Wednesday, August 12, 2020

LAHUN SYLLABIC HEDDLE JACK



This ancient inscribed object is a "small-scale heddle jack",  a wooden instrument used in weaving; a glance at my rough sketch of the side view will clarify the shape, as cylindrical with a notch and a pointed end. It is 8.2 cm (3.25 inches) long,  equal to the length of the middle finger of my right hand. It was found in Egypt, though its fir-tree wood is not native to the Nile Valley region, so it must have been brought from elsewhere. The short inscription of five characters is surely West Semitic, and is one of the many discoveries of early Semitic writing made by William Matthew Flinders Petrie in Egypt and the Levant. It is now kept in the British museum (note the date 1912, among other accession numbers, though Petrie first published it in 1890).
   Gordon Hamilton has gathered the material needed to put this artefact in its historical and geographical setting, and has provided information to help us determine what is written on it (with 5 new photographs from the British Museum).
   The Origins of the West Semitic Alphabet in Egyptian Scripts (2006) 330-331.
   EA 70881, a small-scale heddle jack from Lahun, Egypt, MAARAV, Vol 14, No 1 (2007) 28-32, and 121-125 (Plates I-V).
   This variety of weaving implement ("small-scale") was used on horizontal looms in the Egyptian Middle Kingdom (20th C - 17th C BCE), not the upright vertical looms of the New Kingdom (S. Quirke, British Museum).
   The presence of Semites (`Amu, "Asiatics") in Lahun is attested for the period 1850-1700 BCE, approximately (Ulrich Luft). This may have been when the owner of the heddle jack was there, though a Carbon 14 date established for it is 2140-1940 BCE (95% probability!), so it may have passed through many hands through the years, or else it was made from wood that had been serving some other function before it was carved into this form. However, this raises the paradox that this inscription could be older than the invention of the alphabet, and thus be some other script.
   The town now known as Al-Lahun (SW of Al-Faiyum) is celebrated for its connection with the mud-brick pyramid of Pharaoh Senusret II (19th C, 12th D), but it goes back to the time of the early dynasties  (30th C). (Wikipedia, and Britannica)




   This is my drawing of the heddle jack (8.2 cm) and its inscription (please ignore the letter  on it, obviously too big, not drawn to scale, as all the characters are situated below the notch).  This has generally been the preferred stance for interpreting the text, and Hamilton's suggested reading for each letter is transcribed below it.  The name of the maker or the owner would be expected, or else an identification of the object as a weaver's instrument. 
   The assumption is that the letters run from right to left, as was customary though not obligatory in early West Semitic inscriptions known to us (examples: Sinai 349Wadi el-Hol, and also syllabic texts, Colless, Origin of the Alphabet, 2012: 81-82).
   The first character reminds us of the letter A, in its original pictorial form as an ox-head with horns, the original Aleph and Alpha.
   The second sign appears to be Het (H or H.), and for a long time the favoured reading was a name  beginning with 'ah.i. However, there is a small projection at the top left corner, indicating a doorpost, and defining the character as a door, Dalt, hence D (so Hamilton).
   In third position is a sign representing perhaps a bag (which would be Sadey in my view), or a mouth (P on my table of letters of the proto-alphabet), or an eye without a pupil (`Ayin), and this is Hamilton's choice.
   The next letter seems to be a cross, either like a plus sign or a crucifix, hence T (Taw). But Hamilton (playing down the projecting line at the top, and accepting the vertical line as long?) wants to see Sadey (S.), which he traces back to the Egyptian hieroglyph M16, in some Hieratic forms (2006: 203); but he has to find a counterpart on the Izbet  Sartah ostracon, a thousand years later.
   The final letter is taken as B, and it is an even more difficult to document; it looks somewhat similar to the way we write Hebrew Beth nowadays, but to match this character with an ancient identical twin is beyond me; Hamilton cites the three-sided Bet of the Arabian alphabets.
  The result of this exercise is a name 'D`S.B (presumably a woman, being a weaver), which can be analysed as "(Divine) Father ('d) has created (`s.b)".  The usual word for father is 'ab, but 'ad is also known. The root `s.b  can mean "hurt", but also "fashion an image" (attested in the Bible). Note that Meindert Dijkstra offered a solution along these lines, and I must confess that I had proposed a name 'Ah.i`s.b (unpublished, fortunately!) taking the sequence `s.b as a noun (Hebrew and Aramaic) meaning "toil", and the words would describe the tool as "a brother of toil", working together with its owner in his or her laborious task. And two other intriguing inscriptions from Lahun (or Kahun), published with this one by Petrie (Ancient Egypt, VI, 1921, 1-3; reproduced in Sass, Genesis of the Alphabet, Fig. 282-285) seem to have three-sided houses for the letter Bet.
   But the Heddle Jack inscription is regularly exhibited irrregularly, to achieve a proto-alphabetic text: it is upside down. The same mistake is applied to the syllabic inscription on the Megiddo signet ring.

