It is generally known the Phoenicians to have presented their script to the Greeks and the script was further distributed along the line from Cyprus to Ionia, Crete, Mycenae and Hellas. Professor Peshich discovered, however, that the script had previously been used by the peoples having had lived in the Middle Danube Basin.The script is identical to the Etruscan script, and to a great deal to the above-mentioned Phoenician script as well, from which stem all the other fore said scripts. Subsequently, the Phoenicians had taken the script from the peoples living in the north.(From preface of Giacomo Giraldi)
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This issue was translated by
PEŠIĆ & SINOVI
Address: Topličin venac 17,
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Art & Layot
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When faced with something entirely unknown, many would not confess not to know anything about it; they would just comment that things did not look the way they used to. What did they used to look like? The way we used to know them up to now. Could pure and new cognitions be achieved under such circumstances?
I. Lepenski Vir Syllabary
II. The Vincha Script
III. Marginalia and the Notes on the Problem of the Etruscans
IV. The Origin of the Etruscan Script
V. Introduction into the Reading of the Etruscan Language
VI. The Etruscan Elementa (Alphabet)
VII. Remarks on a New Reading of the Etruscan Script
VIII. The New Chronology of the Script
IX. Upon the Trace of the Vincha Script
X. Giving an Empirical Meaning to the Script in the Middle Danube Basin
XI. Treatise on the Script
XII. Traces of Paleo-Script on the Balkans and the System of the Vincha Script
We consider it necessary to give some introductory notes in order to present the revolutionary discovery of Professor Peshich to the whole world:
The hieroglyphs have been considered the first phase of a script. An intention existed, at least at the beginning, to suggest graphically a mental image of a subject to be designated. Subsequently, the cuneiform script appeared to be followed by the pictorial and alphabetic ones. Judging by all the known facts, the earliest form of a script did not appear prior to the beginning of the second millennium B. C. After the discovery made by Professor Peshich, however, this theory has been seriously questioned: the inscriptions on the ceramics discovered in the Middle Danube Basin had not only originated in the fifth millennium B. C. but the script had already been alphabetic.
It is generally known the Phoenicians to have presented their script to the Greeks and the script was further distributed along the line from Cyprus to Ionia, Crete, Mycenae and Hellas. Professor Peshich discovered, however, that the script had previously been used by the peoples having had lived in the Middle Danube Basin. The script is identical to the Etruscan script, and to a great deal to the above-mentioned Phoenician script as well, from which stem all the other afore said scripts. Subsequently, the Phoenicians had taken the script from the peoples living in the north.
The Etruscan peoples represent an enigma, however. According to Herodotus, the Etruscans reached the Apennine Peninsula by sea, after having left the seaside regions of Anatolia (the so-called Lydia). Professor Peshich does not exclude even that possibility, though he is prone to believe they came by land. Professor Peshich points out the Etruscans to have settled in the to-days Italy rather late, circa one thousand years B. C. (or more precise between the XV and X centuries B. C.), late as compared to their ancestors, the script of which they took along.
The script discovered on the ceramics in the archaeological excavations in the Middle Danube Basin was first considered an ordinary graphics representing ornamental elements on ceramics; man looked at, not read, these objects in the course of many decades; then, at one time, these signs were noticed to be an integral part of a definite structure: small circles, concave and convex arcs, separated segments, angled segments of semi-circles. It was the script. Everything points out to a conclusion that this people used triangles, arcs with chords, etc. even when drawing a face or a silhouette or a line around the eyes. One might say they wrote even then when not writing, when only drawing or making a figure. Professor Peshich presented the ample documentation in the attached tables.
Giacomo Giraldi (Milan)
The archaeological discovery of Lepenski Vir offered a multitude of signs and symbols, which present, together with the artistic expressions of the finds, an abundant survey of the means of communication of the civilization from the VII and VI millennia B. C. The abundance and the different ways of communication express the spiritual tension of this civilization, showing their search for transcendental in order to connect it with the real world, being the result of the sensual reaction of this civilization. Taking into consideration all the known facts, keeping up the image of the outer world, on one hand, and its connection with the inner one, on the other, and altogether trying to connect it with the afterworld, represented the curve of speculation of this civilization leading to appropriate and essential metaphors. The results are beyond expectation both judged from the todays time distance and from the aspects of cognition and knowledge of old civilizations. Today it seems, secrets and uncertainties were foreign to this civilization, as shown by the documentation discovered by the archaeological science. All this was, by all means, preceded by a process, the time duration of which is impossible to designate, but in which the experience of the primeval civilization was woven in; the experience to face nature, to adjust to its laws, to find out balance in cognition and identification of abstract with the real. Thanks to this experience, this civilization consciously and deliberately chooses this region for its settlement and turns it to a centre of a culture, which will amaze the world with its versatility and monumentality after so many epochs. Here, at the very beginning, we want to point out that the first members of this civilization have by no means accidentally chosen this vast region for their living and creative area. The very position of the Danube terrace on which they had built their settlements with specific dwellings coincides completely with their conceptions. It was, in fact, the most ideal place, the image of which entirely answered their impression of the world. The surrounding landscape in essence depicts this impression, completes it and makes an entity with it.
The hills standing above the Danube terrace in the form of a triangle are intersected at the bottom by a horizontal line, represented by the natural flow of the river. Between the hills the light protrudes, being the orientation and interpreter of everything. Here, in fact, is the source of light and shadows, the interchange of which will be of predominant importance for the life of this civilization. The contours created by the play of light and shadows were the basis upon which this civilization built its settlements and habitats: they had the same form of a triangle mildly cut at the top, while at the bottom, by connection of two legs, immediately behind the indented entrance at the centre, there was a sacrificial altar with water at its side, entirely analogue to the outer geometrical image. There were signs, most often seven of them, three by one and three by the other side of the sacrificial altar connected by one at one of the corners (T. I). Accordingly, the picture is harmonious, complete and empirically explained. The picture emanates all the living impressions and comprehensions of the world. It represents cosmogony, religion and philosophy of Lepenski Vir.
The archaeological discoveries at Lepenski Vir confirm the development of this civilization by offering a collection of proofs ranging from a sacral edifice, a sculpture of gigantic round pebbles and engravings in stone, horn and bone. These discoveries, however, allow an insight into the graphs of Lepenski Vir, which will be of exceptional importance for further research. If we accept it as the pictorial language of Lepenski Vir, we cannot disregard an impression attracting our attention and prompting us to consider a possibility of indication or existence of another language of Lepenski Vir. The said language is the basis out of which this civilization originates and further develops. In it we see the mythological formation, connection of contents, i.e. relation of intuition and a being, which is the intuition proper. It is obvious in its tension this intuition tends towards embodiment. In this search after its manner of representation it reaches the semasiological degree of its expression. Further analyses will show whether this civilization exceeded this degree, but its tendency is obvious to reach the phonographic expression degree in its language.
It seems, however, this civilization had in a certain way found its model not only for identification of its comprehension of order of things, but also for the moulding thereof, which meant inclusion of afterworld into reality, up to that moment, of course, incomplete without it. Max Mueller came to a conclusion that “everything is conditioned by language and given by means of language”, thus, this civilization, as confirmed by the archaeological science, had overcome in a certain manner, the original weaknesses of a language leading otherwise exclusively to a myth. This civilization succeeded to find the manifold designations and interpretations of the language.
The geometry of a settlement, of a habitation, signs, pebbles by the sacrificial altar, graphs, do not represent only geometry as the reflection of implication spirit, but the spirit of the language of that civilization, which has its empirical application.
The items representing the Lepenski Vir art are divided into cult objects and cult-magic instruments. As Lj. Babovich points out, however, “ornamental treatment is (…) nearly always present”. This very treatment, stemming out of his religious consciousness and not only the religious one, represents his need to express himself, that is, represents his language. Here we do not think of his pictorial language only, but much wider.
The approach by Alexander Marshack is very interesting. On the basis of his researches he suggests the manner of graphs reading. Applying a comparative method, he tries to find words for particular graphs. In his table, inter alia, he suggests the following interpretations:
a) Double line
b) Zigzag line, snakelike stripes
- rivers or torrents
c) Angled motifs with shadings (so-called “comet”)
- spring, perhaps a storm cloud
d) The “ladder motif”
e) Shaded rhombus
The study of the Lepenski Vir graphs convinces us that this offered interpretation (T. II) is as close to their language as it can be, at least for the time being. We can also agree that this language of the Lepenians (the people from Lepenski Vir) was by all means one of the features or the unique feature of their visual communication. The more so, as D. Srejovich reminds us “that these graphs are identical to the graphs found in several simultaneous Mezosolithic cultures of the Middle and North Europe”. This means, the Lepenians were not alone and they participated, consciously or not, in the universal way of communication.
Another sphere and yet another feature of their language are of particular interest to us as they suggest, perhaps to a greater extent, possibility of existence of some kind of literacy detached from the pictorial, artistic language. This is best expressed by their building skill, based on proportion and measures laws, prompting a conclusion of existence of measures and numbers. These measures and numbers are the other feature of the script used by the inhabitants of Lepenski Vir. The numbers will naturally offer possibility for different ways of expression of the script. This suggests, this civilization had a motif and a stimulus, and subsequently, a designation, which had to be in mutual correlation, this being completely normal for the degree of their development and aspirations.
All this testifies, the Lepenians insisted on the relation between man and cosmos in all the features of their life. As shown, they built this relation on the ratio of established orders of things, which do not retract from its universal principal, representing in essence the materialization of spirit.
For them, all matters embodied opposites. In each matter they searched for necessary reconciliation of opposites, for the harmony, as pointed out by Pythagoras and his school.
We have been left under an impression that they leave three visual and materialized sounds. By help of fire (light and energy) the sounds, designating objects, call for movement, which will suggest other sounds sufficient to make a harmonious and definitely expressed entity.
Permanently present are three, by form different signs, but dependent on the light position (movement) and observation position (reading), they are able to change their forms and to offer definite new contents. Most often they are situated at the sacrificial altar in a group of seven or more signs. Both their number and their arrangement are empirically explained by the way of its communication. They are related to the sacrificial altar, to the habitation, to the whole settlement and to the outlook of the surrounding landscape. All this gives an impression of cosmos, which is present here, which is visible and exists together with this civilization.
We have found three signs at Lepenski Vir. They are of stone, situated and dug in by the sacrificial altar. Their forms are as follows:
Observed from different angles, they change their form suggesting at the same time new meaning. The change of light takes also part in this process. Dependent on the annual period, the sunrays beam from different angles throwing light on individual parts of these signs creating an impression of separation, of merger, or if the observation position is changed, of composition of new forms, which gives them a new meaning.
This process points out to infinity, as shown by merger of alfa and omega giving the infinite eight and confirming the immeasurable power of the script, that is, of words, that is, of language, which can be materialized by alphabet.
Having passed through the processes of observation and light positions, the Lepenian signs, as the basic elements of one feature of the language, pass in fact only three operations: merger, separation and composition, without addition of new elements. In this way, we get an abundance of signs of different forms out of these operations. Accordingly, the three basic signs produce total of 48 signs ready for communication [see The Lepenski Vir Syllabary, T. III-IV]. If natural arrangement of these signs is carried out and their numeral value added accordingly, we are convinced to have attained an instrument left to us by the Lepenians in an embryo, but the embryo sufficiently impressive to arouse our interest and reflection.
At this moment we should call our curiosity to throw even a superficial glance at the Semitic, Phoenician, Lydian, Hebrew or Etruscan scripts to recognize in them without any difficulties many of the signs attained by the mentioned operations upon the Lepenski Vir signs. Here, we must not forget the Glagol script created by Cyril and Methodius, composed of crossed lines, a triangle and a circle showing definite symbols of Christian religion in naturally organized sequence. It is not certain whether these civilizations attained their scripts by play of light and shadow or by application of numerals. In any way they searched for a table of, to them, known and acceptable symbols. But the unbelievable coincidence between the scripts of these civilizations and the script accruing out of the Lepenian civilization signs testifies of a uniquely possible source of inspiration. The later civilizations, however, needed a whole scale of signs and phonetic values, while the Lepenski Vir civilization leaves us only three, which prompts us to believe they were signs, letters, word elements, of one feature of their visual language. Did the old Egyptians not write isolating all the vocals?
The Lepenski Vir civilization left by their sacrificial altars the substratum of their language. Was it a prayer, a message or a sacred rule? In any case, they were signs expressing thought and feelings. It was a way to express a language and open scopes towards secretive spiritual spheres, or to discover worlds. This was happening 7,000 or 6,000 years B. C. The civilization of the Middle Danube Basin is waiting for its explorers much to long. It succeeded to shift some time periods, to redistribute some creative expanses in the past and to expand cognitions of spiritual wakening of first civilizations.
Die Lepenski Vir-Kultur und der Beginn der Jungsteinzeit an der Mittleren Donau. Fundamenta. Reihe A, Bd. 3. Köln-Wien, 1971, 1-39, Taf. 1-15, Abb. 1-7
Dragoslav Srejovich – Ljubinka Babovich:
Umetnost Lepenskog Vira (The Lepenski Vir Art), 1983. p. 206
New Techniques in the Analysis and Interpretation of Mesolithic Notation and Symbolic Art. Valcamonica Symposium. Int. d’Art Préhistorique. Capo di Ponte (Centro Camuno), 1970, 479-494
[A. Marshack: Epipaleolithic, Early Neolithic Iconography: A Cognitive, Comparative Analysis of the Lepenski Vir/Vlasac Iconography and Symbolism. 1981]
Über der Philosophie der Mythologie. Strassburg, 1876.
A Study of Writing. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, Second Edition, 1963
Table I – Sacrificial altar in situ on the backside of the fire place of the shrine No 4 in Lepenski Vir Id. According to D. Srejovich – Lj. Babovich 1983.
Table II – Graphics of the Lepenski Vir Culture. According to D. Srejovich – Lj. Babovich 1983, drawing 34, p. 59.
Table III-IV – Lepenski Vir Syllabary
The archaeological research on the Vincha site near Belgrade began as early as 1908 to be continued in 1911 till 1913, then in 1924, and in 1929 until 1931, 1933, 1934 and recently in 1978, 1982, 1983.1 Such a long period of research was discontinued by wars that broke out in the meantime in this area. The exceptionally rich finds have been the cause of such a long period of research, which, on the other hand, changed our knowledge of the origin and chronology of this culture. In addition, during this period of research other sites were discovered as well, which, by their characteristics and time of origin, belong to this culture, rightfully named the Vincha culture.2
Dependent on the results of the research this culture was differently dated. Its absolute chronology was not established until recent times. At the request of the Archaeological Institute of the Serbian Academy of Science in Belgrade, professor H. T. Vaterbolk from the University in Groningen (The Netherlands) established the chronology on the basis of the C-14 method. His absolute chronology, officially confirmed by him on November 7th, 1957, is as follows:
- Banjica is dated to 3,473 B.C., i. e. 5,430 ±120 from 1957, and Banjica is included in the slab-phase, a later phase of the Vincha culture;
- The later Vincha slab-phase is dated to 3,648 B.C., i. e. 5,605 ± 160 from 1957;
- The earlier Vincha, Tordosh phase is dated to 3,973 B. C., i. e. 5,930 ± 85 from 19573;
After this chronology, Milutin Garashanin presented his own pointing out: “After eliminating all possible connections with the Early Bronze Age of Aegea, we have been directed at the dates obtained by the method of radioactive carbon (C-14). According to such dating, the Vincha-Tordosh phase I (Vincha A) began ca.4500-4450 B. C. and lasted 210 to 240 years; the Vincha-Tordosh II phase, Gradac phase and the Vincha-Plochnik I phase (Milojchich B1-B2) began ca. 4260-4240 B. C. and lasted for 140-160 years. Then follows the Vincha-Plochnik IIa phase (approximately Vincha C) from 4100, within a span of 150-250 years, and the Vincha-Plochnik IIb phase from 3950-3850 B. C. and lasted 550-650 years.4
Regardless of certain differences between the two chronologies, it is of utmost importance to us that the chronology of the Vincha culture is dated between the V and IV millennia B. C. The Banjica site, near Belgrade, falls within this dating and belongs to the Vincha culture, as shown by relevant documentation.
The research of the Banjica site began in 1955 and lasted until 1957.5 This site is of extraordinary importance to us because of very rich finds, inter alia, of 150 fragments of ceramics with originally incised letters and inscriptions.6 Similar fragments, but in a much lesser quantity, were found at the Vincha site as well. This important detail concerning letters and inscriptions was noticed during the excavations made before the World War II, but not sufficient attention was paid to it. Professor Miloje M. Vasich, who was in charge at the beginning of the archaeological research at Vincha, pointed out that the incised signs were letters, but he failed to make any comprehensive analysis.7 M. A. Georgievski emphasized as well that the incised signs were letter symbols and inscriptions, but neither he had offered any detailed definitions.8
On the basis of examination and analysis of the Vincha ceramics with incised letters and inscriptions, M. A. Georgievski concluded that they could be listed as a group of possession signs, a group of workshops signs and a group of inscriptions.9 The authors of the study “Banjica – The Vincha Culture Settlement” (1961), J. Todorovich and A. Cermanovich, who directly supervised the excavations at the Banjica site, pointed out, in connection with the analyses made by M. A. Georgievski, “the comments and brief inferences by the author (M. A. Georgievski) should be taken with caution and reserve”.10
Over one hundred ceramic fragments with letter incisions and inscriptions were found at the very Banjica site. Ceramic fragments with letter incisions and inscriptions belonging to the Vincha culture were found as well on other sites over Yugoslavia, such as: Gornji Grad (Upper Town in Belgrade), Gornja Tuzla, Gomolava, Pljosna stena, Ledine, [etc]. The number of ceramic fragments and of some statuettes has grown to 250-350, which was sufficient for a more detailed analysis in order to establish a real state of literacy of this civilization.
J. Todorovich and A. Cermanovich dedicated a whole chapter in the mentioned study to the letter symbols discovered on the ceramic fragments at Banjica11, Gornji Grad, Gornja Tuzla12, Vincha – Belo Brdo, Gomolava, Pljosna Stena, Ledine13, as well as at Koraj, Aradac and Kormadin. In the chapter “Incised signs on the ceramics” they note that no more serious analysis of this material had been carried out “because those in charge of the excavations had not paid any attention to it14”. In further analysis of this material, they give its general characteristics “by the place of incisions on the vessels, dividing them in three groups:
a) Signs incised at the rim of the vessel
b) Signs incised at the base
c) Signs incised on the very base
By the incision technique, we divide them into:
a) Signs incised before baking
b) Signs incised after baking15”
The authors illustrated this chapter of their study with a self-explaining table and drawings of 86 ceramic fragments with letter incisions, pointing out “that we shall come to very interesting conclusions which shall prompt us to change our interpretations to date, without any pretensions for them to be the definitive ones”16.
Some ten years after this study, one of the authors, Dr. Jovan Todorovich, published a new study “Written signs in the Neolithic cultures of Southeastern Europe”, analyzing this material in more detail. Besides two tables, one drawing of an inscription and a map, the author showed tables with drawings of incised ceramic fragments, but this time he had mentioned the finds in Romania and Bulgaria. In the tables, the author listed ca. 250 drawings of ceramic fragments with letter incisions and inscriptions and consequently pointed out to the exceptional importance of the archaeological find. At the same time the author informed us that some comments on this archaeological and linguistic material were made by the following authors: J. Makkay, G. Georgiev, Zl. Rakova-Morfova, B. Nikolov and Vl. Georgiev, [and others]17. In this study, Jovan Todorovich gave one of the most serious surveys of Neolithic literacy from the archaeologist’s point of view, offering all the necessary data and explanations18. Unfortunately, more than thirty years have passed since this archaeological discovery, and the linguists have completely disregarded such a linguistic treasure, which discloses to the world not only the new pages of the literacy history, but changes the chronology and the place of origin and creation of the world literacy.
If we accept the results of the analysis made by the C-14 method for the latest date i.e. 3473 B. C. for the archaeological site of Banjica, belonging to the latest phase of the Vincha culture19, we shall immediately notice that the Vincha script was 373 years older than the Proto-Sumerian pictographic script, up to now regarded to be the earliest known script in the world. Consequently, this very data points out to the urge to change the dating of the first world script and the place of its origin. On the basis of the documentation covering the archaeological discovery of the Vincha culture, in particular, the abundant finds of the Banjica site, which is the integral part of Belgrade, Banjica should be considered the first school of literacy from whence the written word set off into the world. We have discussed the literacy phenomenon of this region in our study “Lepenski Vir Syllabary20”, but there, the communication by written signs is of completely different nature; even at this moment, however, we do not separate the Vincha script from the Lepenski Vir literacy, not only because of the same surroundings of their origin, but also because of other factors connecting them together, which is to be the subject of a separate analysis.
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