(A preliminary report)

(Part 1 of 3)



Copyright © 1997


A stele, an upright gravestone with inscription and sculpture erected at the grave of a deceased person, was found in 1885 at Kaminia on the island of Lemnos in the Aegean Sea. This stele which is dated as having been made in the 6th century B.C., is now in the National Museum in Athens, Greece. A diagram of this stele and its inscription is given in References 1 and 2, [1, p. 51; 2, p. 39]. For the purposes of this study, it is also shown in Figure 1 of this paper. The inscription on this tomb-stone is written in an alphabet similar to some of the alphabets, such as the Chalcidian alphabet [1, p. 44], used at that time in the Hellenic world covering Greece, western parts of Asia minor and the islands in the Aegean Sea. Scholars believe that the language of the inscription on this stele is akin to that of Etruscan (Rasna) Language. The Etruscan language is not known to be an Indo-European language and neither is the language of the inscription written on the Stele from Lemnos. Scholars have not been able to identify the nature of these two languages with any of the known languages so far.

According to Herodotus, the pre-Greek population of the Lemnos island was Pelasgian, a non Indo-European people, and according to Thucydides they were Tyrrhenian [2, p. 38] which makes them kin to Etruscans. The Etruscan people who lived and ruled in the northern and central Italy (Etruria) between about 1000 B.C. and 100 B.C. created a very prominent culture from which the culture of the Roman Empire has heavily borrowed.

The inscription on the tomb-stone has 198 letters forming 40 words. In general, the words of the inscription are separated from each other by two dots and occasionally with one or three dots aligned vertically. However, some very long words seem to be combination of multiple words although they are not marked with separation dots.

H. H. Scullard describes the tomb-stone as follows [2, p.38]: "........ the tomb-stone (stele) of a warrior was discovered in 1885, not dissimilar from that of Avele Feluske of Vetulonia in Etruria (cf. Figs. 1 and 2 and p. 223). It not only shows his head in profile, but also bears two inscriptions in an alphabet which closely resembles that of old Phrygian inscriptions of the seventh century. The language has some analogies with the tongues of Asia Minor, but philologists are in general agreement that both in its morphology and vocabulary it has many similarities with Etruscan. When this document stood alone, it might have been dismissed as the epitaph of a foreigner who was buried in Lemnos, but more recently other short inscriptions have been found on vases, and these show that this was in fact the language spoken on the island before its conquest by the Athenian Miltiades (c. 500 BC). Thus we have a very important document, pointing both to Asia Minor and to Etruria, and it comes from the very island where Thucydides placed the Tyrhenoi. Though it does not afford conclusive proof that 'Lemnian' and Etruscan were the same, or even dialects of the same language, it provides a valuable link for those who accept an eastern origin and suggests that some Etruscans from Asia Minor may have settled in this Aegean island instead of continuing further west. Those who reject an eastern origin have to explain away the similarities of language as due to survival from a hypothetical widespread pre-Indo-European linguistic unit which once occupied a vast area in Italy and the Aegean until it was broken up by the advance of Indo-Europeans: in Italy it was confined to Etruria, while in the Aegean, relics of it were left in Lemnos."

In this study, I have analyzed the inscription on the stele from Lemnos from an Asiatic point of view. I took this approach because during historic times, Eurasia and many parts of the Eastern Europe all the way to the Balkan Peninsula have been inhabited by Central Asiatic peoples at some time or another. In most cases, they are known to be the Turkic peoples from Central Asia who spoke an archaic Turkic language. There is no reason that the very same land masses should not have been similarly inhabited by the Central Asiatic peoples during the pre-historic times. In fact, it is highly probable that the pre-historic people of Europe were more Central Asiatic in origin than the Indo-European speaking Mediterranean people. After studying the Lemnos inscription, I am convinced by my findings that the language in which this inscription was written is indeed related to Turkic languages. My analyses regarding the reading of the inscription are given below.


