What Language predates the Epoch of Gilgamesh?

Discussion in 'Art & Culture' started by GodLied, Jul 21, 2003.

  1. GodLied Registered Senior Member

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    What language predates the Epoch of Gilgamesh which will suggest that the Epoch of Gilgamesh is not likely the oldest story?

    JMG.
     
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  3. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    People have been telling stories for as long as they have had the power of speech.
     
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  5. GodLied Registered Senior Member

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    That is true and affirms my opinion that the Epoch of Gilgamesh is not the first story; however, to firmly assert such an obvious consideration to the person in another thread that said no literature predates the Epoch of Gilgamesh, I humbly pose the query of this thread wherein those who study literature may agree that at least one language in written form preexisted the Epoch of Gilgamesh so that I have a third opinion supporting common sense with scientific evidence. Clearly, in this particular forum we know there exist some languages which did not have written forms. For example, Hawaiian only incurred a written form when missionaries decided to make one using a subset of the Modern English alphabet.

    James, what is obvious is not an answer to my inquiry. What is fact is an answer to my inquiry. When you have a fact to support common sense in regards to my inquiry, resubmit your answer.

    JMG.
     
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  7. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

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    Two cents worth

    "Half-penny"?: I'm looking for references, but I do know there is somewhere in the world a legitimate investigation going on to trace the origins of human language. From over 6,000 languages in modernity, I believe the claim is that they're down to two, and looking for the connection, which will come from elsewhere in the human-origins search.

    "Two-penny"?: A website concerning the Epic of Gilgamesh:
    People tell me my posts are too long, so I'll keep it quick.

    This site sounds about like what I've been taught, that Gilgamesh is the oldest known recorded story in the world. It is not the oldest story, and is not necessarily the oldest written story. But it is at present the oldest written story known at present.

    :m:,
    Tiassa

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  8. Nightpoet Registered Senior Member

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    Have you actually researched the EPIC of Gilgamesh, or are you just pretending to know everything? Cause you can't even get the modern name of the story right.
    And and epoch is a period of time, and not really relevant to the story, which you would know if you'd read it.
     
  9. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    One ancestral language? Epics and epochs.

    I've run across that line of research as well. Fifty years ago linguists all agreed that it was simply impossible to do research going back more than 12,000 years, because that seemed to be the maximum period of time required for everything about a language to change so completely that it became unrecognizable. Vocabulary, grammar, phonetics, everything.

    Except now they've got computers doing a million comparisons per second and they're discovering hitherto unimaginable relationships so fast that it's hard to keep up with them. Finno-Ugric and Ural-Altaic have already been merged, but now they've joined that pair to Indo-European, and by now probably to Japanese and Korean, to form a "Eurasiatic" family. I saw a table, they've got two numerals and two body parts that retained their original words, through a series of violent but mappable phonetic changes, way back into the Stone Age.

    If you've seen it narrowed down to two families, the second one must be either Africa or the Western Hemisphere. And the writer I checked out seemed optimistic that ultimately it would all be reduced to one ancestral language that was spoken before we migrated out of Africa.

    That makes so much sense that I can see how tempting it is to believe it without proof. What enabled Homo sapiens to explode out of Africa and establish safe, thriving populations in every climate zone? Something very few other large animals had ever accomplished? Perhaps language. We developed it in Africa and then brought it out with us, so all our modern languages are descended from a single ancestor.

    Night Poet:

    Even with a spell checker it's easy to mistake "epoch" for "epic." I didn't know until a recent visit to the Smithsonian that "Gilgamesh" is pronounced with the accent on the second syllable.
     
  10. The Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest written story, not the oldest story. I attempted to clarify this bit in the original thread.

    Quotes from another thread concerning this matter:

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    No written story predates the Epic of Gilgamesh, written in the oldest known script, Cuneiform. However, another written language, Egyptian Hieroglyphics, did exist before the composition of the Epic. This Encyclopedia and this Timeline indicate that Heiroglyphics had been used for approximately 350 years when the Epic was written. However, there is no known Hierglyphic Literature from this period.

