Wednesday 6 March 2024

Meroitic language

This article was originally an X thread. So are most of my articles actually, as I publish all my stuff on X first. But this thread is different, as in it I wanted to show how I do my research and how fast you can find things if you know what you are looking for...

Before I saw this post 6 hours ago, I had never heard of "Meroitic language" and have never seen one of these objects before. But I had a funny feeling that I knew what was depicted on it...So I did some googling, and it turns out I was right. 

Check this out:

So my hunch was that the relief depicted some kind of connection between water (obvious, as the wavy lines are water bing poured out of the two jars) and summer solstice (not so obvious, but these two jars, for some reason, reminded me of the "twins symbol")...



Twins which mark summer solstice...I talked about these twins in several of my articles. First in my post "Hayagriva". 

Surya's wife Saranyu transforms into a mare and runs away from her husband. Surya eventually finds her, turns himself into a white stallion and...

After which Saranyu delivers horse head twins called Ashvins...

Horse zodiac symbol is disguised as Dioskuri, divine twin horsemen. The guys who wanted to marry "the daughters of the white horse". 

They mark Summer Solstice, the peak of the horse mating season, characterised by wild stallion fights for mares...


We find them in Sasanian Iran, on this plate with youths and winged horses drinking water from a jar ca. 5th–6th century AD. I talked about this in my post "Dioskuri plate from Iran"...


In Mesopotamia (no horses in site), they appear as these two charming gentlemen: Lugal-irra and Meslamta-ea, "who were both closely associated with Nergal, and could be either regarded as members of his court or equated with him"...


These two dudes "typically appear together in cuneiform texts and could be described as the "divine twins", and were linked to Gemini constellation. They were regarded as protectors of doors, "possibly due to their role as the gatekeepers of the underworld"...

Hmmm...Twins guarding doors (of the underworld)? This looks like a door to you?



Very interesting, knowing that right after the summer solstice, we enter the hottest time of the year, Jul/Aug, the domain of Nergal, the god of the underworld...

In Central America we find Hero Twins who pour the water of heaven (rains there arrive in Jun/Jul). I talked about this in my post "Resurrection of the maize god"...


And finally, and most importantly for our current thread, we find them in Egypt, where god Hapi, the god of the annual flooding of the Nile, was "often depicted as twins, tying papyrus and lotus flowers together". Papyrus flowers in Apr/May (beginning of summer), and lotus in Jul/Aug (end of summer) and the knot the twins tie is...Summer solstice...I talked about him/them 🙂 in my post "Lotus and papyrus"...


Anyway, now that you know why I thought twins were important, 

So, I first went on the museum website and I found the official description of the object here:

"Offering table, from Ballana, dates to Meroitic phase IIIB-IV, decorated in relief with two kohl jars and four loaves and has a Meroitic inscription"...

So I then went to find out what the hell were "kohl jars". Well, they were jars, like this one from New Kingdom, dated to 1492–1473 BC and currently in Met Museum. 

Used for storing kohl, an ancient eye cosmetic, made by grinding stibnite.  

The Ancient Egyptians (both men and women) wore kohl on their eyelids as protection against the glare of the sun. Outlining the eyes could also have been a way of drawing a protective amulet, such as the Wadjet Eye, right onto the skin.

Anyway, I couldn't find any link between kohl and kohl jars and water, so I was about to give up and write this off as a false hunch, but I decided to just do one last thing and check where exactly was the Meroitic language spoken. 

It was spoken here. In the area between today's Aswan in Egypt and Khartoum in Sudan...


And so, in the spirit of "if all you have is a hammer (animal calendar markers), everything looks (actually is) like a nail (deified calendar)", I went to check the local climate...

And what is very interesting about this part of the world is that it has a very long dry season and very short wet season, and that the rains arrive right around...summer solstice...

So my hunch that the two jars with water pouring out of them somehow links water and summer solstice was right...But what does this have to do with kohl jars? Nothing. University of Chicago was wrong. These were not kohl jars at all. They are hes-vases...

Here is one, currently in the Brooklin museum, from the Old Kingdom to 18th Dynasty. I have no idea how I came across this page. AI decided to help me I guess...I doubled it so you can see how they resemble the vases from the offering table...

The hes-vases were special vessels used to hold ritually purified water. These containers were frequently left as tomb offerings so the deceased could drink the water...

