts found in the schools after 18 months .
If Bukele had invented the Vai script as he claimed, why did he need protection for his schools? The answer is that he didn't invent the writing he just popularized the script.
The Vai script was taught in the Mande secret societies. This is why even though the script is well known, it is cloaked in an aura of secrecy.This view is supported by the fact that when Thomas Edward Beslow, a Vai prince who attended mission schools in Liberia and the Wesleyan Academy in Massachusetts was initiated into the Poro Society he mentions in his autobiography that many members of the secret society could write in Vai (see: T.E. Beslow, From Darkness of Africa to the light of America).
What do we learn from this report. First, the Vai script was known to Vai elites. Obviously, members of Poro would not like non members of the society to know about this writing. Yet, Bukele was teaching the Vai writing to any one who desired to learn it , so the Vai would be recognized for their literacy just like Europeans. Secondly it was being taught in the Poro society, which King Fa Toro, did not belong too.
Today eventhough the Vai script is well known the writing is semi-secret. As a result. some commentators believe the Vai no longer write in the script. This led Christopher Fyfe in A History of Sierra Leone, to write that: "Though an English trader who spent some time among the Vai in the 1860's found schools where children were still learning it, it was almost forgotten by the early twentieth century, and today is only studied by linguist".
Fyfe was wrong. Gail Stewart, only five years later in Notes on the present-day usage of the Vai script in Liberia (African Language Review 6,(1967)p.71) found that the script was still very popular among many Vai.
David Dalby wrote about a Gola student of William Siegman, who allowed Siegman him to copy the inscription but he would not translate same. This student attributed the writing to the Poro Society, and said he was taught the writing by his grandfather. Dalby wrote: "After the present paper had gone to press, Mr. William Siegman of Indiana University gave me information on a fifteenth West African script, used in Liberia for writing Gola. Mr. Siegman had seen a young Gola student at Cuttingham College (Liberia) writing a letter in this script in 1968, but although the student allowed him to take a copy of the letter he declined to provide Mr. Siegman with a Key"(see:D. Dalby, Further indigenous scripts in West Africa and etc.,ALS,10,pp.180-181).
Dalby viewed the assertion of the student that the writing was used by members of the Poro Society with skepticism. But Dalby should not have been skeptical because Beslow had made the same claim.
In conclusion, Bukele probably did not invent the Vai writing. This is supported by the fact that 1) the symbols associated with the Vai script were well known to members of the Poro Secret Society; 2) descendants of Maroon Blacks in Suriname were familiar with the script; and 3) the Vai writing, for the most part remains in use but it is maintained in a semi-secret fashion and not usually shared with people who are not members or kin of members of a secret society, this is why the Gola student would not translate his letter for Mr.Siegman.
Finally it must be remembered that the symbols engraved on rocks from the Fezzan to the Niger bend and other areas where the Mande live are identical to symbols associated with the Vai script. This shows the continuity of writing among the Mande speaking people over a period of 3000 plus years.
The evidence from Suriname, symbols on the rocks near Mande habitations in the Americas, and the existence of the symbols relating to the Vai script in other Mande writing systems and their continued use by members of the Vai and members of secret societies support Delafosse's tradition that the Vai writing existed in ancient times.
S.W. Koelle in Narrative of an expedition into Vy country West Africa and the Discovery of a system of writing,etc.(London,1849)
David Diringer,The Alphabet (London,1968, pp.130-133)
K.Hau, Pre-Islamic writing in West Africa, Bulletin de l'IFAN, t35, ser.B,No.1 (1973)pp.1-45).
S.W. Koelle, Outline grammar of the Vai language--and an account of the discovery and nature of the Vai mode of syllabic writing, London,1854).
T.E. Beslow, From Darkness of Africa to the light of America).Gail Stewart,Notes on the present-day usage of the Vai script in Liberia (African Language Review 6,(1967)p.71)
D. Dalby, Further indigenous scripts in West Africa and etc.,ALS,10,pp.180-181)..
The Olmecs called themselves Xi (Shi)
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Olmec Writing: The Cascajal Tablet of King Bi Po Po
Archaeologist have recently found an Olmec Tablet which dates back to the Olmec Period at Cascajal. This tablet is engraved with Olmec characters and represents one of the earliest examples of Olmec writing found in Mexico. Here Dr. Clyde Winters will decipher the inscriptions on the Cascajal Tablet.
