Two centuries after the hieroglyphics, these writings which have still not been deciphered – World

  • > Linear A in Greece

  • Linear A inscription on a clay tablet in Crete. (Photo Wikimedia)

    Even if many specialists have clung to it, some ancient scripts are not deciphered, such as Linear A.

    Mainly used in Crete, between 1850 and 1450 BC, it mixes syllabic signs (each character corresponds to a syllable) and ideograms (each graphic symbol represents a word). Most of the writings discovered are accounting documents, but it was also used to write votive texts.

  • > The rongorongo on Easter Island

  • Two centuries after the hieroglyphs, these writings which have still not been deciphered
    (Photo Wikimedia)

    The same opacity surrounds the rongorongo, the Easter Island script. It consists of a series of hieroglyphs (creatures, objects, geometric patterns, etc.) almost exclusively engraved on wooden tablets, before the 1860s.

    “This writing is artistically exquisite and totally disconcerting,” noted Briton Andrew Robinson, author of several books on lost languages ​​and scripts, in Quebec Science magazine.

  • > The Indus script

  • Two centuries after the hieroglyphs, these writings which have still not been deciphered
    (Photo Wikimedia)

    The script of the Indus Civilization, which occupied the northwest of the Indian subcontinent from the middle of the 4th millennium to the beginning of the 2nd millennium BCE, also remains undeciphered. It appears on about two thousand seals but also on some copper plates and some terracotta, bone and ivory objects.

    Other writings also remain impenetrable, found on rare, even unique, objects such as four inscriptions from the 2nd millennium found at Byblos in Lebanon or the Phaïstos disk and its 45 signs arranged in a spiral…

  • > Etruscan in Italy

  • epa06650768 Il 'Sarcofago delle amazzoni' (lit. The Sarcophagus of the Amazons) is displayed inside the new rooms of the National Archaeological Museum of Florence, in Florence, Italy, 06 April 2018.
    The “sarcophagus of the Amazons”, an Etruscan treasure dating back to 350 BC. (EPA-EFE/MAURIZIO DEGL’INNOCENTI)

    “There are cases where deciphering the writing does not pose a problem – the writing is known – but it is the language that remains the mystery”, explains to AFP the historian Françoise Briquel-Chatonnet, director of research at the CNRS.

    As for the Etruscan. From the Iron Age until the 1st century BC, the Etruscans ruled over a vast territory formed by Tuscany and Lazio. Their alphabet, an intermediate between the Greek alphabet and the Latin alphabet, is readable but it is the language that we do not fully understand.

  • > Meroitic in Sudan

  • Two centuries after the hieroglyphs, these writings which have still not been deciphered
    (Photo Wikimedia)

    The same goes for Meroitic, the writing of a kingdom that developed along the Nile, in the north of present-day Sudan, between the 3rd century BC and the 4th century AD. C. It is a phonetic script whose texts can be read, but not completely translated.

    To manage to decipher these testimonies of the past, it would be necessary, for example, to manage to make a connection with spoken languages, to discover new texts sufficiently developed so that one can pose hypotheses, or a bilingual writing, like the famous stone of Rosette which bears the same decree engraved in three languages ​​and which enabled Jean-François Champollion to decipher the hieroglyphs.

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