Clyde Winters, PhD Uthman dan Fodio Institute There are many mysteries concerning the Meroites of the

Meroitic civilization of Nubia and the Sudan. This ancient civilization lasted for hundreds of years and has left us many wonderful monuments.

In addition to many grand monuments the Meroites left us a written language. Although scholars have been able to read the letters of this ancient Kushite writing for many years up to now the full meaning of the Meroitic texts had alluded us.

Literacy in the Napatan and Meroitic Civilizations
Ancient Kush extended across a large part of the Sudan. In this vast region encompassing the Napatan and Meroitic civilizations there were many different nationalities, that spoke a myriad of languages.


Due to the ethnic diversity of the Napatans, it is clear that at least from the Napatan period of Kush the rulers of the empire had decided that no single language spoken in the empire would be used to record political, administrative and religious information. To maintain an equilibrium within and among the Napatan nationalities Egyptian was used as the lingua franca of the empire. The leaders of the Napatan empire probably used Egyptian because it was an international language, and few Kushites were of Egyptian ethnic origin.

Egyptian remained the lingua franca for the Kushites during the Napatan and early Meroitic periods in Kushite history. After the Assyrians defeated the Egyptians the ethnic composition of the Kushite empire began to change. As a result, many Egyptians began to migrate into Kushite, to avoid nonEgyptian rule.

Beginning with the Assyrian defeat of the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty large number of nomadic people from the Middle East began to migrate into Egypt. These people began to take over many Egyptian settlements, while other Egyptians fled to Nubia and Kush to avoid non-Egyptian rule.

Other political and military conflicts after the Assyrians led many Egyptians to migrate out of Egypt into Nubia and Kush. Herodotus’ mentions the 2

mutiny of Psamtik I’s frontier garrison at Elephantine—these deserters moved into Kush. Moreover, the archaizing trend in Kush among the post Twenty-Fifth Dynasty Kings testify to a possible large migration of Egyptians into Kush.

In 343 BC Nectanebos II, fled to Upper Egypt. Later according to the Natasen period stela we evidence of other Egyptians migrating into Kush from Egypt (Torok, 1997, p.391).

Between the 260’s-270’s BC Upper Egyptian Nationalists were fighting the Ptolemy (Greek) rulers of Egypt. The rebellion was put down by Ptolemy II. This military action led to Egyptians migrating out of Egypt into Kush (Torok, pp.395-396). These rebellions continued in Egypt into the 2nd Century BC (Torok, p.426).

Between Ptolomy II and Ptolemy V, the Greeks began to settle Egypt. This was especially true in the 150’sBC and led to many Egyptians migrating back into Egypt.

By the time the Romans entered Egypt, many Egyptians had already left Egypt and settled. Roman politics also forced many Egyptians to migrate into Kush. This was compounded by the introduction of the Pax Agusta policy of 3

the Romans which sought the establishment of Roman hegemony within territories under Roman rule (Torok, 454-456). This led to the emigration of many Romans into Egypt.

The Kush was a multi-ethnic society. It included speakers of many languages within the empire. During most of Kushite history the elites used Egyptian for record keeping since it was recognized as a neutral language.

As more and more Egyptians, led by Egyptian nationalists, fled to Kush as it became under foreign domination the Egyptians formed a large minority in the Empire. Because of Egyptian migrations to Kush, by the rule of the Meroitic Queen Shanakdakheto, we find the Egyptian language abandoned as a medium of exchange in official records, and the Meroitic script takes its place.

By the rise of Greeks in Egypt, the cultural ideology , like the people were changing. This is supported by the transition from Demotic writing (7th 5th Centuries BC) to Coptic (4th BC-AD 1400). The Coptic people are the best evidence for the change in the Egyptian population.

After the Egyptians became a sizable minority in Kush, the Kushites abandoned Egyptian as a lingua franca. Egyptian was replaced by the 4

Meroitic writing.

Due to the fact that Meroite leaders were trying maintain unity within the Meroitic Confederacy/Empire they did not record any ethnic lexical items in the Meroitic inscriptions , that I have read so far, except ethnonyms and toponyms.

The Decipherment of Meroitic
Some years ago I deciphered the Meroitic script after I discovered that the Meroites wrote their inscriptions in the Kushana language. In this paper we will discuss recent decipherment theories, while I decipher Meroitic inscriptions.

