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A New Interpretation of the Phoenician Graffito from Holt, Denbighshire

  • T. W. Thacker and R. P. Wright

Extract

The graffiti from the tilery and pottery which the Twentieth Legion maintained at Holt, Denbighshire, included one which Professor A. Guillaume acutely recognised as written in neo-Punic script. He rendered the text as M‘QR YTN (or M‘QR YNA) that is “Ma‘qar, (son of) Yathanbaal (or Yathanmilk)”. But a close study of the graffito, undertaken by the first-named writer of this note in conjunction with Professor H. F. D. Sparks, has shown that Professor Guillaume's alternative reading is to be preferred, and may be expressed as M‘QRYN’. The second and seventh letters, here transcribed as rough and smooth breathing respectively, represent the vowels, in this case, of a Latin word. The third letter will represent hard c, as Q (qoph) is often used to transcribe this sound in non-Semitic words. The fifth letter (yodh) would stand for long i. From the photograph the exact form of the final letter (aleph) is not clear, but can be seen by close inspection. The evidence, however, of the drawing (here given as Figure 1) was confirmed by a squeeze and shows how the straight stroke not only touches but actually intersects the other stroke and thus forms a cross with terminal hook, which was a common neo-Punic form of aleph.

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1 Grimes, , Holt: the works-depot of the Twentieth Legion at Castle Lyons, (= Y Cymmroder xli (1930) 133 no. 26).

2 Iraq, Vol. VII, p. 67, Plate V. The sherd is in the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff. The graffito was cut, after firing, on the wall of a bowl of coarse red ware of large diameter.

3 Cooke, , North Semitic Inscr. 140 shows that ‘ayin could render short a, and ’aleph long o or long u.

4 Guillaume, loc. cit.

5 Made from the tile itself by the second-named writer for inclusion in Collingwood and Wright, The Roman Inscriptions of Britain.

6 Lidzbarski, , Handbuch der nordsemitischen Epigraphik ii, Plate XLIV, col. 25.

7 Professor G. R. Driver cited these and similar instances. See Friedrich, in Festschrift Eissfeldt (1947), 120 f.

8 Friedrich, op. cit., 116.

9 Ephemeris Epigr. IX. 1272; Grimes, 52, 142.

10 As pointed out by Mr. Eric Birley, who cites two inscriptions which cannot date earlier than the reign of Septimius Severus, (a) Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum VIII, 5180, 17266, the tombstone of a soldier who died in Africa after serving in the Sixth Legion at York, and (b) C.I.L. VIII, 2080, 27966, a tombstone erected in Africa to the sister of Julius Victor, who had served with the Twentieth Legion at Chester.

11 On orthographic grounds the termination of the name which has been taken as a masculine could, with less probability, be regarded as a feminine name, Macrina. While this is much less likely, the possibility should be mentioned.

A New Interpretation of the Phoenician Graffito from Holt, Denbighshire

  • T. W. Thacker and R. P. Wright

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