Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Deir Alla Corpus

(This is from my comment (below) regarding the third (astronomically-themed (?) inscription):

Finally, cNT-NR might not be taken as a reference to Anat, but rather perhaps as 'furrow' as in Ugaritic - with recognition that this dialect is not, strictly, formalized Aramaic.

Then the entire translation of III would read:

“He is Nasi-Salmu (My Hawk is Salmu), the Chief of Saran; the Raiser(?)-of-Fire
Has softened the Furrows-of-Fire; the Hook-of-Fire has been hardened
By the Light.”)

This is a relatively short paper hopefully for submission to BASOR on the tiny Deir Alla corpus of three inscribed clay seals, two of which are dotted.  It is unfinished as can be seen in my use of XXX instead of citations in a few cases.

Hatarūnī, a Dialect of Northwest Semitic:
New Readings and Translations of Inscribed Alphabetic Clay Seals from Deir cAlla

This is a new proposal to read three inscribed clay tablets from Deir cAlla dating from before 1200 BC.  They occur as several generations of abjadic writing, known so far only in these three inscriptions.  There are essentially two substrate script trends, both of which are relatively unique.  The earlier is distantly related to late Proto-Sinaitic, but also offers clues to the origination of the later North Arabian scripts.  The later exhibits paleographic features suggesting increased contact of Proto-Canaanite.  Of particular interest are likely recordings of a solar eclipse, and the expansion of the range of attested Northwest Semitic dialects.


This is a new proposal to read three inscribed clay tablets from Deir cAlla (Deir Alla) as Northwest Semitic inscriptions, distinctly influenced by Northeast Semitic.  The later relatives of this script are attested, at present, only much later beginning in the late 2nd millennium BC at the earliest, but really in the late centuries BC and early centuries AD.[1]  Moreover the languages of those later scripts are not closely related to the languages of the Deir Alla inscriptions.
Thus these inscriptions may evidence a much earlier incubating paleographic trend, not currently well-known, that impacted the development of later North Arabian scripts.  The texts expand the attested range of Northwest Semitic.  The name ‘Hatarūn’ occurs apparently in reference to the probable intended recipient of Document I, and thus the gentillic adjective would be Hatarūnī – possibly representing the name of the people related to these texts.
The only other attempt to decipher these inscriptions was conducted by Dr. William Shea.[2]  While at the time the attempt was reasonable, in light of new evidence and a broader re-interpretation of the early alphabetic evolution, the paleographic assessment is inappropriate.  As a result, the epigraphic analysis is also no longer tenable.  The paleography of the Deir Alla scripts relates more closely to North Arabian, even if epigraphic concerns veer off in a different direction.  The decipherment provided here – while philologically unusual – offers insight into two (probably progressive) marginal dialects of Northwest Semitic, with archaic features and Northeast Semitic influence.
The paleographic re-identifications here involve a much larger project to classify and decipher the entire early alphabetic corpuses.[3]  While the exact placement of the Deir Alla scripts within the early alphabetic dialect spectrum is debatable; they are connected to a complex evolutionary spectrum of the early alphabet – stretching from at least 1800 to probably 1200 BC, after which most variant corpuses were subsumed essentially by the more formal Proto-Canaanite, and North and South Arabian corpuses.
While Shea’s analysis of these tablets may seem logical out of this very broad context, the differentiation in the orientation of T and Ḫ in I strongly suggests a tendency toward North Arabian paleography.  Moreover, the repetition of a word [rs1; Shea’s mk], and the quite unmistakable presence of the grapheme S1 necessitates the consideration of this small corpus as paleographically Syro-Arabian; Proto-Canaanite never possessed it.  While it appears infrequently in Proto-Sinaitic, and in Wadi el-Hol, it primarily occurs in in North and South Arabian –in Ugaritic shibbolethed from š to s.[4]
Substantial evidence in the broader study of early alphabets suggests a missing genetic link, which precedes Proto-Canaanite and even possibly early Proto-Sinaitic, between the Wadi el-Hol inscriptions and the later Arabian scripts.  Deir Alla I & II appear to form a fringe trend derived from that missing link.  But while they probably represent a derivation from a common ancestor of some North Arabian scripts, the early Deir Alla script are not that ancestor but is rather a fringe descendant.  Paleographic developments in III, likely the latest Deir Alla generation, again suggest this people’s writing system was subsumed in the formalization of Proto-Canaanite even before the destruction of their palace by an earthquake shortly after 1200 BC.[5]