    This information is extraneous. This is about literature, not oral tradition.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 25, 2003
  11. Nightpoet Registered Senior Member

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    285
    My point, Fragglerocker, was that it seemed to me that the original poster...GodLied seemed to me to have not even read the story, because if he had he would likely know that it is the EPIC of Gilgamesh, not Epoch. Yes, the two words sound similar, but have completely different meanings. If GodLied is blind (visually impaired, whatever the politically correct term is) then my deepest apologies. My point was that he/she didn't seem to have familiarity with the story, therefore how could he/she prove the current theories about it wrong?
    I wondered about the sincerity of the post.
     
  12. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    24,690
    I understand

    I have ceased trying to draw any conclusions about people from their spelling. A cynical point of view but it saves me from working at a level that I find depressing because... well here I am just about to go into it, shame on me!

    As for how well one understands a story and how sincere one is in posting messages on a BBS that frequently veers off in flippant directions, both of those measures are broad spectrums upon which it's not easy to place a post and its poster. And I don't know how much correlation there is between the two variables.

    I have diligently plodded halfway through "The Magic Mountain," "Huckleberry Finn," and "One Hundred Years of Solitude," until my head hurt and I had to give up in frustration and awe. My wife loves all of those books and wrote papers on them that I typed for her. The only reason my understanding of any of them, despite my sincerity in trying to, is greater than zero is a fortuitous private source of personal "Cliff Notes."

    Whatever the source or motivation of the inquiries, GL has raised two interesting issues that may or may not have been their intention:

    Surely not. An answer based on nothing but an educated hunch extrapolating backward from a story-telling skill that was already highly developed when when the first written records were created.
    Probably one single mother tongue. An answer that could not be guessed at before the availability of the latest computer analysis techniques. A truly surprising and growing list of cognate words among the Indo-European, Ural-Altaic-Finno-Ugric, and other language families of Eurasia has already been established, pushing the cutoff for comparative linguistics well beyond the 12,000 year barrier that has been assumed unassailable since the age before "philology" became "linguistics." If this super-superfamily can ultimately be related to the families of Africa and Australia (my own guess at the current state of the research without trying to dig up last semester's theses), we're looking at a human race that already had a sophisticated language before we started migrating out of Africa. Which raises the intriguing hypotheses that language was one of the resources that enabled Homo sapiens to thrive in virtually every climate zone and ecosystem -- an achievement we share with just a few predators like the wolf.

    I've presented my theory in a few other threads about how the striking similarity between the adaptability, curiosity, and highly evolved social structure of wolves and humans led to the voluntary creation of the world's first multi-species community. And I believe that experience, of learning to care about "people" of a totally different species, paved the way for us to emerge from the tribal communities of the Mesoolithic era into the larger village networks of the Neolithic, and ultimately to build civilizations that could not have functioned if we hadn't already developed the ability to feel kinship toward people quite different from ourselves.

    So regardless of the "sincerity" of the original question, it serves as a springboard for conjecturing about the possibility that without first learning to live with dogs and enjoy it, we might never have built cities, nations, and computers. And that, arguably, might never have happened if at least one of the two species had not invented language.
     
  13. GodLied Registered Senior Member

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    436
    Re: I understand

    Petroglyphic writing predates the epoch in which the epic of Gilgamesh was written in cuneiform. Examples of petroglyphic writing with a purpose exists on the walls of megalithic monuments from the Mesolithic and Neolithic period in Ireland. The Tuatha Dé Danaan (People of the Goddess Danu) built them as sacred sites from 5,800 to 3,000 BCE. Those Irish artworks are in the oldest known astronomical observatories in the world. Also, 5,800 BCE predates cuneiform--the language the Epic of Gilgamesh was written in on clay tablets. Because those petroglyphs relate to something tangible, they are the oldest documented language.

    JMG.
     
