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The Tartaria Tablets

  • M. S. F. Hood
Extract

The inscribed clay tablets (PL. XVIa) found in a 'Neolithic' context at Tartaria (FIG. 1) in Romania in 1961 have already aroused a certain amount of interest here. The signs on the tablets are comparable with those of the script of the Late Predynastic (Uruk III Jemdet Nasr) period in Mesopotamia, as Dr Vlassa who excavated them has noted. It seems unlikely however that the tablets were drafted by a Sumerian hand or in the Sumerian language of early Mesopotamia. The shapes of the tablets and some of the signs are paralleled in the Minoan scripts of Crete, but the tablets do not seem to be Cretan. There are indications that a similar use of signs, if not actual writing, was practised in the rest of the Aegean and in Western Anatolia before the end of the 3rd millennium B.C. A knowledge of writing, or the use of signs derived from it, may have spread to these regions and to the Balkans from Mesopotamia through Syria. This was perhaps one aspect of a common inheritance of religious or magical beliefs and practices.

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Notes

[1] E.g. The Times, 2nd December 1966.

[2] Vlassa, N., ‘Chronology of the Neolithic in Transylvania, in the Light of the Tartaria Settlement’s Stratigraphy’, Dacia, VII, 1963, 48594. Cf. Milojčić, V., ‘Die Tontafeln von Tartaria (Sieben- biirgen) und die absolute Chronologie des mittel-europäischen Neolithikums’,Germania, XLIII, 1965, 261. Popovitch, V., ‘Une Civilisation égéo-orientale sur le moyen Danube’, Rev. Arch.]], 1965:2, 1. Renfrew, C., Nestor, 1st December 1966, 469–70.

[3] antiquity, 1927, 83 and 88e.

[4] See the map in Peake, H. J. E. and Fleure, H. J., The Corridors of Time, IV (1927), 139 , fig. 87.

[5] For Vinča see in, Milojčić B.S.A., XLIV, 1949, 266 ; a key in English to the monumental publication in Yugoslav, Vassits, M. M., Vinca, I-IV, 1932–6.

[6] Roska, M., Die Sammlung Zsófia von Torma (1941), 11.

[7] Ibid., 306–17, pls. 131–6. H. Schmidt, , Zettschr. für Ethnologie, 1903, 457.

[8] Schmidt, , Schl. Sammlung (1902), index p. 352: ‘Schriftzeichen (Marken)’. The long ‘inscriptions’ on two pyxides (ibid. Nos. 2444–5) appear to be just carelessly incised decoration.

[9] See P. Smith’s Appendix to the English edition of Schliemann, , Troy and its Remains (1875), 363.

[10] See Grumach, E., Bibliographie der kretisch- mykenischen Epigraphik (1963), 146, for references until 1961.

[11] E.g. Zeitschr. fur Ethnologie, 1903, 458.

[12] E.g. Petrie, W. M. F., Royal Tombs, 1 (1900), 32 and passim.

[13] Excavations at Phylakopi in Melos, Soc. for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, Suppl. Paper No. 4, 1904.

[14] For the earliest of these so-called ‘masons’ marks’ at Knossos see Evans, Sir A., Palace of Minos, I (1921), 133 , fig. 99. These Cretan signs on stone were compared with the Tordos signs by Mosso, The Dawn of Mediterranean Civilization (1910), 12, 34 .

[15] Sir Evans, A., Scripta Minoa, 1 (1909), 6. Tordos appears by the name Broos, which lies to the east.

[16] Childe, V. G., The Danube (1929), 31, under the heading: ‘Script’, and 33.

[17] Schmidt, , Schl. Sammlung (1902), nos. 2030–4 (vases); pl. vi , p. 218, nos. 5209–24 (whorls). A. H. Sayce in Schliemann, , Ilios (1890), 25 , read one of these (no. 5214) as Greek!

[18] E.g. Blegen, C. W., Troy, 11 (1951), fig. 169 (lid from Troy IV); fig. 237, 35–498 (whorl from Troy V).

