15 Jul 2011

Translating KN Za 10

This is the post where I now willingly put myself in the bullets. This is something I owe after expressing my critique of Bayndor's recent post on the Minoan libation table known as KN Za 10.

Which transliteration is right?

As long as the ivory tower makes it difficult for the general public to access artifact photos, we're left to the mercy of various scholars with greater access and biased agendas. With no way to rationally judge what's correct for ourselves, we can do little but defer to the competence of, say, the contributors of GORILA 4 and of John Younger who present the opening of the inscription as TA-NU-MU-TI. Alternative readings co-exist such as TA-NU-A-TI, motivated by idle Semitic comparisons, and TA-NU-TA2-TI, equally based on subjective expectations.

Translating Minoan based on a Proto-Aegean model

I continue to be encouraged by a historically guided comparison of Minoan to Etruscan, not only because of the shared vocabulary but also parallels in grammatical structure. The comparisons also yield contextually sound phrases further guiding my inquiries. Thus for KN Za 10, I would like to offer my following attempt:
KN Za 10

Tan muti Asásaramana
ausi. Ṭawáto iya.
The pit of Asásarama is filled(?). It is filled(?) here.
First, on the lexical level, many terms here directly relate to Etruscan vocabulary. The first word tan (TA-NU) is identical to the Etruscan accusative distal demonstrative. Due to Cyprian Syncope, the Etruscan equivalents can be regularly predicted so that Minoan iya contracts to Etruscan ei like clockwork and Minoan muti links with Etruscan muθ (see LL 12.iiimuθ hilarθ une & LL 12.vmuθ hilarθ una = '[the] mundus [is] enclosed with libation.'). Although I find no Etruscan equivalent for a verb like ausi, we might deduce that a meaning of 'offering to', 'filling' or 'pouring to' is a reasonable approximation of the intended meaning of the inscription.

The grammar too is parallel to Etruscan, demonstrating the same SOV word order that I've previously sussed out from the common Libation FormulaAsásarame una kanasi 'Before Asásarama a libation is brought.' (cf. Etruscan un 'libation' and cen 'to bear'). Note how the demonstrative tan signals the accusative object muti by means of its specific inflection. By comparison with Etruscan, we may predict nominative *ta. Minoan verbs, often in -SI or -TE, trail both the subject and object, as here and also in Etruscan sentences. This inscription suggests a new verb stem to analyse, *au, whose Etruscan equivalent would be *zau. (I have yet to ponder a relationship with the word zavena which I've so far translated as 'kantharos' in my Etruscan database.) It's possible that an apparent intransitive participle awáto (cf. Etruscan intransitive participle -θ) reflects a separate verb stem or something else altogether since the introductory accusative noun phrase shows that ausi must logically be transitive. For ausi, we would expect a transitive participle form, *awau (cf. Etruscan transitive participle -u), paralleling ṭinau in HT 16 (= Etruscan zinu 'formed, fashioned').

The phrase also fits context since what more do we expect from the inscription other than it describe the ritual purpose of the object it marks and to whom it was dedicated? And the notion that a same term for a ritual pit works in both Etruscan and Minoan is exciting but also historically plausible considering that it's generally accepted that Etruscans have brought several common traditions from Asia Minor to Italy. On the Minoan libation table, there are indeed pits for the ritual pouring of libation. The pits serve in a sense like the physical mouths of the gods.


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