  14. Crystal Registered Senior Member

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    50
    What the hell kind a logic is this.

    stories don't require language - and language doesn't only come in the form of stories....

    duh...

    secondly language isn't only written, and stories aren't only written..

    get your stuff straight.
     
  15. EvilPoet I am what I am Registered Senior Member

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    Do you want to know about oral or written stories? The original question you posted that started all of this was regarding written stories.
     
  16. GodLied Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    436
    Re: Re: What Language predates the Epoch of Gilgamesh?

    Crystal, you presume to say stories may be communicated without language. So, without any means of communication, how is a story to be transferred from one person to another?

    JMG.
     
  17. GodLied Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    436
    I do not even recall the orginal post. However, writing in the form of petroglyphs predates cuneiform. Cuneiform is the language in which the Epic of Gilgamesh was written. Petroglyphs in ancient Ireland observatories predate cuneiform. Those petroglyphs are pictographs with a purpose. Pictographs are the basis from which Chinese and Japanese written languages stem from. I do not know if archeologists will find artifacts with ancient Irish pitcographic writing disclosing a story. However, anyone intelectual enough to produce an observatory and generate symbols for the various stars, constellations and so on and so forth, should be capable of communicating other notions in pictographic writing.

    In addition to being able to communicate, those people had to be math literate to construct mathematically correct astonomical observatories. The depth with which they knew things is not known to me. However, they needed at least a straight edge, a measuring device, and either a compass or a T-Square. They had to know addition and subtraction. I do not know if they knew multiplication, division, trigonometry, and analytic geometry. An archaeologist has to just find a tablet with logical notations and inscriptions of conic sections to know the depth of their math literacy.

    Oh, if an archaeologist finds a miniature model of an existing structure, at least one of the ancient Irish people could do division and multiplication.

    Also, any ancient civilization that used an elliptical roof over a table where each head of a sitting person would be approximately at a focal point to aid in communication, that civilization's architecht knew conic sections and the average height of people that would sit in the chairs.

    JMG.
     
  18. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    24,690
    Do you have any good sources of speculation on the origin of the people who lived on Ireland at that time? From what I can gather, even though the Celts had settled virtually all of Europe by the time the other Indo-European tribes got there, they had only been there since around 2,000BCE, long after those edifices were built.

    So who was there first? All we have is the ruins of the Etruscans, the language of the Basques, and the monuments of a people we can't even name on Ireland and Great Britain. Perhaps the whole continent was previously occupied by another single ethnic group from an earlier wave of migration that was almost totally displaced by Indo-Europeans.
     
  19. EvilPoet I am what I am Registered Senior Member

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    2,007
    GodLied,

    You know what I think? I think that you should do your own research to find the answers to your question/s if they are not being answered to your satisfaction here. In my opinion, this website (as well as the other one I posted) is a good place to start: www.omniglot.com
     
  20. truth Registered Senior Member

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    643
    This more about an alphabet, but since alphabets are inherently connected to spoken language, this may prove of interest. An alphabet has been found all over the world that is similar/same and thought to be a proto-alphabet and/or language. Check the link:

    http://paranormal.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://www.viewzone.com/expo2002.html


    ---------------------------------------------------
    "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury.” -- Sir Alex Fraser Tytler (1742-1813), Scottish jurist and historian, professor of Universal History at Edinburgh University.
     
  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    24,690
    The link is broken and it just takes me to the home page of the webzine. A search on "alphabet" brought up too many hits and none of them seemed right. Could you double-check the link please? Or is it just me?

    Anyway, alphabets and syllabaries all seem to be derived from older systems of logograms. Humans first devise symbols for places and important objects and animals, then they discover phonetics and slowly change the mapping of the symbols from things to sounds. Or else they don't, like the Chinese.

    Actually there's a strong phonetic component to Chinese characters, many of them are a combination of one word that sounds like the word in question and another that has a related meaning. But at this rate it will take about 5,000 years to evolve into a phonetic alphabet.

    If there's evidence of an alphabet that predates cuneiform, etc., I'd like to see it.
     
