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Written in Stone
Written In Stone: Pre-Islamic Period Inscriptions
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Lihyanite (3)

Engraved from right to left.

Zn mrdn khlm nbnd mlk bbl atot ma'a rb
Srs ket ya'anm bflt tlo bdt la'aq

(Incoplete) Transliteration/Translation
Zan (this) Merdan khalm (friend)
nabend (Nabonadis) malik (King)
Bbl (Babel)
atot ma rab sars ket (because)
ya'nam (shepherd) be (in)
falat tlo badat (name of a place)

fig13 color
fig13 b&w fig13 drawing
Marker commemorating an event
1m x 1.5m
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Discussion of Transcription


(Incomplete) Transliteration/Translation

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 Lehyanite writings.

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.

MLK: king.

BBL: Babel, (Babylonian). A place name.

ATOT: come, stable walk or speed, arrive at the end, or pass through.

MA'A: with.

RB SRS: person's name

KET: because

YA'ANM: to shepherd, to herd sheep (as a verb). As a noun, it means a tree with soft branches

B: in

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.

Pre-Islamic Exhibit: Origin & Develpment | Thamudic | Lihyanite | Safaitic | Musnad al Janubi
Islamic Exhibit: Islamic Period | Kufi 1 | Kufi 2 | Naskh
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