Thirsty dead? Again? I talked about the "thirsty" dead first in my posts "Drought" and "White feast" about South Slavic beliefs that the dead are linked to rain and grain fertility...And that thirsty ancestors will "drink rain from the clouds and will cause drought".

I then talked about "thirsty dead" in my post "Lapis Manalis" about Roman belief that the dead are linked to rain and grain fertility...BTW, do you see the similarity between cup and ring marked stones and rain caused ripples on water? Or is it just me?

I finally talked about "thirsty dead" in my post "Care of the dead" about Hittite and Sumerian belief that the dead are linked to rain and grain fertility...And if you forget to respect the sacred bond with the dead...


Hmmm ritually purified water...Was this purification intended to turn water back to rain? The pure water that falls from the sky that can be drank without fear of diseases?



So we have water pouring out of hes-vases, which normally contain water for the dead and loaves of bread...Again we see the link between water, the dead, rain and bread...

(This was not in the original thread, but I just remembered this thread

Sycamore tree goddess, originally Hathor, and later Isis, both goddess of flood, pouring water which is depicted with ankh (life) symbols inside it...Tomb, Siwa Oasis, 400-600 BC. Egypt...Is she pouring water of life from a "Hes-Vase"?

Now I was wondering why would water from the twin vases be pouring on the two loaves of bread. Maybe there is some kind of cereal that directly depends on the rain that starts falling around summer solstice...

And It turns out I was right again...Sorghum is a staple crop in Sudan. Sorghum grows during the rainy season (Jun-Sep). Once harvested, it is ground and stored for the dry season...and is used to make kisra flat breads...


And just when I decided I had found enough info to write this thread, while I was looking for a nice pic of traditional sorghum kisra flat breads, I stumbled across "Sky and Earth – A Nuba Mountains Folktale"...

Nuba Mountains lie just below Khartoum, and this story proves conclusively that my hunch about the twin(s) jars was 100% right. Here it goes:

“At the beginning of time,  the sky and the earth lived together as one..."

 "...The Nuba people remember a day when a young woman from the Nuba was grinding sorghum on the grindstone.  As she worked, she unintentionally struck the sky with her elbow.  The sky was insulted and decided to leave the place and take up residence far away from the earth..."

"...The people were unhappy about this and did not know how to continue their lives which had become gloomy and miserable without the sky, its rainy clouds and its shining sun..."

 "...They held a meeting and agreed to send an envoy to the sky to persuade it to come back. The envoy somehow managed to convince the sky to come back. It agreed on one condition: that it would return only once a year and would be invited to return each time..." 

"...This is how the seasons were created and how the Nuba Mountains received their first Kujur, the rainmaker, who since that time has continued to mediate between the earth and sky. The kujur has passed on his ability to make rain to his children and the children of his children..."

The end...

Now here is the best bit (from "Sudan Notes and Records Volume 23"): 

The only person equal to the Kujur is "a man who fathered twins" as "father of twins is the most important person"...Why? The only explanation is that the ancient Sudanese associated rain season with twins...Gemini...

Neat...Oh and in September, right after the rains stopped and the first harvest started, Nuba people hold Kambala festival, which celebrates the harvesting of grain and is associated with initiation rites for young Nuba men.

And we know that rain is linked with grain, semen and male fertility...


PS: Dear @ISAC_UChicago I would really like to know what is written on this offering table, if you know yourself. But I find it interesting that in Meroitic language

at(a) means "bread" and ato means "water"...

PS: please correct the object's description...

That's it. It took about half an hour to find all this info...

To read more about ancient animal and plant calendar markers, start here…then check the rest of the blog posts related to animal calendar markers I still didn't add to this page, and finally check my twitter threads I still didn't convert to blog post...I am 9 months behind now...

Tuesday 5 March 2024

Prince Stefan Prvoslav

This is the Church of the Đurđevi Stupovi Monastery in Berane, Montenegro. 

It was built in 1213 as a memorial to the Serbian Prince Stefan Prvoslav, whose grave is in the nave...His grave slab is decorated with a very interesting symbol: triskele of Celtic Scordisci type.



The Scordisci were a Celtic Iron Age cultural group centered in the territory of present-day Serbia...From the 3rd c. BC until the 1st c. AD they ruled over a tribal state which at its zenith also included parts of Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania...