 

    Ah, that's better! Now we can see it in its true state, as a West Semitic proto-syllabic text. Again we will read it from right to left, which was the predominant direction for Egyptian and West Semitic  writing.
   First take note of the marks above the first letter, though in our earlier topsy-turvy reading they were below the last letter in the sequence.  Hamilton (2007: 29)  suggests that a probable  interpretation of "this deeply incised horizontal line is as a separation mark signaling the end of the owner's name"; but  he is at a loss to explain the "three shorter, shallower nicks".  Let us suppose that the longer incision at the top serves to indicate the start of the text. The two parallel lines are known to be the letter Dh (D) in the proto-alphabet, and is often found as saying "This (is)" at the beginning of Sinai inscriptions at the turquoise mines. The fourth horizontal stroke might indicate that the syllabic inscription now begins The first letter in the main text, if understood as belonging to the WS proto-syllabary, which preceded the WS proto-consonantary (the proto-alphabet) would say ZA (as noted in transcription below it) and likewise mean "This (is)". The character is a simplified version of Egyptian hieroglyph F27, the tail of an animal: by the principle of acrophony, the WS term for tail, zanab (or danab) produces the syllable-sign ZA; the syllabary does not distinguish Z from D (compare zis for this in foreign English).
   So it is possible that the alphabet was already invented when this syllabic inscription was carved into the wood, if the = sign is proto-alphabetic D. It needs to be recognized that a majority of the letters of the proto-alphabet already had a forerunner in the proto-syllabary. This is not the case with Z or D in the proto-alphabet, but the next letter we meet in the sequence is a cross, which is syllabic TU and alphabetic T; whether the cross has a short or a large stem is not significant in the syllabary; here we might have a double T, if the very light incision near the top of the stem is taken into account (not shown on my drawing; slightly marked by Hamilton, but not considered to be significant). Hamilton decided on alphabetic Sadey for this character.
   To add to our ZA TU, we now have PU; and this is a mouth (pu), which also functions as alphabetic P; the example on the Wadi el-Hol horizontal inscription has a diving line to separate the lips [(|)]; from the photograph of this cylinder we could imagine that two internal lines portray parted lips, but these are not deliberate incisions made by the scribe. Remember, Hamilton (who has vehemently denied the P as mouth identification in the alphabet) wants this to be `Ayin, an eye, and this possibility still stands, but the syllabary likes to include the pupil of the eye.
   Moving on to the door (dalt, used in the syllabary and the consonantary) our collection is now ZA TU PU DA.
   Finally,  we can no longer see the ox-head, and I doubt that we can ever find an `Alep or Alpha with a right angle. This is the side view of an eye, showing the white of the eye (lubnu), and hence LU.
   ZA TU PU DA LU  
   Speaking for myself, I would like it to say: "This is a heddle jack".
   But where can we find an ancient Semitic word for that? In the Bible, at the opposite extreme,  the spear of Goliath is compared to a "heddle rod" (manor) or "weaver's beam" (1 Samuel 17:7).
   A heddle is one of small threads between which warp is passed in loom. Looking at the sequence DALU, we are reminded of the the Hebrew root dll "hang down", and the word dallah "thrum", referring to warp, threads stretched lengthwise on loom, to be crossed by weft. Where the little jack fitted into all this is beyond my ken; and it is supposed to belong in the period of horizontal looms, not vertical (which seems to fit "hang down" better).
   TUPU is reminiscent of Hebrew top "timbrel", a small drum held in the hand. Can we stretch this word to cover the jack, as a small instrument held in the hand?
   The mystery still stands, but the fact remains that this is a West Semitic syllabic inscription, and not early alphabetic.








