Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The Novilara Stele

A post inspired by Davy H’s recent encounter with the unfathomable past. When I was young I had a book called Adventures in Archaeology. I think I was probably persuaded to buy it by one of the illustrations, a fearsome Mayan altar. Anyway, I found the story of Champollion deciphering the Egyptian hieroglyphs and of the similar decipherment of cuneiform the most interesting chapters. This sparked a general, and not vigorously pursued, interest in ancient languages and years later I bought a book (In Search of the Indo-Europeans) that featured the following inscription:

mimnis edut gaarestades
rotnem uvlin parten us
polem isairon tet
sut trat nesi krus
tenag trut ipiem rotnes
lutuis thalu isperion vul
tes rotem teu aiten tasur
soter merpon kalatne
nis vilatos paten arn
uis balestenag ands et
sut i akut treten teletau
nem polem tisu sotris eus

It was found in a place called Novilara in North-east Italy and is thought to date from the sixth century BC. During my inglorious academic career I learned a bit of Latin and Greek, so some of the word endings look tantalisingly familiar but according to the book, "scholars are generally agreed that there is not a single word in this inscription that can be confidently translated".

If you work it out let me know, straight after you've presented your findings to the Philological Society.

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