adventures in inscriptions

Jul. 24th, 2017 07:23 pm
ursula: (bear)
[personal profile] ursula
I promised to teach a class on medieval names from Africa at Pennsic, so I've been reading up on extant inscriptions. I have a book checked out of the library called Inscriptions Rupestres Libyco-Berbères, which transcribes and translates Berber names recorded in the Tifinagh script, and includes a complete name index. There's only one problem: there are absolutely no dates.

Dating the Tifinagh inscriptions is, of course, extremely hard. We're talking about graffiti scratched into rocks in the Sahara, with messages that say things like "He loves Dali," or at least probably say things like that once you guess all the vowels. But the real problem for me is a classic case of different priorities. Archaeology centered on Roman North Africa, or even better pre-Roman Carthaginian Africa, is a serious industry. It's easy to find articles on classical inscriptions, and it's at least possible to locate articles on classical inscriptions written in Tifinagh. But medieval North African archaeology is a niche interest (even setting aside the problems inherent in referring to "medieval Africa" at all), and nobody has bothered to date later inscriptions more precisely than "These must be post-Islamic conquest because they're using Muslim names."

Or, rather, there is exactly one person who has tried. He hasn't published his transcriptions, just a table of inscription locations that mentions some are "Islamic era" and others are "modern". He did very kindly answer my email and point me at his article on classical inscriptions. That tells me that the word for "son" used to record Roman African names is the same as the one used in Inscriptions Rupestres Libyco-Berbères (up to an unwritten vowel, at least). So it might just barely be possible to construct a Berber name for SCA use now, as long as you choose one that's both in Inscriptions Rupestres Libyco-Berbères and in medieval documents written in Arabic.

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