During the 3rd and 2nd c. BC they successfully fought Romans in the Balkans. You can read more about this on the Balkan Celts blog... 

Lucius Annaeus Florus in his Epitome  XXXVIIII (The Thracian War), says about them: "The cruelest of all the Thracians were the Scordisci...their haunts among the woods and mountains..."

They are the guys who lived in the fortress on Veliki Vetren peak on Mount Juhor, Central Serbia...


"14 horsemen came down from Devil's Town on Veliki Vetren peak, Serbia, on foggy nights and abducted young girls, croaking like Ravens" (Local legend). 14 sets of cavalry equipment were found in the Celtic opidium on Veliki Vetren peak 🙂 

Where this button was found...With the identical triskele symbol...

From my post "Veliki Vetren"...

During the 1st c. BC their power begins to weaken and eventually they were crushed in 15 BC by Tiberius, and became Roman subjects, after which they started fighting for the Romans as mercenaries...

After the Roman conquest in the 1st century AD, their territories were included into the Roman provinces of Pannonia, Moesia and Dacia. 


Strabo's Geographica (20 BC–23 AD) says that "the Major Scordisci, lived between moths of Sava and Morava rivers (Serbia)"...

So what happened to Scordisci after they became "Romans"? Well they stayed in the Balkans...And most likely became one of (many) Serbian ancestors...Look at Serbian genes...

Is this why Serbian Prince Stefan Prvoslav has a Scordisci triskele on his grave slab? Or maybe this is just a meaningless squiggle...

BTW, do you remember my post "Death of Prince Marko" about Celtic style "ritual killing" of weapons during warrior funerals, depicted in Medieval Serbian folk epic poems? 


More about Scordisci can be found on this great site "Balkan Celts, Journal of Celtic Studies in Eastern Europe and Asia-Minor"

But I don't think you will find anything there about Serbian Prince Stefan Prvoslav's grave...

PS: By @LazarStojkovic

And let’s not forget this…

In “Red and White: Serbian-Celtic Parallels" (In Serbian), the late Serbian linguistic scholar, Celticist, and academician Professor Ranka Kuić identified ~600 words shared between Welsh and Serbian.

For comparison, that’s about 10x the number of words shared between the languages considered to be the members of the Finno-Ugric language group...

Monday 4 March 2024

Date beer

A late 3rd millennium BC seal found in the Hurian city of Urkesh located in northeastern Syria. Pic from "Dal profondo del tempo" by Giorgio Buccellati, one of many great Urkesh related resources found on urkesh.org... 



What does it mean?

In the article we read: "...a representation of an act of worship. The two attendants, or priests, they just cut off the head of a young bull. The one on the left still holds the knife in his hand, while the one on the right holds it suspended the animal for the hind legs..."

"...The bull's head is placed at the base of a small palm tree trunk, with a jar on top...Does the seated woman mix something in a container - the blood of the sacrificed animal? "

What I think is depicted here is indeed an act of worship. Of alcohol...And Ishtar...Yes I think that is Ishtar sitting on that throne next to the date palm tree trunk...

You can read about the link between Ishtar and the date palm tree (the Mesopotamian Tree of Life) in "Western Asiatic Tree Goddess" by Irit Ziffer...

Here is one of the artefacts cited in this paper that shows this link between Ishtar and date palm. An Akkadian seal depicting Ishtar sitting on her lion throne, with worshippers standing in front of her, while people at the back are shown harvesting dates...


This seal can be found in "Die Entwicklung der Glyptik während der Akkad-Zeit" by Boehmer, R. M. published in 1965. 

But what does this mean? What is the actual link between date palms and Ishtar...

Enter animal and plant calendar markers...

There is this girl, Inanna/Ishtar, who loves standing on lions? Why does she do this? 


Well...standing on a lion means "In Leo"...(Jul/Aug)...

And you know how everyone thinks that Inanna/Ishtar "The queen of heaven", "The morning star" is Venus...Well, when this "mythology" was developed, Sirius rose before the sun, in Leo (Jul/Aug), pretending to be "the morning star"...I talked about her in my posts "Ninshubur", "Inana and Šukaletuda", "Under the blazing Sun Sirius"

In "A hymn to Inana as Ninegala" we can read "Inana, great light, lioness of heaven..." 