Some researchers have recognized insects and other objects among the symbols engraved on the Cascajal Tablet. In reality these signs are made up several different Olmec linear signs (Winters,1998).
To read the Olmec writing I use the Vai script. The Vai script includes a number of syllabic signs that have been used to engrave rocks in the Sahara for the past 4000 years(see: Mauny; Lambert, Kea). I read the signs in Malinke-Bambara which was the spoken language of the Olmec. Delafosse (1910) collected oral traditions detailing the ancient origin of the script.
The Olmec writing is read right to left top to bottom. Each segment of the Olmec sign has to be broken down into its individual syllabic sign. In most cases the Olmec signs includes two or more syllabic characters.
The Olmec signs from the list above can be transliterated as follows:
1. La fe ta gyo
2. Bi yu
3. Pa po yu
4. Se ta I su
6. Beb be
7. Bi Po Yu to
8. Tu fa ku
9. Tu pa pot u
10. Ta gbe pa
12. Bi Yu yo po
13. Kye gyo
14. Po lu
15. Fe ta yo i
16. Be kye
17. Fe gina
18. Po bi po tu
19. Lu kye gyo to
20. Kye tu a pa
21. Yu gyo i
22. Pa ku pa
23. Po yu
24. Day u kye da
25. Po ta kye tap o
26. Ta gbe
27. Bi Fa yu
28. Bi Yu / Paw
Reading the Cascajal Tablet from right to left we have the following:
(8) Bi Po lays in state in the tomb, (7) desiring to be endowed with mysterious faculties.
(6) This abode is possessed by the Governor . (5)…. (4) Bi Po Po.
(3) Bi (was), (2) an Artisan desires to be consecrated to the divinity. (1) (and He) merits thou offer of libations.
(14). Admiration (for) the cult specialist’s hemisphere tomb. (13) The inheritance of thou vital spirit is consecration to the divinity.
(12) In a place of righteous admiration, (11) Pure Bi (in a) pure abode
(10) A pure mark of admiration (is) this hemispheric tomb.
(9) [Here] lays low (the celebrity) [he] is gone.
(22) The place of righteousness, [is] (21) the pure hemispheric tomb
(19) Thou (art) obedient to the Order. (18) Hold upright the Order (and) the divinity of the sacred cult.
(17) Pure Admiration this place of, (16) Bi the Vital Spirit. (15) [Truly this is ] a place consecrated to the divinity and propriety.
27) Lay low (the celebrity) to go to , (26) love the mystic order—thou vivid image of the race, (25) The pure Govenor and (24) Devotee [of the Order lies in this] hemispheric tomb ,desires [to be] a talisman effective in providing one with virtue, (23) [He] merits thou offer of Libations.
(34) Command Respect. (33)….this place of admiration. (32) Thou sacred inheritance is propriety. (31) The Govenor commands existence in a unique state, (31) [in] this ruler’s hemispheric tomb. (29) The Royal (28) [was] a vigorous man.
(36) The pure habitation (35) [of a ]Ruler obedient to the Order.
(37) This abode is possessed by the governor. (38) Admiration to you [who art] obedient to the Order.
(49) Pure admiration [for this] tomb.
(48) Thou hold upright the pure law.
(47). Pure admiration [for this tomb].
(46) [It] acts [as] a talisman effective in providing one with virtue.
(45) Bi Po, (44) a pure man, (43) of wonder, (42) [whose] inheritance is consecration to the Divinity.
(41) Bi Po lays in state in the tomb, (40) desiring to be endowed with mysterious faculties.
(62) Bi Po lays in state in the tomb.
(61) [This] tomb [is a] sacred object, (60) a place of righteous wonder.
(59) Bi’s tomb (58) [is in] accord [with] the law (57) Bi exist in a unique (and) pure state the abode of the Govenor is pure..
