Ancient writing systems in the Mediterranean

A critical guide to electronic resources


edited by: Giulia Torri (traslation revised by Melanie Rockenhaus)

  • Introduction
  • Ancient Writing Systems

Evidence of the Carian language from between 7th and 3rd century BC has been found in a region of southern Anatolia located between Lydia and Lycia. It is an Indo-European language of the Anatolian branch, as are Hittite, Palaic and Luwian in the second millennium BC, and Lycian, Lydian, Sidetic and Pisidian in the first millennium BC. The strongest similarities are with the group of the Luwian languages.
The majority of the written documentation, 150 graffiti and inscriptions, was found in Egypt where Carian legionaries had settled between 7th and 4th century BC. Funerary inscriptions and graffiti come especially from Memphis and Sais. Their presence on Egyptian territory is connected with the pharaoh Psammethicus I (7th cent. BC). According to Herodotus they had settled in the area of Bubastis in the Nile delta. The most ancient inscription was engraved on a figurine of the goddess Isis found in excavations of Sais.
Almost 30 inscriptions come from Caria itself and can be dated to the fourth and third centuries BC. Texts found in Caunos are particularly relevant. Among them there is a bilingual inscription in Greek and Carian, very important for the decipherment of this latter language. It is not known for how early the Carian population was settled in Anatolia, perhaps already in the second millennium. The reference in Hittite texts to Karkisa land in western Anatolia could be a testimony that this people were there already in the late Bronze Age.

Although research on this language is going on, it is not deciphered yet.

Ancient Writing Systems

  1. Carian