24 Sep 2007

More published errors on Etruscan inscriptions

It just never ends. Whenever I do my own "archaeological dig" for extra information on ancient inscriptions, I never fail to find some interesting red herrings along the way. The many goof-ups in these books, which are now thankfully exposed and searchable online thanks to Google Book previews, are fascinating to me. I must have found a hundred transcription errors by now in both antique and modern books.

Here's another CSI case to solve. There's an Etruscan inscription that goes something like this:
velias . fanacnal . θuflθas . alpan . menaχe . clen . ceχa . tuθines . tlenaχeis [1]
At least this is according to Atema in Antiquity (1991) on page 315 where it is explained that this was inscribed on the leg of a bronze statuette of a boy from Montecchio. Before this, he tells a real-life, historical horror story about how catholic priests in the area were demanding that "pagan idols" be handed over in order to promote ignorance and discourage "heresy", otherwise known in the free world as "knowledge and logical curiosity".

Speaking of promoting ignorance, this is not the same thing that was once published in Taylors' Etruscan Researches (1874) on page 299:
velias . fanacnal . θuflθas . alpan . lenaχe . clen . ceχa . tuθines . tlenaχeis
The notable difference is marked here in red (i.e. lenaχe rather than menaχe). The rest is kosher when we understand the quirky use of 'k' and 'ph' in this text, rather than the now-standard 'c' and 'f' to indicate Etruscan kappa and vau. Unfortunately, there is yet a third version written in
Dümmler's Beiträge zur vergleichenden Sprachforschung (Auf dem Gebiete der arischen, celtischen und slavischen Sprachen (1865), page 3:
velias . fanacnal . θuflθas . alpan . penaχe . clen . ceχa . tuθines . tlenaχeis
Any pictures of the artifacts, much like the historical objects successfully nabbed by the catholic priests in the city of Montecchio, are taken away from easily accessible, public view. And just like the catholic priests, we the people are not to question the authority of experts who display their doctorate much like the Egyptian crook and flail was a holy symbol of infallibility meant to silence the commonpeople. Of course, PhDs are respectable enough but I'm a hardcore iconoclast and I have a disdain for "symbolic education" in place of true education (that is, the self-directed and neverending kind). So I gladly spend hours of extra time searching for the pictures and/or using my organizational skills to learn that the verb menaχe is the most logical answer and is the passive preterite of a very common verb men conveying the giving or placement of gifts. I'm currently translating it as "to place, to lay something down" but note also that Bonfante and Pallottino give it the meaning "to offer":
mena [CPer A.xxiii] (pres.) // menaχe [TLE 282, 447, 896] (pass.pret.) // menaqu [ETP 118] (perf.part.)
So even without pictures, rational thought overcomes this mental chess game of historical obfuscation.

NOTES
[1]
The inscription is indexed by Pallottino as TLE 652 and one should note that in fact none of the books I've referenced in my article here have transcribed the inscriptions perfectly. Note that many books carelessly throw away diacritics and the distinction between the Etruscan letters sigma and san. While this distinction was maintained in Etruscan, they are ignored by many authors as in this inscription. See Kharsekin, Zur Deutung etruskischer Sprachedenkmäler: Mit einem Anhang: etruskischen Geschichte (1963), p.55 for the transcription with the retained distinction (the added diacritics are shown in blue):
veliaś . fanacnal . θuflθas . alpan . menaχe . clen . ceχa . tuθineś . tlenaχeis
That being said, when we compare with Wiener, Die Sprache (1949) on p.62, we discover yet a fifth version of the same transcription! Hold on to your hats, folks:

veliaś . fanacnal . θuflθaś . alpan . menaχe . clen . ceχa . tuθineś . tlenaχeiś

UPDATES
(September 25 2007) Well, looky, looky. Now there is a picture, albeit a facsimile of the original artifact, available online that seems to confirm Wiener's transcription (the picture is courtesy of http://www.proel.org/alfabetos/etrusco18.gif):


Say, wouldn't it be funny if I found a competing drawing published with totally different letters?

3 comments:

  1. Since we have such limited resources of Etruscan texts, would it be safe to assume that the word is the right one, just because you know it?

    I mean, for all we know there was a word lenaxe and penaxe too right?

    Now my Etruscan isn't good enough to figure out how well the meaning of menaxe fits in that sentence, but even then, lenaxe and penaxe might fit better.

    And isn't the problem with sigma and san that that different dialects used these two in different ways? Or actually that southern Etruscan used those two letters in exactly the opposite way of northern Etruscan or something like that? I guess that would also make me weary of making the contrast in transcriptions.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Since we have such limited resources of Etruscan texts, would it be safe to assume that the word is the right one, just because you know it?"

    Not according to Occam. See Occam's Razor. The fact is that menaχe is attested three times elsewhere (notice TLE 282, 447 and 896). So it is the safest bet compared with assuming words that are completely unattested.

    "And isn't the problem with sigma and san that that different dialects used these two in different ways? [...] Or actually that southern Etruscan used those two letters in exactly the opposite way of northern Etruscan or something like that?

    My point is that regardless of why these letters are sometimes interchanged and sometimes not, we only obfuscate the language more by not making the original spellings clear.

    Personally, I'm noticing contradictions to Rix's theory about "alphabet reversal". Maybe I can pile something together for another blog article. Even just looking at the Liber Linteus, we can see sibilant variations within the same text that make the simplistic North/South split less desirable.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Actually, more info. For everyone's information, there is a verb len which I list in my dictionary pdf but it means "to pour" (e.g. CIE 3268: vinimia leniace, found on a patera... This is what a 2nd century CE Roman patera looks like.) because it's found consistently in libational contexts with direct objects like liquids, jugs, pateras, etc.

    Since this is a little statue, it obviously can't be "poured" and that rules out an unattested passive preterite *lenaχe if you feel Occam's Razor just isn't enough.

    ReplyDelete