(56) The inheritance of [this] Ruler is joy.
(55) [In] this tomb of King Bi (54) lays low a celebrity, [he] is gone.
(53) The tomb of Bi (52) is a dormitory [of] love. A place consacreted to the divinity.
(51) Thou the vivid image of the race love(d) the mystic order.
(50) [He] merits [your] offer of Libations.
This translation of the Cascajal tablet makes it clear that the tablet was written for a local ruler at San Lorenzo called Bi Po. This tablet indicates that Bi Po’s tomb was recognized as a sacred site. It also indicates that the Olmecans believed that if they offered libations at the tombs of their rulers they would gain blessings.
In the location where the Cascajal Tablet was found the road builders claim that at the site a mound was found. The fact that a mound existed where the tablet was found offers considerable support to the idea that the mound where the tablet was discovered is the tomb of BiPoPo.
The obituary on the Cascajal Tablet may be written about one of the Royals among Olmec heads found at San Lorenzo. The Cascajal Tablet may relate to the personage depicted in San Lorenzo monument 3.
I have found that the names of these rulers is probably found among the symbols associated with the individual Olmec heads. The headband on monument 3 is made up of four parallel ropes encircling the head. In the parallel ropes there are two serrated figures that cross the ropes diagonally.
There is also a plaited diadem or four braids on the back of the figure covered with serrated element. On the side of the head of monument 3, two serrated elements on four parallel lines hang. This element ends with a three-tiered element hanging.
In the Olmec writing the serrated elements means Bi, while the boxes under the serrated element within the four parallel lines would represent the words PoPo. This suggest that the name for monument 3 was probably BiPoPo.
The hanging element on monument 3 is similar to one of the signs on the Cascajal
tablet. Although symbol 57 on the Cascajal monument is hard to recognize it appears to include the Bi sign on the top of the symbol.
This finding indicates that the BiPoPo of monument 3, is most likely the BiPo(Po) mentioned in the Cascajal Tablet.
Stirling said that monument 3 was found at the bottom of a deep ravine half-a-mile southwest of the principal mound of San Lorenzo, along with ceramic potsherds. This is interesting because the village of Cascajal is situated southwest of San Lorenzo.
According to reports of the discovery of the road builders who found the Cascajal Tablet, the tablet came from a mound at Cascajal which was located about a mile from San Lorenzo. The coincidence of finding San Lorenzo Monument 3 in the proximity of the Cascajal mound where the Cascajal Tablet was found suggest that these artifacts concern the same personage. This leads to the possibility that the Cascajal mound was the tomb of BiPoPo.
In conclusion the Cascajal Tablet is an obituary for a Olmec ruler named BiPoPo. Given the presence of similar signs on the Olmec head called San Lorenzo monument 3, which also read BiPoPo suggest that the Cascajal Tablet was written for the personage depicted in Olmec head 3.
If the Cascajal Tablet really corresponds to one of the Olmec heads suggest that Cascajal may have been a royal burial site. If this is the case it is conceivable that other tablets relating to Olmec rulers may also be found at this locale, since some of these other mounds may be the “hemispheric” tombs of other Olmec rulers.
M. Delafosse, Vai leur langue et leur ysteme d'ecriture,L'Anthropologie, 10 (1910).
Lambert, N. (1970). Medinet Sbat et la Protohistoire de Mauritanie Occidentale, Antiquites Africaines, 4, pp.15-62.
Lambert, N. 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);
Kea,R.A. (2004). Expansion and Contractions: World-Historical Change and the Western Sudan World-System (1200/1000BC-1200/1250A.D.) Journal of World-Systems Research, 3, pp.723-816
Winters, Clyde. (1998). The Decipherment of the Olmec Writing System. Retrieved 09/25/2006 at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Academy/8919/Rtolmec2.htm
Winters,Clyde.(2006). The Olmec Hieroglyphic Script. Retrieved 09/25/2006 at:
 This sign reads Bi ta po tu po ku
The Seth Inscription
The symbols on the engraving are written in the so-called Libyco-Berber writing which is really made up of Mande signs. Using the Vai signs we are able to read the inscriptions in the Malinke-Bambara language.
