26 Sep 2011

Haider's transcription of the Minoan medicinal text

Eureka! I've finally nabbed a detailed photo of the previously mentioned Minoan spell text. With all the silly errors I discovered being committed by Etruscologists alone, I suspected that a photo might reveal similar errors in the transcription of this text too. Sure enough, I'm reminded that many have a lazy eye.

Our Minoan text is written on lines 6 and 7 from right to left (see picture below).

I can see quite clearly now that in Minoan deities in an Egyptian medical text (2001), published in Aegaeum 22, Peter Haider's transcription is dreadfully loose. One word that begins sȝ-b-w-j-ȝ-jj-... is demonstrably inaccurate. The above text (upper left corner specifically) shows that there's an extra symbol between the b (foot) and the w (coil). Why and how was this overlooked?

It goes on. Haider's alleged god name Razija or Razaja is concocted out of the seventh line which shows only r-...-ȝ-yDEITY. The intervening gap could conceivably be anything but the author indulges in wishful thinking to connect with some Linear A fragment showing RA2-TI. Any gain from even bothering to associate these two things is hopelessly unproductive in my view. I'm also having trouble mapping his alleged *humekatu to the correlating portion in the picture, but then again my hieratic could be rusty.

And why would the Minoan text be broken up here by an interloping Egyptian phrase *pa wūra 'the great' (which he transcribes as pȝ-ȝ wr). Something is surely wrong with the overall handling of this text but it appears this will be a long-term ball of yarn for me to unravel.

(27 Sep 2011) I've deleted my confused/confusing statement: "A sure error however is in the reading of Ameja itself where Haider reads a trailing eagle glyph (the final ȝ in his ˀa-m-ˁ-j-ȝ) where it's visibly a different glyph, reused in fact on the next line in case there's any doubt of its true shape." This is unfair of me considering that I misread the sparrow (representing wr) as an owl (representing m), thereby assuming the sequence that Haider reads as Ameya starts sooner. Even still, I'm completely at a loss as to how he obtained Ameya out of this sequence because then the "m" is where a gap lies. Still problematic and confusing.

20 Sep 2011

FDR Second Bill of Rights Speech Footage

My, how times have changed. Now, of course, Americans don't have these rights. (Nor do Canadians for that matter.) To quote: "For unless there is security here at home, there cannot be lasting peace in the world."

The question I have is: Can we (or should we) rely on corporatized governments to cherish human rights when abject slavery remains profitable to the most ruthless of capitalists? What is the value of our free speech when it can so easily be bought by the continuing threats of poverty and disease? Is there a better system? Or have we finally given up these silly ideas of humane society in order to bury our cold noses deep underneath the comforting blanket of tyrannical doom?

18 Sep 2011

A pair of Minoan deities recorded in Egyptian

Concerning that ever-fascinating Minoan spell written out syllabically in Egyptian hieratic during the Amarna period, I wonder about the ritual context itself of the spell and how it might relate to similar practices around the Mediterranean. Andras Zeke at Minoan Blog had attempted his own explanation but this analysis is unrealistic. (I stopped at the hyperbole that suggested Miguel Valério's inconsequential word-games were a "crucial discovery" rather than a suboptimal, disorganized attempt at translation by pure whim. I've talked about this before.)

What I've been considering is whether the spell simply describes the ritual offering of bread or grains to a lady and lord of the underworld (compare Egyptian Isis/Osiris, Greek Persephone/Hades, Etruscan Catha/Pacha, Hattic Furunsemu/Furunkatte, etc.) in order to plead for the survival of a patient suffering from the disease simply known as Asiatic illness. The seeming determinative symbols, used presumably to aid in reading the non-Egyptian phrase, seem to hint at such an offering. It seems to me as if it's just a way of "bribing" Death incarnate to take the person some other day. There's however the question of why the Egyptian scribe didn't bother to mark the sex of these Minoan deities as one would if writing in Egyptian proper.

Yet if we know that this Egyptian scribe was writing in another language, namely Minoan, is it reasonable to assume that semantic gender (ie. as opposed to grammatical gender) would be marked overtly? What exactly are the rules for transcribing foreign languages in the Egyptian script anyway? If Minoan and Etruscan are related, then judging my Etruscan grammar, we shouldn't expect to find a masculine/feminine gender contrast in the way we find it in Egyptian. This is something to think about.

As far as I can tell, the lack of overt feminine marking on these foreign names doesn't necessarily prove that these deities are entirely masculine. We would be better assured of that if the phrase in question was written directly in Egyptian.