[19] Roska, , Die Sammlung Zsófia von Torma (1941).

[20] Dacia, VII, 1963, 485 .

[21] Milojðic, , B.S.A., XLIV, 1949, 266. But see Childe, , The Dawn of European Civilisation (1957), 84, 89. Milojčic’s phases are A, Bi, B2, C, D. There is a major break between B2 and C.

[22] Milojðic, , Germania, XLIII, 1965, 261 .

[23] Estimating from the sections in Dacia, VII, 1963, 486 , fig. 2.

[24] For evidence of cannibalism in related Neolithic and later Bronze Age cultures in Europe, e.g. Childe, , Danube (1929), 170, 344 ; Dawn (1957), 102, 115, 290.

[25] A. Falkenstein, Archaische Texte aus Uruk (Ausgrabungen in Uruk-Warka 2) (1936). Langdon, S. L., Pictographic Inscs. from Jemdet Nasr {Oxford Ed. of Cuneiform Texts, VII) (1928), where pi. V, 15, and pi. XXI, 73, are those illustrated in Dacia, VII, 1963, 493 , fig. 10, 1 and 2.

[26] Germania, XLIII, 1965, 269 .

[27] Langdon, loc. cit., iv.

[28] Diringer, D., Writing (1962), 21, 36 .

[29] Evans, , Scripta Minoa, 1 (1909), 144 .

[30] E.g. ibid., 166. Chapouthier, F., Les Écritures Minoennes au Palais de Mallia (Ét. Crétoises, 11) (1930), 20.

[31] F. Chapouthier, loc. cit., 12; Caratelli, P., Annuario Sc. Arch, di Atene, 35–6 (n.s. 19/20), 1957/8, 363 f .

[32] Langdon, loc. cit., vi.

[33] Frankfort, H., The Birth of Civilization in the Near East (1951), 106.

[34] See Ehrich, R. W., Chronologies in Old World Archaeology (1965), 441–2 for S.E. Europe, 125 for the Trojan culture. The dates for Beycesultan levels 36 and 28 (where levels 19–17 are equated with Troy I) are rejected by the excavators as likely to be 1,500 and 1,250 years too late! ( Lloyd, S. and Mellaart, J., Beycesultan, I (1962), 19, 25.) P-273 for a level equated with Troy I in Chios was 2183 b.c. (calculated on a half life of 5,800 years as against 5,730 years for the dates in Ehrich) ( A.J.A., LXV, 1961, 367 ).

[35] Childe, , Dawn (1957), 91. Popovitch, , Rev. Arch.]], 1965:2, 41 f.*

[36] E.g. Makkay, J., ‘Early Near Eastern and South East European Gods’, Acta Arch. Hungarica, xvi, 1964, 364 .

[37] Clark, J. G. D. and Piggott, S., Prehistoric Societies (1965), 215.

[38] Vassits, ‘The Excavations at Vinca, 1929’, reprinted from The Birmingham Post, 27th & 28th November 1929.

[39] Evans, , ‘Primitive Pictographs and a Prae- Phoenician Script, from Crete and the Peloponnese’, J.H.S., XIV, 1894, 270372 .

[40] E.g. Evans, , ‘Further Discoveries of the Cretan and Aegean Script’, J.H.S., XVII, 1897, 32795. Cf. Scripta Minoa, 1 (1909).

[41] E.g. Sundwall, J., ‘Der Ursprung der Kretischen Schrift’,Acta Acad. Aboensis: Humaniora, I, 1920, 125 .

[42] Chapouthier, , Les Écritures Minoennes (Ét. Crit., 11), 1930, 9 .

[43] Evans, , Scripta Minoa, 11 (1952), 1 .

[44] As early as Phase A (6th millennium b.c.?) ( Braidwood, R., Excavations in the Plain of Antioch, I (1960), 63 ).

[45] Frankfort, Studies in Early Pottery of the Near East, II (1927), 122 .

[46] Dunand, M., Byblia Grammata (Beirut, 1945), xviii, 40 , esp. no. 30 (FIG. 15). For the succession of phases at Byblos see Dunand, , Revue Biblique, LVII, 1950. 583603 .