Thursday, December 12, 2019

LAKISH JAR INSCRIPTION (new)



12/12/2019
William M. Schniedewind has published a new reading of this brief inscription, found on a shard from Lakish (conventionally Lachish), and his interpretation of the bottom line is ground-breaking;  I will place my response to his proposed decipherment here in a new  page,  for the benefit of the hundreds of visitors who have already perused my lengthy essay, since December 2015; but that will still function as a prologue to the solution I am presenting at this time.
https://cryptcracker.blogspot.com/2015/12/lakish-jar-sherd.html
 
 Here is my drawing of the writing on the shard. Photographs are reproduced further down the page.
My two previous suggestions for interpreting the text, reading the writing from right to left, are:
(1) Pikol (pkl) the scribe (spr) ....
(2) Pot (pk) for (l) the scribe (spr) of the temple (B)
Even though Flavius Josephus has a reference to "scribes of the Temple", in a decree of the Seleucid tyrant Antiokhos III, who reigned from 222-187 BCE (Antiquities 12:138-144), now, with the inspiration from Schniedewind's insight into the scribe's intention in line 3, I offer:
(3)  Pot (pk) for (l) measuring (spr 5 hekat 
WMS has recognized that the Egyptian accounting system and the Hieratic script are being employed by the scribe, in the bottom line. The Egyptian sign for h.q3t ("a measure of wheat") is "an oblong circle" in Hieratic, and its hieroglyph (U9, Alan Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, p. 516, cp. par. 266, 1) is a rectangular grain-measure, with a vertical line at its centre, showing the seed pouring out on the left side. Schniedewind sees the 7-shaped character as a Hieratic "5"; hence "5 hekat"; and he concludes that the container would be a "storage jar" for wheat. He has published his discovery in The Finger of the Scribe (OUP 2019) 4-5, and notes 12-19 on p.172; and forthcoming in BASOR, The Alphabetic "Scribe" of the Lachish Jar Inscription and the Hieratic Tradition in the Early Iron Age.
   He agrees with those of us who have suggested that the first line could give a personal name, perhaps Pikol. (However, he does not know about my many ideas on this matter.)
   For the second line he is keen to have spr as "the first example of the title 'Scribe' used in a linear alphabetic inscription" (4), though he acknowledges that other readings are possible, and he gives this example (172, n. 13), which he describes as "plausible": "PN recorded [...] 5 Hekat of wheat". This does not make good sense on a pot that has not been into the kiln yet, as the clay was inscribed before firing; and if spr is a verb it should normally come first in the sentence, but not absolutely necessarily.
   At this point it might be profitable to remind ourselves that the basic meaning of the root SPR is "count" or "measure". In a later inscription (Arad 3.6-7) spr occurs in a command to "count the wheat and the bread" (surely not counting the wheat grain by grain, but by measure). 
   Another instance of spr in connection with grain is found in Genesis 41:49: 
"Yosep stored grain in such great abundance that it was like the sand of the sea, so that he ceased to measure it, as it was measureless". The root SPR (count, number, measure) occurs twice in this sentence: in "to measure" and "measureless". Incidentally, there is a possible play on words, with "store" being the root S.BR (heap up, accumulate).
   WMS actually quotes this very verse (p. 71): he notes the the verbal form of spr often refers to accounting, as when "Joseph measures and records amounts of grain" (Gen 41:49).
   The Lakish jar inscription gives the capacity of the vessel, and so the spr seems more applicable to measuring (as a verbal noun) than to a scribe (common noun). Accordingly, we are informed by the scribe who wrote these words, that this vessel is "for (l) measuring (spr 5 hekat (of grain)", and possibly it should not be described as a container for "storing" grain, but for "measuring" a particular volume of grain.
   There remains the problem of the word our scribe has (apparently) used for the jar: the Hebrew term pak is found in contexts of anointing with oil, variously translated as "flask" or "phial/vial" (commissioning to kingship: 1 Samuel 10:1, Samuel and Saul; 2 Kings 9:1-3, Elisha's plenipotentiary and Jehu). In Modern Hebrew it is given the meanings "jar" and "jug" (Avraham Zilkha, Modern Hebrew-English Dictionary, Yale UP, 1989, 234). The general impression is that a pak was a small object; Jastrow (Dictionary 1174a) has examples of pak (flask, jar) with the adjective "small" (qt.n); this might imply that there could be large versions of the object; but the Lakish "jar" would have held 20 to 30 liters (Yosef Garfinkel to WMS, n. 19, p. 172), and "5 hekat" would have been "about 20-25 liters" (p. 5); WMS takes this as confirmation of his "suggested reading" of the third line of the text; but it requires acceptance of the usage of pak as wide-ranging, as widely as the words "pot" and "jar" are stretched in the discussion about the Lakish vessel.
   Two speculations may be added to the discussion. First,The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew (ed. David J. A. Clines) vol VI, 681a, has a word *pîk, an emendation in Job 33:6 that produces "I am like a jar from God", parallel to "I too was formed from a piece of clay".
   Second, suppose that pk in the Lakish inscription is incomplete, and the correct reading is sh-p-k (pour), hence "Pour to measure 5 hekat". This root is used for pouring molten metal, and shedding blood, and possibly it could refer to pouring grain. 

