Saturday, March 15, 2008

Examining excerpts on the Tihama complex

Recapitulation: 23,000 BP ~ 21,050 BC — The Ogolian aridity hits the North-to-equator section of Africa; much of North Africa and the Sahara are characterized by adverse weather conditions, with much of the region turning arid. The Sahara at this time, extends south beyond its current boundaries to a certain point, possibly a little beyond the Niger bend.

Arid conditions extend all the way to the "horn" coast of the African Horn region, possibly encouraging populations to reside more inwards—away from that horn-shaped coastal region; rather, likely towards the region straddling southern Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda or even further—region straddling Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania...

— PN2 clade (E3) bearers in the vicinity of the Sudanese-Central African Republic -Ugandan-Kenyan general region give rise to E3a ~ between 21 and 18 ky ago [pending additional or new info]; E3b-M35* would have likely arose relatively earlier than E3a* [as evidenced by its near absence in some the populations that carry this], sometime prior to the Ogolian and the LGM period. At this time, it was likely the M78 derivative that came about ~ between 19 and 15 ky ago. It was also likely during this period, that some E3b-M35 variants spilled over to the "southwest Asia", which would be identified as E-M34. The E-M78* likely arose somewhere in the bidirectional-migration route between Northeast and sub-Saharan East Africa; this location was likely in the region straddling upper Egypt and Sudan of the eastern Sahara, amongst earlier E-M35 migrants from sub-Saharan East Africa. These M78 bearers were increasingly pressured to move further south due to progressive aridity, possibly as far as Uganda-Kenya and/or Tanzanian general region...

...between 15ky and 13ky ago. During this period, as the Saharan aridity began to gradually slacken, some E-M78 bearing proto-Afrasan speaking nomads likely made their way into the Levant via the Sinai corridor.

Of course range of subsequent habitat of the early south-bound migrating E-M78 bearers, as hinted on above, would have been from the African Horn to the Tanzanian general region. Whereas during the intense periods of the Ogolian aridity when the aridity spread to as far as the horn-coastal areas of the African Horn, and due to which populations would have been discouraged to set up permanent settlements in those coastal areas, by around ~12ky ago and thereof, the aridity retracted back further north, i.e. to areas north of the said coastal areas during the wet phase of the Sahara, encouraging populations which had been living relatively inwards—i.e. away from the horn-shaped coastal region—to repopulate those horn-shaped coastal areas. During this period, all sorts of activities were going on in the Sahara—allowing populations which were taking refuge below the earlier arid regions of the Sahara to then spread northward. During this period, with the associated filling up of the river systems of the continent above the equator due to the Monsoon rains, tools like pottery became handy, and hence the development pottery spread across the Sahara. We see early examples dating back to 11 ky ago in west/central-Sahara [where Niger lies] and ~ 10 ky ago or so in eastern Sahara, and at about this period more or less, evidence of cattle domestication in the Sahara appears.

But then by c. 5ky ago, re-aridification of the Sahara takes hold again, although not as far south as it did during the intense aridification periods of the Ogolian aridity. During this period, settlements in northeast Africa hug the valleys adjoining the Nile River, resulting in increasing social differentiation and organization along the Nile Valley. As just noted, while the aridity didn't extend as far south as it did in the pre-Holocene Sahara, it appears that the *northern* section of the African Horn territory was to some extent eventually affected by the aridity of the Sahara, leading to semi-desert conditions in that region, which might have factored into the following:

...My current hypothesis is that during the late 3rd millennium BC, in response to a drying climate, people were on the move. Some settled on Dahlak island. The people who settled in al-Midamman **crossed the Red Sea and settled in the Tihama** where they found a window of opportunity for life as result of the **massive flooding that was emanating from the highlands**, from a landscape out of control. When checks and balances were put in place in the highlands, as part of the landscape stabilisation for which Yemen became synonymous, the people at the coast were forced to move on. Groups may have found their way into the Jawf, and the Hadramawt. They retained some of their specific lithic technology, but generally otherwise **became integrated** with the rest of the South Arabian populations. — Edward Keall

In any event, by c. 5 ky ago, movement of groups from east Africa onto south Arabia occurred, as evidenced by the following archaeological indicators:

c. 2400-1800 BC
The earliest cultural record from al-Midamman is an ephemeral presence defined by the surface recovery of stone projectile points and scrapers belonging to a Neolithic culture, say, from before 4000 BC. The first substantial and monumental phase of the site starts in the 3rd millennium BC. It involved the setting up of **giant stone markers**. Certain slender pillars were once set up with infants buried beneath them, yet without grave goods; an isolated stone marked the grave of an adult male. Hypothetically, these burials pre-date the setting up of giant stones, an act dated roughly to 2400-1800 BC by the cache of copper-alloy tools and a core of obsidian found buried beneath one of the megaliths.

All of the stone used had to be imported from at least 50 km away. A later phase of the activity involved recycling the stone. Yet there is no evidence that this was a destructive act. Rather, it appears to suggest reverence for the past….