The comparative method was used to find the cognate language of Meroitic. Using this method Meroitic scholars have compared the "known" Meroitic terms to vernacular African languages to establish morphological cognition between Meroitic and an African language. Up to now these linguistic comparisons failed to reveal the cognate language of Meroitic. Researchers working on the Meroitic language do not believe that it was a member of the Afro-Asian group. Griffith and Haycock tried to read Meroitic using Nubian.


K.H. Priese, tried to read the Meroitic text using Eastern Sudani; and F. Hintze, attempted to compare Meroitic with the Ural-Altaic group. Siegbert Hummel, compared the "known" Meroitic words to words in the Altaic family which he believed was a substrate language of Meroitic.

Rilly recently claimed that Meroitic is related to Nubian , eventhough Griffith and Haycock failed to read Meroitic using Nubian. Rilly's hypothesis is that Meroitic can be read by reconstructing the proto-language of the Sudani language.

Rilly claims that Meroitic is Nilo-Saharan. He claims that this is supported by comparing the Proto-Nilo-Saharan to Meroitic, because the people living in Kush today are remnants of the Meroites. I found the article about Claude Rilly the “Champollion of Meroitique” very interesting. Although he is being given credit for presenting a method to decipher Meroitic, I already deciphered Meroitic years ago. Rilly believes that he can decipher the Meroitic language language using the ProtoNorthEastern Sudanic, which he has reconstructed. According to Rilly, since the people presently living in the Sudan today speak languages associated with the Nilo Saharan Superfamily of languages, the Meroites probably spoke a language associated with this family. This was a radical decision, because research has shown that none of the attested 6

Meroitic terms accepted by mainstream scholars are related to any living language in the Sudan (there are some Meroitic terms borrowed from Egyptian). Because there are no cognate Meroitic terms and lexical items in the Eastern Sudanic Languages, Rilly has begun to reconstruct Proto-Eastern Sudanic, and attempt to read Meroitic text using his Proto-Eastern Sudanic vocabulary. Even if I hadn’t deciphered the Meroitic writing this method would never lead to the decipherment of this or any other language. First, it must be stated that no “dead “ language has been deciphered using a proto-language. These languages were deciphered using living languages, Coptic in the case of Egyptian, Oromo and (Ethiopian) Semitic was used to decipher the Mesopotamian Cuneiform scripts. The basic problem with using a proto-language to read a dead language results from the fact that the proto-language has been reconstructed by linguist who have no knowledge or textual evidence of the alleged proto-language. Secondly, there are subgroups in any family of languages. This means that you must first establish the intermediate proto-language (IPL) of the subgroup languages in the target language family. Once the IPLs have been reconstructed, you can then reconstruct the superordinate proto-language (SPL). You can only reconstruct the SPL on the basis of attested languages. In addition, before you can reconstruct the IPLs and SPL a genetic relationship 7

must be established for the languages within the Superfamily of languages, e.g., Nilo Saharan. The problem with Rilly’s method, is there is no way he can really establish the IPLs in Eastern Sudanic because we have not textual evidence or lexical items spoken by people who lived in the Sudan in Meroitic times. As a result, the languages spoken by people in this area today may not reflect the linguistic geography of the Sudan in the Meroitic period. This is most evident when we look at modern Egypt. Today the dominant language is Arabic, and yet Arabic has no relationship to Egyptian. If we accept Rilly’s method for deciphering Egyptian we would assume that once me reconstructed proto-Semitic , we could read Egyptian—but as you know Egyptian is not a Semitic language. Secondly, researchers have compared the “attested Meroitic” terms to all the Nilo-Saharan languages. The results were negative, they do not relate to any Eastern Sudanic language. If the lexical items attested in Meroitic are not cognate to Eastern Sudanic terms, there is no way to establish a genetic relationship between these languages. Absence of a genetic relationship means that we can not reconstruct the imagined IPLs of Meroitic sister languages, since these researchers failed to find a connection between Meroitic and the Eastern Sudanic. As a result, Rilly’s reconstructions of NiloSaharan can offer no insight into the language spoken by the Meroites. My decipherment of Meroitic is based on the Kushana theory. The Kushana 8

theory is that a group of “East Indian” scholars introduced the Meroitic writing system to the Meroites. There has recently been an attempt to link Meroitic to the Afro-Asiatic languages. Rowan attempts to imply that a typological relationship exists between Meroitic and Afro-Asiatic due to alleged consonantal compatibility restrictions. Although this is her opinion I don't believe that it is supported by the evidence, since she uses imagined Meroitic terms as her data. Since the terms Rowan uses in her analysis are "made up" she can say they have any feature she chooses and be "right".

