Old Kurdish Alphabet: Identification

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Phosphorus, Jul 25, 2013.

  1. Phosphorus Senior Member


    I recently came across an allegedly ancient Kurdish alphabet. Evidently the notorious Islamic scholar, Ibn Wahshiyya, has recorded it within one of his works on ancient alphabets. Some of its characters resemble Aramaic letters in a way or another, but in general it sounds completely distinct. Here is the link for this work in Arabic, and here lies this script with its contemporary Latin Kurdish equivalent.

    Ibn Wahshiyya asserts that he has seen at least 30 Kurdish books written in this alphabet, in Baghdad (out of which he translates two into Arabic "for the benefit of mankind"). I wonder what might be the possible origin of this strange alphabet? To me, it clearly does not belong to the same group as other Semitic alphabets. Does anybody have any idea what could be the origin of this alphabet?

    Thanks in advance.

  2. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    This, like most (but not all) of the scripts in this book, is the product of someone’s imagination.
  3. Phosphorus Senior Member

    Do you mean Ibn Wahshiyya has made up those scripts? Has it been confirmed that either of them are fake? Although most of the scripts appear sorts of weird, but I think one cannot easily underestimate Ibn Wahshiyya specifically due to his achievements in identification of ancient scripts (particularly ancient Egyptian script)-what could be the reason for making up so many imaginary scripts, claiming there are 30 books written in one of them in Baghdad and even attributing two-by that time-scholarly books to such an imaginary script?
  4. Treaty Senior Member

    Consider two other possibilities:
    - someone, knowing his eager for ancient writings, has forged some books or pieces and sold to him.
    - only a portion of this book is authored by him. The rest is additions of later alchemists.

    In the same page he says "thirty book"s, he also mentions "in the treasury of Abd ul-Malik bin Marvan". Consider that Abd ul-Malik had died 100 years before him and the Umayyid dynasty had long gone in his time.
  5. Phosphorus Senior Member

    Well it is really incredible to assume that someone has made up not only one but a couple of fake scripts and has also managed to write down various books in them and then selling them to the most notorious expert of their time, namely Ibn Wahshiyya, so simply.

    Not all the book is dedicated to alchemy, specially the pages on the so-called Kurdish script rather sound scientific (in its medieval sense) than alchemic. Possibilities without supporting proofs are just far fetched notions.

    I too felt that the given script might be fake (perhaps something such as the scripts within Necronomicon), but I just want to make sure in a convincing manner. Since Ibn Wahshiyya, to my knowledge, is a reliable source.

    Sorry I am not sure what is your point over here. My Arabic is not really good but I think the indication of the aforesaid royal treasury refers to the fact that Ibn Wahshiyya dedicates those two books-which he had translated from Kurdish into Arabic-to that treasury. Please correct if I am wrong.
  6. Treaty Senior Member

    Forgery is itself an expertise. Whenever there was a boom for such crypto-historical studies, forgers flourished (supply and demand, I guess). In terms of script forgery, we have examples like Islam Akhun (late 1800s). In addition, alchemists came across forgers frequently in history (Akhun also claimed alchemy wisdom).

    This is the exact problem. How could he dedicate it to a treasury which didn't exist? He seemed to live around 250 A.H. while Umayyid treasury was sacked in 140 A.H. by Abbassids. In addition, such a claim usually means that Abd ul-Malik was the Caliph (~100 A.H.) at the time of writing this script.
  7. Phosphorus Senior Member

    Due to Ibn Wahshiyyah's rather tremendous achievements in terms of deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs-though partially, I was given to credit this notorious Muslim scholar. But bearing in mind the anachronism you mentioned above I researched about Ibn Wahshiyya and eventually it turns out that he may never existed or at least there are a significant number of works, attributed to him, which actually are originally written or translated by other people after or even before his time.

    Thus it is currently safe to consider the given Kurdish alphabet in that book as "the product of someone's imagination"-as professor pointed out earlier.
  8. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    The author (whoever he was) had obvisously seen real Egyptian hieroglyphs, but his “decipherment” is just a wild guess. A couple of the alphabets are genuine (e.g. Hebrew, Greek, Syriac), but most are fictitious. This mixture of reality and phantasy is typical of books on magic and arcane wisdom.
  9. Znertu New Member

    After roaming the internet for more opinions on this text, I stumbled upon this thread. So now I have to ask, could there be any way of finding out whether it's a forgery or not? Could the book still be in existence?

    I must say, it had occurred to me that it could be a fake, but I found it hard to believe that an Arab scholar of that era would do any of the kind, nor an Orientalist of the 19th century. Reading your arguments, it does seem likely though.

    One thing to note though is that the translation allegedly does not fully correspond with the 'original' text, so it's unlikely the forgery was done by Joseph Hammer-Purgstall himself, unless he deliberately mistranslated part of the text to make it believable. (human error)

  10. Treaty Senior Member

    We have already concluded that the other possibility (later additions to the "original" book) is more likely. Basically, the book we see is for 1700s not 900s. We don't know what had happened in that 800-year gap.
  11. Znertu New Member

    I see, thank you.

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