A Variant Abjad Subsumed
The texts will be treated first with respect to their consonantal nature.  The unusual nature of the odd dots[6] in I and II will be examined in the following section, in which translations of these two texts will also be offered.  Because III does not obviously possess the dots of the other two, it will be translated in this section.

I:[7]  MKR / RS1 / HTRN / HBR / RS1 / LḪM

The context of this inscription is fairly clear.  The second name, LḪM, is almost certainly related to byt lḫm or Bethlehem.  But it suggests that the etymology of Bethlehem may indeed be from the deity Lakhmu, as early accepted by Albright.[8]  The name HTRN might be connected with the root ytr, related to “Aram /yatr/ rope; bowstring; Syr /ytr/ remain, be left over; be better, go ahead, increase, overhang, profit… Amor /ytr/, /wtr/ be more, abundant, excellent; … Arab… be stretched”.[9]  Despite Murtonen’s Akkadian association, the above can be connected with Akkadian itartu “additional pack (of a donkey load); OA” [10] pertaining to atāru (watāru) “to exceed”.[11]
But HTRN, probably a name, may be a C-stem.[12]  Moreover, the plural found probably precludes its (non-Aramaic) Northwest Semitic origin, thus relating it to either Syriac ‘helpers’ or ‘those who have profited’,[13] or Arabic ‘stringers (of the bow)’.[14]  MKR should also be treated as a noun, either a name, or ‘merchant,’ as with “Phoen /mkr/ sell; seller, dealer, merchant; Ug /mkr/ merchant; Aram /mkr/ buy; promise (one’s daughter) in marriage… Syr /mkr/ buy; (be) betroth(ed)”,[15] and with Akkadian makkāru[16] and mākiru[17] both “trader.”
The remaining word HBR is unusual, but within the context of an apparently Akkadian-inspired name Laḫmu, this word can be compared (phonetically) with Akkadian ibru “(ebru) a.; person of the same status or profession, comrade, fellow, colleague, friend; from OA, OB on”.[18]  There is little evidence for West Semitic confusion between H and Ḥ, so the orthography here may in fact reflect an Akkadian phonetic realization.  If the scribe were East Semitic, they may have been unsuccessfully attempting to approximate the West Semitic sound (i.e., H/ ~ Akk i/e).  Unfortunately the lack of an attested differentiated Ḥ in these inscriptions makes speculation difficult.
For rs1, present in each inscription, one can compare r’aš ‘head, chief’.[19]  But an explanation will be provided for the aberrant orthography at the end of this paper.  The reason for holding off on explanation is the connection (in I and II) of the dots and r’s, which corroborates the interpretation of rs1 but must be explained in the broader context of the unique system of marking matres lectionis.  The ubiquity of the phrase in all three inscriptions makes its interpretation relatively uncontroversial even without the phonetic explanation for the contraction of the vowel.

II:[20]  W[ṢYH] . NH K PG / RS1  |  WDH NḪ / LḪBR / [RS1][21]

This text is a boustrophedon.  The word WṢY can be related to Akkadian aṣû (waṣû, waṣā’û, uṣā’û, uṣu) “to leave, to depart”,[22] and the orthography in II also pertains to Ugaritic and Amorite.[23]  Here WṢY is apparently a noun, indicated by the locative –h, which is essentially a NW Semitic feature.[24]  The following word NH is common, meaning ‘sigh, shout’[25] and in Arabic really ‘mourn’.[26]  As in I, there may be Akkadian influence, which phonetically renders the verb na’û (nu’û) “to shout”.[27]  One could also see this as a Canaanite orthography, however.[28]  The G in this case, if correct, is one of only two known examples of this variant grapheme.[29]  Then (k-) pg might be compared with Akkadian pagû “a stringed instrument”,[30] or pigû of similar meaning.[31]
The next line is substantially clearer.  The second use of the locative –h in DH parallels this usage in the first line.[32]  The following NḪ reflects a noun form of ‘rest’ stemming from a fairly common root.[33]  The apparent recipient of the dedication, ḪBR, has an interesting name.

