This blog is one of the results of the research project “Del ideograma al emoticono: aportaciones a la historia de la escritura a partir del caso paleohispánico”, funded by a Leonardo Grant from the BBVA Foundation, whose main objective is to provide new elements of reflection on the history of writing in the ancient world. Specifically, this platform gathers different posts written by specialists in different cultural areas on the decipherment of different ancient scripts.
The decipherment of a lost writing is always a milestone in the history of research, as it provides the key to an unknown world: texts written in incomprehensible letters can now be read and interpreted, rescuing an entire civilisation from silence and obscurity. Illustrious decipherments such as that of Linear B by Ventris and Chadwick, that of the Egyptian hieroglyphs by Champollion or that of the cuneiform script thanks, partly, to the identification of the names of the Persian kings mentioned by Herodotus, continue to be a source of admiration and curiosity, attracting many visitors to museums all over the world.
Although less well known internationally, the decipherment of the Iberian script by the Spanish archaeologist Manuel Gómez Moreno (1922, 1949) is also part of these exciting moments in the history of science. After centuries of fruitless attempts to find the key to reading the “primitive Hispanic letters”, he was the one who succeeded in finding the appropriate value of the signs and in defining what type of writing it was: a semi-syllabic system, with few parallels in the Mediterranean. However, unlike other decipherments such as those mentioned above, the decipherment of the Iberian script was followed by a certain disappointment, as it showed that, although the Palaeo-Hispanic texts could now be read, they could not yet be understood, as they were written in languages for which decipherment cannot yet be considered complete in the 21st century.
This blog has been made possible thanks to the collaboration of different specialists trained in different European universities, who will tell us about some of the most remarkable decipherments of ancient graphic systems. It gives an overview of the different procedures that have been used for the decipherments and presents the most immediate results after first delving into the meaning of these texts. The portal is aimed primarily at young people and students, as well as a public who are not necessarily specialists in the ancient world, history, or philology. The orientation of the project is therefore essentially informative and awareness-raising, although it also contains an aspect of scientific research, since some of the decipherment proposals, including that of Gómez Moreno himself, were not explained in detail by their authors at the time and have not yet been studied in depth.
On the other hand, this new historiography on the different methods used to read ancient scripts that have fallen into disuse is likely to provide working guidelines and open up new ways to advance in the interpretation of certain scripts that are still poorly known today, of which we have close examples: the southern Palaeohispanic scripts (mainly the so-called South-West script), the Chipro-Minoan, the Linear A, and even some of the western variants of Libyan, including the alphabetic inscriptions of the Canary Islands.
Agradecimientos: Trabajos realizados en el marco del proyecto «Del ideograma al emoticono. Aportaciones a la historia de la escritura a partir del caso paleohispánico», financiado con la Beca Leonardo a Investigadores y Creadores Culturales HMS_FIL_0097-2017 de la Fundación BBVA, y que se ha desarrollado en Instituto Universitario de Análisis y Aplicaciones Textuales (IATEXT), de la ULPGC. La Fundación BBVA no se responsabiliza de las opiniones, comentarios y contenidos incluidos en el proyecto, los cuales son total y absoluta responsabilidad de sus autores.
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