Why is she "lioness of heaven"? 

This, combined with Inanna's obsession with standing on lions only makes sense if she is Sirius, rising with the sun in Leo...

Leo here has nothing to do with constellation Leo...Well it didn't originally...Leo (Jul/Aug) marks the beginning of the main mating season of Eurasian lions...



What does this have to do with date palms? When Leo (Jul/Aug) marks the beginning of autumn (Aug,Sep,Oct)...Which comes after summer (May,Jun,Jul)...Summer which starts in Taurus (Apr/May)...Hence Bull as symbol of summer and Lion as symbol of autumn...I talked about this in my post "Symbols of the seasons"...

Date harvest season starts in Jul/Aug...In Leo...When Ishtar stands on lions (Sirius rises with the sun in Leo)...

When lion (autumn) kills (ends) bull (summer) it's time to harvest dates. You can read my analysis of this seal in "Lion killing bull under date palm"... 

Taurus here has nothing to do with stars...It originally marked the beginning of the calving season of the Eurasian wild cattle (Apr/May)...I talked about this in my posts "Ram and bull", "Foundation peg of goddess Nanshe", "Cow and calf ivory"...

So the dates are harvested when the bull of summer dies...Hence the dead bull, from whose head a palm tree grows...Did Hurians marks this time of the year by actual bull sacrifices, I don't know. I personally think that this is a symbolic way to depict "the end of summer"...

Ok so we now know what the link between Ishtar and date palm tree and dead bulls is...But what is Ishtar mixing in the pot depicted in front of her? And why is there another pot depicted standing on top of the date palm tree trunk?

To find the answer to this questions we need to turn to drink...I am currently drunk, so it is fitting that I am writing about drink...

When you mention booze in ancient Mesopotamia, everyone thinks of beer, made from grain...

But there was another alcoholic beverage which was very popular in Mesopotamia, and which Sumerians called "The Juice of Life"...You can read about this in "The Date-Palm in Antiquity" by Paul Popenoe

We don't know how this drink was made. But we know that there are two different date alcoholic beverage: the date fruit drink and the date sap drink, so The Juice of Life is one of these two...

Date sap is tapped by cutting into the terminal bud and running the sap through a spout into a clay vessel. Around 10 litres of sap can be collected per day. And it takes about 6-8 hours to ferment the juice into 4%-5% alcoholic beverage...You can read about this in "Dates: Production, Processing, Food, and Medicinal Values"...

This drink is made throughout date growing regions of Asia and Africa even today. The sap can be extracted out of the tree year round, although the best time to do it is during dry season. Which in Syria is Apr/May - Oct/Nov...


But that doesn't match "the death of the bull of summer" animal calendar marker depicted on our seal...And would not explain what Ishtar is doing with the pot in front of herself...

Let's see how the date fruit drink is made...

In "Date beer: brew it like the ancient babylonians" we can read that: 

"...Although the research literature tends to call date fruit drink “beer”, the beverage is actually closer to cider. It is produced from fruit and water and fermented using natural yeast in the dates..."

...The ancient Mesopotamians themselves have not provided us with an actual recipe for brewing date beer. However, we have a date beer recipe from antiquity, recorded by the pharmacologist Dioscorides in the first century CE..."

"...According to Dioscorides, date beer was brewed using crushed dates and water which were put into a cask and let ferment for ten days. On the eleventh day, the beverage was ready to be consumed..."

And so what I think is depicted on the Hurian seal is Ishtar (or whatever they called Goddess of the Palm Tree) pounding date palm fruit in a mortar with a pestle...Date fruit which is harvested "after the bull of summer dies"...

In order to produce date palm "Juice of Life" which is symbolically depicted by the beer drinking pot placed on top of the date palm trunk, where date fruit is found, symbolically depicting "the beer made out of the fruit of the date palm"...

Here is another seal from "Die Entwicklung der Glyptik während der Akkad-Zeit" by Boehmer, R. M. published in 1965 showing a seated god(?) drinking sitting under a date palm tree...Indication that what is being drunk is a date drink? The Juice of Life?

That's it...What do you think? All makes sense now?

To read more about ancient animal and plant calendar markers, start here…then check the rest of the blog posts related to animal calendar markers I still didn't add to this page, and finally check my twitter threads I still didn't convert to blog post...I am 9 months behind now...