…From al-Midamman there is one bull's head in relief from a pottery vessel; two human figurines in pottery; incense burners of pottery; and an example of alphabetic letters scratched into a pottery vessel. But pottery items are very rare within the corpus of finds, representing four out of 4000 recorded (and diagnostic) fragments. As for the pottery itself, it is far superior to anything from classic South Arabia. Though hand-built, it is well produced from good quality clay. It is often burnished and decorated with punctate designs that call to mind Fattovich's Afro-Arabian cultural complex theories regarding the punctate incised pottery from Kassala in the Gash delta of southeastern Sudan. And upper Nile-area specialists will no doubt think of so-called wavy-line punctate pottery associated with the C-Group people. Yet, the one striking absence, which cannot be overlooked, is that Kassala does not have the same kind of obsidian record as al-Midamman where there is a clearly definable assemblage of obsidian microliths. It arrives **fully developed** as a lithic tradition, and it does not evolve out of the Arabian bi-facial tradition. Numerous *antecedents* can be found in East Africa. Our expedition has also observed obsidian of exactly the same technological tradition on the island of Dahlak Kabir, offshore from the Eritrean mainland.
— Edward Keall


The preceding Neolithic culture, according to the Edward Keall article in question, is associated with 'stone projectile points and scrapers' dating back to prior to the 4th millennium BC:

The earliest cultural record from al-Midamman is an ephemeral presence defined by the surface recovery of stone projectile points and scrapers belonging to a Neolithic culture, say, from before 4000 BC. The first substantial and monumental phase of the site starts in the 3rd millennium BC. — E J Keall

The article is *not* associating this Neolithic culture with the giant stone burial structures. Those "markers" or structures appear at a phase dated later, specifically to some time in the 3rd millennium BC. Hence, as noted earlier, this would indicate 'differentiation' of culture with time. It is this 3rd millennium phase wherein Keall draws archaeologically substantiated links, via the type of stone used, pottery, as well as obsidian microlithic assemblage. So the implication here, is that those "giant burial markers", were likely a tradition brought by East African immigrants some time in the 3rd millennium BC. This could not be more clearer in the following:

*The first substantial and monumental phase of the site starts in the 3rd millennium BC. It involved the setting up of giant stone markers.

*Certain slender pillars were once set up with infants buried beneath them, yet without grave goods; an isolated stone marked the grave of an adult male. Hypothetically, these burials **PRE-DATE** the setting up of giant stones, an act dated roughly to 2400-1800 BC by the cache of copper-alloy tools and a core of obsidian found buried beneath one of the megaliths.
— E. Keall

Keall makes this estimation, presumably from the finding that the said burials lacked grave goods, whereas later burials—as is the case with those maintained with "recycled stones" or "re-used stone"—had been furnished with grave goods. The question then becomes, why would people at this phase of stone monument appearances pay tribute to burial sites of the past, which were very likely not marked as such in their original state? Well, that's where one can assume *cultural sympathy* to be the likely motivator, if not a link, between the folks of the earlier archaeological phase and the later one. So, while no specific mention of migration in the Neolithic period is made, it is suggested however, that "people on both sides of the Red Sea may have had a common ancestry, and their cultural expressions emerge from that common background."

Furthermore, to the extent that cultural *differentiation* occurs between the mentioned Neolithic phase and the 'monumental' phase, involving people from a common ancestry, Keall's mention of this might give one a clue:

It is hypothesised that this did not involve the **mass movement of people, with their cultural baggage complete**.

Further differentiation is noted even in 'monumental phase' of the site in question, as exemplified by the later 'recycling of stones', yet consistency in pottery design, and in many cases [though obviously, not in all], reappearances of obsidian tools, make it clear that there was socio-cultural continuity here, and hence:

The idea of different phases of the occupation has always been present in the eyes of the excavators. The idea of newcomers supplanting the old ways has always been a possibility. **The most recent work has demonstrated this to be untenable.** Finding only the same kind of pottery in both the domestic, the funerary and commemorative areas implies that the **SAME PEOPLE** were involved throughout the site's life. Yet clearly their cultural habits did evolve. — by Keall, E.

This sums up the present author's take on the article in question.
*Reference material:
Contact across the Red Sea (between Arabia and Africa) in the 2nd millennium BC: circumstantial evidence from the archaeological site of al-Midamman, Tihama coast of Yemen, and Dahlak Kabir Island, Eritrea — by Edward J. Keall

Revisiting exchanges with Clyde Winters on the Meroitic script Pt. 3

Continued from: Revisiting exchanges with Clyde Winters on the Meroitic script Pt. 2

As noted in the last posting on this topic, the basic questions that come up time and again about Clyde's Tocharian-Meroitic link, but never addressed by him:

Meroitic script is much older than Tocharian script according most sources. How does that square with Meroitic developing from a script younger than itself, by a great time differential?

What about the distinctive set of alphabets?

Even if we were to give the benefit of doubt to this Tocharian-derivation, then it is natural to expect texts to be written both in pure 'Kushana' or some other trade language and Meroitic language in the Nile Valley. What texts written in both 'Kushana' language and Meroitic language have been uncovered in the Nile Valley?

Knowing the closer correspondence in morphology of Meroitic letters with Demotic than Tocharian, why is it not possible for Meroitic to develop from that script from right next door, but necessary for Kushites to go all the way to central-south Asia to adopt their script? Or is the proposal here that the Kushites sat on their hands, while the Kushana adopted script features from Demotic, only for them to then introduce it to Kushites who initially had the gumption to adopt Egyptic hieroglyphics, but not its derivative scripts like Demotic or hieratic? From there, then to presume that the Kushites derived letters from the Tocharian derivative of Demotic script, when they could have easily done so themselves directly from the neighbour next door?