The inscription consists of two vertically and one horizontally written parts. Text in each part seem to be similar in meaning to each other. This is indicated by the fact that a number of words are used in the same way in each part of the inscription, though with minor differences which will be discussed in detail in the body of this paper. The three parts, indicated as Text No. 1, 2 and 3 in this paper, Figure 2, also seem to be dialects of one main language, but influenced by Greek language endings particularly in Text No. 3.

Although, the inscription on the stele seems to have been written in the Chalcidian type alphabet, it differs from this alphabet in some aspects. My proposed alphabet for this inscription is given in Table I. In Figure 2, I have the inscription reproduced word by word, in a way similar to its original written format, the corresponding transcription of the words in Latin characters and the meaning of the recognizable words, using the alphabet that I have charted in Table I. I have numbered the words of the inscription from 1 to 40 in order to facilitate comparison. In addition to this numbering, I have sub numbered the word Nos. 16, 21, 24, 25, 27, 37 and 38 as a) and b) although there is no separation shown in these words in the inscription.

The words No. 1 to 11 are written vertically in three lines on the face of the stele. One of the lines is written behind the head and the other two lines are between the face of the man and the spear that he is holding in his hand. I call this text of three lines as Text No. 1. Words in each line of this text are to be read from right-to-left direction as is the case in Etruscan.

Words No. 12 to 22 are written horizontally on the face of the stele above the head of the pictured man. I have named this part of the inscription as Text No. 2. This text constitutes five lines.

In this part of the inscription, there is a mixed right-to-left and left-to-right writing arrangement used by the scriber. Most likely, it is meant to be read bustrophedon (i.e., 'as the ox plows'). In this text, while word No. 12 needs to be read from right-to-left, word Nos. 13 to 19 must be read from left-to-right. Again, while word Nos. 20 to 21 must be read from right-to-left, the word No. 22 must be read from left-to-right direction. The double-dot word separators used in the inscription help in determining the direction of the reading.

The third set of words, word numbers 23 to 40 which I call Text No. 3, are written vertically on the side of the stele in three lines two of which are aligned in one way while the third one is upside down with respect to the other two. Again, these three lines were also meant to be read bustrophedon by the scriber. I consider the first line of this text the line which is next to the main frame of the stele. I have indicated this line as Text 3, Line No. 1. The base for this assumption is the fact that this line also starts with the name of the deceased man. The name of the deceased man also appears in Text No. 1 , i.e., the word No. 1. To read the first line of Text 3, one needs to turn the page 90 degrees clock wise from the portrait position and in order to read the remaining two lines, one needs to turn the page 90 degrees counter clock wise from the portrait position. Hence the middle line becomes the Text No.3 Line 2 and must be read from right-to-left direction while the last line becomes Text No.3 Line 3 and must be read from left-to-right direction with one exception of the word No 38a.

Since word No. 35 in Text No. 3 is the same as the word No. 22 in Text No. 2, it must also be read in a similar manner.

The Lemnos island inscription seems to have considerable amount of features in common with the Turkic Orhun and Yenisei inscriptions of Central Asia. For example: a) right to left reading of the written text, b) separation of words from each other in general with two dots, c) style of composing the text of the inscription.

It should also be noted that vowels are not always present in the words of Lemnos inscription and proper vowels must be filled in to read the words. This feature is also similar to that of the Turkic inscriptions of Central Asia. In Turkic languages, the vowel harmony rule helps to fill in the missing vowels. Because of this Turkic languistic rule, in the transcription given below, the upper case letters represent the original lettering present in the inscription and the lower case vowels represent the filled-in vowels. In the Turkish transcription (shown as Turkish below), some of the -s endings, which probably were due to Hellenic influence, of some words were removed. Translation in English (Eng.) is also shown below. Words whose meanings are not clear to me at this time are marked with a (?) mark.