HW NṢ / ṢLM / RS1-S3RN / ’NS2-NR
RKK / cNT-NR / cRN / WW-NR

“He is the Dark Hawk, the Chief of Śaran; the Compeller-of-Fire
Has softened Anat-of-Fire; the Hook-of-Fire has been hardened
By the Light.”

This inscription is interesting for two reasons: it is essentially undamaged; and it appears to be an early recording of a solar eclipse and the first historical recording of Baily’s Beads – dots of light that appear and disappear along the side of the solar disc during a solar eclipse.  It is also not as obviously inflected as the previous two, and may exhibit dialect shift – toward a dialect closer to Syriac – but with archaic features.  The name Śaran is not clear – it could refer to the Plains of Sharon, but ‘(bn) s\rn[35] is a name attested in Ugaritic.  The word NṢ refers to a bird of prey, in Syriac apparently “hawk”.[36]  Conversely, ṢLM is almost certainly a borrowing from Akkadian ṣalmu, meaning ‘dark,’[37] also noting that ṣallamtu is the name of a bird.[38]  The word ’ns can be compared in Syriac with “to press, compel… to force”.[39]  If any of these epithets hide a name for the ‘Chief of Śaran,’ that name is not immediately obvious – unless perhaps nṣ ṣlm.
The next line evidences clear juxtaposition that supports a Syro-Arabian interpretation.  The verb RKK, is masculine and thus must take the following feminine noun as an object.  A D-stem in Syriac would mean “to soften, mollify; to make tender, gentle”.[40]  In contrast, cRN occurs only in Gt-stem form in Syriac as “to become hard”.[41]  However, the Arabic noun caran primarily means “a bony outgrowth, exotosis (med.)”.[42]  Though only in noun form, it argues for the theoretical existence of a G-stem at some point.  Moreover, the c grapheme[43] in crn is oriented differently than the c in cnt, suggesting differentiation of matres lectionis.  Since can(a)t likely has a historically stable vowel pattern, crn reflects cirn or curn.  As parallel grammar suggests crn is a perfective verb, the latter must be correct – in turn indicating the passive perfective curin.  This is probably unrelated to the ‘dots vowel system’ but rather an ad hoc attempt to distinguish the passive verb form.
Interestingly, the R in cRN evidences paleographic recidivism, based on the apparent continued usage of the letter name riš (possibly an earlier ruš – specifically at Deir Alla).  The scribe used an ad hoc but essentially obvious graphical derivation, deviating from the styled V-like-R to a head-like-R.  But this derivation also implies a regular R grapheme rotated 90° counterclockwise protruding from the ‘head,’ possibly as its ‘hair.’  Within the context of the inscription’s narrative, this ad hoc grapheme may have better conveyed the idea of Baily’s Beads alongside the eclipsed sun.
The two phrases in this line are interesting.  The first, cNT-NR, refers to the goddess Anat with an apparently unattested epithet ‘of Fire’.  Likewise, WW-NR appears to refer to a ‘hook of fire’ – with neither necessarily being localizable to a specific dialect.  The final line, written on the edge of the seal, has apparently lost an explicit aleph present in the root.  The reason is almost certainly phonetic.  The only independent aleph suggested is in III, and is paleographically very similar to H.[44]  In B[’]WR it seems most likely that no glottal was explicitly pronounced, i.e. būr.  The use of this prepositional phrase confirms the passive form of cRN to which it is connected.
            There is an additional point of confusion in translating this inscription in particular.  The above string of phrases reveal III’s pattern of placing construct-states within word divisions.  But the first division – hw nṣ then might be taken as (the odd) ‘he of the hawk.’  The following word ṣlm would then either reflect a D-stem verb ‘to darken,’ or a noun ‘dark one.’  While within the context of the other two inscriptions rs1 can reasonably be taken to mean ‘chief,’ it can also reflect certain geographical terms in both Aramaic and Arabic.  But, with obvious regard to context, two nouns in a word division, may also have been a means of rendering a nominal sentence in III.  The adjective ṣlm would then occur after the word division to avoid genitive confusion.