^Certainly, these basic questions have to at least cross the mind, when pushing forward any Tocharian-Meroitic link. — Mystery Solver

Instead, Mr. Winters continues with gross mis-characterizations of Mr. Rilly's analytical premises:

Rilly claims that lexicostatistics or glottochronology allows him to read Meroitic. - Clyde Winters

Undoubtedly false. Apparently, Mr. Winters confuses lexicostatistics with glottochronology, which are two different things — we'll take a look at this shortly. In actuality, lexicostatistics allowed Mr. Rilly to determine the extent or degree of lexical correspondences between available Meroitic lexicons and languages across the eastern Sudanic family, and thereby gauge which branch of this family is relatively closer to Meroitic.

Lexicostatistics is used to fit datable events among languages that theoretically are descendant from a commong ancestor. — Clyde Winters

Couldn't be further from truth, and further indication that Winters is confusing lexicostatistics with glottochronology; lexicostatistics, as noted above, is actually a quantitative application used to gauge the extent of lexical correspondence across languages, using certain pre-selected basic terms as a basis.

Rilly can not use this method to read Meroitic because there are only 26 attested Meroitic terms accepted by the establishment. — Clyde Winters

Nevermind the fact that Mr. Winters got the concept of lexicostatistics wrong in the first place, so as to nullify this statement, but as noted in the last posting, Mr. Rilly was actually able to come up with 39 'assured' Meroitic terms, including the previously attested Meroitic terms, from using primary Kemetic and Meroitic texts in his 'multicontextual approach'. Though the approach itself appears to be quite time consuming, it is achievable.

In reference to the aforementioned 39 'assured' terms, including the previously attested to 26 or so terms, Clyde writes this:

None of these terms are cognate to Nubian or Taman terms except the name for a Meroitic god.

In fact, the whole point of Mr. Rilly's usage of lexicostatistics and his production of lexical tables displaying lexical correspondences, was to show genetic link wherein certain basic generic words formed the basis of the examination.

As a matter of fact, it is telling that Clyde Winters cites the following, and yet still manages to get the concept of lexicostatistics wrong:

Hymes, D. H. Lexicostatistics So Far Current Anthropology, Jan 1960. Vol. 1(1):3-44

This article provides an extensive and comprehensive survey of the field of lexicostatistics as of 1960. Hymes goes into a lot of detail explaining the methods involved, analyzing issues and problems, foreshadowing developments, and suggesting ideas and solutions. As a result, this article is very technical in nature and requires a background in lexicostatistics or glottochronology in order to grasp a firm understanding of what the author is trying to communicate. He begins by introducing the field of glottochronology, which he claims is one of several lexicostatistical methods. Glottochronology uses mathematical methods to analyze the differentiation between lists of basic words from different languages but of similar meanings. The aim is to track the rates of change in languages and aid in deducing the actual dating of common ancestral languages. Hymes discusses the use of the terms “glottochronology” and “lexicostatistics”. He states that glottochronology examines the rate of change in languages which may be used to infer historical timeframes and provide an analysis of relationships in a language family. Lexicostatistics involves the statistical study of vocabulary for historical implications. Obviously, these two fields are distinctive but closely related. Hymes continues by explaining the foundations of glottochronology: the use of basic vocabulary for the test list; the ongoing development of test lists; the examination of control cases which involve languages at different stages in a single line of development; and the retention rates of words in languages as they change. In the next section, Hymes goes into extensive detail explaining the application of the glottochronological methods. Using numerous examples and references from other published works, the author demonstrates the uses of glottochronology in examining test lists, evaluating cognates, deducing time depths, inferring relationships between languages, and comparing deductions with other historical evidence. The article’s final section describes some uses of lexicostatistics. Apart from glottochronology, lexicostatistics may be further developed to examine sub-groupings in language families, determine genetic relationships among languages, and analyze rates of lexical change. In conclusion, Hymes defends the developing character of lexicostatistics with its short history, but recognizes its potential in anthropology. He calls for further research and development in lexicostatistics.

...which Clyde follows up with:

As you can see the lexicostatistic is used to reconstruct genetically related languages or used to compare constructs and find prototerms. — Clyde Winters.

The obvious answer from the present author was:

False. Lexicostatistics cannot be used in of itself to reconstruct any language. This is because lexicostatistics, I reiterate, is essentially a quantitative model for determining the frequency of lexical correspondence across the languages under study, using certain selected basic lexicons. It thereby allows linguists to discern relative distance between languages under study and a target language. Now, this doesn't mean it cannot be part of a comparative analysis, which is what is used by mainstream linguists to reconstruct proto-languages. Glottochronology is a totally different cat. It is a model used to determine when languages diverged, by noting the amount of basic terms retained and the rate with which terms change.

Even Clyde's own citation, as the present author had informed him, makes the above differences clear:

He states that glottochronology examines the rate of change in languages which may be used to infer historical timeframes and provide an analysis of relationships in a language family.

Whereas, as per Clyde's own citation,

Lexicostatistics involves the statistical study of vocabulary for historical implications. Obviously, these two fields are distinctive but closely related.

Thus Mr. Winters' own citation refutes him.

Elsewhere Mr. Winters claims:

With only 1 cognate Meroitic and Northern Eastern Sudani languages, there is no way you can date the time Meroitic speakers and Nilo-Saharan speakers spoke a common ancestral language.