Apologies for the tiny print which blogger.com has delivered (relentlessly) for this study; the normal size appears on the version I see, before it is posted to the Web. You have my permission to copy it and paste it in a document where it can be enlarged.
 
THE LACHISH JAR SHERD:
AN EARLY ALPHABETIC INSCRIPTION DISCOVERED IN 2014

Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research,
BASOR  374 (2015): 233–45, Benjamin Sass et al.
A copy of this article (with these illustrations, and drawings of many more inscriptions) is available on Sass's page at ACADEMIA
 
(Photographs by Tal Rogovski; reconstruction and drawings of the vessel by O. Dobovsky; drawing of the inscription by the late Ada Yardeni )

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

PHOENICIANS IN PUERTO RICO



 Source: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/article235714732.html
This is one sample of a large collection of inscribed stones that were discovered in the mountains in the western end of the island of Puerto Rico;  these objects are known as Las Piedras del Padre Nazario, or Father Nazario’s Stones, named after José María Nazario, a priest and amateur archaeologist from Guayanilla on Puerto Rico’s southern coast, who found some 800 of these objects in the 1880s;  they were examined sceptically and superficially in the early 1900s by a Harvard-trained scientist (a zoologist interested in anthropology), Dr Jesse Walter Fewkes, and they have ever since been considered to be forgeries or fakes; but local archeologist Reniel Rodríguez Ramos has been studying them since 2001,  and he hopes to use them as evidence of the ancient (precolumban) history of the country.

