Identity, script, and the uses of writing in pre-Islamic Arabia – Michael Macdonald



[Applause] so in 1999 the Saudi scholar professor Ali el Kabong identified an area in Northwest Arabia where as the ancient Caravan track between Hara which is modern modern Sally and the Nabatean capital Petra in southern Jordan before this it had been assumed that the route would have been more or less the same as that of the Muslim pilgrimage route from Damascus to Medina which was followed by the Hejaz railway line which Lawrence of Arabia had such fun blowing up but it is now clear that the ancient track to which professor Robin gave the name dable Buckra the road at the young she-camel was further west this road was punctuated with stopping places many of which were covered with graffiti as you can see and in 2004 a thorough survey was undertaken by professor al cabone and dr. Leland Amy which recorded 800 graffiti in 14 different scripts and at one site alone they found more Nabataean texts than the in the whole of the Nabataean city of Hagar Leilani Muir has edited the Nabataean texts from the dobble bara and I've edited the ancient North and South Arabian ones and they will be published when professor al Robin has completed his work on the Arabic inscriptions the different scripts employed include Imperial Aramaic Nabataean cursive pearl marine ancient South Arabian Greek and Arabic as well as all than ancient North Arabian scripts used by both settled people and nomads the presence of texts in these different scripts means that this route was used by members of many different communities from at least the fourth century BC and possibly earlier until well into the Islamic era I apologize for this rather since Sebastien like Matt that it's intended to show that the the double baccarat was almost certainly only one of the routes along which frankincense and other goods were transported from southern Arabia to Egypt Gaza the Mediterranean and the Levant and by which goods from these places came back into Arabia which is why the arrows have appointed each end because the the trade was a two-way trade we had tend to think of the frankincense trade as only being going in one direction up to the north but in fact Goods came back and that carry at will far which is here which was a magnificent City from about the 3rd century BC until the 4th or 5th century AD they found wonderful Hellenistic bronzes wall paintings inscriptions in in many different scripts and it clearly was something that you know a very high quality goods were coming to this place which is right in the middle of the desert on the edge of the Empty Quarter but on a trade route that went straight across the peninsula in what is now they called the wadi Delos here say although the Romans had transferred the bulk of the trade to the Red Sea by the end of the 1st century AD it seems likely that some caravans continued to use the land route certainly the numbers of graffiti and the different scripts from the first half of the first millennium ad showed that the dabla Buckra was used by travelers whatever their business over a considerable period the dated Nabataean texts alone cover a period of four hundred and fifteen years from 41 ad to four five six if we look at the map of North and Central Arabia from say the mid first millennium BC onwards we find a pattern of erases separated by large tracts of desert inhabited by nomads but linked by numerous trade routes both the inhabitants of the Oasis and the nomads were literate but he used different scripts derived from the same script family and this is as you can see it's it on the right in more or less color you you have the scripts from the South Semitic script family which include ancient south arabian the musnad is the format the script we find on on stone and the zaboor the minuscule of writing which Jacques Rogge months was the pioneer in being able to decipher I mean he did the most brilliant work on it Haase attic is possibly a North Arabian language but written in the South Arabian script and Ethiopia is the only survivor of that branch of the Semitic script family today all the other traditional alphabets in the world come from the phoenician aramaic script family yes then so the interesting thing about the South Semitic script family was that it was used exclusively in Arabia and its environment so southern Syria Jordan and so and the tip was not it didn't expand into the rest of the ancient Near East and into South Asia and Central Asia as did the phoenician aramaic script family the concept of literate nomads may seem strange particularly in an age like ours I mean sorry politically in an age before mass availability of cheap paper and pens indeed the pay period between say 600 BC and 400 AD is as far as we know the only one when that the nomads of the three have been able to read and write before the present day literacy was of no great used to them William and fidelity Lancaster in their studies of the modern rural rural the Bedouin noted that even in the 1970s when the Jordanian army set up desert schools for the nomads the children of the rowella Bedouin first attended them but after a short while withdrew partly because they felt they were being inculcated with urban values but also because they thought that time could better be spent learning what the the Lancaster's called desert crafts which is the all the myriad things that you need to know about living in the desert which you only pick up by working there all your life and listening to your elders and say they they just went back to hurting the the camels and the sheep and the goats and doing the normal everyday tasks of Bedouin we do not know why the nomads why they're nomads learnt to read and write since the only plentiful preventively available surfaces to write on with the rocks of the desert which are not very useful for writing letters lists histories etc unless you happen to be this fellow yeah however we once once learned these nomads made use of writing to pass the time by carving graffiti while doing boring jobs by themselves like looking after the camels and and other livestock when they were grazing you spend all day by yourself with nothing to do then you start using anything that they would make rock drawings and they would carve their tribal marks and then when they became literate they were able to write graffiti and