14 Sep 2011

Alpha males, beta males (... and other choices to be discovered)

A couple of days ago Melinda Beck at The Wall Street Journal posed the question Are Alpha Males Healthy?. The subtext reads Aggressiveness aids rise to top, but the stress can harm a body.

First I can't help but feel that this subject is in some way triggered by the dramatic economic downturn currently unfolding. The implicit notion here perhaps is that wealthy "alpha males" are more stressed out for having unjustly accumulated so much materialism which has caused only crushing war, poverty, disease and death among the rest of the world's population. Naturally "betas" in this sense can only hope that such karma honestly plays out. If "alpha" is meant covertly to hint at sociopathy, then siding with author and psychologist Martha Stout on this matter, such people by nature lack empathy; they seldom if ever learn their lesson or feel sorry for what they do. Certainly there's no questioning that sociopathic people aren't healthy.

But what exactly does "alpha male" or "beta male" mean in this context anyway? We must accurately define it first before we can have a handle on the vague question. It can't just be about aggression since we're often in a variety of different roles from minute to minute in our complex society. As one commenter, James M. Smith, comically puts it:
"'Alpha' in our society is context-based. I know a guy who's an alpha tax accountant, but he's an omega at flag football.
One possible dichotomy that we can use to cleave through this subject is the difference between "healthy competition" and "unhealthy competition." We may argue that moderation is the winning hand at the end of the day in all things. Unhealthy competition is the kind of competition that loses balance and context, thereby leading to stress because it so opposes our evolutionary development and it can lead to many detrimental errors in judgment. Cyberspace is currently debating whether or not our overall economic and social systems are just such an unbalanced form of competition that pits one person against another mentally and physically. An alternative to that format exists, "cooperative competition," that constantly reminds us that we're all in this together against chaos. It's a much saner form of competition that doesn't lead to the widespread isolation observed in extremely competitive societies. Afterall a common expression is "It's lonely at the top!" although it's just as lonely at the middle and bottom if all a society does is wage war with itself to keep up with the Jones's.

Finally, there's a lurking sexism in the whole text. Notice that females are being corralled into a common stereotype and linked to "passive cooperation," while males are likewise associated with "aggressive competition." Let's get real: aggression is not linked with gender. And for that matter, aggression means more than just brute strength. Gender differences are by and large sensationalized by the media. Measured overlaps between the brains of both cardinal sexes aren't taken into account enough in intelligent discussion. If we can all accept that there are "alpha females" present in society too, why then is the title emphasizing males and their aggression as if to say that males have a monopoly on this behavioural trait?

10 Sep 2011

Revisiting the lily

Looking back at my personal notes and some previous online conversations concerning the common words for 'lily' or 'flower' that spread across the Mediterranean, I believe there's still some unfinished business.

A conflict arises

Under Hittite alel-, Jaan Puhvel lists off related forms in a multitude of languages showing that this word must have been an important "culture word" since olden times. I surmised and still surmise that Egyptian is the one ultimate source behind all of this. I eventually reasoned to myself that the Ancient Egyptian feminine noun written only as ḥrr.t was once pronounced *ḥalūrat (~  *ḥarūrat) guided in part by the Coptic forms with vowels explicitly written in a Greek-based alphabet.

Everything seemed fine until I started to question when exactly Egyptian  evolved into  and how. Foreign texts from the Amarna period seem to suggest that a vowel-sound like  must still have been spoken at about 1350 BCE. The cuneiform inscription labeled EA 368 records the numeral mu-ṭu (the Egyptian word for 'ten'), leading therefore to Callender's *mūḏaw (whose orthography I simplify to *mūḏu). Clearly the eventual change to *mēḏ- (Sahidic Coptic mēt) hadn't yet taken place.

The Minoan perspective

Meanwhile, the hypothetical Minoan loan *aléri 'lily' had emerged out of the illuminating conversations I had with Minoan Language Blog's Andras Zeke. With the former Egyptian form I've attempted, I can't sensibly explain the connections Zeke had alluded to between a certain Cretan Hieroglyphic plant glyph known as CHIC 031 and its later derivative Lin AB 27 which has been given the value of RE. (See John Younger's The Cretan Hieroglyphic Script: A review article in Minos 31-32, 1996. It's mentioned in the middle of page 397.) A Mycenaean loan from Minoan can cleanly explain later Classical Greek λείριον (léirion) 'lily' and so this serves to doubly assure the term *aléri.

