Sunday, November 26, 2017

Meroitic and Tokharian

My decipherment of Meroitic indicates that many terms alleged to be Meroitic by Griffith and others must be discarded. I am forced to ignore the proposed meaning for some proposed Meroitic lexical items because they do not agree with my research into Meroitic. But I accept some of the alleged Meroitic terms as being verified by my decipherment both due to their Egyptian origin, or affinity to Tokharian terms.

I explain in detail how to read Meroitic in my Book Meroitic Writing and Literature.

It must be remembered that most of the alleged Meroitic lexical items were simply guesses by the researchers. These terms become valid only when they can be read in all the Meroitic text and have consistent meaning. I found that some of these terms are homonyms, while other terms "discovered " by Griffith and others were good guesses that do not prove valid given our discovery of the cognate language of Meroitic.

There are several recognized Meroitic words (Hintze 1979).The following words correspond to Tokharian words:

Meroitic..................... Tokharian

Ø kadke / ktke # queen……………… Ø katak # master of the house

Ø ato # water ……………………………………… Ø ap

#Ø s # 'race'……………………………………………………… Ø sah # 'man'

Ø wide # youth ……………………………………………… Ø wir #

Ø qor # monarch ……………………………………………. Ø oroce # 'the grand king'

Ø parite # agent……………………………………………… Ø parwe # 'first'

Ø apote # 'envoy'………………………………………………..Ø ap # 'father'

It is obvious that apote and parite do not relate to Tokharian because these are Egyptian loan words adopted by the Meroites. But around 57% of these terms show agreement. This made it highly probable that Meroitic and Tokharian were cognate languages.

The grammar of Meroitic determined by Hintze (1979) allowed us to also make comparisons with Tocharian to test the Kushana hypothesis for reading Meroitic. This comparison of grammatical structures showed cognition between this language and Meroitic.

Hintze was sure that there were a number of Meroitic affixes including:






B.G. Trigger in his "Commentary" (Hintze 1979) mentioned several other possible Meroitic affixes including:




In addition , A. M. Abdalla in his "Commentary" (Hintze 1979)mentioned three possible verbal suffixes , including:



These alleged Meroitic grammatical elements encouraged me to seek out a language that contained these typological features as the possible cognate language for Meroitic. The Kushana language includes all of these affixes.

Researchers working on Meroitic determined several possible prefixes:





In Tokharian we find these prefixes: p(ä), the imperfect prefix and imperative, y- the Tokharian element joined to demonstratives, and yopsa ‘in between’.

There are other affixes that relate to the Meroitic suffixes including –te, the demonstrative ‘this, etc.’; -o, the suffix used to change nouns into adjectives. For example: aiśamñe ‘knowledge’, asimo ‘knowing; klyomñ ’nobility’, klyomo ‘noble’.

Other Tokharian affixes which agree with Meroitic include –te and -l. The Tokharian locative suffix is –te. The ending particle in Tokharian is –l.

The Meroitic –t, corresponds to the –t ‘you’. In Tokharian the pronouns are placed at the end of words: nas-a-m ‘I am’, träkä-s ‘he says’, träkä-t ‘you say’.

The –t element in Tokharian can also be used to represent the third person singular e.g., kälpa-t ‘he found’.The p-, element used to form the imperative in Tokharian and imperfect . This affix is used in both Tokharian A and B. For example,Tokh.A klyos "to hear, to listen"p(a)klyos "You listen"p(a)klyossu "s/he listens"Tokh. B klyausp(a)klyaus 'you listen"A. tatas, "to lay, to put"ptas 'you lay'B. tes, tas 'to put, to lay'ptes 'you put'.

The Tokharian -n-, has many uses in Tokharian. It can be used to form the subjuntive, e.g., yam 'to do', yaman 's/he do(es). It is also used to form the plural se 'son', pl. sewan 'sons; ri 'city', pl. rin 'cities'.The plural in Tokharian is formed by the –ñ. For example,are ‘plough’, pl. areñ‘ploughs’ ri ‘city’ , pl. riñ ‘cities.