Rilly claims to be able to decipher Meroitic using a method that compares basic culural words to date the time languages separated, can not
be used to read Meroitic, because none of the attested Meroitic terms have Nilo-Saharan cognates. — Clyde Winters

The issue of the so-called "1 congate" Meroitic term has been dealt with above. That Mr. Winters would be under the impression that Mr. Rilly's goal was to date the 'common ancestral language' of Meroitic and Nilo-Saharan speakers, adds to the list of indicators that underly just how much out of touch with reality he is/was.

In what appears to be a fairly weak attempt to address the question raised at the top of this posting about the time frame differential between Meroitic and Tocharian scripts, with the former being the older, Mr. Winters says:

The Kushana used the Kharosthi/Karosti script. Inscriptions written in Kharosti date back to 251 BC.

The first Meroitic inscription dates back to the reign of Shanakdakheto (c.177-155 BC). The date of the first Meroitic inscriptions is 100 years after people the Kushana were writing their works in Kharosti. — Clyde Winters

It would appear that Mr. Winters sees no distinction between Kharosthi script and Tocharian, which he uses interchangeably as the prototype script for Meroitic script. Most sources place the Tocharian script in the common era, no earlier than the 1st century. Which is it; Tocharian or Kharosthi? Even if determined to be related, these two scripts are not considered to be one and same. In fact, the dating attributed to earliest attestation of Meroitic is ~ 2nd century BC; a far cry from the 6th-8th ce of Tocharian script.

As a visual aid for his proposed Tocharian or Kharosthi derivation of Meroitic script, Mr. Winters submitted this piece:

The visual aid in fact does more harm than good to Mr. Winters' proposition, as it clearly shows that Meroitic has a different set of alphabets from Kharosthi, and bears more resemblance with 'Demotic' and 'Egyptian' than Kharosthi.

On another note, Clyde made the following Tocharian-Meroitic link...

The following words correspond to Tokharian words:

Meroitic Tokharian

0 kadke / ktke # queen 0 katak # master of the house

There are several recognized Meroitic words (Hintze 1979).

0 ato # water 0 ap #

0 s # 'race' 0 sah # 'man'

0 wide # youth 0 wir #

0 qor # monarch 0 oroce # 'the grand king'

0 parite # agent 0 parwe # 'first'

0 apote # 'envoy' 0 ap # 'father'

It is obvious that apote and parite do not relate to Tokharian because these are Egyptian loan words adopted by the Meroites. But around 57% of these terms show agreement. This made it highly probable that Meroitic and Tokharian were cognate languages.

As to the question of: Are these part of the words that have already been established as 'translated' Meroitic words before Clyde's so-called deciphering?—Clyde doesn't answer, but it should of interest that out of that list, the present author only sees one word that is standard here, which happens to be that of 'water'.

Secondly, 'too' specific terms like 'monarch' or 'queen' in themselves are next to useless for comparative analysis as Rilly correctly notes [as opposed to regularly used basic and lesser-specific generic local words], barring specific etymology of their roots tracing back to a specified 'single' cultural origin and subsequent diffusion(s) thereafter, and are also prone to direct diffusion from one culture to another.

Thirdly, it is easily noticeable that the majority of the words Clyde selected do not even have correspondence, two of which he at least had the decency to acknowledge [the said 'apote' [apota?] & 'parite' [parita?]].

H.H. Hock, in Principles of Historical Linguistics (1986), observed that there are two major arguments against the idea that comparative reconstructions recover the "prehistoric reality" of a language.

The first principle, is that languages change over time. This makes it almost impossible to "fully" reconstruct the lexcical items and grammar of the ancestral language.
— Clyde Winters

As a matter of linguistic fact, classical comparative analysis uses contemporary languages belonging to a family or 'clusters' of a superfamily. If lexical items and morphological items across these languages in a family have strong correspondences and hence, genetic link — which should be expected in the 'clusters' of a language family, then it is a safe bet that they inherited these terms from a common ancestor, which would have apparently been spared any modification to a significant degree. These regularities allow for educated and methodological prediction of the proto-terms which, if they were to be tested with those of an actual ancestor, would come close to being exact.


Secondly, there are few, if any dialect free languages. Constructs resulting from comparing lexical items and grammars from an available set of languages,produce a dialect free protolanguage, that is unnatural and "factually incorrect as shown by the insights of the wave theory" (p.568).
— Clyde Winters

Proto-language is a 'theoretical common ancestor' methodologically derived from known language clusters or family. A common ancestor is therefore expected to be 'dialect free', because it was this proto-language—albeit theoretical—that was supposed to have given rise to the existing dialects. Saying that it is 'dialect free' is almost akin to saying in molecular genetics, that ancestral Hg E3b isn't as microscopically diverse as its sub-clades which comprise of their own clusters, stemming from microsatellite diversity.

We must not forget that there is no way to prove Nilo-Saharan preceed Meroitic because we have no textual evidence of Nilo-Saharan during the Meroitic period demonstrating that Nilo-Saharan languages were spoken in the Meroitic Empire, especially Nubian, precludes using proto-Northern Eastern Sudani terms to read Meroitic.
— Clydes Winters

It seemed as though the more Mr. Winters was confronted with "difficult questions", the more his comments came to defy commonsensical logic; how can Meroitic language precede something that it is a member of? It is like saying "Clyde" precedes a lineage that he is supposed to be part of. Makes no sense.