Moreover, finding only one feature common to Meroitic and AA languages does not support a connection.

The major problem with the thesis is that Rowan failed to discuss Meroitic based upon the agreed upon vocabulary of Meroitic. Failure to do this has led her to make conclusions that can not be supported by the evidence since some words she uses as examples in her paper are based on conjecture or are hypothectical/imagined Merotic terms. Moreover, the failure to acknowledge that most Meroitic consonants are probably associated with a schwa, except when a Meroitic vowel is joined to a consonant e.g., -i.-e, - a, makes any discussion of Meroitic phonology suspect.


Failure to present examples from agreed upon Meroitic lexical items, especially given the clear Meroitic examples of Egyptian loan words in Meroitic is quite strange. This is further compounded by the fact that she fails to provide a cognate language to read the script and therefore provide a firm foundation for her spurious conclusions.

In general the paper is a good discussion of the state of research relating to Afro-Asiatic. But in my opinion it offers little support for the posibility that Meroitic is related to Afro- Asiatic, or Nilo-Saharan for that matter, given the phantom/imagined words she provides as Meroitic lexical items.

The Kushana hypothesis was based on the following evidence, 1) no African language has been found to be a cognate language of Meroitic 2) the Classical literature says that the Kushites lived in Asia and Africa; 3) the Gymnosophists, or "naked sages" of Meroe came from India. Before I began work on Meroitic, other researchers had already falsified the African theory for Meroitic's cognate language. The fact that not even Nubian, a language spoken by a people who lived in the Meroitic empire, failed to be the cognate language of Meroitic made it clear that we must look elsewhere for the cognate language spoken by the Meroites. It also makes it impossible for us to accept Rilly’s contention that he can read 10

Meroitic using Proto-Eastern Sudanic.

Flavius Philostratus, the writer of the Vita Apollonii, Vol. 1,claimed that the Gymnosophists of Meroe originally came from India (see F.C. Conybeare, Philostratus:The Life of Apollonius of Tyana (p.45),1950). Given the fact that the Kushana had formerly ruled India around the time that the Meroitic writing was introduced to the Kushite civilization, led to the hypothesis that the ancestors of the Gymnosophist may have been Kushana philosophers.

The historical evidence of the Kushana having ruled India made the Classical references to Indians in Meroe, an important source for the construction of alternative theories about the possible location of the cognate language of Meroitic.

There is external evidence, which supports my theory. A theory explains observed phenomena and has predictive power. I have theorized that due to the claims of the Classical writers that some of the Meroites came from India (pg.271)1. According to the Life of Apollonius, the Indian Meroites were formerly led by a King Ganges, who had "repulsed the Scythians who invaded this land [India from] across the Caucasus" (Conybeare, Vol.1, Pg.273). Pilostratus also made it clear that the Indians of Meroe came to this F.C Conybeare (Trans.), Philostratus: The life of Apollonius of Tyana Vol.2, (1950) 11

country after their king was killed. The presence of this tradition of an Indian King of the Indian-Meroites conquering the Scythians predicts that the Indian literature should record this historical episode. This prediction is supported by a Jaina text called the Kalakeharya-Kathanaka, which reports that when the Scythians invaded Malwa, the King of Malwa, called Vikramaditya defeated the Scythians2. This king Vikramaditya may be the Ganges mentioned in the Life of Apollonius.Confirmation of the Ganges story, supports the Classical literary evidence that their were Indianized-Meroites that could have introduced the Tokharian trade language to the Meroites. Moreover, there were other Indians in North Africa in addition to Kush/Meroe. For example, at Quseir al-Qadim there was a large Indian speaking community3 . These Indians were in Egypt writing messages in their own language, around the time we see a switch from Egyptian hieroglyphics to the Meroitic writing system. The evidence that the Classical references to an Indian-Meroite King who conquered the Scythians is supported by the Indian literature, provides external corroboration of the tradition that some of the Meroites were of (H. Kulke & D. Rothermund, History of India. London, Routledge: 1990, pg.73 3 R. Salomon, "Epigraphic remains of Indian traders in Egypt", Journal of the American oriental Society, (1991) pp.731-736; and R. Salomon, Addenda, Journal of the American Oriental Society, (1993) pg.593. 12

