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The Bronze Age Alphabets




        The Bonze Age alphabets enable an examination of the famous Bronze Age sites where rock-cut inscriptions are preserved (Fell 1982).  One famous site occurs at Hjulatorp, Sweden, the name meaning "Wheel Village."  There exist numerous Neolithic or early Bronze Age rock carvings that resemble chariot wheels and others that look like disks or globes (Figs. 3).  Fell (1982) who discussed the significance of this site is reviewed as follows (some terminology updated):


         Now examine the fernlike inscription on the lower part of the rock face, beneath some circular carvings.  You will have little difficulty in recognizing this as ogam consain, and that the letters are as shown on     Fig 3.  They spell K-UI-G-L, which, as all Nordic- and German-speaking readers will immediately recognize, is just an archaic way of spelling the general Teutonic root that means a ball or globe.  Glance now to the upper right, where, beside the same circular images, we now find a series of engraved dots that match letters in the Tifinag alphabet.  The letters are, as shown in Fig. 4, K-G-L--, again, just an archaic rendering of the same word, this time in a different alphabet.  There are more of the Tifinag letters.  Look at the chariot wheels ... in Fig. 5.  Beneath them are letters that spell W-H-L-A, obviously an archaic spelling of the Old Norse word for wheel.  Farther to the right we find a Tifinag word spelling K-L.  Now the writer of that last word may have been an ancient Swede, already casting out from his pronunciation of kugl that internal g, for whereas Danes and Germans retain the internal consonant, the Swedes now spell and pronounce kugl as kula.


         But, you say, there is not supposed to be any writing at all on these Bronze Age monuments!  Well, that is not now my opinion, and I suspect it is beginning to occur to you that perhaps our earlier ideas may have erred on these matters.  Now let us take a look at another Bronze Age carving, first recorded by Dr. G. Halldin in the 1949 volume of the yearbook published by the Swedish Sjöfartsmuseum.  It shows a ship of the characteristic Bronze Age form, with the keel projecting fore and aft below the upward-turned bow and stern pieces.  Along the upper and lower borders of the ....ship (Fig. 6a) we see two lines of Tifinag letters, and a third line curves around the lower edge of the rock slab.  In the Bronze Age (and also among the Berbers in modern times), when two or more lines of text occur, they are read as if they were a continuous "tape:": that is, with each line alternating in direction, so that no break occurs in the line of symbols.  Here we read the top line from left to right, the next line from right to left.  The letters prove to be K-GH H-W-L.  Now take a glance at an American rock inscription, also depicting ships of the Bronze Age type  (Fig. 6b).  This particular carving, at Peterborough, Ontario, can be visited easily by Canadians living in that area, whom I now invite to join us.  As can be seen, the letters K-GH occur at the beginning of the first line, too, which also is to be read from the left to right, just as in the Swedish example.  Reference to any Old Norse or Old Icelandic dictionary will disclose that kuggr, often anglicized in Viking times as cog, is an Old Norse word meaning a seagoing trading ship.  On the Swedish example the next word, H-WL, can readily be recognized, since it still occurs in all Nordic tongues, as meaning whale, or, in the older sense, any sea monster or leviathan.  Thus the Swedish example is telling us that the monument is dedicated to The seagoing ship Leviathan.  As for the Canadian examples, merely note that kuggr is only one of several Old Norse words for ships that we find represented by Tifinag letters beside carvings of Bronze Age ships.


         Returning to Sweden, we now visit at Backa, Brastad, another site, considered by Swedish archaeologists, to be Neolithic (around 2000 BC).  The word baca does not occur in modern speech, but in Old Norse it meant, according to my Oxford Dictionary of Old Icelandic, a kind of blunt-headed arrow.  The rock inscription that occurs at Baca depicts just such a blunt-headed arrow, together with an image of the sun god and human figure, apparently dead, plus some letters of the Tifinag alphabet (Fig. 7 ).  These, if read from right to left, yield the words S-L B-K-S, solbakkas, translating as of the sun's blunt arrow.  The precise reference may be obscure, but it seems clear enough that the letters are indeed Tifinag, and that the subject under discussion is indeed the blunt arrow that is depicted below the letters and that gave its name to the place where the inscription occurs.