they could write as much or as little as they wanted and the next day come back and and say and another thing I've just sort of thought of this so it was a ideal pastime and they produced scores of thousands of these graffiti from the desert rocks from southern Syria to central Arabia between the mid 1st millennium BC to the 4th century AD and among all these there are no texts which we would consider as prey over practical use except perhaps for the occasional grave marker but even these are praised in the same way as the graffiti because among the nomads writing was treated simply as a pastime it did not reduce reliance on memory and oral communication in their societies so they remained an oral non literate society even though it appears that the majority of people could read and write which is a nice irony a similar pattern could be seen among the EPS I should have done that yes a similar pattern could be as seen among the Tuareg nomads of northwest Africa and until recently they had their own script at Tiffin ah which they used purely for pastimes and play and remained an entirely oral Society yes so you can see they wrote graffiti and they also would use it to write for lovers to write small love notes to each other which because it's actually quite difficult to understand it was you could have your secret language and the children played games with it and everybody knew it even the the learners sheiks who pretended they didn't really know that sort of thing because it was just what children did but in fact apparently there everybody knew this this script but they didn't use it for any practical purpose and so if you wanted to write a letter to another Tuareg you got somebody who could write in Arabic or French to write it and then the the recipient would have to get somebody to read it to him and translate it but the idea of using now that's changed now it's become a national alphabet and and for the Tuareg so tiring nationalism and so there's a printing font created and it's you have books and school books written in it and and so on so it's been normalized but until we're sort of 1990s it was still like this so I'll say sorry yes so you may well ask how do we know that the authors of these graffiti were nomads well firstly the graffiti are found throughout the deserts of southern Syria Eastern Jordan and North and Central South Saudi Arabia and only very rarely in settled areas secondly they are found in such huge quantities all over the desert that it would be difficult to attribute them to travelers at present we know of some 60,000 texts and this is after only a relatively few expeditions to record them indeed whenever one goes into the desert one finds more literally a one can trip over them but most tellingly the content of the graffiti tells deals entirely with nomadic life the example on the slide comes from the vessel desert of northeastern Jordan where the vast majority of the graffiti are in one of the scripts used by the nomads called Sofia tick on which more later there are other indications that the scripts of the nomads that the nomads used were only employed for carving on rocks and not for writing with ink as they would be in a literate society the element of letter forms and ligatures between letters the joins between letters usually comes about through writing with pen and ink and so depending as they would know sorry by an unconscious compromise between ease and speed for the writer and legibility for the reader thus word division either by using a symbol or spaces between the words or by creating final forms of letters aids the reader writing all lines in the same direction to avoid smudging what you've just written the development of letter forms which do not require which which do letter forms which do not require the lifting of the pen between strokes and in some scripts ligatures between debtors are the result of writers desire for speed and minimum effort I'm not talking here about the beautifully copied manuscripts of medieval Europe or the Koran manuscripts of the Islamic world but of the normal products of the ancient scribe legal documents letters that sort of thing thus for instance this for instance is how the Nabataean script you can see on the slide developed and eventually became what we think of as the Arabic script of which more later again however in a script which is employed solely for writing on stone I mean carving on stone there's no incentive for change for changing the letter check shapes while using ligatures between letters only makes more work for the Carver not less I'm not talking about formal public inscriptions where the mason does what he's told and reproduces in stone were to scribe has written in the in an exemplar here earth in ancient South Arabia monumental inscriptions carved in the musnad script they were in red but they're now in black anyway lines script the development in data forms comes about through changes in fashion we see a completely different development in letter forms in the Saburo minuscule writing used by scribes and reproduced on sticks of which the late professor reichman's of this university pioneered that cybermen so you can see the different shapes that they develop quite differently from the monumental even though they started more or less with similar shapes the interesting thing about the zaboor is that although so far we only find it in sized with a sharp knife or sharp blade on sticks the letters can only have developed their forms through writing in ink we hope one day to find a cache of ancient south arabian papyri but don't hold your breath to return to the graffiti of the nomads it's clear from the context of the content of the texts that they were pure self-expression not communication and this means that their authors were carving simply for their own pleasure without expecting someone else to try and read the thing the finished product that's the layout and orthography of these texts is geared are geared solely to the convenience and minimum laborer labor of the Carver rather than to comprehensibility for the reader thus there are none of the aids to deciphering the text which one finds in the scripts and orthographies used in literate societies the graffiti of the nomads can be carved in any direction no letter depends on its stance for its interpretation so it's never upside-down there are no spaces