Unknown language: script on ring

Mcparland

New Member
English - American
Hi, we found this ring at our home in the ground while renovating. The house is in the US, dates to 1840's but the property was active from 1675. We can't make out the language but, to me it looks Hebrew. Sorry, it may be upside down.. :(
Any help translating would greatly be appreciated!
 

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  • Mcparland

    New Member
    English - American
    Thank you Sardokan1.0! I think you're correct! Is there a forum that this thread can be moved to (Sanskrit or Tibetan) that can help translate? Or point to a meaning since what I'm finding says that some of the montras can't be translated directly..
     

    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    This definitely belongs in the Indo-Iranian section. The letters are some flavor of Brahmic (a category of multiple writing systems descended from Brahmi), with a mix of old and young traits that I can't pin down to any single specific writing system at a single specific place & time. For example, connecting everything with a bar across the top (yes, the pictures where the bar appears to be on the bottom were upside-down) is a Nāgarī/Devanāgarī trait, but the clearest give-away letter shapes are quite different from their Nāgarī/Devanāgarī form(s), and more like those of older alphabets. This looks like it would put the origin of the ring's writing system in the late first millennium BCE, somewhere around a dozen centuries ago. (The ring could have been made later, but the later it was made, the longer the writing style would need to have been retained in this early transitional state.)

    The fifth symbol out of six (image 1376), with a hook extending to the left from a vertical stroke and pointing down, immediately jumped out at me as a dead ringer for "La" in the Gupta alphabet, and also matches "La" in some other alphabets that are related to it. (The Wikipedia article on Gupta includes images showing how it compares with some others.) But, in Nāgarī & Devanāgarī, the horizontal segment's attachment point has migrated up and curved down (ल). The ring's first symbol, with three vertical strokes connected to each other across the bottom and pointing up from there (image 1372), is a practically perfect match for "ya" in some older alphabets, although a bit weaker in Gupta because of how Gupta curled the left vertical element, but Nāgarī & Devanāgarī don't have three upright strokes like that for "ya" at all anymore (य). Another possibility there might be "gʰa", but the middle vertical element being taller than the others and the left element having no bar on top indicate "ya" to me. The second and fourth letters (images 1373 & 1375) at first looked to me like halfway points in the evolution from some Gupta-related form to the Devanāgarī form for the letters "sa" (स) and "pa" (प).

    The Tibetan alphabet neatly solves those two symbols on the ring because they're practically perfect matches for the same Tibetan letters ( and ), and Tibetan also still retains something closer to the older Gupta-like three-point "ya" () and a "La" with the older lower attachment point and straighter, closer-to-horizontal connecting segment (). So the closest single standard system, for each of the four easiest letters, seems to be Tibetan.


    The two remaining letters don't so perfectly fit any system I know of; they would need to have been distorted, or horizontally flipped, or gained or lost some components, no matter which letter of which alphabet you compare them with. Leaving those spots blank, the Tibetan comparison gives us ཡས-ེཔལ-, phonetically "yasa_epala_a". (The mark above the line over the third one changes the vowel from the default "a" to "e".) The nearest option for the third letter in Tibetan seems to be "ña" (), which would need to be flipped backward but almost no other changes, although "ta" () and "ha" () come in close second & third with exactly the same main needed alteration. Those last two also happen to be the best two matches, without flipping, for the final letter. Putting all of this together gives me ཡསཉེཔལཧ "yasañepalaha" as the most likely intended spelling.


    Finding what language that's in or what it means is another matter...

    Keep in mind that an alphabet that seems to be related to the Tibetan alphabet would have probably also been used for other nearby languages, not just the Tibetan language. And I don't know where to get potential translations for all of the candidate languages or even a list of the languages in that area which could have used such an alphabet. But I was able to check possible translations in Nepali by just replacing the Tibetan letters above with their equivalents in the alphabet Nepali uses now: Devanāgarī: यसञेपलह. And that, in exactly that form, turns out to be gibberish to Nepali. But inserting spaces to get यस ञेपल ह "yasa ñepala ha" brought it close enough to a real sentence that Google Translate suggested an alternative that it thought I might have intended, so I was able to rework it and find that "Yasa Nepāla ho" (यस नेपाल हो) means "This is Nepal". So maybe "Yasa Ñepala ha" is what that sentence would have sounded like, late in the first millennium, and the ring expresses a political or patriotic sentiment... or maybe it's just a coincidence.
     
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    Mcparland

    New Member
    English - American
    Delvo,

    Words can't express (pun intended or not) how thankful I am for your response. It's seldom I'm awe struck by individuals who have clearly found their calling in life. You're one of those individuals who have rendered me speechless (pun). You clearly have a love and passion for language that shows in your well thought out and thought provoking response.. Thank You for sharing your thoughts and expertise.
     
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