Southeast Asian language on great x2 grandmother's bracelet

Discussion in 'Other Languages' started by wittyusername, Aug 20, 2013.

  1. wittyusername New Member

    English - USA
    Hello everybody,

    Recently my grandmother showed me a silver bracelet that was given to her by her own grandmother. An unknown script (looks to me like some Brahmic script from Southeast Asia) is depicted in low relief around the entire bracelet. My grandmother doesn't really know how to use the internet very well, so I've tried my best to identify the language (and translate it, if possible) for her.

    Relevant background info:
    - My grandmother is Dutch, born in Indonesia (Surabaya).
    - Her grandmother (presumably the original owner of the bracelet) was also Dutch, born in Indonesia (Dutch New Guinea).
    - We don't know how old the bracelet is, how long my great great grandmother owned it, or if it was passed down to her.

    My own cursory research leads me to believe that the bracelet's writing is some pre-Dutch script of one of Indonesia's regional languages. It bears some resemblance to Javanese and Balinese.

    I've attached the following photos of the bracelet. Please let me know if any additional photos would be helpful. Keep in mind that I might be holding the text upside-down.

    2013-08-07 16.47.53.jpg 2013-08-07 16.48.04.jpg 2013-08-07 16.48.16.jpg 2013-08-07 16.48.31.jpg

    Please feel free to ask me any questions I haven't answered in this post. If anybody can identify the language, it would be very helpful to me. If anybody could translate it, that would be even better. Thanks in advance for any help you can offer. Your assistance will mean a lot to my grandmother, to myself, and to the rest of my family.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2013
  2. Treaty Senior Member

    It seems to be [based on] Arabic script but I can't understand it. The artefact was probably used as an stamp or seal because the writing is mirrored. You need to flip it to be able to read the text.
  3. palomnik Senior Member

    Treaty's right...the writing is backwards.

    And while it's written in Arabic script I'm almost sure that it is not Arabic, and I doubt that it is Farsi, or else Treaty would have had an educated opinion. I don't think it's Urdu either.

    That would leave Malay as the most likely candidate, given where it comes from. Malay is not written in Arabic script now, but it was at the time.
  4. Schem

    Schem Senior Member

    Najdi Arabic
    Wasn't Javanese also written in Arabic script until recently? I could recognize a few letters but I agree that the writing seems to be mirrored.

    Edit: I just actually checked on Wikipedia and the writing looks more Javanese to me than Arabic, although possibly mixed with Arabic letters.
  5. Treaty Senior Member

    There are two combinations (an unconventional ها and a usual لحو) that I couldn't find in Javanese and Balinese fonts (my knowledge of the Indonesian scripts is very limited). However, a crucial problem for my Arabic-based assumption is the total lack of dots on the bracelet. Anyway, if it is an Arabic-based script it may contain the following dotless letters:
    اٮها ساحرا لحورا ٮساها

    To my knowledge, Javanese language did not use Arabic but its own Javanese script. On the other hand, Malay and some other languages has used Jawi alphabet (an Arabic alphabet), and "jawi" also means "Javanese". As for this bracelet, I admit the Javanese solution is also very likely since Surabaya is predominantly a Javanese city.
  6. wittyusername New Member

    English - USA
    Thanks for the help so far, everyone.

    That's very interesting that the writing is mirrored. Treaty's theory about it being used as a seal or stamp makes this even more interesting to me.

    Please continue to add any more information, or even theories, you have regarding the bracelet. While identifying the language is my goal, identifying which languages it isn't is also helpful. Also, does anybody know of any other places I could go to inquire about this (would it violate any forum rules to post these photos in the Arabic and Indo-Iranian subforums)?

    Thank you all again!
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2013
  7. Alfaaz Senior Member

    If this is Arabic script, the following is what was decipherable (very similar to Treaty's answer above). Since dots haven't been inlcuded, it allows for multiple possibilities. It's a very interestingly designed piece!

    اہئا (alif, ha, some dotted letter, alif)
    Either سا seen/sheen + alif or ئئئا two/three consecutive dotted letters with an alif at the end (since the starting line is slightly longer than the others)
    ح/ج/خ + ر + ا/ر ..... seems to be a Ha, but could also be ع or غ
    لح/ج/خ + و/ق/ف
    Either just a ر or ئر (dotted letter with a ra)
    ا or an oddly written ل
    سئا : seen/sheen, dotted letter with a fatHah on it and alif
    ھا with either a fatHah, an oddly written ر, or an oddly written کا

    ئ hamzah was used above to represent dotted letters and some of the ر's above could also be ز's

    As everyone has said, the words aren't clear due to the lack of نقاط / dots. For example, one of the words could be الحور ،الحق، الحقیر، الجفر or something else...!

    Is anything else inscribed on the bracelet (on the inside or edges)?

    Note: Everything above is mere guesswork that could turn out to be completely wrong and the symbols on the bracelet could be in a completely different language!:)
  8. wittyusername New Member

    English - USA
    Since several of you suggested that the script appeared mirrored, I took an impression of the bracelet using Silly Putty in order to mirror the script. Here are two photos, one from each side. I only now realized that both sides of the bracelet are identical.

    bracelthalf1.jpg bracelethalf2.jpg

    I searched careful over the whole bracelet and there is nothing else at all aside from the obvious script around the outside and the floral pattern behind the script.

    Thanks so much for your effort to decipher some of the characters for me. Are you by any chance able to partially translate any of the script?
  9. Mauricet Senior Member

    near Grenoble
    French - France
    Yes, but with an important Madurese-speaking population. Madurese used to be written with the same Arabic-based system as Javanese. An example is displayed here: . Is there any resemblance with the alphabet used on the bracelet?
  10. Treaty Senior Member

    Javanese script is not an Arabic-based system at all. Madurese is also written in Javanese script (not Arabic).

    In the new uploaded pictures the bracelet really looks like an Arabic-based script. The problems are:
    - there are no dots, so we can not construct the real letters unless we know the language.

    - none of the people commented so far are familiar with any Southeast Asian language with either Arabic or Javanese script.

    - anyway, being reportedly found in Indonesia in the hand of a Dutch does not necessarily mean it was issued there. It can be brought there by Dutch or even Portuguese from somewhere else (e.g., East Africa) so we may consider almost all Arabic-script languages.

    - if it is a seal, then we may expect a personal name that makes it even harder to read. Also, a seal specialist may help us to know who, why, when and where used "bracelet" seals (especially in an Islamic culture).
  11. Girilaya New Member

    Javanese, Indonesian
    Those are arabic scripts. Those scripts were written in calligraphic style. It's a very common practice during early periods of islamization of Java. In Surabaya there is an Arab town or arab quarter dated back to 13-14 CE century, so Arabic script has been found around Java since quite long tima ago. Maybe you should ask arabic forum if you want to know what it means. Those scripts could be Arabic written in Arabic script, or Javanese written in Arabic script.

    FYI Javanese has its own script--AKSARA JAWA, literally means Javanese Script--or usually more popular as Hanacaraka. I think it's derived from brahmic script.
    Also, there is another script in Indonesia-Malaysia called HURUF JAWI or Jawi Script, an arabic based script used by Malay--although Jawi means Javanese in high-registered Javanese it has nothing to do with Javanese script or language.
  12. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).

    I don't think the pictures needed mirroring, just a 180 degree rotation. Could you please do that?

    After someone deciphers the writing, we can see if the words are in Arabic (in which case I'll move the thread to the Arabic forum) or just using Arabic alphabet, in which case we can't have it in the Arabic forum.

    Last edited: Oct 18, 2013

Share This Page