The Nature of the Dots
Quite interestingly, the dots littered throughout I and II are posited to reflect a short u, essentially abnormally early evidence of the ad hoc indication of matres lectionis.  The hypothesis is very simple – the dots were used to distinguish u from a, i, or no vowel.  This is not efficient as a diacritic system, so its origin may be in differentiation of grammatical possibilities – for which, along with word dividers, it is surprisingly efficient.  This system is hypothesized as an ad hoc development based on a total lack of additional external evidence for a comparable means of differentiating matres lectionis, inflection, or grammar.
In III, construct states appear to occur only within word divisions.  This may be a late feature.  In I and II construct states appear to straddle word divisions, with the second noun not being marked with a dot (i.e. non-nominal case).  When placed above or beside a letter, the dot may reflect u.  But in rs1, it may reflect a condensed glottal ’u to /u/.  Two dots may specifically reflect ū in the plural htr[uu]n – but this plural is not used grammatically in context (it is a name).  It is likely that the loss of dots in III indicates or follows a progressive loss of inflection.  It is not clear whether the dots in I and II may inadvertently offer early evidence of the Canaanite shift from ā to ō.
What must have been an ad hoc system could be attributed to a single scribe.  By III, there had been at least three generations of script developments; but there may well have been more.  The first two are epigraphically and paleographically more similar, but II may be the most archaic of the three.  The eclipse text III must be from a significantly later period.  The script may then have been transmitted to the scribe of III, probably interpersonally, without the ad hoc vowel system – or that scribe chose to stop using it.  This fits a gradual replacement of the unusual and sparsely attested script by scripts related to Proto-Canaanite.
The -*, next to a letter, reflects being written on top of (or connected to the top of) the letter to the left; when written with a space, it reflects a dot drawn next to the preceding letter but not obviously ‘connected’ to it.

I:  MKR* / R*S1 * / HTR* *N / HBR* / R*S1 * / LḪM
makaru . rušu . hatarūni . habru . rušu . laḫami
“Makaru (/the merchant?), Chief of the Hatarūn, is an ally.  Chief of Laḫam."

II:  WṢ(*?)YH N*H KPG / R*S1  |  W DH NḪ / LḪBR* / [R*S1]
waṣuyah . nuha . ka pagi . ruša  / wa . dah . niḫa . li-ḫabiru . ruši
“At the departure is lamentation, like the pagû-instrument, to the chief –
And at this (time) is rest for Ḫabiru-the-Chief.’ [** As I look back on this it would be "for (maybe) the Exorcist of the Chief".  Whatever that word Habiru means, R*S1 (without S1 in the nominative) suggests a genitive construction in which the meaning is HBR of the Chief - less indicative of a proper noun. **]

It is possible that I is some sort of travel document pertinent to a nomadic people.  A similar idea for diplomatic agents is known during the Amarna Period.[45]  If this is indeed ‘permission’ from the ‘Chief of Bethlehem’ for passage or trade through the area, it would suggest the more widespread attestation and usage of this script, for however brief a time.  It is important to note that the proper understanding of ibrû is “an institutionalized relationship between free persons of the same status or profession which entailed acceptance of the same code of behavior and an obligation of mutual assistance.”[46]  It is also possible this essentially codifies an alliance.

