Words or drawings inscribed on hard surfaces such as metals, rocks, bricks or wood have proved to be of great importance to historians over the years. Inscribing was one of the most common ways of keeping records in ancient times. The inscriptions not only provide accurate information on what happened ages ago but they also shed more light on the lifestyle and languages used in the different kingdoms.
For accurate deciphering of inscriptions, epigraphers need to learn and understand the languages used. So many dialects have been discovered over the years and they mostly have different time frames. Although most ancient languages became extinct over the years, some are still spoken to date. Here are some dialects epigraphers are likely to encounter.
Dating back to 3500BC, Sumerian is known to be the oldest written language. The dialect was first discovered in Iraq on The Kish Tablet. However, no one speaks the language anymore because in 2000BC, Sumerian was substituted by a different dialect named Akkadian and therefore, it became extinct. Archaeologists have discovered many other inscriptions made in Sumerian and have successfully translated them.
Dating closely to Sumerian, hieroglyphics have been found to exist since 3300 BC. This type of writing was mostly found in ancient Egypt and involved using diagrams. The combination of the sketches and characters helped to tell a story of what happened. Over the years, epigraphers have been able to translate a fair share of materials found, meaning that they have a good understanding of Hieroglyphics. Like Sumerian, Hieroglyphics also went extinct in the 17th Century.
Archaeologists have managed to find lists and catalogue records written in ancient Greek. Modern Greek is somehow comparable to ancient Greek but some characters are different. Ancient Greek is usually referred to as Mycenaean Greek. Most people believe that the dialect was terminated after the Mycenaean kingdom fell. Text written in this dialect is yet to be discovered because so far, only lists have been discovered.
You might have heard people referring to Old and New Chinese. It is safe to say that the New Chinese vernacular evolved from the Old one. The characters used in the two languages are different. Old Chinese has dated back to around 3000 years ago. Archaeologists believe that the old dialect had over 4000 characters. Epigraphers have not yet been able to translate all the characters. The new Chinese grammar is much simpler and easier compared to that of the old language.
Most scholars have termed Aramaic as the Biblical dialect. Most of them believe that it is the language that Jesus and his followers spoke. The first discovery of the dialect dates back to over 3000 years ago. There are a few persons who speak the dialect to date but most of them are elderly and past the giving up work age. Aramaic has advanced and most of the characters have gone extinct. Although some villages still speak the dialect, Aramaic is considered an endangered language.
Latin is among ancient languages that have been kept alive to date. Although the Latin spoken today is not the same as old Latin, many characters have remained the same. Latin belongs to the Indo-European language family and is native to people from the Roman Empire and Southern Europe. The Latin spoken to date can be called Classic Latin and it was first discovered around 75BC. The Latin spoken in ancient times dates back to 700BC.
The people of Tamil still consider Tamil to be their chief language. The dialect has millions of speakers around the globe. Unlike other dialects that have changed over time, Tamil has hardly changed. Therefore, the speakers can easily read and translate the texts written hundreds of years ago. The first discovery of the Tamil language was dated back to 500BC. Archaeologists suspect that the dialect could go back further. Since there are lots of Tamil people, most of the texts inscribed in this language have been successfully translated.