Monday, November 28, 2005

Those Pictish Inscriptions In Full!

LC's earlier suggestion that I rig up a super-powered Linux cluster and hire a black-market AI programmer to crack the Pictish code is a bit of a sledgehammer/nut scenario, but it did give me a fantastic idea.

The idea being that I post all known Pictish inscriptions here, and you, dear readers, notify me of any observations you may have - you know, like any patterns, repeated phrases, frequency analysis (if you feel so inclined), and the like.

Oo, it's a bit like an incredibly low-tech version of the Seti@Home project! (That's enough now - Ed.)

So here you go, in no particular order:

nehhtvrobbaccennevv maqqotalluorrh
ammaqqtallv lv bahhrrassudds
vuunon itedovob b
bqi a b
crroscc:nahhtvvddadds:dattr:ann bennises:meqqddrroann
eddarrnonn... tti... gng..
..ehteconmors ...dov ...ddrs
etteca... ..v:dattua ...rtt..
hcsd.t..v.nh.t l....vqrrhmdnhq
ineittemen mats
ttlietrenoiddors ..uhtuoaged...
duv nodnnatmaqqnahhto...
iddarqnnnvorrenn iku(a) iosie

Each line is a separate inscription, incidentally. Dots indicate where there are letters missing. All of these inscriptions have been transliterated into our alphabet from the Ogham alphabet they were originally written in. Umm, I think that's it. Do your worst!*

* I do realise that some people may not be quite as excited about this as I am. But that's OK.


GreatSheElephant said...

looks like eskimo to me.

Any idea of date and context of inscriptions?

patroclus said...

Date: between the 6th and 9th centuries AD. Context: inscribed on to standing stones that are usually carved with other symbols that no one has really very successfully interpreted either.

GreatSheElephant said...

is it known for sure that those aren't just names of people? Your Ogham link says that nearly all Ogham inscriptions are

patroclus said...

Yes, they probably are. Nechtan (nehhtons, etc.) comes up a lot. maqq appears a lot and is probably "mac" i.e. "son of".

But hey, Champollion only found names too.

Feel strangely deflated now. Bah.

LC said...

Still can't help thinking that some sort of AI program might help with this. What about an open source Data Mining system? It should be able to spot patterns in the data set and offer visualisation aids which, if nothing else, might help you think about the problem in new directions.

Tanagra is free and runs under XP, but there are plenty of others.

Hark at me, pretending I know what I'm talking about, just so I can join in the conversation...

james henry said...

Be not deflated. I've got a day to kill before Londonning, so I'll probably have it cracked for you by Wednesday.

Also, the Midsummer Night's Dream thing is rubbish, so I won't get distracted.

*gets coffee, settles in*

GreatSheElephant said...

I'm not sure that the no particular order of the inscriptions is helpful. For example if all the maqqs appear in one set and not on others you might deduce that the others aren't names? Can they be clustered?

james henry said...


*clears throat*

'Bennises' sounds like 'penises'.

*collapses exhausted*

GreatSheElephant said...

and bahhrrassudds seems to me a polite way of describing Celtic after a heavy night in Govan.
Were these people Christian?

patroclus said...

James displaying all the admirable fainting tendencies of a young Champollion there. Good work!

GSE, they started off pagan but got gradually Christianised, by the likes of St Columba (who also recorded an early sighting of the Loch Ness Monster, fact fans). I *can* put them in order. What order would you like?

rttndjme - a resident of Govan who has partaken too liberally of Tennents Special and deep-fried Mars Bars.

james henry said...

I fainted at a screening of Pulp Fiction - the bit where Uma Thurman's in the car and getting all woozy, embarassingly. I didn't even get to the 'needle through the heart' bit.

God, I'm totally sabotaging this thread aren't I? Apologies.

Merkin said...

I've got it (again). They're all Blogger Word Verification codes...

mig bardsley said...

That's a rather large amount of date!
Just out of curiosity, what are the four or five surviving pictish words.
Have you got a list of names with Pictish origins? (or is that Nechtan and Maqq?)
Do you have the place names where the inscriptions are found...or other information (stories, legends, historical events)?
Yours is a very tiring blog...I shall take my small exhausted brain away now.

mig bardsley said...

Bother. What do the colons indicate or are they as inscribed?
No spaces except where you've put them?
interesting innit.

Aginoth said...

Cor...not a clue...but still interesting though

surly girl said...

it looks like something i might type on my first day back in the office after two weeks on holiday. perhaps the picts did drunk-commenting?

i'm not helping much, am i? that's because you make my brain hurt.

cello said...

The excess of double letters means they must have had their keyboard speeds set too high.
Sorry, I *will* take it seriously when i have more than 30 secs.

patroclus said...

cello, I'm mortified that anyone should feel they have to take anything seriously in here.

However, for those who *are* taking it seriously, I'll be back shortly with answers and more info.

belladona said...

This is very exciting! Have you got any pictures of the symbols? What symbols go with which inscriptions? Are the interpretation of the alphabet and direction of writing certain?

patroclus said...

