Thursday, January 21, 2021

BYBLOS SYLLABIC TEXTS

Here are my published attempts to transcribe and translate the mysterious inscriptions from Bronze-Age Gubla (Byblos), a city on the coast of Lebanon, north of Sidon and Tyre, and Beirut.

GUBLA TEXT D (Bronze Tablet)

 

    Description : Dunand, 76-78.

    This document has forty-one lines of script, reasonably well preserved, but some glyphs were lost when small portions of the metal fell away.

    Depiction : Dunand, 77 (drawing); plate X (photographs); Colless 1993, 4.

    Interpretation : Mendenhall, 32-93; Colless 1993, 5-34.

    This appears to be a royal proclamation  (so Mendenhall, table of contents). A ruler named H.uru-Ba`ilu speaks of having brought the "lands" (02 matati) to "truth" or “the constitution (of a new state)” (02 la-kiti), and to "unity" (06 la-’ih.idi); a "covenant" (11 ’ilila, 14 ’ililati) has been made.

 

Obverse

    01. ha [w]a tu  h.u ru ba`i lu    'i 'a tu 'u

    02. ni  ma ta ti  la  ki ti   ya tu ha i  (hi du )  ha ki

    03. `a  bi  ha `i la li ni  pa  ti sa ta ru ni

    04. ta h.i ma  mu la ki  hi  ya  ma  mu

    05. ba 'i  ba nu  ma   shi tu ya  ba nu  ma

    06. la  'i h.i di  ya ha tu  t.i wa ra ti  ta (ba?)

    07. [ka ]wa  na  ma  ba 'u  ni ni ta  pa  ka wa

    08. [n-? ]  bi tu   t.i wa ra   h.u h.a sha  ma  ta

    09. [li? ] ti  ta ka wa na  ma  la hu  ya ha

    10. [tu ]  h.u ru ba `i lu   li  tu  [ta/ha ] li du  gu

    11. h.i [ti ]  ta li  shi li ta ti ya   'i li la  ha ki

    12. mi 'u   pa  ti sa ki ru  ni  li 'i mu hu  lu h.i

    13. sa ma  mu ra `a  mu ru `i  shi li ta ti

    14. ya  'i li la   ti `a shu  ya la nu  lu mi  ya

    15. da sha na  ma 'i hu di  'u ba ru ka wa

    16. na  tu `i  tu t.i wa 'i  si t.u (s.a ?)bu ba ta ta

    17. tu sa ta ru 'i ya `u bu du tu ni ya

    18. ba ti ya tu  yi ba mi  mu na tu `i

    19. [t.i wa ] 'u tu  h.u ru ba `i lu  'i 'u

    20. ta ti  ya ru ni  'u h.a  `a ni ya  ha

    21. [ki ]  ha  `i mu ru  (mu ru? ) bi `u  ma   (`u ma?) 'a

    22. [ka?] wa na  ma  `u bu di  zi  bi shi li

    Reverse

    23. [  ] ki ti  shu   ya tu ha `i hi du   pa ti

    24. sa ta ru  ni  'u ya ta ta  la ki ti  ma

    25. [li ] ta li  ti h.a ta  tu `i  la  ki ti  ma

    26. ha ki `a   ma  ba  si ti   pa  ti sa ta ru

    27. [ni ]  `u ma  'a ka wa na   ma  `u bu di 

    28. za ku ta  la  ki ti  ma  za ku ta   zu  ya

    29. ru ni  la  ki ti  ma na ma  zi  `u 'u   ni

    30. si du t.u tu 'u   `u bu du tu  ni   ka wa  [ta? ]

    31. bi ra ki  t.u wu ma  du ga la  ha bu 'a

    32. bi  t.a bu du  sa nu bi  tu ni bi  ma  nu

    33. ya ma  sha du da  bi  'a  h.u  sa pa yi

    34. [mit.ru ]  ba  `a ti hu   zu  ma la ki  mu

    35. [  ] ra   shi la   'u ma  ha h.i tu yi

    36. [  ] ha li pi  ma ti ma  ra ha `a

    37. [  ] 'a la  du 'a 'i ma  yi yi 'i la  'u

    38. ma  la  yi ki ni wu   ma   hu pi ta  ni ta

    39. h.a wu  bu  ma   ta h.u ba m  ba wa 'i  ni

    40. ta di m  'i ma  la  ki ti  ya  ma  ha

    41. [     ] h.u  mi shi  [    ]

 

[D 1a]   ha [w]a tu h.u rub a `i lu

The words of H.uruba`ilu

[D 1b-2a]   'i 'a tu 'u ni  ma ta ti  la  ki ti

I have the lands come to me for the constitution.