Additionally, Nubian is part of the north eastern Sudanic family; proto-North eastern Sudanic language reconstruction requires language comparisons transcending the Nubian sub-branch of the north eastern Sudanic sub-family of the eastern Sudanic family, in turn belonging to the Nilo-Saharan superfamily.

There are three ways to verify a protolanguage is congruent with reality 1) there is documentary evidence of the ancestor or near ancestor of the target language that allows comparison of adctual terms and grammars to the construct (i.e., reconstructed lexical items and grammars); 2) written evidence in the form of inscriptions exist from systematic excavation that compare favorably to the contruct;...
— Clyde Winters

Sure ancient scripts can be helpful when attempting to reconstruct proto-languages, but not all that necessary. What is however necessary, is to determine family relationship of the *available* or *existing* language clusters under study, through lexical, phonetic and morphological correspondences, thereby determining cognation. Once language family is established, ongoing comparative analysis can enable reconstruction of the 'intermediary' proto-languages of the clusters within the larger family, and then ultimately, the overall proto-language for the superfamily.

3)the power of prediction that this or that construct will conforms to objective reality. — Clyde Winters

That's what comparative analysis allows linguists to do, via the pattern of lexical and morphological correspondences, to be able to predict proto-terms with high confidence level.

Rilly's ideas that he can read Meroitic based on Kushite names from Kerma, which he calls proto-Meroitic names (even though he knows full well that a protolanguage is artificial and comes from reconstruction)
— Clyde Winters

Nonsensical and oversimplification. No such idea was ever put forth by Mr. Rilly. Names of persons were only necessary in the process to uncover other terms from the cotexts. Moreover, the 'proto-Meroitic' names aren't from "a proto-language"; they are names of figures of the Napatan state, the immediate precursor of Meroe, which isn't the same thing as a 'proto-language', much less artificial.

In what appears to be vaguely put by Mr. Winters, we are told...

and a list of Northern Proto-Eastern Sudani terms from the Nubian, Nara, Taman and Nyima languages meets none of these standards.
— Clyde Winters

What standards? If Clyde believes that a language family called Eastern Sudanic exists, which can be further broken down into the northern and southern branches, then why can't its proto-language for either branch be determined by classical comparative analysis?

And why shouldn't terms from both such reconstruction and the actual languages of the family [used to reconstruct the proto-language] in question be compared with available Meroitic lexicons?

Clyde's clarification accordingly, seems to be

This meets none of the standards because there is no documentary evidence for Northern Proto-Eastern Sudani dating to the Meroitic period.
— Clyde Winters

But as noted before...there doesn't have to be ancient documents, in order to reconstruct proto-north Eastern Sudanic language. This is why the 'reconstruction' of the proto-language of clusters of exiting north eastern Sudanic languages, using comparative analysis, is necessary to begin with. It is a 'thoeretical' common ancestor.

3) After deciphering the Meroitic writing I was able to discover new Meroitic lexical items and grammatical features which allowed me to compare Meroitic to African languages. — Clyde Winters

So comes the reoccurring questions:

How do you decipher a script with script from another language, which uses a different set of letters both quantitatively and morphologically? How do you decipher a script using script which has been found to have no connections to Meroe; to demonstrate this, where is the script uncovered in Meroe of a Kushana language, alongside that in Meroitic language? If Kushana were in Meroe at some point, as you say, and if they had come with their scripts to the region, then surely scripts in their language should also be tracked in Meroe. For Kushana to have such impact on Meroe, that is the least that should be found.

As such, to use an anecdotal example in a very different scenario but instructive, if not for illustrative purposes only, consider the following as well:

French and English use essentially the same letters, but just because one is familiar with the alphabets, doesn't mean that one can understand words in French, i.e. if one happened to understand English but not French. The only way one can translate the French words and sentences then, is if those words were accommodated by their English counterparts.

However, in the case of Meroitic and Kushana scripts, such strong letter correspondence doesn't even occur, i.e. sharing of the very same set of letters. In fact, just going by Clyde's own diagram, Meroitic and Kharosthi not only differ visibly in the number of letters respective to each script, but for the most part, also differ quite visibly in morphology. Unless, one finds a Rosetta type of stone in Meroe, showing a single literature being communicated in Meroitic language and Kharosthi side by side, and hence determining word correspondences, how can Kharosthi be used to decipher Meroitic?

Mr. Rilly says:

The methods to increase the number of translated words cannot be fully explained in details here. To make a long story short, I would say that it is a « multicontextual approach ». The archaeological and the iconographical context can be very helpful, since very often, the short texts are the description with words of a painted or engraved image.

Clyde replies:

There is no way you can read an inscriptionu
sing iconography because often you do notknow the name for the items depicted in the engraving.

Misinformed #1. Of course there is, and Rilly provides a pictorial example of this. One can use names of personalities in literature and pictures of personalities and deity, animals and objects accomodated by descriptive short texts/inscripitions of the iconography to extrapolate words from the cotexts, and then re-verify their meaning by way of their application in other texts time and again. This application however slow, has even been used to assist in deciphering Mdu Ntr/Egyptic, aside from using tools like the Rosetta stone-type of situation whereby single literature is communicated in two or more distinct scripts, with at least one of these languages being adequately understood, NOT just being familiar with the letters.

