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

in Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia
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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 2014) 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.

Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia

An International Journal of Comparative Studies in History and Archaeology

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References

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1

Immerwahr 1990.

3

Ivantchik 2005.

8

See Chirikba 1996b, 7 for an overview.

9

Chirikba 1996a, xv; Chirikba 2013b, 47.

12

Koryakov 2006, 21.

13

Chirikba 1996b, 8; Chirikba 2013b, 47.

14

Bgazhba 2013, 59; Paris 1974, 14.

15

Chirikba 1996b, 7.

16

Koryakov 2006, 21.

17

See the overview in Chirikba 1996b, 9-13. The remark that Colarusso is “one of the first linguists to reconstruct Proto-Northwest Caucasian” (Mayor et alii 2014, 465) is somewhat misleading.

18

Starostin, Nikolayev 1994.

19

Chirikba 1996b.

20

Chirikba 1996a.

21

Kuipers 1975; Shagirov 1977.

27

Beazley 1952, 194.

29

Starostin, Nikolayev 1994, 579; Kuipers 1975, 15.

30

Vodozhdokov 1960, 331.

31

Kardanov, Bichoev 1955, 305.

32

Starostin, Nikolayev 1994, 579; Chirikba 1996a, 98.

33

Bgazhba 1964, 297.

36

Starostin, Nikolayev 1994, 579; Shagirov 1977, 1, 154; Rogava 1956, 39 (unclear in Chirikba 1996b, 390).

37

Shaov 1975, 323; Khatanov, Kerasheva 1960, 548; Paris, Batouka 2005, 1, 833.

38

Kardanov 1957, 67; Apazhev, Kokov 2008, 90.

40

Shaov 1975, 323; Khatanov, Kerasheva 1960, 548.

41

Kardanov 1957, 67; Apazhev, Kokov 2008, 90.

42

Paris, Batouka 2005, 1, 833.

43

Paris, Batouka 2005, 1, 744; Kardanov 1957, 502, 503.

44

Starostin, Nikolayev 1994, 679; Kuipers 1975, 18.

45

Starostin, Nikolayev 1994, 272; Kuipers 1975, 18.

46

Kuipers 1975, 18. I do not mention the Proto-Adyghe-Kabardian verbs *tə- ‘to give’ (Starostin, Nikolayev 1994, 1034; Kuipers 1975, 14), *tə- ‘be, stay, stand’ (Starostin, Nikolayev 1994, 271; Kuipers 1975, 14), since it is very probable that the Proto-WCauc. and Proto-Adyghe-Kabardian non-geminated voiceless stops are to be reconstructed as aspirated (e.g., *tʰ for our *t) in accordance with the common feature of the Caucasian area. Aspirated is thus expected to be rendered by Ancient Greek ⟨ϑ⟩, not ⟨ττ⟩.

47

Starostin, Nikolayev 1994, 412.

49

Starostin, Nikolayev 1994, 412.

50

Chirikba 1996b, 179.

52

Immerwahr 1990, 65.

53

Neumann 1977, 38-39.

55

Chirikba 1996a, 19.

57

See Chirikba 2015, 353.

58

Chirikba 2015, 344.

60

Amichba 2010, 180.

61

See Chirikba 2013a, 398.

63

Starostin, Nikolayev 1994, 416; Chirikba 1996b, 225.

64

Inal-Ipa 2002, 21; Chirikba 2015, 347.

65

Chirikba 1996a, 66.

67

Chirikba 2013a, 397.

69

Immerwahr 2006, 164.

70

Shaov 1975, 246; Khatanov, Kerasheva 1960, 456.

71

Paris, Batouka 2005, 1, 605, 607.

72

Kardanov 1957, 295; Apazhev, Kokov 2008, 357.

73

Vodozhdokov 1960, 919; Paris, Batouka 2005, 2, 1052.

74

Kardanov, Bichoev 1955, 835.

75

Starostin, Nikolayev 1994, 310; Chirikba 1996b, 209.

76

Khatanov, Kerasheva 1960, 533.

77

Khatanov, Kerasheva 1960, 497, 498.

78

Kerasheva 1995, 229.

79

Smeets 1984, 457.

80

Kardanov 1957, 341; Apazhev, Kokov 2008, 421.

81

Vogt 1963, 163.

82

Thus Chirikba 1996b, 222; Kuipers 1975, 13. Starostin and Nikolayev (1994, 190, 197, 1055) reconstruct it as Proto-Adyghe-Kabardian *pʡ(ʷ)a since they have not been aware of Shapsug Adyghe data with retained (ʷ).

83

See Chirikba 1996b, 126, 264; Kuipers 1975, 38.

84

Chirikba 1996b, 126; Kuipers 1975, 59.

86

Starostin, Nikolayev 1994, 900; Chirikba 1996b, 302, 389.

87

Chirikba 1996a, 27.

88

Vogt 1963, 161.

89

Starostin, Nikolayev 1994, 900; Chirikba 1996a, 27; Kuipers 1975, 76.

90

Kerasheva 1995, 237-238.

91

Kuipers 1975, 12.

92

Starostin, Nikolayev 1994, 787.

93

Starostin, Nikolayev 1994, 588.

94

Starostin, Nikolayev 1994, 247.

95

Chirikba 1996a, 109.

96

Chirikba 1996a, 43.

97

Chirikba 1996a, 58.

98

All Chirikba 1996a, 66.

99

All Chirikba 1996a, 88.

100

All Chirikba 1996a, 90.

101

All Chirikba 1996a, 93.

102

All Chirikba 1996a, 94.

Figures

  • Map of the West Caucasian lects in the 1830s (adapted from Koryakov 2006, map 4).
    View in gallery
  • Preliminary phylogenetic tree of the West Caucasian lects produced by the StarlingNJ method, based on 100-item wordlists. The tree is dated (adapted from Kassian 2009-2010, 315).
    View in gallery

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