Recognition of analogous structural elements in relation to Kushana and Meroitic allowed us to divide the Meroitic phonemes into words. Griffith provided us with evidenec for selected Meroitic nouns.

Abdalla (Hintze 1979, 149) was sure that he detected several common verbs in Meroitic including:








yi mde.

Following this lead we searched the Kushan language to determine if it possessed any verbs that might match the proposed hypothetical verbs of Abdalla. A comparison of Kushan and Meroitic proved to be successful. We now know that he was absolutely right about his interpretation of possible Meroitic verbs.

Below is the interpretation of these Meroitic verbs:

hr , to have dignity

the , suggested posssible to move

tk , to set in motion, to investigate

w-e , to give escort

pl , to boast, to praise

m-de , measure the offering

y i m-de go make (full) measure of the offering

Recognition of these Meroitic terms as verbs gave us any more confirmation that Kushana was probably the Meroitic cognate language. This discovery of Meroitic verbs and nouns, and cognate toponomies in Central Asia and Upper-Nubia-Sudan proved that Meroitic could be read using Kushana lexical items.

The discovery that Tokharian is cognate to Meroitic has led to the full decipherment of the Meroitic script. We can now translate Meroitic using Tokharian. This allows us to obtain new information about the Meroitic civilization.

My research into Kushana or Tokharian has led me to recognize that this language was probably used as a lingua franca or trade language in Central Asia by the diverse peoples living there in an intense bilingual environment (Winters 1996a, 1996b). C. A. Winters (1991) has illustrated how the Greek and Slavic terms in Tokharian were loanwords, absorbed by Tokharian after the Greek conquest of Bactria.

This borrowing pattern was consistent with the spread of the Greek language into Bactria by a small elite group of warriors.The classical and Egyptian sources make it clear that Upper Nubia and the Sudan was inhabited by numerous tribes. The possible early use of Kushan\Tokharian as a trade language made it an ideal candidate for use by the Meroitic elites who ruled an empire that was made up of many diverse ethnic groups as the language for literate Meroites


Abdalla, A.M. 1994. Personal Descriptions in Meroitic Funerary inscriptions. In Hommages a Jean Leclant, (ed.) by C. Berger, G. Clerc & N. Grimal, (Institute Francais d'Archeologie Orientale: Bibliotheque d' Etudes 106/2) pp.1-15.

Abdalla, A.M. 1978. The Meroitic Civilization:Its Mediterranean Contacts and Africaness. In Afrique Noire et monde mediterranean dans L'Antiquité Colloque de Dakar. (Dakar: Université de Senegal) 89-114.

Adams, W.Y. 1977. Nubia:Corridor to Africa. London: Penguin Ltd.

Adams, W.Y. 1975. "Meroitic North and South". Meroitica 2,Berlin:Akademie-Verlag.

Arkell, A.J. 1961. A History of the Sudan from earliest times to 1821. London: University of London Press.

Bakr, M. 1964. Drei Meroitische opfertafeln aus Qustul, Kush,12 , 293-296.

Bakr, M. 1966. Meroitische inschriften aus der umgebung von Aniba, Kush, 14, 336-346.

Griffith, F.Ll. 1909. Meroitic inscriptions. In Areika, (ed) by MacIver, D.R. & Woolley, C.L. Vol.1. Philadelphia.

Griffith, F.L.1911a. Karanog. The Meroitic Inscriptions of Shablul and Karanog. Philadelphia: Eckley B. Coxe Jr Expedition to Nubia. Vol.VI.

Griffith, F. Ll. 1911b. Meroitic Inscriptions: Part I. London: The Offices of the Egypt Exploration Fund.

Griffith, F. Ll. 1912. Meroitic Inscriptions: Part II. London: The Offices of the Egypt Exploration Fund.