or dividers between words and there are no vowels or diphthongs of any sort this makes them something of a challenge to the epigraph east I should pause here for a moment to mention a false relationship which is sometimes assumed between script and identity this is the use of the epigraphic term Sofia tech to identify a supposed group of people in this view anyone who used the Sofia tech script is considered to belong to a social group which has been labeled the Sapphire Sofia it's less if I eat etc this of course is as ludicrous as branding all those who used the Roman script as Romans anyone who cares to learn a script can use it if I choose to write in Arabic this does not make me an Arab Sofia tick like all the terms used in as labels for ancient North Arabian alphabets is an artificial one invented in the 19th and 20th early 20th century by a pig refused in the case of Sofia tick the graffiti were named after earth a sufferer a large area of unbroken lava flow in southern Syria near which the first examples of the script were found ironically because the safar produces very little pasture no Sofia tick inscriptions have been found in it so it's misnomer but so well established that there isn't a little point in trying to change it the name is true of the sir is the same is true of the so called thermo dick inscriptions which have nothing to do with the ancient tribe of Thamud and were given this misnomer by 19th century scholars in order to avoid the even more misleading term proto Arabic we have nice examples of how the Sofia tick script could be used by people who express their identity to different social express very different social identities in many of the graffiti the author gives his or her social group they of course knew what they meant but it's sometimes difficult for us to identify what level of social group they're referring to this is because they used the same word owl for all levels from immediate family to a nation like the Jew or an empire like Rome but we also find graffiti in the Sofia tech script by people who call themselves the Nabataean well the duma hide from do metal john doe modern al java we also have graffiti in sofia tick by members of a group called how alert who are otherwise treated as outsiders and blamed for attacks and general unpleasantness say when does not express identity through the use of a particular alphabet which is not after all not very difficult to learn and so can be learnt and used by anybody we can also see examples of people who could carve graffiti in one of the scripts used by the nomads such a sofia tick or his mayic as well as a script normally used by settled peoples such as Nabataean or greek on the double back row we have examples of such bilinguals for instance this one where a man has carved a graffito in the house meet his Mayock script no coil and and then sew and then added his name and patronymic in Nabataean with the conventional liberty and addition Shalem may he be safe in other cases we have bilinguals in Greek and Sofia tech as well as Greek texts with the proper formula carved by a member of a nomadic tribe who elsewhere used the Sofia tick script in in these examples it's interesting to note that the author of number one had learnt his Greek letters from inscriptions since he uses the monumental form of eita well the the the the the authors of two three and four had learnt their letters from Greek handwriting and used the form of Ito normally found in Greek papyri of the Hellenistic and Roman periods there is even this very interesting recently discovered graffito in arabic possibly pre-islamic possibly not carved in Greek letters this was brilliantly deciphered by my colleague friend and colleague Ahmed Dillard at Leiden University as you can see the author's uses the conventional Greek way of expressing son of by putting the father's name in the genitive but does not there enough to put two before the grandfather's name or to use the Greek definite article in front of the nespa I he he writes all Adame rather than ho dominoes and from then on he continues in one of the Prius lab possibly pre-islamic Arabic dialects however this text is at present unique and in most Greek text carved carved by nomads the Greek rules of orthography and grammar are respected it is worth examining in in more detail the fact that these nomads did not just learn the letters of Sofia tick Nabataean and Greek alphabets but also the orthographic rules of each one this this is shown on the slide where in the top line of each section you have the structure of the graffito supposed to be read and that's supposed to be green I think some strange things have happened but never mind so you have the proper name the father's proper name the grandfather's proper name and then the tribal name and then the the section of the tribe so yes in the second line is a transliteration of the text and in the third of translation so that gives there that's the transliteration that's the translation they're all named so it's not that's for translation that's in Sofia T these nomads used a purely consonantal orthography with no vowels or diphthongs at all as you can see in at the top of these side in Nabataean they had to use the orthography of aramaic with no short vowels or medial long a mattress elecciones for the other long vowels and diphthongs so as in count here that's a diphthong sorry I like to find my place they also used Aramaic bar instead of ancient North Arabian bin and the Aramaic definite article which is the Elif at the end of the word instead of the South here took half God's appear yeah kanya yeah yes they also used you can see on the site that the four signs which did not exist in Aramaic they used the nearest Aramaic equivalents thus talk for the Czar hoc for her sword for dog and pay for far although that's normal in Greek they the author had to make the the the greatest adjustments he could include all the vowels but on the other hand he had no equivalent for earlier fine hey ha Dodd czar and in no way of distinguishing between s 2 and s n thought he therefore had to make various phonetic compromises to express these letters and the remarkable thing is that these compromises phonetic compromises are very consistent throughout Greek inscriptions which meant which used Semitic words whether they were clearly though that Dodd was actually pronounced