[D 2b-3a]  ya tu ha i  (hi du) ha ki `a  bi  ha `i la li ni

They pledge themselves submissively in joining me,

[D 3b-4a]  pa ti sa ta ru ni ta h.i ma  mu la ki |hi| ya

and they guard for me the boundary of my empire.

[D 4b-5] (hi) ma  mu ba 'i  ba nu  ma   shi tu ya  ba nu  ma

Those brought in with us, and drinking with us,

[D 6-7a]  la  'i h.i di  ya ha tu  t.i wa ra ti  ta (ba?)[ka ]wa  na  ma  ba 'u  ni ni ta

to unity, that is, they constitute one fold, and come to me as offspring,

[D 7b-8a]  pa  ka wa. [n-? ]  bi tu   t.i wa ra   h.u h.a sha 

and the houses (families?) become an admirable flock,

[D 8b-10a] ma  ta [li?]ti  ta ka wa na  ma  la hu  ya ha [tu ]  h.u ru ba `i lu

and they are dependents of him, namely H.uruba`ilu,

[D 10b—11a] li  tu  [ta/ha ] li du  guh.i [ti ]  ta li  shi li ta ti ya

for begetting progeny, dependents of my dominion.

[D 11b-12a]  'i li la  ha ki mi 'u

They have made a binding covenant,

[D 12b-14a]  pa  ti sa ki ru  ni  li 'i mu hu  lu h.i sa ma  mu ra `a  mu ru `i  shi li ta ti

and so his people shall deliver up to me the whisperer and the perpetrator of evil of my dominion.

[D 14b]  'i li la   ti `a shu  ya la nu 

Our allies make a covenant.

[D 14c-15a] lu mi  ya da sha na  ma 'i hu di

My power makes the peoples strong (?).

[D 15b-16a]  'u ba ru ka wa na  tu `i  tu t.i wa 'i  si t.u (s.a ?)bu ba ta ta

After straying and wandering about, the outsider becomes compliant.

[D 16b-17] ta tu sa ta ru 'i ya `u bu du tu ni ya

Those who place themselves under my protection are my obligors (?).      

[D 18-19a] ba ti ya tu  yi ba mi  mu na tu `i [t.i wa ] 'u tu  h.u ru ba `i lu  'i 'u

My house (?) … procreate (?) … straying, wandering … H.uruba`ilu.

[D 19b-21a] 'i 'u  ta ti  ya ru ni  'u h.a `a ni ya  ha[ki]  ha `i mu ru  (mu ru?) bi `u  ma  

I bring ('i'utati) the early rains (yaruni, Hbr. yoreh) and ('u) the rainstorm (H.A) of my eyes (`A-niya), thus (haki) producing abundance (ha`imuru) and (-ma) fructifying (rubi`u, Hbr. rb`) waters (MU).

[D 21b-23a]  (`u ma?) 'a [ka?] wa na  ma  `u bu di  zi  bi shi li [  ] ki ti  shu

 ya tu ha `i hi du

I establish as obligors the people who are under the dominion of the constitution to which they pledge themselves;

[D 23b-24]  pa ti sa ta ru  ni  'u ya ta ta  la ki ti  ma

and so they observe for me the sign (agreement?) of the constitution and

[D 25] [li ] ta li  ti h.a ta  tu `i  la  ki ti  ma

to be subject to, instead of straying from, the constitution, and

[D 26a] ha ki `a   ma  ba  si ti  

submissively and with dignity;

[D 26b-27] pa  ti sa ta ru [ni ]  `u ma  'a ka wa na   ma  `u bu di 

and so they protect for me the people I establish as obligors,

[D 28a] za ku ta  la  ki ti  ma 

pure with respect to the constitution, and

[D 28b-29a]  za ku ta   zu  ya ru ni  la  ki ti

pure in revering me with regard to the constitution.

[D 29b]  ma na ma  zi  `u 'u   ni

whatever they tithe to me

[D 30a]  si du t.u tu 'u  

(mark out fields?)

[D30b]  `u bu du tu  ni   ka wa  [ta? ]

(tilling for me becomes …?)

[D 31a]  bi ra ki  t.u wu ma  du ga la 

(blessings?) (in weakness?) (great hunger?)

