Liber Linteus

Last updated

The Liber Linteus Zagrabiensis (Latin for "Linen Book of Zagreb", also rarely known as Liber Agramensis, "Book of Agram") is the longest Etruscan text and the only extant linen book, dated to the 3rd century BCE. It remains mostly untranslated because of the lack of knowledge about the Etruscan language, though the few words which can be understood indicate that the text is most likely a ritual calendar.

Contents

The fabric of the book was preserved when it was used for mummy wrappings in Ptolemaic Egypt. The mummy was bought in Alexandria in 1848 and since 1867 both the mummy and the manuscript have been kept in Zagreb, Croatia, now in a refrigerated room at the Archaeological Museum.

History of discovery

Mummy at the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb Zagrebacka mumija.jpg
Mummy at the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb

In 1848, Mihajlo Barić (17911859), a low ranking Croatian official in the Hungarian Royal Chancellery, resigned his post and embarked upon a tour of several countries, including Egypt. While in Alexandria, he purchased a sarcophagus containing a female mummy, as a souvenir of his travels. Barić displayed the mummy at his home in Vienna, standing it upright in the corner of his sitting room. At some point he removed the linen wrappings and put them on display in a separate glass case, though it seems he had never noticed the inscriptions or their importance.

The mummy remained on display at his home until his death in 1859, when it passed into possession of his brother Ilija, a priest in Slavonia. As he took no interest in the mummy, he donated it in 1867 to the State Institute of Croatia, Slavonia, and Dalmatia in Zagreb (the present-day Archaeological Museum in Zagreb). Their catalogue described it as follows:

Mummy of a young woman (with wrappings removed) standing in a glass case and held upright by an iron rod. Another glass case contains the mummy's bandages which are completely covered with writing in an unknown and hitherto undeciphered language, representing an outstanding treasure of the National Museum.

The mummy and its wrappings were examined the same year by the German Egyptologist Heinrich Brugsch, who noticed the text, but believed them to be Egyptian hieroglyphs. He did not undertake any further research on the text, until 1877, when a chance conversation with Richard Burton about runes made him realise that the writing was not Egyptian. They realised the text was potentially important, but wrongly concluded that it was a transliteration of the Egyptian Book of the Dead in the Arabic script.

In 1891, the wrappings were transported to Vienna, where they were thoroughly examined by Jacob Krall, an expert on the Coptic language, who expected the writing to be either Coptic, Libyan or Carian. Krall was the first to identify the language as Etruscan and reassemble the strips. It was his work that established that the linen wrappings constituted a manuscript written in Etruscan.

At first, the provenance and identity of the mummy were unknown, due to the irregular nature of its excavation and sale. This led to speculation that the mummy may have had some connection to either the Liber Linteus or the Etruscans. But a papyrus buried with her proves that she was Egyptian and gives her identity as Nesi-hensu, the wife of Paher-hensu, a tailor from Thebes. [1]

Text

Liber Linteus Zagrebiensis Lanena knjiga (Liber linteus Zagrebiensis).jpg
Liber Linteus Zagrebiensis
A sample of text from Liber Linteus Zagrebiensis Liber linteus 2.jpg
A sample of text from Liber Linteus Zagrebiensis

Date and origin

On paleographic grounds, the manuscript is dated to approximately 250 BC. Certain local gods mentioned within the text allow the Liber Linteus's place of production to be narrowed to a small area in the southeast of Tuscany near Lake Trasimeno, where four major Etruscan cities were located: modern day Arezzo, Perugia, Chiusi and Cortona.

Structure

The book is laid out in twelve columns from right to left, each one representing a "page". Much of the first three columns are missing, and it is not known where the book begins. Closer to the end of the book the text is almost complete (there is a strip missing that runs the entire length of the book). By the end of the last page the cloth is blank and the selvage is intact, showing the definite end of the book.

There are 230 lines of text, with 1200 legible words. Black ink has been used for the main text, and red ink for lines and diacritics.

In use it would have been folded so that one page sat atop another like a codex, rather than being wound along like a scroll. Julius Caesar is said to have folded scrolls in similar accordion fashion while on campaigns.