Using iconography is just part of Rilly
's 'multicontextual approach'. Example provided:

Graffito from Musawwarat (REM 1165) Wle qo phn 3 tlt Netror-se-l-o« this dog was bought (???) three talents, it is Netarura's ».

Just because Mr. Winters might personally find himself incapable of the said multicontextual approach, doesn't make it unachievable.

Mr. Winters writes:

Firstly, the grafitto has a dog chasing a rabbit. Although the rabbit being chased by the dog is obvious to anyone looking at the grafitto this pictorial fact is not mentioned by Rilly.

Mr. Rilly doesn't, because the specific text cited doesn't. Now of course, Clyde will have us believe that the specific piece of text cited, should read "dog chasing rabbit". It only shows me that the man (Mr. Rilly) is actually methodologically using the multicontextual method to determine the meanings of new words, and not just blindly making them up, simply because of what is in the picture, which is what Clyde is clearly doing.

Mr. Winters then proceeds to use the following visual aid, presumably to buttress the above mentioned point:
For the above, Clyde writes: For example, he interprets the three lines: as the numeral three, this was wrong in Meroitic is the ‘y’(check out the Meroitic writing chart above).

But when requested to produce a citation of Mr. Rilly's to justify the above claim, Clyde predictably failed to do so, because quite simply, the claim had no real premise.

Then Clyde writes:

In addition after correctly deciphering the Meroitic w and l signs, he failed to record the ‘e’, that follows the wl (please refer to the Meroitic chart above). Thus this should have read w-l-e, not wl.

The present author's response to this was:

Do you need reading glasses? He writes "wle", not "wl". And again, how the heck do you know what he is reading, if he hasn't specifically spelt out the terms in their 'Meroitic letters'? All I see, is the iconography with scripture in Meroitic letters, and the portion of the text to be interpreted, written in English letters but in Meroitic language, and associated translations in English.

Mr. Winters proceeds with:

If Rilly can be this careless in his interpretation of the Meroitic signs, when the meaning of each Meroitic symbol is well known, says much about his method of decipherment.

Fact is Mr. Rilly is well aware of previously established letters and words, and he makes that abundantly clear in his piece. All the present author sees here, and has demonstrated accordingly, is Clyde's easily avoidable carelessness in reading his work.

In addition, Rilly refers to the term Talents, this is a Roman word--not Meroitic.

Use of this term indicates that Rilly placed his own ideas about Meroitic society in his interpretation of the inscription.
— Clyde Winters

Translations are done so, precisely because for each word in a primary foreign text in question, we are reminded of words that are supposed to or can best communicate the same thing more or less. This is no rocket science, just common sense. Rilly did no different here. For instance, "Black" is specifically an English word, not Kemetic, yet we know what represents or approximates the term 'black' in Kemetic.

Mr. Winters then proceeds to offer his own so-called translations [in bold below] for the aforementioned
Graffito from Musawwarat that Mr. Rilly proposed to have provided certain "assured" translated words for:

we have the following : [Dog] exist indeed to grant a noble boon [of rabbits with] the intention to bring elevation to you, meritorious Netror”. The vocabulary items are as follows:

W, to be, exist, to drive, to conduct

L, indeed, or termination element

E, grant a boon, vouchsafe, favor

Qo, to live, to renew, to restore; noble, royal, honorable; to make , to form

Ph, intention

N, good, only

Y, bring

-t, you (personal pronoun)

tl, to elevate

Netror, name of person

Slo, meritorious

You can find a short Meroitic vocabulary at the following site:

Goes back to the anecdotal example that the present author provided earlier, using the different but instructive scenario involving English and French:

French and English use essentially the same letters, but just because I'm familiar with the alphabets, doesn't mean that I can understand words in French, if I happened to understand English but not French. The only way I can translate the French words and sentences then, is if those words were accomodated by their English counterparts.

But in the case of Meroitic and Kushana scripts, such strong letter correspondence doesn't even occur, i.e. sharing of the very same set of letters. In fact, just going by Clyde's own diagram, Meroitic and Kharosthi not only differ visibly in the number of letters respective to each script, but for the most part, also differ quite visibly in morphology. Unless, one finds a Rosetta type of stone in Meroe, showing a single literature being communicated in Meroitic language and Kharosthi side by side, and hence determining word correspondences, how can Kharosthi be used to decipher Meroitic?

**Watch this space; in the next posting on the part 4 of this topic, the present author will go into detail about his own word reconstructions for the terms associated with the aforementioned "Graffito from Musawwarat", sporting a "dog" or "dog-like" figure chasing a "rabbit", and comparing that with the one reconstructed by Mr. Rilly. The present author will also be addressing more of Mr. Winters' charges made against Mr. Rilly's interpretation about this imagery.

Mr. Rilly writes:

A set of thirty ­nine purely Meroitic basic words was finally produced, not including of course too specific words such as « prince » or « great priest », which are useless for comparative purpose.

Clyde replies:

Here Rilly admits that he "produced thirtynine purely Meroitic basic words'. If the 39 words did not exist before hand, he made them up. Again evidence Rilly is using nonexistent words to read Meroitic.

Misinformed #2. How can he make the words up, if they are directly from actual primary Meroitic texts in iconography and by examining typological similarity between Egyptian texts and their Meroitic counterparts? Goes back to the feedback above in "Misinformed #1".

