Height: 16.000 cm
Width: 10.000 cm (max.)
Thickness: 2.000 cm
Formerly in the collection of Sir Henry Bulwer
Room 69: Greek and Roman life
Terracotta tablet with Cypro-Syllabic inscription
Said to be from near Akanthou,
About 410-375 BC
Greek words written in the script of Iron Age Cyprus
This well-fired clay tablet has holes at the top of one side. Eight lines of signs in Cypro-Syllabic script are inscribed on one side and twelve on the other side. Cypro-Syllabic has fifty to sixty signs, each denoting a syllable, and was usually written from right to left.
The tablet was evidently hung on a temple wall so that the eight lines of script were always visible. The text perhaps reads in part 'Aristovanax is to lodge this dedication in the house of god'.
If the tablet is turned over, so that the holes are at the bottom, a further twelve lines of signs can be seen. The text seems to give the names of the months followed by the names of men. This interpretation, together with the dedication, suggests that the tablet may be a commercial document.
Cypro-Syllabic was the principal script of Cyprus in the early Iron Age. It was first introduced around 1050-950 BC, though it was not in common use until the sixth century BC. The script died out around 200 BC when it was finally replaced by the Greek script.
Cypro-Syllabic is very probably related to the undeciphered Cypro-Minoan script, used in the island from the fourteenth to twelfth century BC. But it also has particular affinities with the Linear B script of Mycenaean Greece. Both are syllabic scripts and were used to write Greek, albeit different dialects. The Greek dialect of Cypro-Syllabic is closest to that of Arcadia in the Peloponnese. Cypro-Syllabic was also used to write Eteo-Cypriot which is an unknown language.
O. Masson, Inscriptions Chypriotes syllab (Paris, de Boccard, 1961)
V. Tatton-Brown, Ancient Cyprus, 2nd ed. (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)
O. Masson, Addenda nova: inscriptions Chy, École Française d'Athènes, Études Chypriotes I (Paris, de Boccard, 1983)