Hakem,A.M.A. 1981. The civilization of Napata and Meroe. In General History of Africa, (London: Heinemann) 278-297.

Hakem, A.M.A. 1984. "Napatan-Meroitic Continuity", Meroitica, 19, 875-883.

Hakem, A.M.A. 1988. Meroitic Architecture. Khartoum: University of Khartoum.

Haycock, B.G. 1978. "The Problem of the Meroitic Language",Occasional Papers in Linguistics and Language Learning, no.5: 50-81.

Haynes, J.L. 1992. Nubia:Ancient Kingdoms of Africa. Boston:Museum of Fine Arts.

Hinkel, F.W. 1994. Les pyramides de méroé. Les Dossiers D'Archeologie, no. 196, 60-63.

Hintze, F. 1959. Studien zur Meroitischen chronologie und zu den opfertafeln aus den pyramides von Meroe. Berlin: Akadamie-Verlag.

Hintze, F. 1962. Die inschriften,des lowentempel von Mussawwarat es Sufra. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Hintze, F. 1971. Mussawwarat es Sufra. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Hintze, F. (1974). "Some problems of Meroitic philology". In Studies in Ancient Langugaes of the Sudan, (ed.) by A.M. Abdalla, (Khartoum: Khartoum University Press) pp. 73-78.

Hintze,F. 1978. The Meroitic Period. In Africa in Antiquity: The Arts of Ancient Nubia and the Sudan Vol.I. (Brooklyn, N. Y. : Brooklyn Museum) 89-105.

Hintze, F. 1979. "Beltrage zur Meroitishen Grammatik",Meroitica 3, Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Hoffmann, I 1991. Steine fur die ewigkeit meroitische opferlafeln und totenstelen. Beitrage zur Sudanforschung Beiheft, 6. Wien: Modling.

Hoffmann, I. 1981. Material fur eine Meroitische Grammatik.Veroffenthchungen der Institute fur Afrikanistik und Agyptologie der Universitat Wien, No. 16. Wien.

Hummel, S. 1992. Die Meroitische Sprache und das protoaltaische Spachsubstrat als Medium zu ihrer Deutung. Febri Verlag.Karanog, Wealthy Capital of a Lower Nubian Province . 1993.Expedition, 35(2), 62-63.

Kendal, T. 1982. Kush:Lost Kingdom of the Nile. Boston,Mass :Brockton Art Museum.

Kormysheva,E. 1990. Egyptian religion in Nubia: Some considerations. Etudes Nubiennes, Vol. II. 187-191.

Leclant,J. 1981. The Empire of Kush: Napata and Meroe. In General History of Africa II, G. Mokhtar (Ed.), (Heinemann:University of California Press) 298-325.

Lepsius, C.R. 1897-1913. Denkmäleraus Aegypten und Aethiopien. Leipzig. 5 Volumes.Lewczuk, J. 1990. Studies on the decoration of the West walls of the chapels at the pyramids in Meroe and Barkal. In Etudes Nubiennes ,Vol. IV, Ch. Bonnet (ed.). (Conference de Geneve Actes der V111e Congress International. Marquette: J. G. Ceconi) 157-158.

MacAdam,M.F.L. 1949. The Temples of Kawa I. The Inscriptions. London: Oxford University Press.

MacAdam,M.F.L. 1950. Four Meroitic inscriptions, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 36, 42-46.

MacIver, D.R. and Wooley, C.L. 1909. Areika. PhiladelphiaUniversity Museum. Philadelphia.

Millet,N.B.1969. Meroitic Nubia. Yale University, Ph.D. Dissertation.

Millet, N.B. 1974. Writing and literacy in the ancient Sudan. In Studies in ancient Languages of the Sudan, (ed.) by A. M. Abdalla ,(Khartoum: Khartoum University Press, 1974) pp.49-57.

Millet,N.B. 1984. Meroitic Religion, Meroitica 7,8,pp.111-121.

