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The enigma of the Venetic script 1.

Recent discoveries and new hypothesis

The Venetic people entered Europe in 13th century BC, and spread in a great wave of migration from the Baltic Sea down through central Europe and the Apennine Peninsula almost as far as Sicily, establishing a number of flourishing cultures, among them Este in norther Italy

A number of archaeological discoveries give strong evidence that Este was an important centre of Venetic culture in 7th to 4th century BC, with a great shrine to the god (or goddess) Reitia and more importantly, a school for scribes. Among numerous finds that include small bronze statues, various tools and weapons, vases, clasps, money, were 200 inscriptions in the Venetic script and the so-called Alphabet Tablets, which were thought to contain the key to the mystery.

Matej Bor, Slovenian poet and linguist had studied the problem of the Venetic script over a number of years. In contrast to the prevailing opinion, he believed in the Slavic origin of the Venetic language (rather than Italic), He found enough indicators to warrant an investigation based on this premise.

As it sometimes happens, Bor was once more studying Tablet Es 24 containing the mysterious word akeo, when he had a flash of intuition. The scholars had read the inscription of rows of identical letters starting from the bottom, and came up with the repetitions of akeo.


The Venetic Alphabet


Alphabet tablet Es 25(LLV) Museo Nazionale Atestino

Looking at the text, Bor suddenly had a new perspective: what if the inscription should be read from the top? If he further left out the row of letters o as having only a separating function? He tried it, and came up with an answer that made sense. The result was stunning and beyond expectations. He discovered a recognizable Slovenian verb, set out with grammatical forms still current in modern Slovenian.

E E E E E E E E E E E
K K K K K K K K K K K
A A A A A A A A A A A
E H B T IS R P J D V

With the inclusion of the letters from the damaged part of the tablet, which Venetologists had already provided, and leaving out the top row of letters o, Bor got the following words:

Ekae, ekah, ekat, ekais, ekar, eka, ekap,
ekan, ekam, ekal, ekak, ekaj, ekad, ekav.

He made a further assumption that e is pronounced as je (ye as in yes), which is the case in Old Church Slavic (9th century) and in present day Russian. In Slovenian and Serbo-Croatian it is both spoken and written as je. The result were forms of the verb jekat (to cry, wail or mourn, eg. at a funeral), its meaning and endings still current in Slovenian and Serbo-Croatian:

jekat (inf), jekam (1st p. sg.), jeka (2 nd p. sg), jekaj (imp. sg.),
jekal (past part. masc.), jekaje (present part.), jekah (aorist 1 st p. sg.)

Bor made another important discovery - a segment on Venetic phonetics, with consonants and tautosyllabic consonant pairs, such as kr, kn, kl, tr, tn, tl, sr, sn, sl, mr, mn, etc., another teaching tool.

Bors discovery of the verb jekat on the tablet Es 26(LLV) was of great significance in that it led to further investigation of the tablets and their function. The Slovenian linguist concluded that they were fragments or chapters on Venetic phonology and morphology the remnants of a fairly sophisticated teaching tool, demonstrating an unexpected level of understanding of language structures.

Matej Bor proceeded to decipher other tablets and inscriptions, and found his hypothesis largely confirmed. An expert in Slavic languages and Slovenian dialects, he was not only able to understand the inscriptions, but also found to his delight many words and structures, that are still in use today, in modern Slovenian literary language and in Slovenian dialects.

A very important conclusion can now be made regarding the Venetic language: it was Old Slavic or more precisely, proto-Slovenian, a precursor of the modern Slovenian language.

Aleksandra Ceferin, Thezaurus (Melbourne 2000)
From: Ssavli, Bor, Tomazzic, Veneti-First Builders of European Community (Vienna 1996)