something closer to 2 Sigma than 2 doll certain emphatic dad so it suggests perhaps that it was a a lateral so I thought I shouldn't be going into all this said otherwise that you're all go to sleep that anyway so but it is interesting that this is a very consistent way of transcribing Semitic languages so and you can see also that here you have the dice so I'll dive and they translate it as hostile Thanos the the the the the die site and then of the clan of any of the the how Knights how nein own say I think we probably had quite enough of that will go on to something else the oh yes the interest news that that they use the traditional Greek way of showing son of by you putting the father's name in the genitive but much later they actually used who you said the Greek for son so fool and burnford Beneful and was foolin who else so anyway Oh God will gonna go back to that and say sorry sorry I think we get rid of that quite enough of that yes that's better there is a common misconception that nomadic and settled societies are hermetically sealed from one another ooh and or are in perpetual conflict of course conflicts occur from time to time as among any groups of people particularly in years of drought but nomadic and sedentary societies are part of a continuum a continued a of ways of life and are independent in two interdependent most nomadic tribes have settled say with which in a day intermarry and trade most nomads go to villages towns and cities from time to time for trade or work in times of hardship and some settled traders go into the desert to sell their wares I wish I could find there was a wonderful photograph of a man trader with a pickup and a camel in the back of the pickup but I couldn't find it I'm sorry as we've seen yes in certain trees will hire nomads to look after their flocks and a nomad will hire a settled farmer to grow crops on land he owns or to look after the date palms he owns in an oasis and this is done on a sharecropping basis every as we've seen there there is a connection between nomads and certain trees in the sharing of scripts but we also find it in the content of the graffiti this is illustrated in some desert graffiti whose author served in the Nabataean and Roman armies a number of the texts say that they served in a unit raised from the ur nomadic tribe while others show an unexpected knowledge of events in the Nabataean and Jewish kingdoms and the Roman provinces of Syria and Arabia I would now like to turn to one of the most prominent Oasis in Northwest Arabia Tama as some of you will know in about 800 BC the regent of the Hittites city of Carr kamesh now on the turkish-syrian border set up an inscription he was a eunuch of the palace and had been charged with ruling the city during the childhood of the late king's sons the Regent was called Harris and in his in description he listed his achievements and skills in the somewhat immodest manner of the time among these skills he claims that he knew 12 languages and at least four scripts the with a script of caca mesh itself which was hardly a clue vien the script of tire that is Phoenicia Aramaic alphabet the script of Assyria which was cuneiform and the Thai manatee script which almost certainly refers to that used in the Arabian erases of tamer possibly as a representative of the alphabets of Arabia in general that's we which as we have seen belonged to the South Semitic script family as you can see on the slide the four scripts listed neatly symbolize the world with karkemish at its center Phoenicia to the west assyria to the east and tamer to the south it also represents that this must have been unconscious the major writing systems in the ancient Near East hieroglyphics cuneiform and the two branches of the alphabet geologists geologists and have to go on to the next geologists and hydrologists tell me that tamer has by far the most abundant water supply of any oasis in northwest arabia and that the water is closer to the surface there than in others this is apparently still the case despite massive extraction and it may have been made and it must have made tamer an extremely desirable place to settle over thousands of years in antiquity yes that's the same as well tamer was also in a strategically sorry yeah we know that from the recent saudi german excavations there there by the end of the third millennium there was already a huge city wall stretching for fifteen kilometers around the city and that another inner wall enclosing a small area was built in the early first millennium early first millennium BC Timur was also in a strategically at tages position for the trade from South Arabia to the rest of the ancient Near East for where as its greatest rival the oasis of Daedong modern alula could dominate the trade in heed to egypt and had a fairly direct line to palestine and the mediterranean tamer could be a center for merchants going north west to palestine in the mediterranean north to Syria and Anatolia northeast to Babylonia and Assyria and east to the head of the Persian Gulf with its hydrological advantages and its strategic position it was arguably the most important of the North Arabian Oasis from a very early period it's probably for the these reasons that the merchants of Tama appear in our records earlier than those of the other oases the Assyrian wars with Duma at home are two in the 8th and 7th centuries BC are generally explained as attempts by the Assyrians to dominate the frankincense trade Duma modern Altaf was the closest of the major Oasis to Mesopotamia and therefore the easiest target however it is not just the distance from Assyria that saved Tama but it's apparent policy of buying off the Assyrians by sending tribute as did their trading partners as the Saban's at the end of the 8th and beginning of the seventh century BC there was even a gate of Nineveh apparently constructed between a 666 and six six nine six and 69 for BC called the desert gate through which the gifts of the people of tamer and semilla enter of course the most famous event in what we know of tamers history was the arrival of nabonidus the last king of Babylon in 5 5 2 BC he swept through Transjordan and northwest Arabia killing the kings of tamer and dodong conquering for other important races on the trade routes and settling in tamer for 10 years of his 13-year reign this makes it pretty clear that at least one of