Content

Though the Etruscan language is not fully understood, certain words can be picked out of the text to give us an indication of the subject matter. Both dates and the names of gods are found throughout the text, giving the impression that the book is a religious calendar. Such calendars are known from the Roman world, giving not only the dates of ceremonies and processions, but also the rituals and liturgies involved, the lost Etrusca disciplina referred to by several Roman antiquarians.

The theory that this is a religious text is strengthened by recurring words and phrases that are surmised to have liturgical or dedicatory meanings. Some notable formulae on the Liber Linteus include a hymn-like repetition of ceia hia in column 7, and variations on the phrase śacnicstreś cilθś śpureśtreśc enaś , which is translated by van der Meer as "by the sacred fraternity/priesthood of cilθ, and by the civitas of enaś". [2]

Notes

  1. "The Egyptian Collection: The Zagreb Mummy". Archaeological Museum in Zagreb. Archived from the original on 20 September 2016. Retrieved 7 February 2012.
  2. The phrase is restored at line 2.1‑2 and repeated at 2.3‑4+. Van der Meer's translation is " not significantly different from what can be found in other handbooks." See Beckwith, Miles (2008) "Review of L.B. van der Meer, "Liber Linteus Zagrabiensis", Rasenna: Journal of the Center for Etruscan Studies, Vol. 1, Issue 1, Article 4.

Bibliography

Related Research Articles

Etruscan language Extinct language of ancient Italy

Etruscan was the language of the Etruscan civilization, in Italy, in the ancient region of Etruria and in parts of Corsica, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, Lombardy and Campania. Etruscan influenced Latin but eventually was completely superseded by it. The Etruscans left around 13,000 inscriptions that have been found so far, only a small minority of which are of significant length; some bilingual inscriptions with texts also in Latin, Greek, or Phoenician; and a few dozen loanwords. Attested from 700 BC to AD 50, the relation of Etruscan to other languages has been a source of long-running speculation and study, with its being referred to at times as an isolate, one of the Tyrsenian languages, and a number of other less well-known theories.

A mummy is a dead human or an animal whose soft tissues and organs have been preserved by either intentional or accidental exposure to chemicals, extreme cold, very low humidity, or lack of air, so that the recovered body does not decay further if kept in cool and dry conditions. Some authorities restrict the use of the term to bodies deliberately embalmed with chemicals, but the use of the word to cover accidentally desiccated bodies goes back to at least 1615 AD.

Etruscan civilization Pre-Roman civilization of ancient Italy

The Etruscan civilization of ancient Italy covered a territory, at its greatest extent, of roughly what is now Tuscany, western Umbria, and northern Lazio, as well as parts of what are now the Po Valley, Emilia-Romagna, south-eastern Lombardy, southern Veneto, and Campania.

<i>Book of the Dead</i> Ancient Egyptian funerary text

The Book of the Dead is an ancient Egyptian funerary text generally written on papyrus and used from the beginning of the New Kingdom to around 50 BCE. The original Egyptian name for the text, transliterated rw nw prt m hrw, is translated as Book of Coming Forth by Day or Book of Emerging Forth into the Light. "Book" is the closest term to describe the loose collection of texts consisting of a number of magic spells intended to assist a dead person's journey through the Duat, or underworld, and into the afterlife and written by many priests over a period of about 1,000 years.

<i>Tabula Capuana</i> Etruscan terracotta slab

The Tabula Capuana, is an ancient terracotta slab, 60 by 50 centimeters, with a long inscribed text in Etruscan, apparently a ritual calendar, of which about 390 words are legible. It is located in the Altes Museum, Berlin. It is the second-most extensive surviving Etruscan text.

Rhaetian language Extinct ancient language of the Eastern Alps

Rhaetian or Rhaetic (Raetic) was a language spoken in the ancient region of Rhaetia in the Eastern Alps in pre-Roman and Roman times. It is documented by three hundred inscriptions, found through Northern Italy, Southern Germany, Eastern Switzerland, Slovenia and Western Austria, in two variants of the Etruscan alphabet.

Helmut Rix was a German linguist and professor of the Sprachwissenschaftliches Seminar of Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg, Germany.

Etruscan numerals could mean the words and phrases for numbers of the Etruscan language, or the symbolic notation used by the Etruscans to write them.

Ancient Egyptian funerary practices Elaborate set of funerary practices

The ancient Egyptians had an elaborate set of funerary practices that they believed were necessary to ensure their immortality after death. These rituals and protocols included mummifying the body, casting magic spells, and burials with specific grave goods thought to be needed in the afterlife.

Shoshenq II

Heqakheperre Shoshenq II or Shoshenq IIa was a pharaoh of the Twenty-second Dynasty of Egypt. He was the only ruler of this dynasty whose tomb was not plundered by tomb robbers. His final resting place was discovered within an antechamber of Psusennes I's tomb at Tanis by Pierre Montet in 1939. Montet removed the coffin lid of Shoshenq II on March 20, 1939, in the presence of king Farouk of Egypt himself. It proved to contain many jewel-encrusted bracelets and pectorals, along with a beautiful hawkheaded silver coffin and a gold funerary mask. The facemask had been placed upon the head of the king. Montet later discovered the intact tombs of two Twenty-first Dynasty kings a year later in February and April 1940 respectively. Shoshenq II's prenomen, Heqakheperre Setepenre, means "The manifestation of Ra rules, the chosen one of Ra."

Cippus Perusinus Etruscan stone tablet

The Cippus Perusinus is a stone tablet discovered on the hill of San Marco, near Perugia, Italy, in 1822. The tablet bears 46 lines of incised Etruscan text. The cippus is assumed to be a text dedicating a legal contract between the Etruscan families of Velthina and Afuna, regarding the sharing or use of a property upon which there was a tomb belonging to the noble Velthinas.

Lammert Bouke van der Meer is a Dutch classicist and classical archaeologist specialized in Etruscology. He studied classics and archaeology at the University of Groningen, and received his Ph.D. from the same university in 1978 with a dissertation entitled Etruscan urns from volterra. Studies on mythological representations, I-II. Van der Meer is retired associate professor of Classical Archaeology at Leiden University.

Henutmehyt

Henutmehyt was the name of a Theban priestess of ancient Egypt, who lived during the 19th Dynasty, around 1250 BC. Her gilded inner coffin can be seen today at the British Museum in London, England. The excessive use of gold, and the high quality and detail of her coffin indicates that Henutmehyt was a wealthy woman. On the front of the coffin are the figures of Isis and Nephthys, the protectors of the deceased.

Sitdjehuti

Sitdjehuti was a princess and queen of the late Seventeenth Dynasty of Egypt. She was a daughter of Pharaoh Senakhtenre Ahmose and Queen Tetisheri. She was the wife of her brother Seqenenre Tao and was the mother of Princess Ahmose.

The Tomb of Aline is an ancient Egyptian grave from the time of Tiberius or Hadrian, excavated at Hawara in 1892.

Mummy paper is paper that is claimed to be made from the linen wrappings and other fibers from Egyptian mummies imported to America circa 1855. The existence of this paper has not been conclusively confirmed, but it has been widely discussed.

Animal mummy

Animal mummification was common in ancient Egypt. They mummified various animals. It was an enormous part of Egyptian culture, not only in their role as food and pets, but also for religious reasons. They were typically mummified for four main purposes—to allow beloved pets to go on to the afterlife, to provide food in the afterlife, to act as offerings to a particular god, and because some were seen as physical manifestations of specific deities that the Egyptians worshipped. Bastet, the cat goddess, is an example of one such deity. In 1888, an Egyptian farmer digging in the sand near Istabl Antar discovered a mass grave of felines, ancient cats that were mummified and buried in pits at great numbers.

Archaeological Museum in Zagreb Archaeology museum in Zagreb, Croatia

The Archaeological Museum in Zagreb, Croatia is an archaeological museum with over 450,000 varied artifacts and monuments, gathered from various sources but mostly from Croatia and in particular from the surroundings of Zagreb.

Satre (Etruscan god)

Satre or Satres was an Etruscan god who appears on the Liver of Piacenza, a bronze model used for haruspicy. He occupies the dark and negative northwest region, and seems to be a "frightening and dangerous god who hurls his lightning from his abode deep in the earth." It is possible that Satre is also referred to with the word satrs in the Liber Linteus, the Etruscan text preserved in Ptolemaic Egypt as mummy wrappings.

The Ritual of Embalming Papyrus or Papyrus of the Embalming Ritual is one of only two extant papyri which detail anything at all about the practices of mummification used within the burial practices of Ancient Egyptian culture.