[47] Braidwood, , Excavations in the Plain of Antioch, I (1960), 291 , fig. 231>, 2 and 3, 292, fig. 232, i, 2 and 5. Described as potters’ marks. Similar marks occur at Tarsus in E.B. I—II (Goldman, Tarsus, 11, fig. 235, 4s; 256, 291, 292, 248a). Cilician E.B. I may correspond to Syrian Phase G, E.B. II to Phase H in Syria and to Troy I (M. J. Mellink, in Ehrich, , Chronologies (1965), 109).

[48] E.g. E. Porada, in Ehrich, , Chronologies (1965), Chart p. 176, between c. 3100–2900 b.c.; Braidwood, ibid., Chart p. 82, rather after 3000 b.c.

[49] Moorey, P. R. S., Iraq, XXVIII, 1966, 40 .

[50] E.g. Astrom, P., Kretika Khronika, 1961–2, 143, suggests that M.M. I began at earliest c. 1800 b.c.!

[51] Yeivin, S., Israel Exploration Journal, x, 1960, 193203. Oriens Antiquus, 2, 1963, 205 f. But the idea of a destruction is now questioned (ibid., 3, 1964, 5).

[52] S. S. Weinberg, in Ehrich, , Chronologies (1965), Chart p. 13, makes a very long E.M. II period starting shortly after 3000 b.c. But the development of the pottery suggests that E.M. I was a long phase compared with E.M. II.

[53] Annuario Sc. Arch, di Atene, 35–6 (n.s. 19–20), 363.

[54] Evans, , Palace of Minos, 1 (1921), 272 and note 2.

[55] M.M. III according to Chapouthier, Les Ecritures Minoennes (Ét Crét., 11), 1930, 7 .

[56] Dacia, VII, 1963, 487 , fig. 3, 4 and fig. 2, 1 at top (section).

[57] Starinar, n.s. VII-VIII, 1956–7, 34 .

[58] E.g. most recently in Germania, XLIII, 1965, 261 .

[59] V Int. Kongress für Vor-u.Fruhgesch. Hamburg, 1958 (Berlin, 1961), 398403 .

[60] Moorey, , Iraq, XXVIII, 1966, 40 .

[61] See note [33] above.

[62] E.g. Vermeule, E., Greece in the Bronze Age (1961), 41, fig. 6.

[63] Wace, A. J. B. and Thompson, M. S., Prehistoric Thessaly (1912), 90, fig. 43 (signs), fig. 42d (footed dish).

[64] Mellink, M. J., Kadmos, in, 1964, 1–7.

[65] University of Edinburgh, Symposium on Mycenaean Writing, IV, 1966, 7 .

[66] Diringer, , Writing (1962), 17.

[67] Cf. Popovitch, , Rev. Arch., 1965:2, 31.*

[68] Mellink, in Ehrich, Chronologies (1965), 115.

[69] Cf. Popovitch, , Rev. Arch., 1957:1, 141.*

* This article was written before I had seen the important papers by V. Popovi(t)ch, a former pupil of Vassits, on the Vinča culture in Rev. Arch., 1957:1, 129 f. and 2, 6 f., and on the Tartaria tablets in ibid., 1965:2, i f. His views and conclusions are broadly similar to my own, and I have simply added references to his work where they are relevant.

During excavations in 1961 at the prehistoric settlement of Tartaria in the valley of the Maros (Múres) in Romania, three remarkable prehistoric clay tablets were unearthed by Dr N. Vlassa of the Historical Museum at Cluj. These have now been carefully published in the Romanian archaeological journal Dacia, and the Editor of ANTIQUITY invited Mr Sinclair Hood, Director of the British School of Archaeology in Athens from 1954 to 1962, who has always had a special interest in Crete, to discuss the implications of this remarkable find for our readers. It will become clear from Mr Hood's conclusions why one of his suggested titles for his article was the Virgilian: Auri sacra fames?

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Antiquity
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