his purposes was control of the Arabian trade through trade routes to Egypt and Mediterranean Syria and Anatolia as well as Thomas potamia we know that nabonidus came to live in tama not only from his own accounts which have long been known but from inscriptions found in the last few years in Tama and elsewhere in Northwest Arabia one of these has only recently been identified at one of the erases his records say that he conquered padagu modern food arc or Al Hayat it's amazing that this huge rock people passed it hundreds of years nobody noticed it but it is as you can see extremely worn and it's only if you happen to pass it when the Sun is in exactly the right position that the cuneiform here shows up that there's nabonidus and his symbol there that the winged Sun disk this is similar to other inscriptions which he set up in Lebanon and Jordan and it's being prepared for publication by Hans bethe Sadiq the service of a Saudi German excavations at Tama have also found a fragmentary human cuneiform text on stone which mentions never Knight us by name but we also have prophetic in the desert surrounding the races whose authors say that they were a court officials of nabonidus one of these which I found last year is as one might expect in Imperial Aramaic the language of administration of the Babylonian and later the accumulated Persian empires the word I have read as Shoshone in which the final letter is slightly different from the other ends in the text could perhaps be a transliteration of the neo-babylonian title shushanna meaning official of the King there I wait to be corrected and it's also worth noting that the author has a Jewish name Shimon albeit in an either in a shortened form which is known known from elsewhere or where long o had become long a as in Arabic and say would not be written a traditional explanation for the origin of the Jewish populations in tamer and the other oasis of Northwest Arabia has been that Jews from Babylon came with nabonidus and stayed naturally a Jewish name connected with navin Ida's near Tama is simply a tantalizing shred of evidence not proof of this area however much more surprising than this are to other graffiti by officials of nabonidus court one of these is this three line text at a site called America southeast of Timur I should apologize for the fact that see the L of Bab oh yeah is in the shadow and can't be seen on the photograph but I promise you it is there believe me what is remarkable is that this Babylonian official has carved his text not in Imperial Aramaic as one might expect but in the local South Semitic script used by the population of Tama unsurprisingly called hermeneutic since he claims to be a companion of Navin itis and specifically says that he came with the military official it would seem that either he got a local to carve this graffiti for him or he came already knowing the Tama netic language and script possibly his role was as an interpreter it's worth noticing that the style and structure of the text are quite different from those of normal timidity graffiti which are usually much more laconic and are always couched in the third-person singular rather than the first-person singular the other graffiti by one of nabonidus officials is also in termina tick it was found at a place called what AHA also southeast of the races where several more or less flat expenses of bedrock were exposed these are covered with inscriptions and drawings from different periods from the prehistoric to the modern Arabic however the text I want to show you now is this professor Val Tamila suggested some years ago that the personal name and us represents a Greek personal name such as why not us pointing out that Greek soldiers had served in the armies of nebuchadnezzar ii 604 – 5 6 – and that some of their descendants could well have remained in babylon if this is correct this would again suggest that the author came with nabonidus and either got a local to carve the graffiti for him or was already conversant with geminate ik there is one final graffiti sorry an interesting feature is that the new author has used a word divider between sorry now as you can see just above this text there is another this time in imperial aramaic which reads a new novel nuttin I am Naboo nuttin an interesting feature is that the author has used a word divider between Anna and the name something which would be highly unusual in Aramaic but which is normal practice in time and etic as you can see in the graffito by or not us could never nuthin have been influenced by Tama netic orthographic / practices it seems very unlikely but there's one final graffiti mentioning the king of Babylon this is at a place which is loan known locally as Hassan Malek Babel this is partly because of the inscription when it mentioning Malek Babel the king of Babylon but also become because of the exceptional rock drawing which is also there hasan meaning stallion in arabic of course Bruno Jacobs has discussed the drawing in detail and thinks it's possibly Babylonian but more likely earlier key minute and date sit between 550 and 520 BC the grill heater is in one of the scripts used by the nomads called thematic beam and apart from the words Malik Baba king of Babylon has defeated most of us who have tried to read it so I can only offer you a very tentative possible interpretation which you can see on the screen however if by any chance it's correct it would be a so far unique example of a Babylonian official using the script one of the scripts of the local nomads which would be very odd but very interesting thus around Timur we find officials we found graffiti by officials of nabonidus king of babylon not only in imperial aramaic whereas one might expect but in the scripts used in the local oasis and by the local nomads this is very unexpected and takes us back to the point I made earlier that one should not define the person's identity sorry by the script they use particularly yeah the script they use at a particular moment this may seem obvious in theory but the fact is that most of us do this unconsciously until were brought up short by a case like this thus we tend to think of all those who used the Nabataean script as Nabataeans and the names that we assume the nee and and the names that occur in these inscriptions as Nabataean names or as Nabataean names or we assume that only Jews use Jewish