UI-RA-LA: The Ancient World of Boat Peoples, by Andres PÄÄbo





Archeology has found numerous objects in Northern Italy that include short sentences in a non-Latin language, dating to before the Roman era. One of them, with a relief image showing a man giving a duck to a distinguished-looking elder, lacks context until we decipher the text.  

 One of the more interesting Venetic archeological items with writing on it, is one of the several found near Padua, Italy.  These items appear to be memorials, and involved a relief image accompanied by a short sentence.  Located in the Museo Archeologico in Padova, it has been assumed these items had a funerary purpose as they are identified as "stele funeraria". However, this may be wrong. Translations of the texts by A.Pääbo suggest that these are actually celerations of important events. For example he translated text associated with one of them showing several war chariots as celebrating the departure of an army into the mountains. Funerary inscriptions, moreover, followed a typical formula, that these do not follow.  

The inscription appears to caption a relief image (see photo above) showing what appears to be a peasant, handing a duck to a distinguished-looking man with a cane. A.Pääbo argues that this image depicts an important 'father', perhaps a religious man that was a precendent for the tradition of "Pope" in subsequent Christianity. The inscription around the image, when converted into Roman alphabet from the Venetic alphabet reads (including the dots) pupone.i.e.gorako.i.e.kupetaris  The appearance of some of these words in other inscriptions allows us to divide it into the following words pupone.i.    .e.go   rako.i.  .e.kupetaris

Most of the inscriptions have images and messages that seem to concern horses and travel by horses, and which feature an expression ECUPETARIS.  It has been easy for linguists who assume the Venetic language was in a Latin-like language, to see in this word, Latin equus for horse. However, the word appears to be tacked onto the end, and to be something analogous to 'bon voyage'  or 'have a good journey'. Of course, it can be assumed it wishes a good journey into heaven, but A.Pääbo believes the images celebrate a major event in the lives of this community. The accompanying text is like a caption.

The fact that the text appears to caption the relief image, opens doors to deciphering the Venetic without assuming any linguistic affiliation. So far, attempts to decipher Venetic inscriptions in general has been unable to decipher them directly, but have projected a known language, like Latin, Slavic, etc onto the inscriptions. Most results do not fit well with the nature of the objects and context, according to archeologists who are more attentive to the nature of the object and the context in which it was found. Thus, for any archeologist in the know, the past attempts to project Latin or some other language onto the Venetic, are not believable.

In this case, the image and text departs from the others in lacking any image of a horse.  This tends to undermine assumptions that ECUPETARIS contains the word for 'horse', and supports the other assumption - that it is simply a 'good-bye' or 'bon voyage'. In that case, the image can be interpreted that the community recieved a visit from a distinguished religious or political leader, and the visit wa celebrated with this relief image at the time of his departure. The duck could be a symbolic statuette, but given the peasant has fish hanging from his belt, it is likely a real duck. In ancient times it was not unusual that someone heading out on a journey of several days by cart would carry a chicken or duck in a cage, to serve as a meal along the way.. .

The ideal in deciphering is to try to interpret the text directly from the image and context instead of forcing a known language like Latin or Slavic onto it.. Interpreting the text directly from the image, we can presume that the text probably identifies the actors in the image - the peasant giving the duck, the duck, and the elegant recipient. Because words like PAPPA and today's POPE are almost universal to refer to a 'father' individual, it is believable to assume the first word pupone.i. refers to the distinguished elder in the image. It is also believable that the ending - ne.i. - indicates the duck is being given 'to' this person - a dative or a similar case ending indicating the act of giving 'to' the 'father'.   Secondly it is most probable that the word for 'duck' is in the sentence too because the act of giving the duck is central to the image.  We can of course consider that the word may be something like 'gift', so we need something more to narrow it down. Assuming that perhaps the word for 'duck' survived in languages in the northern Italy area, .they looked at some dictionaries of languages in the area, and found Slovenian raca for 'duck'. Becuse this word is not found in other Slavic languages, it suggests ancient Veneti assimilated into Slovenians and kept some of their own words, including rako.  The word form also brings to mind English drake. The word in the sentence is actually rako.i. and it is assumed this is a partitive here, with the meaning 'a duck'.

That leaves two words - .e.go and  .e.kupetaris. Both of these words appear often in other inscriptions. The latter .e.kupetaris, as already mentioned, appears often tagged onto the end, and appears likely to mean something like 'bon voyage', 'happy journey'.  The word .e.go also appears often. It is most prominent as the initial word on obeliques marking tombs.  Traditionally scholars assumed .e.go meant the same as Latin .ego 'I', and so all those tomb markers were translated as 'I am [rest of the inscription assumed to be a proper name]'  Of course, it is peculiar anywhere in the world for a tomb marker to be inscribed as if the deceased is identifying himself. Most tombstones in humankind refer to the deceased entering an eternal sleep. Hence the common expression today of 'rest in peace'.  Even in early Christianity when Latin was used, tombstones might have the Latin HIC IACIT meaning ‘here rests’.  If we turn to a Latin dictionary we find that iaceo is a solitary word there in the meanings given above. Most Latin words in the similar form iaco- concern arrogant boasting, hurling, throwing, etc. It follows that iaceo is not Latin but borrowed, possibly  from Venetic itself.  (the Veneti predated Rome).

Thus, it is obvious that the word .e.go meant 'rest, remain', especially since its repetition at the start of a tombstone inscription, is analogous to 'rest' as in 'rest in peace'

But does this mean the inscription is a tombstone? No. The idea of 'rest' is not exclusive to death. We can today say 'I am taking a rest'. Or 'let the duck rest with the father'.  And that is how we interpret the .e.go here.

Thus the translation, developed directly from the object, is something like:

To the Father, let remain the duck. Happy journey!

From this interpretation, it seems the community said 'goodbye' to a distinguished political or religious elder visting from afar, and gave him a duck for the journey. It is possible that giving a departing visitor a duck was a standard practice.

But who was this visiting elder? Where did he come from? Is it possible that in pre-Roman times, centuries before the rise of Rome, there existed religious institutions perhaps among the Etruscans, if not Veneti, where the religious leader was known as 'Father' and the actual word was PUPO. This is believable, since when Christianity arrived in early Roman times, it did not create a new institution, but continued existing institutions. Indeed, Christianity grew in Europe, from taking over existing non-Christian institutions. Obviously the PUPO in the image was not Christian, but could have been an earlier religion, even Judaism.  The Venetic inscriptions themselves reveal a worship of the early mother goddess Rhea.

F u r t h e r  S t u d i e s

 Author's Page at Academia.edu   or    Author's website page on Venetic 


author: A.Paabo, Box 478, Apsley, Ont., Canada

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2017 (c) A. Pääbo.