[D 31b-32] ha bu 'a  bi  t.a bu du  sa nu bi  tu ni bi  ma  nu

our sickle (MA-nu) reaps (fruitfully) from the good work of producing produce,

[D 33] ya ma  sha du da  bi  'a  h.u  sa pa yi

on the day of harvest in the month (H.U) of ingathering ('a sa pa yi)

[D 34a] [mit.ru]  ba  `a ti hu  

rain in its season

[D 34b-35a]  zu  ma la ki  mu [  ] ra   shi la

The arm (ZU) of the king (brings a curse?) … (tribute?)

[D35b-36] 'u ma  ha h.i tu yi [  ] ha li pi  ma ti ma  ra ha `a

whether (smite and beat) (to the mouth of Death?) when he has done evil,

[D37a] [  ] 'a la  du 'a 'i ma  yi yi 'i la 

is cursed with the curse of sickness;

[D 37b-38]  'u ma  la  yi ki ni wu   ma   hu pi ta  ni

or he does not persevere in fulfilling the obligations to me

[D 39b-41]  ba wa 'i  ni ta di m  'i ma  la  ki ti  ya  ma  ha[     ] h.u  mi shi  [    ]

coming to me … abundance (di) if for my  constitution (pay one-fifth tribute?)

 

Wrestling with this tablet is like engaging in mortal combat. Some of the suggested meanings I have offered for various lines are senseless. The text is obviously encoding a West Semitic language in the ancestry of Phoenician, but very ancient and obscure. Emendations have been proposed at several points, on the assumption that the engraver was copying a text from papyrus, and made errors in transferring the lines of writing.

 

For details of emendations and discussions of the meanings of words, refer to Mendenhall 1985, and Colless 1993.

 

No gods are mentioned (except perhaps Baal in the king’s name, H.uruba`ilu, and possibly though not probably Horus as H.uru).

 

This is not a typical covenant document with the names of the parties to the pact, and the gods acting as witnesses to the oaths taken.

 

It is a royal proclamation of the constituting of a new kingdom, bringing together a set of “lands” (possibly various tribal territories), and stating stipulations, tribute payment, rewards, and penalties (blessings and cursings), as in ancient treaty documents.

It bears similarities to Gubla Text A, which lays down requirements for tribute and taxes (Colless 1994).

 

For an account of the decipherment process that produced the above reading:

https://sites.google.com/site/collesseum/westsemiticsyllabary

which includes:

syllabary document (pdf)

 


GUBLA TEXT C (Bronze Tablet)

 

    Description : Dunand, 74-76.

    This bronze tablet is inscribed from right to left, in long lines, with spaces at the end of nine of its fifteen lines. The metal has suffered severe corrosion, but most of the glyphs are legible. The spaces at the left side of several lines show the direction of writing (right to left, as in texts D and A), and boustrophedon writing is not a possibility here.

    Depiction : Dunand,75 (drawing); Dunand, plate IX (photographs); Colless 1994, 60.

    Interpretation : Mendenhall, 94-112; Colless 1994, 60-72.

    The document seems to be a marriage contract: a father gives his daughter Habula (01) to a man named Shutu (06) or Shutun (01), possibly a prince (saru, 06). The father is apparently unnamed, but he is perhaps the same king as in text D, namely H.uru-Ba`ilu (since tablets C and D were found together).

    Obverse

    01. ha bu la   ni ni ti  ru h.i ma tu shu tu ni  ba ti mi m

    02. ba h.i ti  ma  ta la [bi?]sa  ni  ka yi na tu m

    03. ma 'i ma  wi shu ni  bi hu  'i  'a ka yi na ma

    04. ba  yi li  ha ra ra ti  ta ka yi na ma  ba yi ta hu

    05. pa ma ta ba h.i mu  t.u li ta ti  bi  ma li ha m

    06. shu tu sa ru bi ni hu mu  sa ba ru  ka yi na tu m

    07. `u bu du wu ma  du ga wi ma  ya ta sa `u bu du ma  ni ni

    08. pa ti ru ni tu  si t.u bu ba ta  ta `u bu du  ma mi

    09. ba ti ya? ma ba yi ti  ba ri ri  za/ni hi ru  ma  hi li ni

    10. ma ni  bi ni hu mu  sa ba ru  ka yi na tu m

    11. pa  ha h.i ni mi t.a bu du 'a ha sa sa nu tu 'a

    12. bi ma nu ma sha du da  ra h.i ma ta  'i ba li gu hu

    13. t.a shi tu m  ma `u ta ma 'i h.i lu ti li  su pa h.i

    Reverse

    14. wa h.i du   bi hu 'i ‘a ba h.i mu  zu

    15. [                 ] ba h.i ti [            ] 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

 

[C 1] ha bu la   ni ni ti  ru h.i ma tu shu tu ni  ba ti mi m

Habula my daughter is the beloved of Shutun in perpetuity.