Read more here: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/article235714732.html#storylink=cpywho found them in the 1880s;

Read more here: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/article235714732.html#storylink=cpy
   Another photograph of this particular stone:
https://www.pressreader.com/puerto-rico/el-nuevo-dia/20160313/281745563492806

This has the advantage of showing more of the writing on the  right hand side of the stone (actually the top, when the inscribed signs are oriented correctly).
   Looking first at the lower section, and reading between the lines, so to speak, we see a character that is like a figure 9; it could be a B of the Phoenician alphabet, but my experience of West Semitic (Phoenician/Canaanian) scripts urges me to view this and all the other signs vertically rather than horizontally, thus:

This makes more sense to me, and I am astonished: we have here a selection of letters ("syllabograms") from the West Semitic syllabary of the Bronze Age. After a period of contemplation of this array of characters, I am thinking that the inscriber's intention was not to write words or names, but simply three sets of related syllabograms, nine in total. The West Semitic syllabic script is the forerunner of the West Semitic consonantary (the Phoenician consonantal alphabet, from which all other alphabets are derived, notably the Grecian and the Roman). As I have argued in my essay on the origin of the alphabet (2014), most of the letters in the Phoenician alphabet were already in the syllabary, and an example of T (a cross) stands before us, but in an oblique stance; if it had equal strokes like the multiplication sign (X) it would be the syllabogram KU (according to the decipherment of George Mendenhall, published in 1985, and slightly modified by myself in 1992). The syllabary had three signs for each consonant, representing TA, TI, TU, or KA KI KU, and in many cases the sign with the -a vowel was borrowed for the protoalphabet; D was a door (DA from daltu door), but the cross was apparently TU, and the K was KI. Both writing systems (syllabary and consonantary) were constructed by employing the acrophonic ("summit sound") principle, whereby the first sound (syllable or consonant) of the word that described the object in each pictorial sign was pronounced: hence DA (in the syllabary) and D (in the consonantary) came from daltu door, represented by a picture of a door, and the Roman D still shows the original door.
   We may begin our quest with the sign at the top in the centre: I see it as an eye, for which the Semitic word is `aynu, and so it is an -a syllable, with a guttural consonant, conventionally transcribed as an inverted or reversed comma, an apostrophe (like a superscript c, or here `a); this symbol had become circular by the time  it entered the Hellenic alphabet as the vowel o (Omikron); the Greeks had no use for it as a guttural consonant, and likewise the Romans, so they gave it a vocalic (vowel) function. Here the eye has an appendage, which may identify it as the sacred eye of the god Horus (Egyptian hieroglyph D10 in the classification system of Alan Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, p. 451); this would distinguish it from the mouth sign (PU, alphabetic P,  appearing as () when in vertical stance); there might also be some eyelashes at the top, and a pupil.

   Next, to the left of  `A  is a "semi-oval", like an inverted letter U, and by coincidence it represents the syllable `U (from `ushru, tithe, ten) again according to the decipherment of Mendenhall and Colless).
   Moving now to the right of the eye-sign (between the double lines) we have another incomplete oval, which Mendenhall recognized as `I, and my suggestion is that it goes with `ipipu eyelid.
  So, amazingly, we have the three signs that refer to a particular consonant (`ayin) with the three standard vowels (u, a, i, as in Arabic). Is there a similar pattern in the remaining characters?
   Below the eye-sign is an object that looks like a throne or a step; Mendenhall and I connected it with hudmu footstool, and identified it as the syllabogram HU.
   Further to the right, between the lines and below the eyelid, is a square building with an entrance (viewed from above), a temple (haykalu) and thus HA.
   Finally, outside the trainlines, is a murky version of HI, from hillulu jubilation (as in Halleluyah! Celebrate Yahweh!); it is a figure of a person jubilating with arms raised; the alphabetic version of H was used by the Greeks and Romans for the vowel E (note the head and arms, with the body discarded over the centuries of evolution).
   Returning now to the large leaning cross: Mendenhall and I felt that the cross was TU. Our choice for TI is found in the serpentine sign below the temple, though it is not a snake but a harp (tibbuttu).
   This exercise is giving me the comfort of confirmation that Mendenhall and I got these identifications right.
   But where is the sign for TA? The sequence for `ayin and H was, from left to right: -U, -A, -I, and, by the way, these are the case endings for nouns (nominative u, accusative a, genitive i). On our tables, Mendenhall and I have preferred the AIU order, in accordance with the AEIOU pattern in the English alphabet; but strange to say, I had recently thought of changing from AIU to UAI, and suddenly this document popped up and demanded my attention.
   Accordingly, we search between the cross and the harp for a character constructed of two vertical parallel lines (which need not be of the same length), joined at the top by a crossbeam, and constituting a grapevine stand; I have suggested that it was associated with tarashu, a word for "new wine".  Such a figure could perhaps be construed from the scored marks above the cross and below the `U.
An example of the vine-stand is available on another of the Puerto Rico stones, from the Smithsonian museum:

https://www.si.edu/object/nmnhanthropology_8054223
The TA (note the post on the right is longer, but they can be equal in length).
The zigzag sign represents waves of water, and was M in the protoalphabet, and MU in the protosyllabary.
TAMU. "perfect" or "Perfection". The name of a worshipper?
Mu Ta  (logograms or ideograms) water and new wine? (a mixed drink?)
"Total"? Are the dots numerical?
   On the other hand, the VV sign might have only one peak, and thus represent SHA; in the consonant-alphabet it stands for Th, and is the origin of Greek Sigma and Roman S; it is derived from the word shad or thad, meaning "breast". Between the TA and the SHA is a human stick-figure with a prominent head; this could be an unusual way of expressing RA or R (from ra'ish, "head").
   This would give us the word t-r-sh, "new wine". Suppose the figurine represents a worshipper, and the wine is his offering, delivered to the shrine of the deity. The Phoenicians always traveled with wine (witness the copper cup from Jamaica, with a syllabic inscription about the pleasant effects of wine); and if they were planning to settle in distant places, they took grapevines with them (as  Jews and Christians have done in the present era).
   For the record, here is a view of another part of the same stone:


Only the writer of any particular inscription knew the intended meaning, but the vertical sign like a Y, with a small crossbar at the bottom end, could be the Egyptian nefer glyph, signifying "good and beautiful", and it is followed by a possible house-sign (an incomplete square): hence T.ABA, or simply alphabetic T.B, meaning "good".
   There is mention of a stone slab covered with such characters, and that is something I would really like to see; it might have a complete table of the West Semitic syllabary.

Statuettes are also part of the collection: this Smithsonian stone seems to be a figurine; and the stone we have already examined, with all the `ayin, H, and T syllable-signs, is  in the shape of a human bust (head and chest sculpture), as can be seen in this picture:

Dr. Iris Groman-Yaroslavsky, left, with Prof. Reniel Rodríguez Ramos
examining some of the Puerto Rican figurines at Haifa University
 https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-ancient-trove-may-attest-to-lost-civilization-in-puerto-rico-1.7501553
She is holding our prize object, and he has this other statuette in his hands.
 
In the middle line of the inscription on this figurine is a typical letter Sh of the protoalphabet, as seen on inscriptions from the Sinai turquoise mines: it is based on an Egyptian  symbol for the sun, with a serpent on each side; in the known inscriptions the sun-disk could be shown or omitted, and it is tempting to see this as a case where the sun is retained; a similar sign appears on the top line, on the left (and possibly another one on the left), but this could represent human breasts (thad or shad), and therefore stand for the sound Th (as in thing); the usual form of this character is more angular, resembling the English letter W. In the bottom line we can perhaps see an alphabetic L (a herdsman's crook); if so, this would not be a syllabic text. However, the fine details on the baseline are not clear, and I can imagine the letter next to it is a Q (--o-) a cord wound on a stick, or W (--o) a nail; further left a Sadey (emphatic s or ts) a tied bag. But my brain is merely constructing things it already knows from tricks of light in a photograph.
   Here is another view of this object:
    My L is now uncertain; but there is possibly a LA-syllabogram at the bottom. There is a clear bovine head in top left position, which could be syllabic 'A or alphabetic 'Aleph (Alpha). The Sh-sun with its two serpents is still there in the centre, but, as I know from experience, it could be syllabic SHA as well as consonantal Sh. However, it is not known in the Phoenician consonantal alphabet of the Iron Age (after 1200 BCE). Therefore, this West Semitic writing would have been introduced into this island in the Bronze Age.
   Note that the West Semitic syllabary and consonantary (the protoalphabet) functioned in tandem in the Bronze Age (before 1200 BCE).