Palestinian Aramaic etc only Imperial Aramaic Greek and Latin in antiquity are truly international and do not provoke assumptions about identity sometimes we are lucky and the author of an inscription gives us his identity like the two shown on the screen but in general we just have to be on our guard it would also make us wary of our assumptions about graffiti themselves in the modern world graffiti are generally thought of as vandalism protest desecration etc not the sort of thing that respectable people would do at least not in their own cities in Pompeii much of the graffiti was humorous political obscene sharing off etc just as it was in Oxford when I was a student in the 1960s I remember one which said the fascists have stolen my bicycle and the Communists have let the towers down and I'm a myself rather pretentiously wrote on a college wall it was all initiative talk forget my accent yet and yet take respectable people out of their own environment to feel I or Abu Simbel in Egypt and they seem to have queued up to carve their names on the ancient monuments leaving one's mark in a strange place it was apparently respectable there nowadays be frank pawn killed Omar for for the future or epigraph fist it was this habit of respectable people leaving their mark when they are outside their normal environment which has produced some curious and unexpected graffiti as we have seen that it was not just members of nabonidus or to her who did this one might stretch a point and say that remercie is the third left his mark near Tama they're probably with the implication of veni vidi vici rather than simply saying I was here more than a thousand years later the the at a site called sorrow murder south of Tama a great many passers-by left their names in Imperial Aramaic Nabataean Greek and analytic as you can see but as you can see the rock face is covered with these graffiti and at the very top is a beautifully carved example by two strata goy generals or governors it seems highly unlikely that either of them would have carved it themselves and one can only feel sorry for the unfortunate not scribe who was sent up a letter said that his master's calligraphic graffito could be above everyone else's yes but they were not the only VIPs to leave their mark there and here we come back to script and identity at this outcrop and another near Tama we find graffiti by two people claiming to be Kings of Leon know the kingdom of Allah hyung was based at the rival oasis of Daedong and had its own script known as data nitaac but the curious thing about these royal graffiti is that they're carved not into an attic but in a local development of the Imperial Aramaic script after the fall of the Achaemenid Empire the Chancellery of which of which had produced had provided a model for what we call Imperial or official Aramaic Greek became the official language and script of the Seleucid and Ptolemaic empires however it took a long time for Greek to filter down to a local level and in the meantime local versions of the Aramaic script and dialects of the Aramaic language developed in parts of the former Achaemenid Empire this is the origin origin of Nabataean Jewish Palestinian Aramaic pal murray and other scripts and in arabia which was more or less neglected under the Hellenistic rulers local forms of the Aramaic script developed in the various Oasis we will be looking at example an example of the form which developed in Tama in a moment but here you can see two stages in what may have been the local development in Don of which ironically we have few if any examples from dodon itself so I mean you can see just a tricky example they the forms of of M here is is closer to Imperial Aramaic than this one here which is quite different the the machine here is there like in Imperial Aramaic but already it's getting because C it's it's similar to navigate but not actually Nabataean itself so yes we why would these kings or pretenders to the throne of Leon have chosen to announce themselves in Aramaic rather than in their own language and script dan netic we cannot of course know for sure but it seems likely that Aramaic being the long very cool air of the Near East at the end of the first millennium BC had greater status and worried a comprehensibility than one's local language and script and say was used when one was abroad the kingdom of lee hyun eventually conquered the Oasis of tamer but no inscriptions in Death nitaac have been found there instead a number of official inscriptions in Aramaic set up by various governess of tamer and dated by the regnal years of Kings of Leon have been found there this dominance of Aramaic over the local languages and scripts is I would suggest the key to the major change in the relationship of script script and identity in Arabia at the end of the era at the turn of the era and beyond a quite extraordinary example of the development of the Aramaic scripted tamer was discovered by the thigh OD German excavation some years ago this is a huge stealer which has been reused at least four times it began as a very elaborate tombstone of a woman with at the top a relief which later broke off you can see but is being pieced together again from the fragments the inscription was carved in relief in Imperial Aramaic sometime after the end of the accumulated Empire when a local form of Aramaic had begun to develop in tamer her name was partially obliterated as you can see and the stone was reused as the gravestone of another woman whose inscription was in sized in the local form of the script which I've called Thema Aramaic some centuries later still when tamer had been absorbed into the Nabataean kingdom the stone was reused yet again as the grave marker of another woman and her inscription was carved in Nabataean Aramaic and dated to the two Ellul in the 24th year of the Liberty and King era reached as the fourth thus September ad 15 finally the stone was turned over and used as a threshold and it was in this position that it was discovered in the excavations it was brought in for conservation and it was only after this fairly lengthy process was completed that he was turned over and we discovered the inscriptions which was very nice it's probable that the merchants of tamer had been using aramaic in their commercial relations with the Levant Mesopotamia and possibly Egypt for centuries and yet they must have