         The examples cited so far come from the eastern parts of Sweden and comprise very simple texts, using only a few letters of the Tifinag alphabet.  If we transfer our attention to the rock inscriptions found on the southwest coast of Sweden, immediately adjacent to Oslo Fjord and along the strip of coast to the north of Göteborg, we find much more extensive and varied inscriptions at localities in the Bohuslän region.  Here the texts are longer and more interesting and, in many cases, they show the same obvious relationship to the accompanying carvings of men, animals, and ships.  What have hitherto been incomprehensible "lines of dots" now assume quite clearly and unmistakably the character of commentaries in a very ancient kind of Norse language that was evidently spoken during the Bronze Age.  Since there was at that time no differentiation of the ancestors of the future Angles and Saxons from the general stock of Teutonic speakers that later gave rise to the tribes that spread from Denmark to England, I shall use here the terms Nordic and Ancient Nordic for the language that is represented in these Bronze Age inscriptions.  it is my impression that English, German, and other Teutonic languages, including the Norse or Scandinavian tongues, may all be traced back to the Bronze Age dialect that is the subject of this [section].


       The inscriptions in western Sweden seem to fall broadly into three main categories.  These are (1) short didactic statements that appear to be school lessons for young scribes, very much resembling the –Norse—(reported as Celtic) school inscriptions from British Columbia in my book Saga America;  (2) Prayers for the safety of ships at sea and for victory in impending attacks upon foes, and (3), narrative material depicting and identifying important events, such as the pagan festivals with their associated rituals and entertainments.    In deciphering these Tifnag texts, from which the vowels, of course, are usually lacking, I hve used as my reference the known vocabulary of Old Norse and Old Icelandic.  However, in many cases dialects such as Old English or Old High German, could equally well be used as the reference guide, with the same translation resulting, and with little more than the substituted vowels to distinguish the various dialects.  Since the vowels are lacking we are left without any certain indication as to which of the Old Teutonic tongues is the closest to the speech of these ancient Nordic people, and it is possible that all are equally related, as I suggest above.  But to provide a uniform nominal vocabulary I select Old Norse or Old Icelandic as the base.


The Language of The Bronze Age People


       The English language is a member of the Teutonic family of tongues, to which belong also German and the Scandinavian languages.  Until now the oldest examples of Teutonic language have been short runic texts from about the time of Christ.


       King Woden-lithi's written version of his own tongue [at Peterborough, Ontario, Canada] has given us the first decipherable information on how our ancestors spoke 4,000 years ago.  With the aid of his American inscription, the fragmentary related inscriptions in the same alphabet, found in Scandinavia, can now also be deciphered, and they prove to be the same language as Woden-lithi's, or nearly so.  Also, aided by this new information, we can now begin to solve the late Stone Age hieroglyphic rebus inscriptions.  Adding these Neolithic forms to the alphabetic versions given us by Woden-lithi, one can now list some of the basic vocabulary of the Bronze Age Teutonic peoples.   The list made from the above sources was provided by Fell (1982) in Table 4a, 4b, 4c, 4d, 4e.  Words inferred from a Neolithic rebus are prefixed with an asterisk (*).


       Pronunciation.-- King Woden-lithi's language was evidently pronounced with a strong pervading aspiration.  Initial r is probably hr.  Two signs for r appear in his alphabet.  One of them is apparently to be rendered as -ar, or -or.  The sign for d seems always to occur in words where Old Norse has, a letter that also occurs in Old English; its sound is the th in words like this, then.  The letter t appears in both unaspirated and aspirated forms.  The aspirated form, here rendered as th, is to be pronounced as th in with.


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