But for some shock treatment we must now go back to the University of Haifa
 Dr. Iris Groman-Yaroslavsky examined the objects in depth at her laboratory. Her findings confirmed that the objects are not a modern forgery, and she also discovered evidence showing that some of the objects were coated in gold and in red paint. “This is definitely one of the strangest and most fascinating stories I’ve been involved in,” Dr. Groman-Yaroslavsky confessed. “To date, we have not found any similar carved stone art objects from this region of America, and this is why many researchers assumed that they must be fake. However, the microscopic tests we performed show beyond any doubt that the stones were carved around 600 years ago.”
What? Where do we go from here?! Well, we read the rest of that article (University of Haifa), where we are told that the figurines are "ancient". Reniel assures me that this figure of 600 years ago is not correct, and is a mistake of the writer of the article : he has five radiocarbon dates, from 1100 BCE to 900 CE.
   Focusing on the main figurine that we are deciphering, one possibility would have been that these marks were added very recently. I have always told myself that I can safely assume that any West Semitic syllabic inscription that comes to my attention must be genuine, because Mendenhall's decipherment was not published till 1985; but now someone could have taken this accessible object and copied all the `ayin, H, and T signs onto it, using Mendenhall's Table 3 (p. 19). Not expletively likely, I would have to say.
   If the marks were carved into this figurine "600 years ago" (a point in time that can not quite be labeled as Precolumban, before Christopher Columbus arrived, in AD 1492 CE) some very ancient document from the Bronze Age must have been available for reference (I would like to see whether the reported slab with a lot of marks on it is a table of the signs of the syllabary); or else this was a copy of a much older artefact. I would prefer to think that this was an original piece from the Mediterranean Bronze Age, and it was inscribed with this West Semitic writing system in that era, since it fell into disuse in its homeland in the Iron Age.
   Returning to our starting point: if we allow that the inscriber actually wanted to make a statement with the set of signs from the syllabary (`ayin, H, T) and that the characters were intended to function not as syllabograms but as logograms or ideograms, then this could be the meaning:
The eye of the day (EYELID) has risen and the sun-god (Horus-eye) is enthroned (FOOTSTOOL) in the sanctuary (TEMPLE); and there is jubilation (HILLUL) with music (HARP), and ten (`USHRU) measures of wine (TARASHU), and sacrifices (CROSS?!).
   The last detail is suspect, but human sacrifice was a feature of the culture that was established in southern America by the Mediterranean visitors or invaders.
There are analogies for this proposed scenario, with reference to worship of a goddess: the Wadi el-Hol inscription, and an inscription on a bowl (from Byblos?); both have the word "wine" (WN) and they mention animal sacrifice.
   However, while a poem can produce an interpretation that is unintended by the poet, I may be going too far by forcing this meaning onto this set of significant signs.
   A striking fact to emerge from the microscopic analysis at Haifa University, was the presence of  ochre (for reddening lips) and gold. Metals were what drew the Phoenicians to distant shores, such as Cornwall and Devon for tin; and they left inscriptions: a silver mine in Scandinavia, a gold mine in Texas. Puerto Rico island has gold mines, and there may be inscriptions waiting to be discovered there.
   Further westward from Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea, in Jamaica, a copper cup has come to light, and its WS syllabic inscription about wine adds confirmation to the presence of Phoenicians in the same places that Columbus and the Spaniards visited three millennia later. 

RRR takes us on a tour of the tables on which his collection is displayed (Spanish Language):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ung5Kk8r_q4#action=share
This link has some more mysterious inscriptions:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDL6VK4dQeA  

   Thus,  West Semitic writing of the Bronze Age, both protosyllabic and protoalphabetic, has been found on Caribbean islands and on the mainland of America. This fact must no longer be ignored.