used their own language and script Tamila tech for URIs in cocoa machine 800 BC to have felt it worth his while to learn the script however that may be the arrival of nabonidus and his court in tamer in 52 BC seems to have implanted the use of aramaic for official purposes firmly in the Oasis and to spell and to have spelt the decline and eventual disappearance of Tam and etic the local script we find a wide range of both public and personal inscriptions in Imperial Aramaic in tamer are and after the end of the Achaemenid Empire the gradual development of a local version of the script this continued until the turn of the era when the Nabataeans with our own local version of Aramaic script became a major presence in Northwest Arabia they set themselves up at a city at the city of Hydra north of Medina not modern Medina holic which was only 20 kilometers north of Daedong and I'd never known just before them seem to have mopped up the other major erases of the air like tamer and Duma there were less we have no evidence that their presence in Yathrib modern are Bernina mainly because all traces of pre-islamic life in Medina have been raised by the by this time the local Aramaic script had had time to develop in Iranian very so the the introduction of the Nabataean variety was relatively a minor adjustment as you can see on the site moreover a very interesting number of compromises between local forms and Nabataean varieties grew up for of course like any script Nabataean was not monolithic its presence on the monolith but it was a collection of the handwriting's of numerous different people with scribes and other literate in individuals who in turn used different registers of script for different purposes just as we use different registers of speech according to the circumstances this graffito from the double vara is a particularly nice example though unfortunately known only from this not very good photo the author used different forms of various letters so you can see that the letter b ba the use is a very sort of the classical calligraphic form of bar here and then he uses a slightly more sorry less elaborate one here and and here which has lost the top bit and then that gets curved here and here and finally you get this little sort of stub here and all this in the same inscription now it's important to remember this because very often these different letter forms have been used to represent different periods in the script and so have been used in misguided attempt to date semitic inscriptions by paleography but that's another story which i could go on for incredibly boring yet say i went the same is with t yeah mostly he uses this forty but here in the middle of a word cat eve he has used what what is a final form in in other forms of the script so he's playing he's having having fun good luck to him say now it's generally agreed that the subject of the Nabataean king's spoke arabic particularly those in the southern parts of the kingdom in petra and hagar and their surroundings however until the fifth century AD arabic seems to have remained a largely unwritten language and so when they wanted to write or to commission as a scribe to write something they had to learn they had to use a different language one which had a script of its own and wasn't generally written so after the romans annexed the the kingdom in AD 106 and reduced it as they say politely put to the province of arabia greek became the official language of the government in those parts of the Nabataean kingdom which are nowadays in Jordan and and Syria but in those parts of the the kingdom which were in Arabia I want now in Saudi Arabia the Roman administration and cultural influence seems to have been much weaker and so in the southern part of the province we get very little Greek and only on the most official inscriptions and very occasionally at the old graffiti but Nabataean goes on being used now gradually over the centuries after the annexation the people started forgetting the Aramaic language and so and it suddenly occurred to them and not something who gradually occurred that they could write their spoken language in the script and this for instance is very similar to what is happening with the modern south arabian languages in too far yeah which are not Arabic like non Arabic languages and unwritten and now people are beginning to write them in in the Arabic script rather than having to actually write in Arabic when they wanted to write something down so you gradually and on the double back crack going sort of up here to Petra you get wonderful illustrations I think we've got something here oh where where we go back to that in a moment of this gradual development of Nabataean script into into what we think of as the Arabic script and also of the gradually you get more you you keep the Aramaic fossils there's sort of structural words of the graffito so may CERN so be remembered or remembered for God may he be safe and so on but you actually everything else is put in in in Arabic language but written in the Arabic script which of course is extremely inefficient for writing Arabic because it Arabic has 28 sounds at least I mean in some dialects more that it and the Nabataean script started off with 22 letters but so many had started to come to look like each other that by this time that there were only 16 different letter shapes to record record 28 different sounds so they they couldn't have made a better worse choice really if they dudes used South Arabian it would have wonderful South Arabian had 29 letters saying that they'll be fine or even nor the the some of the North Arabian scripts but anyway you know nobody chooses a script to writing on the basis of its suitability it's because of political and and status and and things like that so there is a very nice example here which it's because it's in red this is the titles gonna but it's a thing called the Rafah inscription and at this in the middle of nowhere there is this little tiny temple and it was built in between 81 6-4 and 169 with the encouragement shall we say of the Roman governor of the province of Arabia and it has this huge inscription on them on the lintel going along here and eventually spreading onto here and it's in Greek Greek for the Roman side and never T and for the local side that the Nabataean has one of the most important words in it is an Arabic loan