Indian origin. The presence of Indian traders and settlers in Meroe (and Egypt), makes it almost impossible to deny the possibility that Indians, familiar with the Tokharian trade language did not introduce this writing to the Meroites who needed a neutral language to unify the diverse ethnic groups who made up the Meroite state. In relation to the history of linguistic change and bilingualism, it is a mistake to believe that linguistic transfer had to take place for the Meroites to have used Tokharian, when it did not take place when they wrote in Egyptian hieroglyphics. In summary the classical literature makes it clear that there was a connection between the Gymnosophists (of Meroe) and the Indians. The fact that historical events mentioned in the classical sources are found in the Indian literature confirm the view that there were Indian-Meroites who could have introduced the Tokharian trade language to the Meroites. The evidence presented above provides internal and external validity for my theory based upon the sources I have cited previously. The sources I have used are impartial, to disconfirm my hypothesis someone needs to show that my propositions are not fully informed [i.e., there were no Indians North Africa and Kush when the Classical writers maintained they were] and present rival explanations based on the evidence. The fact that the claims made by the Classical writers is supported by the Indians themselves if further strong confirmation of the Kushana hypothesis. The hypothesis based on the classical literature, was enough to support the 13

original Kushana Hypothesis. The predicting power of the original theory, matches the observed natural phenomena which was confirmed elsewhere by cognate place names, ethononyms, lexical items and grammatical features, indicate that my theory has not be falsified. The ability to reliably predict a linguistic relationship between Kushana and Meroitic, was further confirmation of the Kushana Hypothesis, because the linguistic connections were deducible from prediction. I controlled the Kushana Hypothesis by comparing the statements of the classical writers, with historical, linguistic anthropological and toponymic evidence found not only in Africa, but also India and Central Asia [where the people also used Tokharian as a trade language to unify the various people in Central Asia]. I constructed five testable hypotheses in support of the Kushana theory, and it seems only fair that these five variables must be disconfirmed, to falsify the Kushana Hypothesis. Failure to disconfirm this theorem, implies validity of my prediction. My confirmation of the above five variables: the presence of Kushites in Africa and Asia; the presence of Kushana sages in India who may have migrated to Meroe; cognate lexical items; cognate verbs and cognate grammatical features indicates systematic controlled, critical and empirical investigation of the question of Kushana representing the Meroitic cognate language.


The Meroitic Language Today we can read the Meroitic text in their entirety using the cognate language for Meroitic: Tokharian (Winters 1984,1989, 1996a, 1996b,1996c). Although linguist call this language Tokharian in Central Asia (Winters 1988b, 1991, 1996b).

The people of Meroe, the Kushites had their own alphabet of 23 signs. This was a wonderful improvement over hieroglyphic writing which was made up of numerous ideographic and phonetic signs. Prior to the introduction of Meroitic, the Meroites used Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Francis Llewellyn Griffith, an Egyptologist was able to decipher the Meroitic script over 60 years ago. Although Griffith deciphered Meroitic, we were unable to read this writing because we did not know the cognate language.

Using the comparative method I was able to discover that Tokharian is cognate to Meroitic. This led to the full decipherment of the Meroitic script. We can now read Meroitic using Tokharian ( Krause,1952 ; Windekens 1941, 1979). 15

Maurice Pope in THE STORY OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL DECIPHERMENT , has made it clear that before an unknown language can be deciphered you must have the right theoretical structure to base your inquiry upon (p.191). Pope found that in the historical decipherments of ancient languages three preliminary conditions must be met:

1) confidence that a script can be deciphered;

2) location of proper names must be determined;

3) the grammatical rules of the target language/ script must be found (pp.186-187).

We were able to read Meroitic because these preliminary conditions were met, and we were able to develop new hypothesis based on historical evidence to determine the cognate language of Meroitic. Conditions number one and two were met by Griffith when he deciphered the Meroitic script in 1910, and his discovery of the proper names of the Meroitic gods and individuals in Meroitic text. Griffith also discovered the direction the Meroitic writing was written.


This recognition by Griffith of the solubility of the Meroitic text was reinforced in 1978, with publication of UNESCO's The Peopling of Ancient Egypt and the Decipherment of the Meroitic Script. This was an important publication because it provided researchers with up-to-date information on the status of Meroitic.

Condition number three for the decipherment of Meroitic was met in 1979 when Fritz Hintze published his Beitrage zur meroitischen

Grammatik . The research of F. Hintze (1979) and I. Hoffmann (1981) have made it possible for us to find the cognate language of Meroitic: Tokharian (Winters 1984 ,1989). The work of Griffith and Hintze fulfilled all the requirements for the decipherment of the Meroitic writing.