The detailed analyses of the this inscription, the alphabet used, the words in their original ancient lettering and all the reasons for reading the inscription the way that I have read are given in a report entitled "A Study of the Lemnos Island Inscription (A preliminary report)", identified with ISBN 0-9696949-3-8.

Thus, in view of above described considerations, I have the following transcription and reading of the Lemnos Island inscription in Latin alphabet:


Text 1 transcription:


[Hatapase : i : anaapatata aker: takariste qam . apa . ançasap : ierata anasamata eresenasap ]

Turkish : Hatapasa : iy : anaapa tata ak er : takariste kam . apa . ançasap : iy erata anam atasi er esen asap

Eng.: Hatapasa : O grandfather honest man : Thracian? shaman .father. thus lays? : O brave father my mother's

father sound thinking? man

Text 2 transcription:


[ançasais : qam : i . apam : ançasap içekesi.i : aqas : ieqisençtata ierata anasata isaqas]

Turkish : ança SAIS [= Sayas, Ais, Ak Ayas, Tengri, Zeus, Ajax] : kam : iy apam : boylece yatip? iç akasi .

iy : aga : iy ekesenç [=ikiz?] tata [=dede] iy er ata anaata iy Saka

Eng.: thus Sais [=Ais, Zeus, Ajax] : shaman : O my father : thus laid? local's gentleman [=local's elderman] .

O : Lord : O twins? grandfather O brave father my mother's father O Saka

Text 3, line 1 transcription:


[Hatapasaqis : apatakas ançasape : ierata iasata : eqesenç tata : tataqer atana]

Turkish : Hatapasa : apataka? boylece yatip? : iy er ata iy as [us, akilli] ata : eqesenç [=ikiz?] tata [=dede] :

tatak [atak?] er ata ana

Eng.: Hatapasakis : apataka=? thus laid? : O brave father O wise father : twins? grandfather : fearless? man father mother

Text 3, line 2 transcription:

eRaTaM : HARAPaSaTa : ISAQAS : EPeTeISTe : ARAS : TaS 50? : aPaTaKE :

[eratam : Harapasata : isaqas : epeteiste : aras : tas 50? : apatake :]

Turkish : er atam : Harapas [falci] ata : iy Saqa : Epeteiste : aras?: tas [=yas] 50?: apatake? :

Eng.: my brave father : haraspex father : O Saka : Epeteiste : aras=? : age 50? : apatake=? :

Text 3, line 3 transcription:


[isaqas : aqasi : ançasap içekesi : apam kam : aqasi : atamas]

Turkish : iy Saqa : agasi (beyi) : boylece yatip? içekesi[=yerin olgun kisisi]: apam kam : agasi : atama

Eng.: O Saka : Lord : thus laid? local's gentlman [local's elderman]: my father shaman : Lord : to my father


Text No.1

Transcription ...../..... Turkish Definition .....//..... English definitions

1. HaTaPASE : ...../..... Hatapasa .....//..... [Hatapasa, name of deceased man] :

2. I : ...../..... i (=iy) : .....//..... [O] :

3. aNAaPaTaTa ...../..... anaapa tata [=dede].....//..... [grand father (from mother's side)]

4. AKER : ...../..... ak er : .....//..... [honest man; flawless man] :

5. TAKARISTe ...../..... takariste .....//..... [=Possibly ancient name of Thrace]

NOTE : probably Takariste > Takar + ia? >> Tarak + ia? > Trakya]; [-iste (=-ia?) indicative of a place]

6. QAM . ...../..... kam . .....//..... [shaman] .

7. APA . ...../..... apa . .....//..... [father] .

8. aNÇaSAP : ...../..... ançasap (=böylece yatip?):.....//..... [thus he is dead or laid?] :

9. IERaTa . ...../..... i (=iy) er ata . .....//..... [oh brave father] .

10. aNASaMaTa ...../..... anam ata(=anamin atasi) .....//..... [my mother's father]

11. eRSeNASaP ...../..... er sen asap (=ölüp?) .....//..... [you brave man died?]

Text No. 2

12. aNÇaSAIS : ...../..... ança Sayas {Sayas(Sais=Ak Ayas, Tengri)} : .....//..... [here Sais(=Ais, Zeus)] :

13. QAM : ...../..... kam : .....//..... [shaman] :

14. I . ...../..... i (iy) . .....//..... [O] .

15. APAM : ...../..... apam : .....//..... [my father] :

16a. aNÇaSAP ...../..... ançasap (=böylece yatip?) .....//..... [thus laid?]

16b. iÇeKeSi . ...../..... içekesi (=yerin efendisi; yerin olgun kisisi) . .....//..... [local's gentleman; local's elderman] .

17. I : ...../..... i (=iy) : .....//..... [O] :

18. AQaS : ...../..... aka (=aga, bey) : .....//..... [lord] :

19. I ...../..... i (=iy) .....//..... [O]

20. eQiSeNÇTaTa: ...../..... ekisenç (=ikiz?) tata: {tata (=dede)} .....//..... [twins? grandfather] :

21a. IERaTa ...../..... i (=iy) er ata .....//..... [O brave father]

21b. aNASaTa ...../..... anaata .....//..... [mother's father]

22. ISaQAS ...../..... i (=iy) Saka .....//..... [O Saka! (Scyth as called by Greeks)]

Text No.3, line 1

23. HaTaPASaQIS: ...../..... Hatapasa : .....//..... [Hatapasakis, name of the deceased man]:

24a. aPaTaKaS ...../..... apaataka (?) .....//..... [apaatakas= ? ]

24b. ANÇaSAPE : ...../..... ançasape (=boylece yatip?): .....//..... [thus he is dead?] :

25a. IERaTa ...../..... i (=iy) er ata .....//..... [O brave father]

25b. IASaTa : ...../..... i(=iy) as (=us,akilli) ata : .....//..... [O wise father] :

26 EQeSeNÇTATA : ...../..... ekesenç tata {(=ikiz? dede)} .....//..... [one of a twins? father]

27a. TaTaQER ...../..... tatak (=atak?) er .....//..... [fearless? man]

27b. aTaNA ...../..... ata, ana .....//..... [father, mother]

Text No.3, line 2

28. eRaTaM : ...../..... er atam : .....//..... [my brave father] :

29. HARAPaS aTa : ...../..... Harapas(=falci) ata : .....//..... [Haraspex (=diviner) father] :

30. ISAQAS : ...../..... i (=iy) Saka : .....//..... [O Saka] :

31. ePeTeISTe : ...../..... Epeteiste (birth place) : .....//..... [Town of Hephaistia in Lemnos island] :

32. ARAS : ...../..... aras (=?) : .....//..... [aras=?] :

33. TaS 50? : ...../..... tas (=yas) 50? : .....//..... [at the age of 50?] :

34. aPaTaKE : ...../..... apatake (=?) : .....//..... [apatake =?] :

Text No.3, line 3

35. ISaQAS : ...../..... i (=iy) Saka : .....//..... [O Saka] :

36. AQaSI : ...../..... akasi (=agasi, beyi) : .....//..... [Lord] :

37a. aNÇaSAP ...../..... ançasap (=burada yatip?) .....//..... [here lies?]

37b. iÇeKeSI : ...../..... içekesi (=yerin efendisi, olgun kisisi) .....//..... [local's gentleman; local's elderman] :

38a. APAM ...../..... apam .....//..... [my father]

38b. KaM : ...../..... kam : .....//..... [shaman] :

39. AQaSI : ...../..... akasi (=agasi) : .....//..... [Lord] :

40. ATaMAS ...../..... atama .....//..... [to my father]

END OF PART 1 of 3


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Lemnos Island Inscription graphics: