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Sep 20, 2018 19 tweets 7 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
<The language of ancient #Tayma (mod. Saudi Arabia)> 1) mannū samiʿ li-ṣalm lā tawaya ‘whosoever heeds Ṣalm shall not perish’. This prayer is carved a number of times on stone around the oasis of Taymāʾ, in N. Saudi Arabia, in a long lost script and language called Taymanitic.
2) Its alphabet consists of 26 glyphs, and is related to, but not a descendant of, the Musnad script of Ancient Yemen. The language remains poorly understood. It nevertheless shares some interesting similarities with #Hebrew and other Northwest Semitic languages. Pic: WTay 20
3) Before we get to the language, let’s talk about what these texts say. Most appear to be graffiti, some left by soldiers during their military service. The inscriptions express devotion to a single god, named Ṣalm, literally ‘image’, 'effigy', = Arabic ṣanam. Pic: Esk 288
4) WTay 20: A man named Bhśrkt states: naṣar bi-ḍarr dadān yarḫ li-ṣalm: ‘he kept watch for a month for (the sake of) Ṣalm (the god) during the war against Dadān’. WTay 15 (pic) express a similar idea, but during the war against Nbyt, = Nabayoth (≠ Nabaṭaeans).
5) Most of the short texts are extremely difficult to understand, suggesting that Taymanitic was very different from any Semitic language today. Al-Mušayrifah Tay 3 states (pic): 1: {s³}{d}w{s²}{d}{s³}ʿl 2: {s³}ʿltns¹r{ʿ}m{k}l . The reading is clear but the text makes no sense.
6) One of the longest Taymanitic texts is much easier to understand and date. The inscription discovered by Eskoubi attests Nabonidus’, the Babylonian king, occupation of the oasis in the middle of the 1st millennium BCE.
7) The phenomenal text Esk. 013 reads:
1: ʾn/mrdn/{ḫ}lm/nbnd/mlk/bbl
2: ʾtwt/mʿ/rbs¹rs¹/kyt
3: {ʿ}nm/b- fl{ʾ}/tlw/b{d}t/lʿq

1: I am Mrdn {servant of} Nabonidus king of Babylon
2: I came with the Chief Officer Kyt
3: …
8) Some seals with Taymanitic writing are also known. This one (Staatliche Münzsammlung, Munich A.1351) bears the name ybḥrʾl = yabḥur-ʾil (?)
9) While the language remains difficult to understand, it shares some significant similarities with #Hebrew and #NorthwestSemitic. For example, the verb ‘to give’ seems to have been /natan/. JSTham 352 states: bi-ṣalm natant ‘I have made an offering for Ṣalm’
10) Its phonology is similar to #Hebrew and other #Canaanite languages. For example, the common name ḏiʾb ‘wolf’ is spelled zʾb /ziʾb/, as in #Hebrew ze’ev (זאב), indicating that ḏ (ḏal) was pronounced [z].
11) This also happens with the emphatic ẓ. The equivalent of the Arabic word naẓara ‘to watch’ is in Taymanitic /naṣar/ (not to be confused with ‘to help’), similar to Hebrew /nāṣar/ = נָצַר. The word for ‘month’ is yarḫ, compare to Hebrew yeraḥ יָרֵחַ.
12) The personal names of Taymanitic share some similarities with Amorite names, for example Amorites. Esk 183 (pic) yismaʿil = Ishmael. Others attest devotion to the local deity, Ṣalm, e.g. ṣmntn ‘ṣalm has given’.
13) It is unclear when Taymanitic, the script and language, disappeared. After the fall of Babylon, the Liḥyanite kings from West Arabia conquered the oasis. By the 1st c. BCE, Taymāʾ fell to the Nabataeans, who I suggest introduced Arabic to the region.
14) We don't know when the worship of Ṣalm ceased. No memory of him survives into the Islamic period, but a curious #Safaitic inscription from Jordan may suggest that his cult remained popular even after the fall of Taymāʾ as an independent power.
15) KRS 30: le-ʾabn ben ʿaynhallāh had-dūmeyy wa-ḫaraṣa fa-hā ṣalm ʾelāha dūmata rawweḥ ‘By Abn son of Aynhallāh the Dumaite, and he kept watch so, O Ṣalm, god of Dūmat, send ease!’ The cult of Ṣalm, it seems, had spread to Dūmah (mod. Dumat al-Jandal) by turn of the Era.
16) New surveys in the region will no doubt shed more light on this lost language of Arabia and the culture it records. Everything you’d like to know about Taymanitic, the language, can be found in this masterful article by @Folk_Kootstra arabianepigraphicnotes.org/journal/articl…
[Esk] Eskūbī [Eskoubi] Ḫ.M. Dirāsah taḥlīliyyah muqāranah li-nuqūš min minṭaqah (rum) ǧanūb ġarb taymāʾ. Riyāḍ: wazīrat al-maʿārif, waqālat al-āṯār wa-l-matāḥif, 1999.
[WTay] Winnett, F.V. & Reed, W.L. Ancient Records from North Arabia. with contributions by J.T. Milik and J. Starcky. (Near and Middle East Series, 6). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970.
Al-Mushayrif : Epigraphy and Landscape in the Hinterland of Taymāʾ (ELHT, on OCIANA).
Please forgive typos, tweeting during lunch in btwn things :).