Surely the phonetic value of CHIC 031 and Lin AB 27 reflects the actual Minoan word for a flower or lily but to get *aléri out of *ḥalūrat, I would have to assume that the word was loaned only by the **closing of the 2nd millennium BCE** when the Egyptian vowel shift in question must have taken place! Ironically this is when the Minoan language was also becoming extinct (if not already moribund as the Achaeans swept through). It could never explain the said Cretan Hieroglyph dated to as early as the 17th century BCE.

Ground control, we have a problem.

Everything's coming up roses (or Egyptian lilies)

This all seems remedied however if I simply ammend the Egyptian 'flower' term to *ḥalīrat. Given that, the Egyptian term must be borrowed into Minoan around or before 1700 BCE. Minoan *aléri would acquire a new specialized meaning of 'lily' as well. The Cretan hieroglyphic lily symbol is subsequently created, understandably employed to write LERE ("l" and "r" not being distinguished in both Linear A and Linear B scripts) since this is afterall the stressed syllable of the surmised word. Sahidic hrēre should also be accounted for in the same way that Egyptian *rīʕa 'sun' likewise produces .

At any rate, this is one confusing little word but who knows what new weeds I might yet dig up in this untamed flower garden.

7 Sep 2011

New atheists and old debates

I've just read the June 2007 article The New Atheists at the Nation by Ronald Aronson reflecting on the rise of atheism, particularly in published literature, in America during the height of the Bush regime. "Atheism" as we're exploring it here is in a broader sense of a "lack of belief in or devotion to invisible cartoon characters called 'gods'". During that period of time, as we all recall, religion was pushed on us like crack cocaine as the economy was coincidently dismantling itself brick by brick, evolving into the exciting roller coaster of red it is today. (Notice how I've cleverly employed a reflexive mood to avoid speaking of any hypothetical agents that may or may not have been treasonously involved in this transitive but possibly non-agentive act of "dismantling".)

Back to atheism, one question implied is to what end should atheism be expected to supply us with "hope" in our daily lives? Aronson reasons:
"Living without God means turning toward something. To flourish we need coherent secular popular philosophies that effectively answer life's vital questions."
But flourish by what definition and by who's standards? A rationalist may recognize in this subtle statement the attempt to politicize mere truth here. That is, the simple truth that any argument that unnecessarily invokes hypotheses about the existence of an invisible, unmeasurable being to explain the unknown is by any rational definition invalid. We don't need anything. We flourish just fine by logical means and it's the irrational that suffer immensely. Rather it remains Religion's onus to explain why it's had the right all this time to manipulate reason away from tried-and-true Logic to give us all the illusion of an answer to life's vital questions. Why must atheism be expected to attain an ideal that Religion has itself failed to reach? More manipulation.

Additionally why must we, in a world absent of benevolent sprites, "turn" to anything other than Logic (and thus to atheism as a result of that Logic)? What other mode of thought is as functionally complete? What kind of competent adult prioritizes invisible beings over the measurable, the unknown before the known? What does that implicit set of priorities say about such individual's psychological and cognitive state and why should we "respect" their banter by silencing our challenges? If organized religions (ie. cults) manage to still hold on, I'm bold enough to argue that it's precisely because mental illness too persists.

Another observation of his catches my eye: "In recent polls, far more respondents have declared themselves willing to vote for a woman or African-American for President than for an atheist--atheists are more unpopular than gays." As a gay atheist, I sadly must concur, so I guess that means I'm doubly maligned. Triply so if you count being constantly outspoken against nonsense. (Nobody likes a loud mouth, they say.) To prove that point, ignorant hysteria has once again hit the fan recently, this time over transgender Chaz Bono's involvement in Dancing with the Stars. According to some lunatics, her on-air trysts may somehow cause a transsexual apocalypse, kind of like a Borg collective but with rainbow flair perhaps.

The sense of true compassion, the purposeful attempt to understand another person's perspective within reason, has been lost as religious leaders either condemn others with outright loathing or confront them with insincere politesse drenched in disrespect and willful stupidity. This just leads back to how it's ironically organized religion that's failing to offer a life-affirming purpose to individual existence. It's this continued apathy of the religious, their self-contradictions and their increasingly nihilist undertones that are sure to eventually unseat Religion's common allure, even without the help of outspoken atheists.

4 Sep 2011

Tidings from Arzawa

Written by J. David Hawkins, The Arzawan letters in perspective (2009) covers some interesting facts concerning the history of the region of Arzawa such as the Amarna letters recording correspondences between the ruler of Arzawa, King Tarhundaradu, and the concurrent Egyptian king referred to as Nimuwaria (ie. Egyptian *Nib-Muˀˁat-Rīˁa = Amenhotep III). It's frustrating that more isn't known about this region and time period but the article is a good read for those interested.