word into Nabataean and it was built for to mark the levy of an auxiliary unit from the tribe of Thamud who a very famous tribe in northwest arabia and so they this is actually saying that it's for this tribe of the mood and so they didn't the Romans didn't even bother to write it in Latin which they normally would do for a military inscription because very few people if any actually understood Latin in in in Arabia at that point so they used it in Greek which actually in the in the province of Arabia was used for quite a lot of military inscriptions and but the Nabataean and it's beautiful calligraphic Nabataean house it's been terribly badly damaged but it is it is actually very beautiful so that's an example of how for a nomadic tribe the thermode they didn't use it in it used the the local nomadic script because that had no no prestige at all they used Nabataean which was the prestige local script now Nabataean as you can see went off gradually developed in in in these ways and you can see what is interesting this is is in the aramaic language this is also even as late as three five six they could find somebody who could write perfectly good aramaic but you can see the difference of the script how its developed already but in that couple of two hundred and fifty years they but and this is a very nice inscription sorry about there being slightly off its this is a typical inscription and what you might call song delay so the the keywords are in aramaic but everything else is in english i mean oh sorry try again everything else is in arabic and but what is very nice is and i think yeah the downside there is the name of the woman who whose tomb it was and her father's name are written in the local script of the nomads which is called somatic d which doesn't really tell you very much and so it's as if she's there writing in the official official script because this is in agra but there's just something almost sentimental about keeping the script that her family used so to speak keeping that as well and there is another rather nice example here in northeastern Jordan where in this cave – where which has six huge sarcophagi cut out of the Living Rock inside you have this inscription in the Haram form of the Aramaic is a script around the the ceiling just there and then on each each sarcophagus the name and patronymic the the person is written in sofia tick the local script of the nomads it's again there you've got the official version and then you've just got something that is closer to home it says so in a way that is somebody using a script as an identity as their identity but one should not call these people suffering it's really just because writing in the South you take in script it's a Fiat X crypt so that is rather touching I find then gradually more and more of the words became Arabic and only a few things were left which which bar is the last so these are 6th century so 6th century inscriptions in what is recognizably the Arabic script but they still have bar rather than bin as the the word for some of it just got stuck like that and here you can see a process of development this is very nice Raylan ami who has done an enormous amount of work really fantastic work on on these inscriptions the development of the Nabataean script into the Arabic script has both of these and well there this was a originally published by a Saudi scholar all through Europe and they you can see how they are practically Arabic but not not quite the Aleph is actually become horizontal if you turn it 90 degrees you would have hijazi Arabic from live and so on and tar Elsa is like that it's which is what we actually find in Nabataean manuscripts from much much earlier so anyway yeah you've got the Valle de Kia that's the that's typical nepeta and aramaic yay may he be remembered and then farm the son of a bride obeyed be tough again is now is Nabataean Aramaic wash alarm so with good and and may he be safe shall not I mean they use a shirt for birth cert and sure in in Nabataean and so that could be either Nabataean or Arabic and then you have so that's the year 400 and whatever you have 56 the and then it's the year that a hollow emerald Malik that they introduced armor the King we don't cause knew who he was so and what say what Leila Naima did was she showed how this script developed and what we've got here are sort of photos of developments in the development of the script of stages in the development of the script which was going on by people writing in ink because that's actually how how scripts develop is write writing in ink and so you unfortunately we don't we only have a very few Nabataean papyri from and they're they're from the early second century AD and they're up in the other dead sea but but you can actually trace the thought the development of the data forms from these snapshots and then she suggests that it was taken to Syria where we have the we have no signs of the development at all of the script but we have the the earliest three inscriptions in the clearly Arabic script in Syria and she suggests that the Hassan it's the tribe that moved to Syria and became the the the dependence on the the Byzantines there they they would have taken it up because by that time they needed to bureaucracy they were a proper sort of Kingdom and I mean you can't prove it but that would seem to explain why you get the earliest Arabic Arabic inscriptions in Syria and the but the development actually in northwest Arabia I think I practically I'm sorry I've overstepped so yes just finally I'd looked at various different examples of the relationship of script and identity in ancient Arabia and there are of course many more but I hope that this has managed to show you some of the very different ways in which identity can be expressed in the use of script but also how careful one must be not to assume an author's identity simply from his or her use of particular script Arabian nomads writing Greek Babylonian officials in termina tech and Arabic speakers using an Aramaic alphabet to write their spoken language are all examples of the delightful complexities we find face in trying to understand ancient societies and in ancient Arabia were particularly fortunate that literacy was so widespread that and that so many people chose to write on stone thank you very much [Applause] you

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