Discussion of Transcription
ZN / MRDN / KHLM / NBND / MLK / BBL / ATOT
MA'A / RB / SRS / KET / YA'ANM / BFLT / TLO / BDT / LA'AQ
Zan (this) Merdan khalm (friend)
nabend (Nabonadis) malik Bbl (Babel) atot ma rab sars ket
(because) ya'nam (shepherd) be (in) falat tlo badat (name
of a place) la'aq.
Written into a boulder on a mountain, this inscription consists
of three lines. It was written by engraving from the right
to the left. There are several possible interpretations of
this inscription. One is that the writer escorted Merdan who
was Nabonad's friend, and he (the writer) lived on that desert
and for that reason he documented his escorting Merdan. Another
possibility is that the writer had heard the story of Merdan
and his friend. A third possibility is that the writer was
one of the servants of Nabonadis during his stay in that place,
and he memorialized Nabonadis's visit to that location.
The inscription discussed here dates to the middle of the
6th century BC.
Though the translation or interpretation that can be presented
here is necessarily only partial, the following discussion
of the text's component parts will provide a flavor of the
on-going efforts to decipher meaningful translations from
many ancient inscriptions like this one. From a comparative
study of such meaningful fragments of texts, epigraphers attempt
to decipher each inscription.
ZN: this. This first use of this word is found in the early
MRDN: Merdan, a person's name.
As a verb, this word means "continue" or "cut."
As an adjective, it means beardless.
KHLM: a person's name.
It is found in other inscriptions as well. It means "friend"
(noun). As a verb, it means "accompany" or "choose."
NBND: Naboneed, the Babylonian King.
He is the last Chaldean king in Babel. He stayed at Taima'a
in the northwestern Arabian Peninsula for ten years before
he was killed by Goresh.
BBL: Babel, (Babylonian). A place name.
ATOT: come, stable walk or speed, arrive at the end, or pass
RB SRS: person's name
YA'ANM: to shepherd, to herd sheep (as a verb). As a noun,
it means a tree with soft branches
FLT: a place name. This term also means a desert which has
no water or people.
TLO: nearby (or) coming after.
BDT: a place name. This may refer to the valley near Aylah,
Wadi Al-qura, or Athra in Al-sham. It may also refer to a
place in southwestern Taima, still called this today.
LA'AQ: a person's name. As a verb, it means to lick. It may
also means medicine, honey, or a careful person.