The classical literature supported the view that we might be able to find the Meroitic cognate language through a comparison of the Meroitic terms and Kushan lexical items. To test the Kushana hypothesis we had to then:

1) find agreement between Kushana and Meroitic terms; 2) compare Central Asian and Egypto-Sudanese toponomies; 3) compare Kushana and Meroitic grammatical forms.


Reading Meroitic Inscriptions
This was accomplished and now we can read Meroitic inscriptions.

Below is a broken Meroitic inscription. Let’s try to read it.


I will attempt to read the broken tablet. First of all it is hard to make out some of the signs on this piece, especially parts of line three(3) and five (5), but I will attempt to read the piece. Reading the piece from right to left we have the following: Transliteration 1. m...e-ne...ap.... 2. [s]....mlo..nea...š..... 3. s 4. e.....q....b....p...nea.... 5. [o]...lo... ňš.... Translation "...(1)The great Commander and ancestor....(2)[prop up] the inner heart at this time (of) the King....(3) m entreat the Ba to travel (and) prop up...(4)Register the wish (of) the Ba to solicit at this time....(5)[Begin] to dispatch Goodness and the good spirit (of) the son of Mash..... Vocabulary ap, ancestor, father m , great e-ne, commander e, register; vouchsafe; grant a boon b, Ba ml, spirit


mlo, innerheart, soul s, son; to protect; to prop up ye, to make; travel, voyage nea, at this time; ne, good ň-ne, Goodness mš, Mash lo, dispatch o, begin The so called word divider sign : equals -ne. The : is used to change verbs into nouns, or means good. King Tañyidamani, and the Meroitic lion-god Apedemek (110 BC-90 BC)


The most interesting Meroitic text concerning Apedemak is found on the votive tablet of Tañyidamani which is now found in the Paris Museum. On this votive tablet Tañyidamani is depicted on the obverse side , and the god Apedemak on the reverse side.

On the reverse side of the Tañyidamani votive tablet the god Apedemak is depicted wearing a short apron and hemhem crown. On this votive tablet Apedemak also wears armlets, bracelets, a collar and pectoral. Inside a panel in front of Apedemak we find a cursive Meroitic inscription.


The inscriptions in the panel on the reverse side of the votive tablet of King Tañyidamani make it clear that the king acknowledged the important role the god Apedemak played in his life. These inscriptions can be read either from right to left or top to bottom. Reading from right to left we read:


1. w e to

2. q tel

3. w to si

4.tone m-k

5. d.[l]..r-i

6.te i



1. You (it is Apedemak who) gives guidance.

2. Revitalize support (for me King Tañyidamani).

3. You guide (me) to satisfaction.

4. (And ) much reverence (for your patron).

5. Give (it) amicably (to me).

6. May (it go forth).

Reading this same inscription top to bottom we find the following:


1. w q b-to d-te.

2. e te to m ne l.


3. toe i skr-i.


1. (Oh Apedemak) Guide and Make Honor (for your patron).

2. Give here your (full) measure of Good indeed.

3. (It is) thou (Apedemak who) give(s) leave to eminence (for your patron).

The Meroitic mortuary offerings reflect many objects the Meroite would use in the afterworld. They inscribed or painted ba statues, stela and offering tables with cursive Meroitic . The utilitarian items of every-day use by the Meroites were placed in the tomb., while the ba statuettes and stela were often placed outside the tombs.

The offering tables were used to make libations in behalf of the deceased after his interment. They were made of sandstone and shaped either rectangular or square. The tables measured anywhere between ten and fourteen inches in length, with a recessed center


surrounded by a raised border.

The offering tablets and funerary stela often include carved designs and inscriptions. The inscriptions were in Meroitic. The most popular designs on the tables include loaves of bread, and the mortuary gods Anubis and Nephthys.

The artifacts found near the tombs of rich Meroites include ba statuettes. The ba statuettes often made in the shape of humans with folded wings, were usually placed in front of the tomb . It was made in this way to represent the free and mobile nature of Ba, which was suppose to sore into the sky. The Ba was recognized as a soul, which possessed mobility.

The term Ba represented the ability of the deceased person's spirit to move from the grave and implore the gods for passage and protection of the Kha to the underworld.

In the funerary inscriptions we also find much mention of the Ba or Be . I have interpreted the term Ø ba #, as "soul'. The ba, united the conception of the Kha, and the Khe / Kho . The best place to find this


term in the Meroitic funerary literature include the Tañyidamani , Armina West and Karanog steleas.