It is probably also worth pointing out how brilliantly II is written in a sort of phonetic juxtaposition between the two lines: wa1-wa2, (ṣuya1-da2,) ah1-ah2, nuh1-niḫ2, (li2,) ka1-ḫa2, pa1-bi2, gi1-ru2, ru1-ru2, ša1-ši2.  Considering the parallel use of the locative/directive cases, the contrast of a root w- and the conjunction, the parallel use of prepositional phrases, and the lines both ending with the same word inflected differently, this may be considered a poetic composition – certainly in a funerary context.

Thoughts on Paleography
In I and II, Ḫ can really only be compared paleographically with the North Arabian Thamudic B&C, Hismaic, and Safaitic trends.[47]  In I, this grapheme can be clearly differentiated from T.  Unfortunately, no examples of a distinct Ḥ are attested so far in this script, which would distinctively mark it as being Arabian.  But in addition to W, the M’s present in I and III are also distinctly Arabian – enclosed forms.  These must be compared with Taymanitic, Thamudic B, Safaitic, or Hasaitic, or perhaps Hismaic,[48] in addition to South Arabian.
In general, it would be fairer to say that this script evidences some of the potential source of the later North and possibly South Arabian paleographic variation.  This manner of contact is not unbelievable as Deir Alla is at a crossroads of sorts.  However, the script attested in I and II cannot actually be ancestral to North Arabian.  Rather, these three short inscriptions provide evidence of the early alphabet’s ‘incubation,’ in various places, in turn explaining connected variance between earlier and later periods.  By III, the presence of a Phoenician-style and the essentially Canaanite s (S3) additionally support the conclusion of the early script’s gradual replacement by a formal corpus.

Epigraphic Thoughts
As for the language, ruš is an unusual orthography for ‘chief.’  However, the Amarna orthography rūšu ‘head’, written ru-šu in cuneiform,[49] offers a very solid comparison as possibly does a (foreign) name found in Ugaritic ’ilrš.[50]  The semantic connection of ‘head’ and ‘chief’ is common.  Two cases of h certainly correspond to Akkadian vowels: both habru and nuha appear to reflect Akkadian orthographies.  In II, li-ḫabiru / ruši reflects a prepositional phrase (i.e. liruši), but the dot after ḫabiru marks it as a name.  Likewise, the context and presence of the preposition negate the possibility of a construct state.[51]
In I, dots occur next to, rather than above, two S1’s.  In I and II, dots occur above two R’s but at the end of words (rather than initially as with ruš) – both in names.  It is possible that this is intended to differentiate between grammatical usage and usage in names.  It is interesting to note that aside from with habru (which may be explained by severely condensed spacing), the only two cases in which dots occur above letters at the end of a word is in the two PN’s present in I and II.
The unusual –a in the nouns following the locative cases is unclear.[52]  In II, however, ruša clearly reflects an accusative case without the addition of a preposition.  The origin of the plural form –ūn(a) is also unclear.  Though the language reflected is undoubtedly Northwest Semitic, it possesses archaic features, and was lexically and orthographically affected by contact with Northeast Semitic, and its contemporary cuneiform orthographies.