O'Connor, D. 1993. Ancient Nubia:Egypt's Rival in Africa. Philadelphia: The University Museum, University of Pennsylvania.

Pope, M. 1975. The Story of Archaeological Decipherment, New York Charles Scribner & Sons.

Reisner,A. 1922. Historical Inscriptions from Gebel Barkal, Sudan Notes and Records , 4(2), pp.59-71.

Shinnie, P.L.1967. Meroe:A Civilization of the Sudan. London: Thames & Hudson.

Taylor,J.H. 1991. Egypt and Nubia. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Torok, L. 1990. Ambulatory Kingship and settlement history: a study on the contribution of archaeology to Meroitic history. Etudes Nubiennes, Vol.I, 11-126.

Torok, L. 1984. Meroitic Religion: Three Contributions in a Positivistic Manner", Meroitica 7,8, pp.156-182.

Trigger, B.G. 1970. The Meroitic Funerary Inscriptions from Armina West. New Haven, Philadelphia.

UNESCO. 1978. The peopling of ancient Egypt and the Decipherment of Meroitic Script. Paris: Unesco.

Villard, Ugo Monneret de.1960. Incrizioni della Regione di Meroe.Kush, 8, 93-113.

__________________.1959. Testi Meroitica della Nubia Settentrionale, Kush 7, 88-124.

Vychile, W. 1957. Le pays de kousch dans une inscription Ethiopiénne. Annales d'Ethiopie, 2, 177-179.

Williams, B.B. 1987. Meroitic Remains from Qustul cemetery Q Ballana Cemetery B, and A Ballana Settlement. Chicago,Il.:The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

Windekens van, A.J. 1941. Lexique etymologique des dialectes.Louvain.

------------------.1979. Le Tokhrien confronte avec les autre Langues Indo-Europeenes. 2 vols. Louvain.

Winters, Clyde . Meroitic Writing and Literature. Createspace, 2013.
____________.1984. "A note on Tokharian and Meroitic".MeroiticNewsletter, no. 23: 18-21.

____________.1988. "The Dravidian and Manding substratum in Tokharian". Central Asiatic Journal, 32 (1-2): 131-141.

------------.1989. "Chiekh Anta Diop at le Dechiffrement de l'ecriture Meroitique", Revue Martiniguaise de Sciences Humaines et de Litterature, no.8: 149-153.

------------.1990. "The Dravido-Harappan Colonization of Central Asia". Central Asiatic Journal, 34 (1-2):120-144.

-----------.1991. "Linguistic Evidence for Dravidian influence on Trade and Animal Domestication in Central and East Asia", International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics, 20 (2): 91-102

________________1999a. The inscription of Tanyidamani. Nubica IV und Nubica V.

_____________.(nd). The Meroitic Chamber Inscription. Nubica IV und Nubica V.

____________. n.d. Meroitic Inscriptions from Karanog. forthcoming Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities.

___________.1996a. Meroitic Decipherment.Ancient Near East Digest 3 (179). Chicago Oriental Institute. ANE Archive. 4 June . [On Line]

________.1996b. Meroitic Decipherment. Ancient Near East Journal 3 (180). Chicago Oriental Institute. ANE Archive. 8 June.[On Line]

________.1996c. Meroitic Texts. Ancient Near East Digest 3 (182). Chicago Oriental Institute. ANE Archive. 14 June. [On Line]

Winters, Clyde Ahmad. (1999). The inscriptions ofTanyidamani. Nubica IV und Nubica V., pp.355-388.

I have written a short dictionary of Meroitic terms that you can find at the following web site:

My most recent article discussing Meroitic history and deciphering Meroitic documents titled theMeroitic Evidence for a Blemmy Empire in the Dodekaschoinos can be found at the following

Yellin, J. 1982. The role of Anubis in Meroitic religion. In Nubian Studies, J.M. Plumley (ed.), (Cambridge: Selwyn College), 227-234...

No comments: