The origin of the alphabet. The first Sardinian alphabet, The Stele of Nora (traduction and etymology)
” The problem of the strong similarity between Phoenician and Etruscan alphabets has never been investigated by scholars, and every student has concisely ruled that Etruscan alphabet mimics the Greek one, indeed, the entire Etruscan civilization imitates the Greek one. As have they done to support the Greek alphabet derives from the Etruscan, I explain it only by perceiving the various judgments as a sign of an uncritical collective contagion. If we understood well the movements of the mysterious Sea Peoples, we shall better frame this problem. Should not be underestimated that the language of Ugaritic, Phoenician, Hebrew people remained unscathed by the impact of Sea Peoples. It’s obvious that remained unscathed even their alphabet. Indeed, the lack of damage makes sense that they were just those sailors-invaders to seize the alphabet and scatter it about the Mediterranean.
The strong similarity between the Phoenician (Canaanite) and Etruscan alphabets goes in the direction given by Semerano about the common Semitic-Akkadian climate enjoied well by the Etruscans, but also goes in the direction of Pittau, according to whom the Etruscans were no more than an offshoot of the Šardana. They were precisely Šardana to serve as cornerstone of the whole matter, being clear their diachronic position in the Mediterranean. We know that Šardana, mentioned by Egyptians, were stationed in Nile Delta near or together with the Jews (the Proto-Jews) at the time of Hyksōs, from 1530 a.e.v. down for a few centuries. We know they were precisely the Proto-Jews to have invented the first alphabet in the same period of the Hyksōs. We also know the Jews, once they entered the land of Canaan, and once settled until the territory of Dan, near the Phoenician coast, deeply influenced the coastal inhabitants, Ugaritics the first, absorbing the Philistines as soon as possible.
How is it that before and around the time of Solomon we find the Phoenicians and their own alphabet already mature, almost identical to the one used by Etruscans? How is it that, at the precise time of appearance of Phoenician alphabet, begins the simultaneous visitation of Phoenicians in Sardinia and is instantly carved the famous Stele of Nora, the oldest document of the West, written in Phoenician characters? But these characters were really Phoenicians? were they only Phoenicians? or were they well Sardinian characters, shared by Šardana, then by Etruscans?
To read the Stele of Nora, which I translated in the different volumes of the Semitic Series and now revived in this volume, it seems that Phoenicians were, to say the least, Šardana’s brothers. These Šardana lived in Sardinia for centuries (whether they were indigenous or were newcomers accepted by natives); Šardana in that span of centuries had taken the time to send troops to invade the Middle East, to destroy Ugarit, to invade the Nile Delta, to contribute to the birth of the reign of the Hyksōs, to having mixed themselves with Proto-Jews, and likely to have collaborated with the invention of the proto-Sinaitic alphabet. Of course Šardana collaborated with the invention of the Phoenicians graphemes. It is well known that, after the destruction of the Ugaritic cities (which, I remember, used a cuneiform alphabet), in the Land of the Cedars firmly settled the Sea Peoples. Were they, not others, to have setted up, quickly and efficiently, the Ugaritic civilization, then called Phoenician civilization by the Homeric rhapsodyans. Were the Šardana to quickly enhance, manage, spread the “Phoenician” graphemes in the Mediterranean.
Whole sentences written in “Phoenician letters” were found even in the heart of Sardinia (at Villanova Strisàili), in a place where, they claimed, the Phoenicians never arrived. And I believe it! Who wrote those letters was the Sardinian people! He wrote with “Phoenician letters”, but they were not Phoenician but Sardinian, exactly like those of the Stele of Nora.
We know Greek scholars, joined to Pasdaran guardians of Latin origin of Sardinian civilization, found a solution “very enlightened” that justifies the expansion of “Phoenician letters” in the Mediterranean Sea: it was Greece to promote the culture in the Tyrrhenian Sea! (sic!). As to Sardinia, the stele of Nora was written by the Phoenicians (sic!). So, in summary, Sardinia received those letters directly by Phoenicians (a people who had begun to invade the western Mediterranean just ten years after the total destruction of their homeland!); Etruria received the Phoenician letters directly from Greeks, through the Magna Grecia: the Etruscan writing would therefore be an imitation of the Greek, which in turn had inherited and engulfed the Phoenician alphabet.
So, two civilizations, the Phoenician one that points to Sardinia, the Greek one pointing to Etruria, they civilized the Mare Nostrum. And no one realizes that the Stele of Nora is written into Sardinian language, by a Sardinian man (for his explicit statement!). No one realizes that Etruscan alphabet is almost a water drop with the Phoenician. No one has noticed this fact! According to Greece and Rome scholars, in the Tyrrhenian Sea would happen the next pantomime: the Greeks broadcast their alphabet to the Etruscans, who thanked warmly, but prefer to write in Phoenician! A phenomenon for shirt-of-force. While it’s better not to speak of Stele of Nora, …being Phoenician tout court (sic!). It is sunk into oblivion because, being Phoenician, it’s also… untranslatable… like everything else it was discovered in the West!
Woe to insinuate that Phoenicians no one else are that Sardinians (Šardanas) returned from the Ugaritic wars; woe to insinuate Etruscans being carnal cousins of Sardinian ancestry! It’s quite obvious that Phoenician letters was first brought to Sardinia by Šardana (here’s the Stele of Nora!), and then Šardana migrated to Etruria, where the alphabet suffered a mild makeup. And it’s only after that make-up the Romans received their alphabet, which was later rectified, ie Romanized. The Greeks meanwhile had acted on their own, without influence in the Tyrrhenian Sea, except as the sphere of Magna Grecia or so.
THE STELE OF NORA: TRADUCTION AND ETYMOLOGY
Before the Romans Sardinian documents are written first in Phoenician characters, Punic then. With that, we have to admit that Sardinians began to write their own language with the spelling alphabet (and language) prevailing in the first millennium a.e.v. in the central-western Mediterranean basin, the so-called “Phoenician” graphemes.
The highest linguistic memory of Phoenician antiquity in Sardinia is the famous Stele of Nora, the most ancient written document of the West. Since the nineteenth century there hasn’t been a pedigreed scholar who hasn’t attempted to pit himself against its translation. And every attempt has left a radically different version from the preceding one. In those works, the condition of the Stele played an important part, as time (3000 years) competes with the erosion of the stone. As a matter of fact, only half of the characters allow one to clearly understand the traces left by the stone-cutter, whereas the others can be perceived only after careful scrutiny of the edge tearing and of age-old grinding. Found in the tophet, today the text is above all legible for the varnish that highlights every character, to which we must stick to as the starting point of all translations. And nevertheless the scholar’s team that marked the letters equally blundered.
For instance, the first letter of the second line was marked as a W (read It. u) whereas the Phoenician track shows a N (here and after I express myself with the Latin alphabet, and remember that the list of graphemes is indicated according to the Phoenician way, from right to left). To complicate the facts, the traspositors of single Phoenician grapheme interfere: in certain books, the graphemes are distorted in front of those stone-made. For instance, in the real sixth line there are 6 letters (not 7).
As far as the translators from Phoenician signs to Latin signs, I may understand their mistake of proposing an R instead of a D (line 7, letter 6); nevertheless I notice that they could have helped themselves with a Phoenician Dictionary, to better understand the engraver’s intentions and the lessical correctness of the words.
We must assume masons were not like the scribes. Many of them were illiterate. This was understood by Fuentes Estanol in the Phoenician Dictionary, and were suggested a number of corrections. Nevertheless the whole Phoenician text isn’t as difficult to understand as some people think; with the assistance of a Phoenician Dictionary this text can be surely translated without dribblings.
The texts, according to Semerano, should recite as follows: Et rš š ngr š Ea b Šrdn šlm et šm ṣbt mlk t nb nš bn ngr lpn j. But Semerano evidently hasn’t read the original Stele, otherwise he wouldn’t have made a crop of mistakes and got a wrong translation, that for him is as follows (OCE 836): Et (nearby is) rš (the sacellum) š (that) ngr (the ambassador) š (of) Ea (Ea) b (in) šrdn (Sardinia) šlm (have built): et (this) šm (memory) ṣbt (expresses the vow) mlk (that the king) t (in writing) nb (exibits): nš (do raise) bn (the building) ngr (the ambassador) lpn (in front of) j (the island).
Other scholars have left their mark on the venerable text, failing equally. It really seems the translation is undertaken for duty, not for passion. Other scholars, in the presumptuosness of proposing an accurate dating of the text (and its subtended alphabet), have even forgotten to insert some letters in the alphabet present in this Stele (see Giovanni Garbini apud Moscati F 110).
The penultimate resounding incorrectness was the Moore-Cross interpretation (1984): btršš (… in Tarshish) wgrš h’ (and he led them outside) bšrdn š (among Sardoes) lm h’ šl (he now is in peace) m sb’ m- (and his army is in peace) -lktn bn (Milkaton son of) šbn ngd (Subna, general) lpmy (of king Pumay).
I leave out other examples of incredible carelessness, but I can’t forgive the searchers’ superficiality, who have even forgotten the technique of dedicatory epigraphs learned at University. The true translation isn’t difficult by means of the Phoenician Dictionary. This is it:
BT RŠ Š NGR Š H’ BŠRDN ŠLM H’ ŠLM ṢB’ MLKTNBN Š BN NGR LPNY
The translation is: [This is] the main temple of Nora that he [the dedicator] in Sardinia has visited with a sign of peace. Who hopes for peace is Saba, Milkaton’s son, who built Nora on his own initiative.
The interlinear translation is the following:
Bt (the temple) rš (main) š (of) ngr (Nùgura, ie Nora) š (that) h’ (he) bšrdn (in Sardinia) šlm (has visited with a sign of peace). H’ (who, I that) šlm (hope for peace) ṣb’ (am Saba) mlktnbn (Milkaton’s son) š (who) bn (built) ngr (Nora) lpny (on my own initiative).
Etimology. Now I’m comparing the text of the Stele of Nora with the other Semitic languages and with the Sardinian language (etymological procedure), in order the spirit of translation to be fully learned. As a matter of fact, it’s necessary that every student should measure his translation with the Semitic languages (and the Sardinian language), in order to support, reassure and correct his steps. Operation evidently neglected, that now it’s my task to highlight and point out:
– BT ‘house, temple’: cf. Ug. bt, Akk. bītu, Ass. bētu, Hebr. bâit ‘house’, ‘tent’, ‘temple’; and cf. Lat. habitatiō ‘dwelling’, ‘domicile, chamber, residence’ < Sumerian ḫa ‘vegetable’ + Akk. bītu ‘house’: ḫa-bītu ‘vegetable house’ that’s ‘hut’.
– RŠ ‘main’: cf. Akk. rāšû ‘rich, to be well-off’, Ar. ras < Sum. rašu; cf. Sd. Monte Rasu (which is the highest mountain on the Marghine-Goceano range, more than 1260 m).
– Š ‘of’: cf. Akk. ša ‘of’, ‘who(m), (s)he who, that which’; šū ‘of’, ‘who, whom, which’; cf. Sardinian sa, su, determinative article but also determinative pronoun: ‘who(m), (s)he who, that which’ (ex. Sa ‘e Muledda, Su ‘e Muledda ‘the Muledda’s property, land’).
– NGR ‘Nora, ancient Nùgura’; it is Fuentes Estanol who proposes this solution. Even for this there is a correct etymological explanation, I cite in my La Toponomastica in Sardegna on the entries Nùoro and Nora.
– Š ῾who(m), (s)he who, that which’. Cf. supra.
– H’ ‘he’, ‘I’: cf. Sum. ĝae (1a pers. sing. of the personal pronoun). Cf. Sd. giéo ‘io’ at Désulo).
– B-ŠRDN ‘in Sardinia’: cf. Ug. b ‘in’, Hebr. be- ‘in’; the Canaanite particle is ever agglutinated to the governated word, which is, in this case, Šarden ‘Sardinia’ (šrdn).
The Ugaritic-Hebrew-Phoenician adverb of place b (be) is also a Sardinian word. It is found almost always in all directions of place shaped as be, bei, bi, always indicating a place, not always accurate, away from the speaker: ‘there’, ‘in that place’, ‘to that place’: siéntzia bei cheret, no bestìre! ‘it’s needed knowledge, not dressing’; a contos male fatos si bi torrada ‘we always come back to wrong arguments’; ite b’ada? ‘what’s that?’; in s’isterzu de s’ozu non be podiat aer che murca ‘in the oil jug there cannot be but sludge’; de listincu be ndh’aìat prus de una molinada ‘there was but only one grinding of lentisk-oil’; a campu bi anḍo déo ‘I’m going to the land’; bazibbéi a domo sua ‘go to his home’; a bi sezis, si benzo a domo bostra? ‘tell me if you are at home, because i’m going to you’; in su putu bi at abba ‘in the pit there is water’; no bi creo! ‘I don’t believe it!’.
It has always had a doubt about the correct vocalization of -n in šrdn. Fuentes-Estanol, for the Phoenician language, gives Šrdn for ‘Sardinian’ and Šrdnʼ as ‘name of Sardinian people’ but also Šrdny (Šardany), Šrdnt Sardo as a proper name. In the Egyptian texts it is a bit more …distracting, as the Šardana are registered as Šarṭana, Šarṭenu, Šarṭina (EHD 727b), with suffixes -ana, -enu, -ina (which are also Sardinians). Just the Jewish afformative -ān indicating membership, we can say Phoenician -n’ of Fuentes Estanol has a Sum. base ane ‘he’.
But I interpret ŠRDN of Stele as ‘(island of ) Sardinia’, not as Šardan/Šarden (people). There can be no other interpretation as ŠRDN is preceded by the adverb B- with a state-in-place value (‘in’). In this case ŠRDN, given the tradition which attests a Lat. choronym Sardinia, a Sardinian choronym Sardìgna, Sardìnna, Sardègna (see Eg. Šarṭina, Šarṭenu), Sp. Cerdeña, argues in favor of an original Sumerian afformative in -en, which is mark of plural; or for a Sumerian afformative -in, which is mark of sectoralization (‘in’ = a determinant of place). Given the current three Sardinian pronunciations, especially Sardinna, I would be inclined to interpret the final -N in BŠRDN exactly -in (determinative of place).
Moreover, the Sumerian language provides us with insights that help to unravel the issue. It also offers the syllable ĝa ‘home, house’ (read nga, twang as Engl. -ing). This kind of archaic phoneme has turned over thousands of years in Sardinian and Italian -gna. So Sardi-gna, Sardi-nna is probably the most ancient name of the Island, with its good -i-mediator that we will learn in the construct state (see § 3.1.14). Sardi-gna, Sardi-nna (< Šard-ī-ĝa) originally meant ‘Sardinians’ home’, ‘Abode of Sardinians’.
– ŠLM ‘I’ve honoured as a sign of peace’: cf. Ug. šlm ‘peace, health’ (also ‘victim’, ‘sacrifice of communion’), Hebr. šālom ‘health, peace’, Ar. salâm ‘peace, health’, Akk. šâlu ‘to rejoce’, Lat. sālus ‘health, safety’. This lemma is Mediterranean, of course.
Unfortunately, the old Sardinian lemma who today survives in Sardinia is corrupted from the Latin: salùde, saludáre. But there is still evidence the term šālom was also Sardian, old-Sardinian, because we have a mountain at Dolianova, Bruncu Salámu, famous for its sources of pure water which many people consider curative, almost miraculous. Since immemorial time, there rushes so many people. Some people can even choose between source and source, stating that some jets cure a sore liver, kidneys others.
– H’ ‘who’, ‘I who’: see up.
– ŠLM ‘wishes peace’: see up.
– ṢB’ ‘(is, am) Saba: a proper name of Berber origin, which we find among Punicians, but it’s as well of Canaanite origin. Ṣb’ was known to Jews in 1Re 10,1-10.13; 2Cr 9,1-9.12; Gb 1,15; Is 43,3; 45,14; Gn 10,7.
– MLKTN-BN ‘Milkaton’s son’; this lemma became a surname, and we must read mlktn-bn, cf. Ug. bn ‘son’, Hebr. ben ‘son’, Akk. būnu ‘son’, Sardian bunu > surname Bonu; and see also Sum. banda ‘child’, bunga ‘child’ < bun ‘bladder (breast)’ + gu ‘to eat’ = ‘one who eats from breasts’, or ‘infant’.
Milkaton is a possessive Nilotic-Semitic-Sardian compound: Mlk-Aton, meaning ‘Ruler of God on Earth’ (personal name, in practice ‘Pharaoh’), from mlk (melek) ‘ruler, prince’ + Aton ‘Sun-God’. Milkaton was also a Sardian male name, and the proof is in the archaic surnames Melkis (Merchis, Melca, Merke) + Atene. The first member, Melkis, can be considered, according to Hebrew language, diminutive of Melchizedek, but also a proper name, originating precisely from melek; the second surname, Atene, is from Egyptian Aten, Aton (the Sun God).
– Š ‘he, who’ (see up).