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More from @Safaitic

Oct 6, 2018
"Life is worthless", write Diomedes the Lyrist and Abchoros the barber in a Greek inscription found far out in the desert of eastern Jordan (at Jathum). The two went out into the desert with a Roman military unit, stationed at a place called Σιο(α) Αβγαρ 'the cairn of Abgar'.
Coming from the bright lights of the Decapolis, the Basalt desert must have seemed like the end of the world. This text comes to mind as I complete edits on 2 pprs on new Greek-Safaitic inscriptions from Jordan. Teaser: we have a small new example of Old Arabic in Greek letters!
The editio princeps of the cited inscription can be found here: A Greek Inscription at Jathum in Transjordan. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research No. 132 (Dec., 1953), pp. 34-41 (8 pages). Here is Mowry's translation of the entire text.
Read 4 tweets
Oct 5, 2018
< Part 1 – the Fals, of Tweet Mini-Series: The archaeology of the Book of Idols> Let us begin with the more obscure deities. The idol called al-Fals was associated with the well-known N. Arabian tribe of Ṭayyiʾ. Their territory was located near 2 mountains, Agaʾ and Salmā.
According to al-Kalbi, al-Fals was a red rock in the shape of a man located on the black mountain of Agaʾ. Its sanctuary offered immunity to men and beasts. What do we learn about Al-Fals from the epigraphic record? answering-islam.org/Books/Al-Kalbi…
Tribespeople of Ṭayyiʾ left few inscriptions. Only one text in Safaitic was clearly composed by a man of Ṭayyiʾ. BS 767 is by a man named Wāʾil son of Wammām, who calls himself haṭ-ṭāʾiyy ‘the Tayyite’. The text does not contain an invocation to a deity.
Read 19 tweets
Oct 5, 2018
<Tweet Mini-Series: The archaeology of the Book of Idols-Introduction>: Hisham ibn al-Kalbi was an Arab antiquarian born in Kufa (737–819 CE), interested in folklore re: the ancient Arabs, genealogies, and pre-Islamic Arabian religion. Pic: Nabataea.net
His work kitāb al-Aṣnām ‘the book of idols’ is one of the earliest Islamic-period sources on pre-Islamic Arabian religion. Relying on folklore and quotations from poetry, Ibn Al-Kalbi lists the gods of the ancient Arabs and associated rites.
While some of these gods, such as Allāt, are known from the Qur’ān and other ancient sources, others are far more obscure, such as Yaʾbūb and Nuhm. You can read the English translation of this book here: answering-islam.org/Books/Al-Kalbi/
Read 6 tweets
Oct 1, 2018
On the topic of inscriptions of mourning, I've reached the S's and here is one of the saddest Safaitic inscriptions I know. It is by a man mourning the senseless murder of his brother by Nabataeans while he was working as a hired man, pasturing the animals of two great tribes.
I translate the text as follows:
'he grieved for his brother Nūr whom the Nabataeans killed while pasturing the livestock of ʿwḏ and Ḍf so, O Allat of Mʿmn and goddess of Deṯan and Gaddoʿawīḏ and Gaddoḍayf...
...may he have vengeance against him who has committed this act, and he was continuously distraught with a broken heart for his brother, his beloved forever'. The Old Arabic reads as follows:
Read 4 tweets
Sep 30, 2018
#Safaitic dictionary edit updates. At the N's, and this text it worth tweeting: Author of MAHB 2 states: wagada ʾaṯra ʾaśyāʿ-oh fa-naganna 'he found the traces of his companions and went mad (from grief)'. #Safaitic naganna <ngn> is the equivalent of #Levantine inžann...
The sense is of course to be Jinn possessed. There is no direct evidence for a belief in #Jinn among the pre-Islamic nomads, but this word could suggests that insanity was associated with being possessed by the supernatural creatures. There's more: related to this lemma is ...
the word <ʾtgnn> =ʾatgannana, is attested in an identical context: BS 880: wagada ʾaṯra ʾaśyāʿ-oh fa-ʾatgannana 'he found the traces of his companions and went mad (from grief)', this one similar to Classical Arabic taǧannana, same meaning.
Read 5 tweets
Sep 27, 2018
Hikma History asks whether there is historical evidence for #Mecca in the 6th CE or earlier. A fantastic question. Outside historical sources don't seem to mention the town. @iandavidmorris examines this material masterfully in this blog: iandavidmorris.com/mecca-before-i…
But what about pre-Islamic Arabian sources? Do they give evidence for Mecca as a pilgrimage center? Most pre-Islamic texts from central Arabia are short, undated inscriptions containing personal names and enigmatic phrases. No toponyms are attested in these and therefore,..
They are not very useful for answering our question. The long and detailed texts from Ancient Yemen, however, do not mention any place called Mecca. Although numerous pilgrimage sites are attested, they all seem to be located in South Arabia.
Read 11 tweets

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