Life and Happiness: A Petitionary Reading of the Horizontal Wadi el-Hôl Inscription

Posted in: ASOR, ASORTV
Tags: alphabetic, ancient writing, annual meeting, Aren Wilson-Wright, ASOR, ASORTV, biblical, Egypt, Egyptian, Inscriptions, Old North Arabian, Wadi
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At the 2014 ASOR Annual Meeting, Aren Wilson-Wright presented his paper, “Life and Happiness: A Petitionary Reading of the Horizontal Wadi el-Hôl Inscription.” He also took the time to meet with the ASORtv team to present his paper for the ASOR YouTube channel. Below you can watch his paper presentation, and read the abstract from the 2014 ASOR Annual Meeting program book.

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Abstract from the 2014 Annual Meeting Program book.

Aren Wilson-Wright (University of Texas at Austin), “Life and Happiness: A Petitionary Reading of the Horizontal Wadi el-Hôl Inscription”

Discovered in 1995, the two inscriptions from Wadi el-Hôl constitute some of the earliest known alphabetic texts. Although David Vanderhooft has recently suggested a plausible partial reading of the vertical inscription (WEH 1), the longer, horizontal inscription (WEH 2) remains undeciphered for a number of reasons. Chief among these is the identity of the thirteenth letter. Shaped like a cowry- shell, this letter does not have any obvious descendants among later alphabetic writing systems from which to ascertain its phonetic value. In this paper, I suggest that the thirteenth letter represents the sun (*śims-) and had the value on the basis of Egyptian and Old North Arabian parallels. I also propose a new reading of the tenth letter. These identifications permit a reading of the inscription as a whole. According to my interpretation, the author of the inscription asks the divine for “life” (nps) and “happiness” (śmḫ). In this regard, WEH 2 parallels Egyptian inscriptions like WEH 45, which request “life” (ʕnh) and “stability” (dd).


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