The spirit body of the King was to sustain Good at the burial site. For example the Ba of Tañyidamani was to remain at Jebel Barkal (Tañyidamani stela, lines 33-34) for a period of time continuing to serve Aman, while it represented a talisman of blessing for the pilgrims that visited his tomb.

According to the Tañyidamani stela ,line 139, the Ba was a gift to Aman . This may explain the placement of the Meroitic carved items such as the ba statues and funerary tablets outside the Meroite tombs. Placement outside the tomb probably tolerated the ba's effortless access to flight.

In the late Meroitic text. The Ba , was no longer forced to stay at the tomb. In these inscriptions it is made clear that the Ba, retired in B(a)ne.



Below we will first give the transliteration of the Karanog stelae and then a translation of Meroitic into English. At the end of the translation we will provide a vocabulary of the text.

Line 1. Woshi Shore... yi-ne... t-po... m-i... d.

Line 2. Tqowine... s... li-ne ...t d... e-ne.. te... o... d... he.


Line 3.

Line 4. Terike...lo... wi-ne...i... lo.

Line 5. Tel-o... wi-ne... pq... r... ne... ye mtetl[...]...e... ne... ye.

Line 6. i... ol... ye...e-ne.

Line 7.[...]... ot... p ...yet... ne-ne ... e-o... wi-ne.

Line 8. Pe... sto... lt-ne... yet... m...n...e...e-o... wi-ne... qo ... re.

Line 9. St... s... t ... lete-ne ...s-ne ...tq ...lo ...wi-ne ...hle

Line 10. S-ne ...q ...lo-t ...lo ...wi-ne ...mte ...h ...s-n

Line 11. Sto ...h ...wi-ne ...t ...e ...lo ...lo-a ...en-ne

Line 12. Tb ...h ...lo ...wi-ne ...ato ...enep


Line 13. Te-ne ...ato ...enep ...wi ...h ...r ...te-ne ...h ...mlo ...l-ne.

Line 14. P-Sin ...ote ...m-i ...te-ne ...Wosi

...Shore ...o-i ...ine.

TRANSLATION "l. Isis the Good, and Osiris the Eternal (are) commanding the measure (of) the bequeathal. (2) Tqowine, the patron to transmit her satisfying bequeathal. She commands the beginning of the bequeathal of the He. (3) The solitary honorable patron (is) to behold the He-ne's (the abstract personality of man) prop up the renewal. Act to (make) the conveyance. (4) (Its) the Fashion to dispatch Awe...[h]i to remain to reproduce within satisfaction from a distance. (5) The solitary object of respect to make indeed a good voyage to Mtetl...[here] to be give(n) a good existence.(6) She is to witness solitary reverence capable of cleverly bowing in reverence (to the gods)--give leave to the /a grand journey (Oh) Commander. (7) Measure the good (of the ) lonely object of Honor [lying in the grave]...esteem and dignity. Adorn (her with) goodness, give opening to honor.(8) Your


nonexistent patron goes to measure goodness. Give (its) beginning Now! The Object of Respect (Tqowine, to be) renewed indeed. (9) Endorse the embarkation of the (good) Supporter. Set in Motion the dispatch of this object of respect (Tqowine) to reverberate luck. (10) The patron, she is present (in) the grave. Send the Object of Respect to unlock H-ne [the place where the H, is kept] --the Patron begs you. (11) Protect her conveyance of the H. This honorable woman give (her) isolated departure. The Teacher (to take) a journey. (12) Announce in a lofty voice indeed, the dispatch of this Object of Respect (on the) path (of) the grand bestowal (of) atonement (and ) favor. (13) Rebirth is the path to grand bestowal of honor to the H , indeed give permission for the rebirth of the H, and the soul to exit. (14) Much satisfaction (and) wonder (to come) measure it. The permission (for its bestowal ) is arranged by Isis,( and) Osiris (is) the Opener of the Way."

Naqa Temple


At the lion temple of Naqa, we find Natakamani on the left façade and Amanitore on the right. Under the feet of the ruling pair we find friezes of their defeated enemies.

There are a number of Meroitic hieroglyphics on the front of the Naqa Lion Temple. There are three columns of hieroglyphic inscriptions on under the falcon of King Natakamani. Reading from left to right we see the following



1. ter tel i ne

2. …ni-ne b-q r

3. ikh iy kh te b d r te


"1….the erection (of this structure) elevates (our) tradition [of building].2…brilliance (is) also desired indeed.3…this spot bring Great light (and) also leave a legacy (of) unity."

We can interpret the inscriptions and engraving from this part of the temple as follows:

"King Natakamani smites the enemies of Meroe. The royalty "...[has made] the erection (of this structure) to elevate (as is 34

our) tradition.2…Brilliance (is) also indeed desired.3…This spot to bring Great light (to many and) also leave (to the Meroites) a legacy (of) unity."

Funerary Stela of Meteye

This Stela dates back to the 2nd to 3rd Centuries. It is has a reddish-


white undercoat. It comes from Grave 275, Karanog. The stela is located in Cairo, Egyptian Museum JE40229.

The couple Meteye and Abakharta stand under the inner wings of the sun disk. Meteye wares her hair with a topknot and cornrows. This man may be either Meteye’s husband or father. (I am uncertain because the words ab-a can be interpreted as ‘[her] father’. If this is the correct reading aba Kharta would mean ‘her father Kharta’.)

The grave was excavated by Woolley-Randall-MacIver at Karanog. The skeleton in the grave was of a woman. The pointed breast on the figure indicate that she was a young women. Standing side by side suggest that this man was her husband. Since the grave contained only one skeleton we can imagine that Abakharta was depicted on this stela to show his devotion to his wife.

There are three sets of inscription on this stela. There are inscriptions in front of Meteye and Abakharta, and an inscription between the legs of Abakharta.

Reading from right to left beginning with the inscription between the legs of Abakharta, then the inscription before Abakharta and finally the


one in front of Meteye we have the following:

Inscription between Abakharta’s legs.

P .. š ….o ….

“Pray for the patron to commence……”

Inscription in front of the man:

Wosi .. ne. Sore… yi-ne. Abkharta… ke ….lo …..wi-ne... a…kh… m…še..

“ Isis the Good. Osiris the eternal. Abakharta gives permission (for) the offering of this Object of Respect (Meteye) to acquire greatness (and) protection.”

Inscription in front of the woman:

Woš..i-ne…šore.. yi-ne..Meteye…qo …wi…ato ….mh…ene… š.. o-a….tene


“Isis the good. Osiris the eternal. Meteye , renew (her) honor down the path (to) abundant alms giving. The patron [Meteye] has commenced the Rebirth”. Tedeqen Funerary Tablet

Inscription under the gods:


[………] lo…. wi-ne ….šo ….tk ….te


“Dispatch (this) Object of Respect [Tedeqen] to live and to reflect (on good)—may (it go forth).”

Inscription on the funerary tablet reading from left to right and around the tablet :

Wosi …i-ne …a…. šore ….. yi-ne ….tedeqen ….qo-ne …ah ..d …s-ne-l …. d …h … lo-ne… me …ň …tone …e ….ri-ne … …. li-ne …..e … ri …ke … lo… ne … atom … lo ….el … h …..tene ….al …ml …ol


“Isis the Good, Osiris the eternal. Tedeqen to live good (and) to acquire a lasting legacy (of Good). The patron’s legacy (is for) the Kha’s transmigration , measure the Good Rebirth (now). Give withdrawal (to the Kha) for revitalization (and) exaltation. Register the sendoff (of the Kha) to invigorate the good offering (of Tedeqen). He is to be (re)born to transmit Good (as his) gift (to mankind). The Kha’s


noble (re)birth (of a) grand soul.”

Funerary stelae of Prince Tedeqen, circa 100-200 B.C.


Offering Stela of Tedeqeň

Translation by Clyde Winters:

Woš-i-ne …Tdeqeň …ne …ĥ …ml …. ol … ħo ….lk …tene …mlo …ne… 41

p … rem … eš …. d …. o … tl … wi-ne … el …ĥ …tene ….ete …. eš …. d…. ot …. el … ĥ … tene …ĥe …. ra …. Ke-ne-l ….l …d …tene.


[Oh] Good Isis (give) Tedeqeň kha, grand inner heart (and) soul to behold the path of rebirth. The good inner heart prays to witness (its) manifestation. (This) bequeathal to open (and) elevate the Object of Respect (i.e., Tedeqeň) gift (of the) Kha’s rebirth (Oh Isis). You give the manifestation of the bequeathal prestige. The gift (of) the Kha’s (and the) external body’s rebirth . Indeed [Tedeqeň] revitalization (will) be the rebirth of the bequeathal (of the Kha).


