Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Delphi Tablet I

This inscription is #5678 in the Museum of Delphi, Greece. It is part of a collection of pieces found in the Temple of Apollo dated in the third century BC. The first two pieces in this set were found by a French archeological dig in 1893 and the last were found in 1929.

The symbols in the table are not identified in the book I am reading and I have found no reference on the internet. Within the small table are two shapes in three orientations organized in descending columns while the another shape occurs in four orientations. Two other single shapes occur.

The first line below the table starts "TA ANO GRA.." possible GRAMMATA, or letters. After that follows a phonetic organisation of Greek consonants which I am going to set off in groups with spaces between.

ΓΔΒ ΧΦΘ Λ... (the first set of three letters and Λ are modified with a dot)


The following rows continue the pattern with alterations to the letters.

This tablet indicates the antiquity of the phonetic organization of the Greek consonants. I am not able to comment on the purpose of this tablet.


1. Comment from Simon.

"I gave the small session on learning Greek. See here for some pictures and comments :)"

2. Previous posts on Greek Consonants

The Matrix
Classification of Consonants

3. Biblio

Boge, Hebert. Griechische Tachygraphie und Tironische Noten. 1973. Akademie Verlag. Berlin.

Errata: In the table there are actually three different shapes that occur in three orientations and three single shapes.


Blogger Simon said...

The tablet might be the key (cheatsheet) to a substitution cipher; normally such ciphers substitute letters with letters, however you can have substitution to symbols to make it appear harder (see Pigpen cipher: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pigpen_cipher)

Google reveals that "As a side note on the Greeks, Plutarch (another chronicler) wrote that “sundry very
ancient oracles were kept in secret writings by the priests” at Delphi."

I wonder if there are any other similar tablets, such as some with those symbols (ciphertext).

10:24 PM  
Anonymous Suz said...

Hi Simon,

I looked at pigpen. Neat! I think you are right that this is related to cipher or secret use however - more from the tablet tomorrow.

10:54 PM  

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