Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The decipherment of Phoenician

PHOENICIAN WATCH: The Rosetta Stone of Malta: Cippi of Malta Offers Key to Decoding the Phoenician Language (Kerry Sullivan, Ancient Origins [Link updated 6 June 2023]).

Ancient Origins produces articles of rather uneven quality, ranging from pretty good to not so much. (Deane Galbraith, call your office!) This one is not bad, although it does contain errors. For example, the Phoenician god's name is spelled "Melqart" (as later in the article), not "Malqart," and the city's name is "Carthage," not (!) "Cartridge." But it does give the basic story of the first modern decipherment of a Phoenician inscription.

You might want to follow some of the links in the bibliography at the end of the article. Or you can read the whole story of the discovery and decipherment of the Maltese Cippi inscriptions in an article by Reinhard G. Lehmann: Wilhelm Gesenius and the Rise of Phoenician Philology in Biblische Exegese und hebräische Lexikographie (ed. John Barton et al.; Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 427; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013), 209-266. [Updated on 6/6/2023 to link to author's page.]

Incidentally, in addition to his foundational work on Phoenician, Jean-Jacques Barthélemy also deciphered Palmyrene, the Aramaic dialect of Palmyra, on which more here and links. And again, this post explains why PaleoJudaica is interested in ancient Phoenician and Punic.