Stela of Queen Amanishaketo Front


Stela of queen Amanishaketo. Reverse

Transliteration 1. nišheto qo-ne qo 2. n-ne he ñk e li-ne ml o 3. ps e o-ne a r-i te


4. k-ne a ine rm i l-ne t d b e šo 5. sli n0 tene q en ne-n 6. te ši-ne ht nk tone n h-ne 7. tek ……ok…….nm…..n h n om-ne 8. hl[e]…. O h p ne š m r 9. m ……. Te r h tl k-ne l tene 10. [………….. ……] 11. h ne m e ter h te m n š nel l 12. w-ne q š-ne l h mete o om-ne 13. sl lne tek nei h r tne š 14. k ñh d ne ate h te ši kne 15. r-ñ h ne-ñ kne ane e-m bo Translation 1. Anishkheto noble and good restored 2.Manifest the external spirit now; command the transmittal of the sould to commence. 3. Give guard the accession (of the) apparition—may it go forth. 4. The Object of Supplication and Good [Anishkheto] goes to witnee [a new] existence. Arrange to leave a legacy [and] blessed life. 5. Leave to set in motion now the Rebirth. Act to command Good to manifest. 6. The propitiation to pour out. God ignites and manifest the abstract personality of man. 7. To investigate…….a new…..reverence and Good the offering’s 45

only acquisition. 8. Reverberate…….initiate the offering a good pray[er] [for] the patron’s luck 9. m… …. ..te indeed the blessings to elevate the Object of Supplication’s rebirth. 10. [……….. ….. …. … …] 11. The abstract personality of man to unlock indeed the great holy place (of) good (to) merit existence 12. The Commander acts to uplift Greatness, unlock from a distance (its) acquisition. 13. Set in motion (her) existence to investigate benevolence (and) dignity. Lay Good (on) the patron. 14. It (is) obligatory at this time to leave a legacy at this moment dispensing (your) satisfaction. 15. Certainly her abstract personality of man to manifest the Object of Supplication’s spirit much favor (and) increase. The inscription on the edge Transliteration 1. ah 2. e k p 3. k h 4. š ne nek e 5. [………..] 6. [….. …… ] 7. […. …… ..] 8. a šne 46

9. š 10. [… ….. …..] 11. [….. ….. ….] 12. [… ….. …. ..] 13. ñ l li 14. l d 15. b ene Translation “The blessed dead [Anishkheto] prays (for) nourishment (of) the obligatory offerings… merit……patron……retire exalted. (Her) lasting legacy is abundant almsgiving.”


Now when we use my decipherment to read the text and the accompanying drawing

we have the following : [Dog] exist indeed to grant a noble boon [of rabbits with] the intention to bring elevation to you, meritorious Netror”. The vocabulary items are as follows:

W, to be, exist, to drive, to conduct

L, indeed, or termination element

E, grant a boon, vouchsafe, favor

Qo, to live, to renew, to restore; noble, royal, honorable; to make , to form

Ph, intention

N, good, only

Y, bring


-t, you (personal pronoun)

tl, to elevate

Netror, name of person

Slo, meritorious

You can find a short Meroitic vocabulary at the following site:


You can read more about my decipherment of Meroitic in the following articles: Winters,Clyde Ahmad. (Juin 1984b). "A Note on Tokharian and Meroitic", Meroitic Newsletter\Bulletin d"Information Meroitiques , No.23 , pages 18-21.

Winters,Clyde Ahmad. (1989b). "Cheikh Anta Diop et le dechiffrement de l'ecriture meroitique",Cabet: Revue Martinique de Sciences Humaines et de Litterature 8, pp. 149-152.

Winters, Clyde Ahmad.(1998). Meroitic funerary Text. Part1, Inscription Journal of Ancient Egypt 1,(1), pp. 29-34. Winters, Clyde Ahmad.(1998). Meroitic funerary Text. Part 2, Inscription Journal of Ancient Egypt 1,(2), pp. 41-55.

Winters, Clyde Ahmad. (1999). The inscriptions of Tanyidamani. Nubica IV und Nubica V., pp.355-388.


You can read more about my decipherment at the following web site:

I have written a short dictionary of Meroitic terms that you can find at the following web site:

My most recent article discussing Meroitic history and deciphering Meroitic documents titled the Meroitic Evidence for a Blemmy Empire in the Dodekaschoinos can be found at the following site:


Appendix 1: Meroitic and Karosthi Signs

The chart above makes it clear that the following Meroitic and Kharosthi signs agree in shape and sound: B M T E To Te H