Excellent questions, bella. I did wonder about the direction of the writing myself, but apparently it's accurate.

I'll attempt to match up the inscriptions with the symbols, which are a whole other area of interest - and I'm quite astonished to find there isn't a handy page of them on the internet that I can link to.

This will probably involve some scanning, but it shall be done.

Oo, project!, as Alicia Silverstone might have said.

GreatSheElephant said...

don't especially mind about order - it's more grouping them according to the site they were found in - thus gravestones all together, anything found in the freezer aisle at Inverkeithing Tesco together and so on. I want to see if maqq turns up in all groupings or only some

patroclus said...

Ah, super. That should be easy. Got to get a dinner with ex-colleagues out of the way this evening, then will work on it tonight.

They aren't gravestones, by the way. They're more like monuments. And lots of them have been moved so many times that no one remembers now where they were actually found. It's all a shocking mess really.

I'm off to the far north of Scotland soon, will take some pictures of inscriptions in the wild.

belladona said...

Yes, just how far across Scotland have they been found? Is there a likelihood that different dialects may have been used? Can they spell, basically?! (I ask this due to neht nehht naht nahht nehhet though if it is a name then it might be differnet pronounciations of what is basically the same word) Is there evidence that the people who wrote these would have lived together or were they solitary?
Heh, look at me, pretending I know anything about language...

belladona said...

Do those inscriptions all have the feather start and finish symbols or are they mostly fragments of larger inscriptions?

patroclus said...

bella, lots of them are fragments, either where the stone got broken, or where the top and/or bottom got weathered away.

They're inscribed on the side of the stone, usually, you see, using the edge of the stone as the base line for the script. So they usually go up the edge - which makes it easy for the top and bottom to get worn away.

Re: location - they're all over the east of Scotland, from the far north (Orkney) down to around the Antonine Wall. There were two separate Pictish kingdoms (North and South), but they'd become one by the end. It's safe to assume the language was the same throughout (from placename evidence etc.) but there might have been dialects, and also in pre-literate days spelling was kind of arbitrary anyway.

Aginoth said...

Perhaps it's a recipe for Klootie Dumpling?

Juggling Mother said...

I have absolutely no idea - but I do know loads of Ogham

"the giraffe if you stand on a stall; a dwarf if you crouch down small; but the hedgehog...."

Oh, you didn't mean that Ogham did you?

patroclus said...

Mrs A, I'm ashamed to say I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Please enlighten!

GreatSheElephant said...

that sounds more like Ogg

BiScUiTs said...

Ah I know what this is, it's a pictish bank statement. I'm thinking there's been some foul play here, like someones hacked into their account of something. I mean who would spend £itedovob on a load of qodtosombs?

They like their q's and n's.

Tabby Rabbit said...

Hey there, sorry meant to join this earlier but thought I'd let all the people with intelligent comments go first (apologies to anyone following me, I didn't know you were there). Lots of presumably double letters - like the Welsh alpahbet (which has ch, dd, ff, ll, ng, ph, rh, th as letters in themselves).

Things you look at but manage to not notice (I have the Welsh alphabet as framed print on my living room wall, pressie from my sister*) - at the bottom in small print it has the Ocham alphabet, the coelbren y beirdd (ancient / Bardic Aplhabet) and a series of letters from stone monuments found in Wales 6-10th century. Have never even noticed these small prints at the bottom before (only had the print about five years...) Might be forced to bring the whole thing along on Thurs night?

* She's concerned that I will forget such things seeing as I live the other side of the Severn / just down the M4...

nibus said...

I had a dream about this last night, but much as I'm convinced I dreamt something Oghamly insightful, I can only remember Princess Margaret sitting on a rubber chair.

belladona said...

Hmm, your blogs gone weird. Or it could easily be my computer. I really ought to stop hanging around on t'interweb and pack for Florence.

patroclus said...

It looks OK to me, bella. Have lots of fun in Florence, I'm so envious...

Shepherd's Bush Philosopher said...

What would Picts write about? Flints sharpened here?

patroclus said...

Aha, the Shepherd's Bush Philosopher. Come in, I've been expecting you.

*Quickly whips out copy of Tractatus Logicus Philosophicus and feigns avid study*

Juggling Mother said...

sorry P, I was dumming down your high brow intellectual blog by referencing Terry Pratchet (he was only one vote short of counting as "literature" you know)

One of the characters in his discworld novels is called nanny Ogg, & she can read ancient Oggham. she also has a penchant for rude songs about how the hedgehog can not be buggered at all...

Orb said...

bahhrrassudds = soap?

I'll get me coat.

Michael Lothian said...

I am very pleased to of stumbled on to your blog....

stumbled onto this page as well... are you familiar with it???

one example of info fromsite is

Pict >> nehhtvrobbaccennevv maqqotalluorrh
translation >> Nechtan ... son of Talorc

interesting huh??

keep up the post!