20/1/2020
Reniel has now sent me a slab, triangular in shape, found at Tecla, Guayanilla, near where the inscribed stones were obtained. It has the West Semitic consonantal proto-alphabet inscribed around the edge: it exhibits the long version from the Bronze Age, not the short Phoenician consonantal alphabet with 22 letters, current in the Iron Age. It would be hard for a modern forger to manufacture an object with these characteristics, since very few scholars venture into this field. This artefact and its ancient Semitic writing seems to clinch the matter. The evidence is now overwhelming.
   Visible in the top left corner is the W-shaped letter (which we met on one of the figurines), originally representing Th (pronounced as in thing) in the proto-alphabet, but ultimately standing for Sh in the Phoenician and Hebraic alphabet of 22 letters, and employed in the Hellenic alphabet as Sigma. It is preceded by a rounded triangle on a stem, representing a human head and its neck; this is R; so we have R and S together, as in the standard alphabet. However, the Sh (VV) is followed by the letter Samek, looking like a telegraph pole, but actually representing a backbone and some  ribs, and signifying "support", and that is what samek means; it is another sibilant, so the trio is R Sh S, but we were expecting T (which is apparently in the middle of the opposite line, as a cross (+). The R is not preceded on its line by Q, but the Q might be in the top corner, after the Samek; in any case this is my cue (?!) to talk about  the origin of this letter (my own discovery): it is a builder's cord (qaw "line") wound on a stick (--o--); the ones I have seen in my lifetime are around a flat pencil, but the "line" was certainly used in ancient times; the sign was an Egyptian hieroglyph that was borrowed for the proto-alphabet, where it has remained to this day, as has its counterpart in the builder's toolbox. The Egyptian hieroglyph of this object could have the  end of the string projecting  beside the top of the stick (roughly --o<) and this is possibly the sign we see at the start of the right hand line of the triangle.
   The letter for W, named Waw or Vav (a nail or hook) has the form --( or --o and may be lurking in the space at the top, after the Samek (spinal column).
   In any case, it is obvious that the sequential order of the signs does not correspond to either of the standard systems: HLH.M (elucidated at that link) or 'Aleph Beth Gimel Daleth (Alpha Beta Gamma Delta). The 'A is on the right-hand side; the B is in the middle of the bottom line (like [/]); the G is next to it, on the left, I think ( |\ ), the D (a door) is in the middle of the left-hand side of the triangle. The letters H L H.M are likewise scattered.
   To prove that this is a long alphabet, I can point to a letter in the top right corner (viewed on an enlargement of the photograph, which I can access by clicking once on the photograph below). Working our way downwards past the presumed Q, we find a double helix, a thread in the form of a hank (>ooo), representing a raspy H; its proper place in the long version of the 'ABGD alphabet is between G and D, but here it is having a change. Another indicator is the rare letter Gh, which is like the syllabogram TA (which we have encountered earlier): it is a grapevine stand, with grapes hanging, and it is located (apparently) at the end of the bottom line in the left corner.
 

The rarest letter of the early alphabet is Z., represented by a sun-shade (z.il), and I think it has a place in this collection, at the end of the right-hand line.  Preceding it is the sun-sign, showing the sun-disc protected by a serpent or two, and so we have the Th and the Sh symbols at opposite positions on the triangle. The sun letter Sh (from shimsh "sun") is preceded by the letter S. (Sadey), part of which runs under the sun. Before that comes the cross, the letter T, and then the letter H in its developed form: originally a person exulting with arms raised, but now reduced to E with its back stroke extended, and eventually it will be Greek Epsilon and Roman E. Next we see the ox-head, 'Aleph and Alpha, lying on its side, like the H-sign (E). And so on. This is a marvelous document!
   For my identification of all the letters of the proto-alphabet, which seem to be confirmed by this artefact, go to this site:
https://cryptcracker.blogspot.com/2007/10/gordon-hamiltons-early-alphabet-thesis.html