– BN ‘I built’: cf. Ug. bnt ‘construction, building’, bnwn ‘building’, b-n-y ‘to build, reconstruct’, Akk. banû ‘create’, ‘build’. The basis of all these verbs is the term we have already analyzed at the beginning: bt ‘house, temple’: cf. Ug. bt, Akk. bītu, Ass. bētu, Heb. bait ‘home’, ‘tent’, ‘temple’, and see Lat. habitatiō ‘the living’, ‘abode, room, dwelling, lodging’ < Sumerian ḫa ‘vegetable’ + Akk. bītu ‘home’: ḫa-bītu ‘house plant’ or ‘hut’.
Note the origins of the idea of ‘tent’, ‘hut’ was implemented by the behavior of the ‘grapevines’, a climbing plant which in its natural state creates real trees covers, curtains. The etymological basis of Lat. vitis is the Akkadian term already seen: bītu ‘home, tent’.
– NGR ‘Nora, Nùgura’: see up.
– LPNY ‘before me’, or ‘on my own initiative’ (a term from the agglomerated particle l + pn + -y): cf. Phoen. pny ‘front’. For l, cf. Ug. ‘from’, ‘for (final)’, ‘in’, ‘near’, ‘at a’, also see Sum. la ‘to show’. For pn, cf. Ug. pnm ‘face’; l pn ‘in front’, ‘in the face of’ (see Akk. penû, panû ‘face’, ‘to face’, Heb. penû ‘face’). For -y ‘me, mine’, cf. Ug. -y (suffixed pronominal morpheme) in genitival relation ‘me, mine’, in accusative relation ‘me’, etc.; and cf. Akk. -ya ‘me’ (1st sg. pronoun suff.). In Sardinia we have evidence of this “Phoenician” compound. Let’s start with L, compared with Campidanian là ‘to, towards’, ‘there it is!’ < Heb. le לְ, a preposition indicating a thing exists or acts onward, in the presence of. We must also take account of là, Campidanian hortatory word, used in sentences such as Là chi ti partu de conca! ‘Be careful that I’m banging my head on you!’, Là ki ses fendi su scimpru! ‘Watch out that you’re making a fool!’. The etymological basis seems to be the Emar Akk. la = Engl. to, it. a, lat. tibi. But it’s more reasonable the Sumerian lemma la ‘to show, expose’, meaning therefore ‘look!’. For the final -y in lpny, meaning ‘me, mine’ in the genitival sense, we can be comforted in Seuian y, which is used in place of de ‘of’ genitival: Perda-y-liana = Perda de liana. The central portion of lpny is pn, meaning ‘face’. It reflected itself on the ancient Sardinian Pani, Pane (now surname), meaning ‘face’ (implied: God’s). So l-pn-y meant, even in ancient Sardinian, ‘before me’, ‘in my presence.’
From the Stele of Nora is not inferred anything about war, opposing armies that lay their weapons momentarily, as say Cross and Barrecca. SLM (shalom in Hebrew) is a classic theme of compassion, gentleness and inborn peace, not suitable for a general invading other people’s land and entering, on behalf of a supposed king Pygmalion, shrines to violate foreign religions. At the time of the Stele of Nora, Phoenicians in Sardinia were at home at least by one or two centuries, and until now there has been no historian who has dared to argue they have entered with the impetuosity and violence of an army conqueror. It’s always said and wrote the opposite, in harmony with what we know from all the Greek historians. Saba, Sheba, put the stone on Tophet – called, according to Phoenician and Carthaginian use, “the main temple” though it was not built as a sanctuary – and Sheba on the Tophet made a sacrifice, a holocaust. So runs the Stele. Šlm means not only ‘to wish peace’ but also ‘to make a peaceful action’, ‘make a solemn and pious ritual gesture’ which is exactly the holocaust.
Let’s know that the Phoenician text, proposed by me after the strict reading of Stele, has three different letters with respect to certain texts reproduced in other books. The first two letters regarding both the name of Nora:
– On line 2, I have therefore replaced – as it was exact according to the critical analysis – N to W;
– On line 7, I preferred R to D (because of the handwriting of the stele not much readable);
– On line 8, I preferred M to N (because of the supposed hypercorrection of stonemason).
The Phoenician letters I have chosen are very similar to those replaced and allow – that’s important – to have some feedback in the Dictionary of Fuentes Estanol. Moreover, it’s the same Fuentes Estanol to lead some example in the Dictionary, often by offering replacements because of obvious errors of the texts, perhaps caused by lack of knowledge of the alphabet by stonemasons.”
Source: Historical Grammar of Sardinian Language, Salvatore Dedola
[2.8 The origin of the alphabet. The first Sardinian alphabet, 2.9 The Stele of Nora: traduction and etymology]