On the left side we see a figure of a cannine and on the right we have a figure of Seth. Reading the inscriptions from right to left I will decipher the writing.
Under the cannine figure we have: Be tu a ka na or "To exist obedient to the order in joy [with the] Mother".
Reading the inscriptions under the Seth figure we have reading the inscription from right to left: i lu i gyo fa yo gyo, or " Thou hold upright this divinity of the cult, [our] Father, the vital spirit of the society consecrated to (Seth's) cult".
This figure is important in relation to the Western Sahara and the Seth cult. Michael Rice, in Egypt's Making: The Origin of Ancient Egypt 5000-2000 BC, makes it clear that Seth was the god of the Southern people and that Anubis (the canine god) was the protector of the people of the South.
At this temple many of the people spoke Arabic. I often talked to the Moors and they taught me Arabic.
This experience had a great affect on me. It taught me that I could learn languages easily. As a result, I decided to learn French in High School. I studied French for four years.
At DuSable High School they had one of the first Afro-American history programs in the late 1960s. I enjoyed studying history so I decided that I would be a High School History teacher specializing in African and Afro-American history.
In the fall of 1969 I began study at the University of Illinois-Urbana. At the U of I-Urbana I graduated with both my B.A. and Master's Degrees in June 1973.
At UofI I took just about every African history course and I earned an unofficial minor in African studies. My History professor was Charles Steward.
Dr. Steward taught every African history course at the University back in the early 1970's. He specialized in Islamic history. My background in Arabic and French allowed me the ability to read many of the primary documents relating to African Islamic History. This also encouraged me to learn more about the Arabic language.
As a student at Illinois I worked for the Student Affairs Department. One of my duties was to organize programs for Afro-American students living in the dorms.
One of my major projects was publishing a literary magazine for Afro-American students called Yombo. In this magazine I wrote many articles on ancient Black History. My most important article was on Africans in ancient America. In this article I discussed all the evidence of Africans living in America before Columbus came to the New World.
It was while writing this article that I became familiar with the work of Leo Wiener's Africa and the Discovery of America. Reading this book introduced me to the Mande influence in Mexico, and the possibility that the Olmec introduced writing to the Mexicans as evidenced by the Tuxtla statuette.
I was especially interested in East African history, so I minored in Swahili for my Master's Degree and decided I would become a specialist in East African History. I chose this area because of the fact John Williams in his book: The man who Cried I am, mentioned the fact that knowledge of Yemeni textual material may allow one to understand why the Africans and Chinese shared many cultural items and traditions. My Master's Thesis was titled Zanj to Zanj: Blacks in the Countries Bordering the Indian Ocean.
It was while writing this thesis I began to learn about the Dravidians in India. Having read the work of Anta Diop and Th. Obenga in French , I knew the Dravidians and Africans shared cognate cultures and languages. Th. Obenga even talked about an Indo-African family of languages.
After College I taught High School and wrote articles for a Swahili language magazine. The article I wrote for Yombo regarding the Pre-Columbian Blacks and my Master's thesis have been the inspiration behind my interest in ancient scripts. These works led to my interest in the literature of Blacks in ancient Asia and the Americas.
Later I learned that the Mande speaking people had created many writing systems. Wangara mentioned that the Mande probably left inscriptions in the Americas--via the Vai syllabary. Once I saw the Vai script and learned about the Vai tradition that it was invented in ancient times I studied the Vai script and found that I could use it to read the inscriptions on the LaVenta celts.
My linguistic studies indicated to me that the Dravidians, Mande, Sumerians and Elamites spoke cognate languages that share a genetic linguistic connection. Given the fact that the Mande and Dravidians spoke cognate languages I hypothesized that the Indus Valley writing might also be deciphered using the phonemic values of the Vai signs, but reading the signs in Tamil. This hypothesis was correct and I deciphered the Indus Valley writing.
Since then I have went on to decipher the Proto-Sumerian, Meroitic and Minoan A scripts. In the following pages we will explore the literature these Blacks left mankind over the millennia.