But before we get to that, please take a moment to reflect on our text for the day – Hosea 4:12a:
It consults its sticks.
Its rods direct it! (JPS)
Now to Manfried Dietrich and Ozwald Loretz and the Tiryns alphabetic inscription: I’ve finally gotten around to reading Dietrich and Loretz’ paper, „Rhabdomantie im mykenischen Palast von Tiryns. Das Fragment eines kurz-keilalphabetisch beschrifteten Elfenbeinstabs (Ti 02 LXIII 34/91 VI d12.80 = KTU3 6.104),“ UF 42 (2010, published 2011), 142-159. Some abnormal readers may remember that I have written about this here before. Some readers may also remember that I wrote a lengthy essay on the inscription that the truly abnormal can read at Academia.
First, where Dietrich and Loretz and I agree: The text on this inscription should be read from left to right. It reflects the general characteristic of the short cuneiform alphabet(s). While supported by other considerations, the morphology of the M, is determinative in this regard. Dietrich and Loretz read the inscription m-š-’a-l and suggest that it might be further restored to m-š-’a-l[-t]. This reading, without the final t, is the same as my second suggestion.
Now for where they would disagree with my reading (It remains to be seen the extent to which I may disagree with them): They take mš’al[t] to be comparable with Akkadian, máš’alu. Here they follow AHw, 623b, which renders the Akkadian “an oracle.” CAD, M 355, says the meaning is uncertain but refers us to Hebrew miš’ōl, “an area with a vineyard.” Other lexemes that Dietrich and Loretz propose for comparison are Old South Arabic ms1‘l, “oracle,” and Ethiopic mes’al “please.” They further direct us to Akkadian maš’āltu, “survey,” Hebrew miš’ālāh, “please,” and the Old / Royal Aramaic mš’lt,’ “interrogation.” Dietrich and Loretz note that the root of all these is likely Š’L “ask, explore.” On this basis and on the physical nature of the thing on which it is inscribed, they reasonably take the ivory cylinder to be a fragment of a oracle stick.
That brings us to our text for the day. Dietrich and Loretz have a nice little discussion of our passage in the context of their understanding of the Tiryns ivory and its alphabetic inscription.
Josef Tropper and Juan-Pablo Vita also have a short discussion of the inscription in the same UF volume (“Die keilaplhabetische Inschrift aus Tiryns,” 694-695). They suggest three possible understandings of the inscription. One of their suggestions is somewhat similar to Dietrich and Loretz’. I may take up their work in a future post.
Do I still think that the inscription is a proper name on some kind of ivory handle? Maybe. I need to think about it a little more. Drawing on the essay that I posted on Academia, I may write something up in reaction to Dietrich and Loretz and also Tropper and Vita and see if I believe it.