Un-Making Sense of Alleged Abkhaz-Adyghean Inscriptions on Ancient Greek Pottery

In: Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia
Alexei Kassian Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration

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A large number of Ancient Greek vases dated to the 1st millennium bc contain short inscriptions. Normally, these represent names of craftsmen or names and descriptions of the depicted characters and objects. The majority of inscriptions are understandable in Ancient Greek, but there is a substantial number of abracadabra words whose meaning and morphological structure remain vague. Recently an interdisciplinary team (Mayor et alii ) came up with the idea that some of the nonsense inscriptions associated with Amazons and Scythians are actually written in ancient Abkhaz-Adyghe languages. The idea is promising since in the first half of the 1st millennium bc the Greeks initiated the process of active expansion in the Black Sea region, so it is natural to suppose that contacts with autochthonous peoples might be reflected in Greek art. Unfortunately, detailed examination suggests that the proposed Abkhaz-Adyghe decipherment is semantically and morphologically ad hoc, containing a number of inaccuracies and errors of various kinds. The methodological and factual flaws are so substantial that it makes Mayor et alii’s results improbable.

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