[C 2] ba h.i ti  ma  ta la [bi?]sa  ni  ka yi na tu m

And for life you will constantly clothe her (for me?)

[C 3] ma 'i ma  wi shu ni  bi hu  'i  'a ka yi na ma

I solemnly bestow what is mine on him.

[C 4] ba  yi li  ha ra ra ti  ta ka yi na ma  ba yi ta hu

With a cherished family may she establish his house,

[C 5] pa ma ta ba h.i mu  t.u li ta ti  bi  ma li ha m

and in her fullness make it great with children.


 

GUBLA TEXT A  (Stone Monument)

 

    Description : Dunand, 71-73.

    The stone is badly worn and broken off on the left side. The original length of the lines is uncertain; the break is diagonal for the first four lines, and vertical for the remaining six; only the tenth and last line is complete, apparently, because it ends before the broken edge. Consequently it is impossible to give a coherent translation. 

    Depiction : Dunand, 72 (drawing); Dunand, plate VIII (photograph); Colless 1994, 73.

    Interpretation : Mendenhall, 113-119; Colless 1994, 72-78.

    Dunand (119) and Mendenhall (113) surmise that this is a building inscription; my interpretation is based on the hypothesis that it is a taxation document.

    The identified vocabulary seems to indicate that the document is a "claim" from King "Buhura-Bali" for "income" or "harvests", stored in "granaries", and also "fish", the "contributions" being regarded as "rents".

    01. ru tu  mi  bu hu ra . . .

    02. h.i sa ni m  'a mi sa m . . .

    03. ka wa na tu m  ha ta q- mi  pa . . .

    04. ti ru ya ma  pa ni ?  ? mi  ? ? m . . .

    05. pa . . . zi?  du ti ti ma sha du ta  'a? . . .

    06. pa  da ga ti  'a tu m  sha du ti? ?  hu 'i ya ma . .

    07. pa  wi shu bu ta m   `u? ha mi na ta ru wu ma ka wa . .

    08. mi na ru 'i wu ma 'a sha du ta sa pa da ga ti . .

    09. 'a tu m  sha du ta  za? ru  ya ma  pa  wi shu bu tu m

    10. ka wa na ma  li  bu hu ra ba li

 

[A 1]  ru tu  mi  bu hu ra . . .

 Claim from Buhura[-Bali] . . . "

[A 2]  h.i sa ni m  'a sa mi m . . .

 of stores, of granaries [emended from 'a mi sa m]

[A 3] ka wa na tu m  ha ta q- mi  pa . . .

constantly being raised, and

[A 4] ti ru ya ma  pa ni ?  ? mi  ? ? m . . .

offering … [a fatling miri’um]

[A 5] pa . . . zi?  du ti ti ma sha du ta  'a? . . .

… tax-collection (?)

[A 6]  pa  da ga ti  'a tu m  sha du ti? ?  hu 'i ya ma . .

and fish, bring the collection ……

[A7] pa  wi shu bu ta m   `u? ha mi na ta ru wu ma ka wa . .

and rent … tithe (10 minas?) contribution

[A 8] mi na ru 'i wu ma 'a sha du ta sa pa da ga ti . .

 collection, a dish (sapa) of fish

[A 9] 'a tu m  sha du ta  za? ru  ya ma  pa  wi shu bu tu m

Bring the collection, seed (?) of the sea(?), and rent

[A 10] ka wa na ma  li  bu hu ra ba li

be for Buhura-Bali

 



 


 

 

 

Colless, Brian E., 1988, Recent Discoveries Illuminating the Origin of the Alphabet, Abr-Nahrain  26: 30-67.

__, 1990, The Proto-alphabetic Inscriptions of Sinai, Abr-Nahrain  28:1-52.

__, 1991, The Proto-alphabetic Inscriptions of Canaan, Abr-Nahrain  29: 18-66.

__, 1992, The Byblos Syllabary and the Proto-alphabet, Abr-Nahrain  30: 55-102.

__, 1993, The Syllabic Inscriptions of Byblos: Text D, Abr-Nahrain  31: 1-35.

__. 1994, The Syllabic Inscriptions of Byblos: Texts C and A, Abr-Nahrain  32, 59-79.

Dunand, M., 1945, Byblia Grammata: Documents et recherches sur le développement de l'écriture en Phénicie  (Beirut).

Mendenhall, George E., 1985, The Syllabic Inscriptions from Byblos  (Beirut).

 

 

 

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