Mr. Rilly writes:


arohe- «protect» hr- «eat», pwrite «life», yer «milk» ar «boy», are- or dm- «take, receive», dime «cow», hlbi «bull», ns(e) «sacrifice>>, sdk «journey», tke- «love, revere», We «dog»

Clyde replies:

Mystery Solver claims that Rilly does not admit he has translated Meroitic. Here is the evidence that Rilly does believe he has translated Meroitic words based on Northern Eastern Sudani. All of these words he has made up .

Lie #1. Goes back to:

*when Clyde falsely charged Rilly with proclaiming to have 'fully' deciphered Meroitic script, at least according to the link presented.

Translating a set of a few new words, isn't the same thing as deciphering the entire language. In fact, Mr. Winters failed to cite Rilly's said work upon repeated request, wherein he proclaims this was even his goal, as opposed to determining language family association. Mr. Winters understandably dodged these requests.

Mr. Rilly writes:

The second stage of the work was to reconsider the relation of Meroitic with Nilo­Saharan and possibly to spot inside this phylum a specific family where Meroitic could belong. Previous works, including mine, had shown that a link with other phylums like Niger-Congo or Afro-Asiatic was unlikely.

Clyde replies:

Here Rilly admits you can not connect Meroitic to any African languages based on the available agreed upon Meroitic corpus. As a result, Rilly made up Meroitic terms so he could "translate" Meroitic witg his made-up terms.

Lie #2, and misinformed #3.

Goes back to:

*the time Mr. Winters falsely charged Mr. Rilly, in relation to the above, about focusing on just Nilo-Saharan, Nubian, or proto-NES, when in reality, he first compared Meroitic lexicons with other language superfamilies like Niger-Congo and Afrasan, which all failed to show strong correspondence, prompting him to turn to Nilo-Saharan, starting with eastern Sudanic languages.

Just because Niger-Congo and Afrasan failed to show strong correspondence, doesn't mean that Nilo-Saharan should fail too. Is Nilo-Saharan not African?

Mr. Rilly writes:

For this purpose, lexicostatistical methods were used (see below). The most convincing similarities are with Eastern Sudanic, and more specifically with the northern branch including Nubian, Nara, Taman and Nyima. The best result is obtained with Midob (a member of the Nubian group), thanks to Roland Werner's excellent description of this language.

Clyde replies:

Mystery Solver claims I made up the fact that Rilly isusing Nubian to read Meroitic. Here Rilly supports my earlier statements.

Lie #3.
Goes back to:

*the time Mr. Winters falsely charged Mr. Rilly with attempting to read Meroitic by simply using Nubian. Again contradicting the two above.

Wherein Clyde's citation of his work, did Rilly say that he read Meroitic terms from using Nubian? In the above, he is looking for the frequency of lexical correspondence across a variety of NES languages. Is finding lexical 'correspondence' the same thing as translating Meroitic words by using Nubian, or the opposite: i.e. using already translated basic Meroitic words [from primary Meroitic texts], and then finding correspondences? The present author really finds it funny that even non-linguists can understand this, when Mr. Winters can't.

Mr. Rilly writes:

This distinction between both branches was first suggested by Bender in 1991, but on morphological, not lexical, bases. This obstacle is rather easy to overcome: a series of basic words such as « drink », « mouth », « burn », « tooth », « hand », « louse » etc., shows close connections inside the northern branch, but nothing else than scattered similarities with the Southern one. One can even wonder if it would not be relevant to consider North Eastern Sudanic as a single family within Eastern Sudanic, at the same level as Surmic, Nilotic, Daju or Temein.

The second problem was more difficult to solve. Lexicostatistics are a good method to identify a linguistic family for a language whose genetic nature is unknown.

Clyde replies:

Please cite at least one linguistic article or text that says you can identify a linguistic famuly using Lexicostatistics.

This pointless Clyde request above goes back to the time...

*when he falsely charged Mr. Rilly with using lexicostatistics or glottochronology to read Meroitic.

*when Clyde said lexicostatistics could be used to date languages descended from a proto-language.

*when Clyde confused lexicostatistics with glottochronology. Glottochronology is the tool used to date languages using quantitative [mathematical] models, as well as making use of multidisciplines as additional tool for precision of dating language divergences.

Apparently, Mr. Winters wasn't aware of what lexicostatistics is all about. It is quantitative model of determining frequency of lexical correspondence across languages under study. What does that mean? If Clyde can answer this, then perhaps he'll realize how ridiculous his question is.

Mr. Rilly writes:

But this approach does not provide definite evidence. The one and only way to get it for sure is the classical comparative method as illustrated by Meillet for the Indo-European family, by Guthrie for Proto-Bantu, etc. So it was necessary, first to find regular phonetic correspon­dences between North Eastern Sudanic languages, second to reconstruct the original phonology of Proto-North Eastern Sudanic, third to reconstruct, as much as possible, some Proto-North Eastern Sudanic words, and finally to compare these proto-forms with Meroitic words. The task is not easy because extensive data are missing for a majority of the dialects and even for some languages like Afitti or Tama.

Mr. Winters replies:

How could he compare Meroitic terms to Nilo-Saharan, when he already proved that the agreed upon Meroitic terms do not agree with African languages. If he is talking about the 39 Meroitic terms he created, this is not proof because these terms were made up, without using any Meroitic evidence as a source.