[1]  Michael C. A. Macdonald, “Chapter 6: Ancient North Arabian,” in The Languages of Syria-Palestine and Arabia, ed. Roger D Woodard (Cambridge, MA, 2008), 488-94.
[2]  William H. Shea, “The Inscribed Tablets from Tell Deir cAlla Part I.” Andrews University Seminary Studies, 27, no. 1 (1989a): 21-37; and William H. Shea, “The Inscribed Tablets from Tell Deir cAlla Part II.” Andrews University Seminary Studies, 27, no. 2 (1989b), 97-118.
[3]  For reference, I have included my charts as Appendix I; but even this is insufficient without the larger set of translations and external evidence.  And this is simply to show the distance between earlier and later alphabetic trends and the Deir Alla inscriptions.  Hopefully forthcoming JNES, XXX.
[4]  It additionally occurs in three of the ‘Theban texts’ published by Petrie (Thebes 1, Thebes 2a, and Thebes 6); see William Flinders Petrie, The Formation of the Alphabet, BSAE Studies Series, vol. III (London, 1912), Plate I.
[5]  H. J. Franken, “Clay Tablets from Deir ‘Alla Jordan.”  Vetus Testamentum, 14, no. 3 (1964a), 377.
[6]  It’s worth noting that Franken additionally published uinscribed but dotted seals, though these clearly did not serve the same purpose; see, H. J. Franken, “Excavations at Deir 'Allā, Season 1964: Preliminary Report.” Vetus Testamentum, 14, no. 4 (1964b): Plate Va.
[7]  I have been unable to find a photograph of this inscription, but see drawings in Franken 1964a, 379; and Shea 1989a: 29.
[8]  W. F. Albright, “The Canaanite God Ḥaurôn (Ḥôrôn).” The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, 53, no. 1 (1936): 7.
[9]  A. Murtonen, Volume 3, Sections Bb. Root System: Comparative Material and Discussions. Sections C, D and E: Numerals under 100, Pronouns and Particles, Hebrew Material, vol. 3 of Hebrew in its West Semitic Setting. A Comparative Survey of Non-Masoretic Hebrew Dialects and Traditions. Part 1. A Comparative Lexicon (Leiden, 1990), 225.
[10]  Chicago Assyrian Dictionary (CAD), I, 294, accessed May 22, 2012,
[11]  CAD, A: Part II:atāru, 487-92, accessed May 22, 2012,
[12]  The lack of an aleph fits this script’s tendency to drop alephs not at the beginning of phrases (for which there is only a single example).  In this case, the reason may be additionally phonetic as a C-stem would fit the realization ha’tar, condensed to hatar anyway without a distinct glottal-stop, and pluralized hatarūna.
[13]  Robert Payne Smith, A Compendious Syriac Dictionary: Founded upon the Thesaurus Syriacus of R. Payne Smith. (Oxford, 1903), 200.
[14]  ed. J. M. Cowan, Arabic-English Dictionary: The Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, fourth edition (Urbana, IL, 1994), 1227.
[15]  Murtonen 1990, 258.      
[16]  CAD M:makkāru, 131, accessed June 11, 2012,
[17]  ibid, 129.
[18]  CAD I:ibru, 5, accessed May 22, 2012,
[19]  Murtonen 1990, 391.
[20]  A photograph appears in Franken 1964b: Plate Vb.  Shea’s drawings occur in Shea 1989a: 31; and Shea 1989b: 99.
[21]  My reading of this word relies on Shea’s (1989a & 1989b) drawings.
[22]  CAD, A: Part II:aṣû, 356-85.
[23]  Murtonen 1990, 219.
[24]  Dennis Pardee, “Chapter 1: Ugaritic,” in The Languages of Syria-Palestine and Arabia, ed. Roger D. Woodard (Cambridge, MA, 2008), 26.
[25]  Murtonen 1990, 95.
[26]  ed. Cowan 1994, 1182.
[27]  CAD, N: Part II:na’û, 134, accessed May 22, 2012,
[28]  See, Ezekiel 7:11.
[29]  It occurs in the same constellation Theban text but in a relatively clear context (Petrie 1912, Plate I), the origin and descent of the odd anchor-shaped G is unclear.
[30]  CAD, P:pagû, 19, accessed May 22, 2012,
[31]  ibid,359.
[32]  Its consideration as a demonstrative is unlikely.  At least from a Proto-Sinaitic standpoint, the demonstrative’s orthography is always (> z), with no –h.
[33]  Murtonen 1990, 276.
[34]  A more than adequate photograph is provided; see Franken 1964a, Plate I.
[35]  J. L. Cunchillos, J. P. Vita and J. Á. Zamora, The Texts of the Ugaritic Data Bank, Volume II, translated by A. Lacadena and A. Castro (Piscataway, NJ, 2003), 995.  See also, J. L. Cunchillos, J. P. Vita and J. Á. Zamora, The Texts of the Ugaritic Data Bank, Volume III, translated by A. Lacadena and A. Castro (Piscataway, NJ, 2003), 1453.
[36]  Payne-Smith 1903, 347.
[37]  CAD, Ṣ:ṣalmu, 77-8, accessed October 4, 2011,
[38]  ibid, 73.
[39]  Payne Smith 1903, 21.
[40]  ibid, 540.
[41]  ibid, 429.
[42]  ed. Cowan 1994, 712.
[43]  The Smithsonian Museum’s ‘Written in Stone’ exhibit’s Chart of Comparative Letters attributes very similar graphemes to ‘Thmaudic’ c’s (  However, I am unable to verify this claim, and the credibility of this chart was called into question in my correspondence with another scholar of North Arabian.
[44]  This could suggest a possible parallel development to the origin, in my opinion, of Ugaritic ’i and ’u from the Ugaritic-Canaanite glottal H.  However, this may be a coincidence, and the aleph in III may simply be a development preceding some North Arabian variants employing two ‘hornlike’ lines protruding from either side of a straight line.
[45]  See, Bertrand Lafont, “International Relations in the Ancient Near East: The birth of a complete diplomatic system.”  Diplomacy & Statecraft, 12, no. 1 (2001): 46.
[46]  CAD, I:ibrû, 7.
[47]  Macdonald 2008, 496.
[48]  Macdonald 2008, 496.
[49]  CAD, R, 432, accessed May 22, 2012,
[50]  See, J. L. Cunchillos, J. P. Vita and J. Á. Zamora, The Texts of the Ugaritic Data Bank, Volume III, translated by A. Lacadena and A. Castro (Piscataway, NJ, 2003), 1453; the name ’ilrš occurs in several places – and may be a non-Ugaritic orthography meaning ‘Ilu is Chief,’ which would corroborate the analogous Deir Alla .
[51]  I suppose it is possible, due to the probable presence of ḫbr as a root in Ugaritic (KRT) (XXX), Akkadian (XXX), and Arabic (XXX) to interpret this phrase as ‘informant of the chief,’ though I believe this breaks the formula (in I and II) of PN [nominative] (Word Division) The Chief [nominative]; in this case the second nominative changes due to the preposition because it is not a proper noun.
[52]  Unfortunately an analysis of non-syllabic Ugaritic is not useful, and analysis of comparable Biblical Hebrew constructions is also inconclusive, not only because the directive occurs at the end of phrases but also because the loss of inflection renders analogy difficult.  The Deir Alla constructions are closer to that seen at Wadi el-Hol, in which the noun-directive heads a phrase.  The directive nature of the phrasing means that the following noun(s) really are objects – being directed toward the noun with the enclitic ‘case.’  This essentially flips the expected subject-object relationship, possibly indicating a passive construction: i.e. in Wadi el-Hol ḏunā ‘aṯtarah qašta kupṯa “These are for Athtar, the bow and the scimitar,” compared with li‘aṯtar qašta kupṯa “For Athtar are the bow and scimitar.”  The construction is almost certainly poetic in Deir Alla and may have been formal at Wadi el-Hol.


  1. So there are a couple revisions, in my mind, to III (they are all translation revisions): The first part probably reads as a name, grammatically not a construct-state, so HuWa NaṢi-ṢaL(a)M(u) is my guess. And in Chief of Saran - Saran is /s/ rather than a lateral sibilant (which is S2). With S2 = lateral sibilant, the form might be interpreted as '-NS/ or 'lifter' if nominalized.

    Finally, cNT-NR might not be taken as a reference to Anat, but rather perhaps as 'furrow' as in Ugaritic - with recognition that this dialect is not, strictly, formalized Aramaic.

    Then the entire translation of III would read:

    “He is Nasi-Salmu (My Hawk is Salmu), the Chief of Saran; the Raiser(?)-of-Fire
    Has softened the Furrows-of-Fire; the Hook-of-Fire has been hardened
    By the Light.”


    Then, with regard to I, given the nature of the h = pharyngeal/glottal, and its use in hbr = ibru/ebru (most likely); it may make more sense to treat this character similarly to an Akkadian e/i - in which case one would revise the tribal name to Itaruna. It is odd that any scribe would err for -una rather than -ina in a construct state; so Itarun may have been the commonly used exonym.