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Arnekhamani’s sistrum. New Insights on the Appearance of the Meroitic script

Abstract : In Spring 2015, a silver plated copper alloy sistrum from a private collection was offered for sale in Belgium. The object bears on the top the two cartouches of king Arnekhamani (ca. 240-215) with the epithet « beloved of Isis », which he adopted at the end of his reign. On the handle, a fine Meroitic inscription, divided in two frames, is engraved. This inscription is very likely contemporaneous with the cartouches as it begins with the mention of “king Ela(n)khamani”, which provides a more accurate rendering of the king’s name than the Egyptian transcription Jrnḫ-Jmn. However, the main interest of this sistrum is that it brings back into the mid-3rd Cent. BC the appearance of the Meroitic cursive script, which the author had previously placed at the beginning of the 2nd Cent. BC. The signs of the sistrum already display their later form, apart from “e”, which is closer to the Egyptian hieroglyph “j” and “te”, which lacks the final bar. The writing system, namely an alpha-syllabary with specific rules, is already completely in place. For these reasons, some very early inscriptions in Meroitic cursive with signs that are more primitive than the sistrum’s and that were tentatively dated to the early 2nd century must be placed now in the first half of the 3rd Cent. BC. It means that the appearance of the Meroitic script is probably linked with the rise of the Meroitic dynasty.
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Contributor : Claude Rilly <>
Submitted on : Friday, March 3, 2017 - 6:35:13 PM
Last modification on : Friday, March 27, 2020 - 3:40:02 AM


  • HAL Id : halshs-01482759, version 1



Claude Rilly. Arnekhamani’s sistrum. New Insights on the Appearance of the Meroitic script . 12th Conference for Meroitic Studies, Pawel Onderka, Sep 2016, Prague, Czech Republic. ⟨halshs-01482759⟩



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