Goes back to lie #2 and misinformed #2.

Mr. Rilly writes:

The scores of Taman, Nara and Nyima could be higher if there were extensive lexical data available, but infortunately, only short wordlists have so far been published.

But at this stage of the work, two main obstacles were encountered. First, the distinction between the Northern and the Southern branches of Eastern Sudanic had to be firmly established. Obviously, the scores of some Southern languages like Surmic or Nilotic in the lexicostatistical comparison with Meroitic are high.

Clyde replies:

How can the correspondence be high between Meroitic and Nilo-Saharan when the Rilly admits earlier was able to find ocrrespondence between African languages and Meroitic?

Goes back to lie #2, misinformed #3 above. This comment makes it look like Clyde isn't even aware of African language families.

Mr. Rilly writes:

Finally, close connections were found between some Meroitic words and their Proto­North Eastern Sudanic counterparts (see table below). Some regular phonetic correspondences are obvious. For instance, where Proto-North Eastern Sudanic had /g/ in initial position, it became in Meroitic the velar fricative /h/ or /h/: the example displayed in the table below is « meal » or « food », but there are other instances. Most of the time, the correspondences are simple : initial /k/ in Proto-North Eastern Sudanic is preserved everywhere except in Nyima, where it often turns into dental /t /. There are sometimes very impressive sets like the words for « take, receive », « woman », « slaughter » and particularly the name of the supreme god (Meroitic Apede-mk : « the God Apede »), a detail which indicates that the speakers of Proto-North Eastern Sudanic formed not only a linguistic, but also a cultural community.

Clyde replies:

Apedemk, is the only attested Meroitic word in the list above. This statement is not supported by the evidence.

Goes back to misinformed #1 and #2.

Mr. Rilly writes:

Other correspondences are less obvious. For example, original /g/ in internal position, if in contact with a labiovelar vowel [o] or [u], becomes /b/ in Meroitic. This phenomenon is known in other linguistic families, for instance Celtic among the Indo-European phylum (cf. Greek gune « woman )) vs Gaulish bena). Moreover, initial dental consonant /d/ becomes often the liquid /V in Meroitic. This change is also common in other languages, opposing for example the English word tongue (where /t / < /d n and its Latin counterpart lingua. According to both these phonetic rules, the Meroitic article -l pronounced /la/, plural -leb, pronounced /laba/, and Nara demonstrative te, plural tegu, are related, both issuing from Proto-North Eastern Sudanic *de, plural *degu. So the correspondences between Meroitic and living North Eastern Sudanic languages can be found not only in lexical items, but also in morphological elements. In spite of the scanty available data, the result is obvious : Meroitic is more than probably a member of the North Eastern Sudanic family.

Mr. Winters replies:

This claim is not supported by the evidence. He admits that he made-up 39 terms, that were not associated with the agreed upon Meroitic terms. This makes his constructions pure conjecture since they can not be verified by actual Meroitic text.

Lie #4; which corresponds to misinformed #1, and #2.

The decipherment of Meroitic by Rilly is nothing more than smoke and mirrors and can not be supported by linguistic methods and the textual evidence.
— Clyde Winters

Lie #5; which corresponds to lie #1, misinformed #1 & #2 , and lie #2, misinformed #3.

Mr. Rilly writes:

Moreover, the map of these languages [see above] shows an interesting feature. Nowadays, these languages are scattered from Chad to Eritrea, but in the past, there was a link between their present situations : the Wadi Howar, an ancient river, now dried up, once an important tributary of the Nile. In the fourth millenary BC, all the region around this river was still a green country convenient for cattle-breeding. But around this time, this part of the Sahara became arid. Very probably, the pastoral populations living in the region were progressively obliged to gather together along the banks of the Wadi Howar. There they lived together for centuries and acquired a common language : Proto-North Eastern Sudanic. But in the beginning of third millenary BC, the river itself progressively dried up. So a first population migrated to the Nile, where they founded the Kingdom of Kerma, not far from the confluence of the Wadi Howar and the Nile. The geographical, historical and climatic data offer a common support to this theory.

The Taman group went East, towards the springs of the river, to the place where they still live today. Another refugee group, the ancestors of Nubian and Nyima speakers, went South to Kordofan, where they still live today. Later on, in the first centuries AD, Nubian groups invaded the dying Kingdom of Meroe and founded their own kingdoms along the Nile. As for Nara people, I think they first went to the Nile, like the future Meroites, and later went up the Nile and the Atbara toward Eritrea, where they live nowadays.

Mr. Winters replies:

Rilly’s use of Proto-Northern Eastern Sudani can not be used to read Meroitic because there is no documented evidence this group of languages was ever spoken in the Meroitic Empire. Since we have no documented evidence of Nilo-Saharan being spoken in the Meroitic period there is no way anyone can claim this family of languages was spoken in the Meroitic Empire in Meroitic times....

Nothing much to say about the last piece, eh? Pointless regurgitations aside, this issue goes back to:

Although current work have linked Kerma settlements with earlier settlements in pre-Kerma phases, suggesting settlements stretching further back in time than what's been detailed here, clearly, Rilly notes certain population movements that Clyde accuses him to be ignorant of, and hence, not considering them in his analysis. Winters is just totally disengaged with the real specifics at hand.
Mystery Solver.

More to come!
*Reference material: