Ancient Scripts in the Arab World

During my visit to Paris after finishing up at Bordeaux, I followed up on a recommendation from a friend and visited the Institute of the Arab World, which was absolutely fascinating. I particularly enjoyed the part of the collection that explained the early history of the Arabian peninsula and the Levant, as it introduced me to scripts and languages that I was previously unaware of, such as Sabean, Thamudic, and the Ancient South Arabian script.

Recently, I came across an article in the New Yorker (via languagehat) and a podcast from UT about Ahmed Al-Jallad, who researches and deciphers inscriptions in the Safaitic script, which are written in an older, pre-Islamic form of Arabic. The Safaitic alphabet is primarily found in Syria and Jordan, and Al-Jallad theorizes that forms of Arabic were present in this region before the rise of Classical Arabic on the Arabian peninsula. In the podcast, Al-Jallad discusses pre-Islamic inscriptions written in the Arabic alphabet. Those found to this point are generally associated with a Christian identity, rather than a pagan one. I would highly recommend reading the article and podcast (with transcript) if you are interested in Arabic history, linguistics, or just generally get excited about deciphering ancient scripts and languages. Al-Jallad also has an interesting discussion of Safaitic with photos and translations on his Twitter account.

 

Babylonian Tales

I have included a few stories from the Mythology and Folklore class I took last semester, but I never posted my final project. I had a lot of fun retelling Babylonian myths in different contexts: historical fiction set in the Civil War, modern day life, poetry, and science fiction. The narrator is the scribe god Nabu, who has lived to the present day and wants to try his hand at being an author. I am quite pleased with the final result, which you can read here: Babylonian Tales: The Book of Nabu.

Carving of Nabu

Nabu