  22. truth Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    643
    I'm not sure what the problem is Fraggle, I just clicked the link and went right there, maybe try it again. BTW I loved Fraggle Rock!
    -----------------------------------------------
    "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury.” -- Sir Alex Fraser Tytler (1742-1813), Scottish jurist and historian, professor of Universal History at Edinburgh University.
     
  23. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    24,690
    Yeah, it just loaded OK for me too. Guess I caught it on a bad night.

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    My wife, Red Fraggle, and I get a lot of comments about our handles. It's encouraging to see so many people who were touched by that show. It was an intelligently crafted story, full of archetypes, like Gilgamesh.

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    We paid for HBO for about two years just for Fraggle Rock.

    As for the paper's hypothetical link between the Indians and the Semites, it seems like people have been trying to build that case since colonial days. These researchers at least seem worthy of the name "scientists" and they're not pushing the old "Lost Tribe" chestnut, but still I'll wait for some more extensive peer review before I take their hypothesis seriously.

    The big problem is that it flies in the face of rather a lot of research that's been done in the past two decades that neatly sorted out the mysteries of the New World migrations and the taxonomy of its ethnic groups. Anthropology, archeology, DNA analysis, dental patterns, and linguistics have converged into a pretty convincing "three waves" model.

    The Athabascans came over the Bering land bridge at least 16,000 years ago (some evidence suggests they may have sailed over on higher seas 4,000 years earlier but it doesn't materially affect the model) and their descendants are ALL the people south of the Rio Grande and MOST of the people east of the Rockies. Their languages and physiology have neatly matched up and defined a single ethnic group.

    The Na-Dene followed the same route around 4,000BCE (again it might have been a bit earlier and again it doesn't make much difference) and ended up settling primarily west of the Rockies in what is now the USA and Canada. They have similarly fallen into a convincingly defined ethnic group.

    Those groups both started their treks in almost the same area in Central Asia. But as yet no evidence has been found to relate them to each other, except distantly as Mongoloid peoples who split off from the Asian branch before the epicanthic eye folds became universal.

    Then around 2,000BCE the Eskimo-Aleuts arrived, finding the continent so crowded that they stayed in the Arctic latitudes that they were already acclimated to. Their language and culture are clearly related to the peoples of Arctic Asia. They and their cousins have earned a place in the Trivia Hall of Fame by being the aboriginal people with the widest range of longitude: the Asian side of the family reaches almost to Finland's doorstep while the American side has settled Greenland. More than 3/4 of the way around the globe.

    Anyway, many of the tribes that the paper discusses in the borderline Four Corners area are Athabascans. That means their ancestors left Eurasia no later than 14,000BCE. They are clearly of Mongoloid stock, not Caucasoid like the Semites. I don't think anybody has pinned down where or even who the ancestors of the Semites were 6,000 years before civilization sprang up in Mesopotamia.

    But let's assume for the sake of argument that they made the migration, first from Mesopotamia to that staging area in Xinjiang or Mongolia or whatever modern region it falls in, and then to North America. And let's also assume for the sake of argument that they intermarried with everyone they met along the way, so by the time they started their second trek through Siberia they were more Mongoloid than Caucasoid. (After all, the Mongols did precisely the same thing in reverse on the eastward trek that deposited them in Turkey. To say nothing of the amazing metamorphosis of the Bulgars into Slavs.) Still all of this took place thousands of years before the appearance of the common alphabet hypothesized in the article.

    Maybe the Na-Dene people brought it with them. The timeline barely fits. But the paper speaks of cultural influence spreading northward from the Athabascan people in Mexico, who could not have had this alphabet, into the Four Corners area. The movement would have to have been just the opposite for the Na-Dene, the only people recently enough arrived in the New World to have brought it with them, to have instead brought it south to the Athabascans.

    As I said, I'm not disposed to dismiss this work until I see it reviewed by someone with a lot more credentials than mine. But until then I will at least remain skeptical. It leaves some huge questions unanswered.
     

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