- Vinča signs
The Vinča signs, also known as the "Vinča alphabet, Vinča-Turdaş script," or Old European script, are a set of symbols found on prehistoric artifacts from
southeastern Europe. A few scholars believe they constitute a writing systemof the Vinča culture, which inhabited the region around 6000-4000 BC. Most, however, doubt that the markings represent writing at all, citing the brevity of the purported inscriptions and the dearth of repeated symbols in the purported script; it is all but universally accepted among scholars that the Sumerian cuneiform script of "c." 3000 BC is the earliest form of writing. It is more likely that the symbols formed a kind of "proto-writing"; that is, that they conveyed a message but did not encode language.
In 1875, archaeological excavations led by the archeologist
Zsófia Torma(1840–1899) at Turdaş("Tordos"), near Orăştiein Transylvania, Romaniaunearthed a cache of objects inscribed with previously unknown symbols. A similar cache was found during excavations conducted in 1908 in Vinča, a suburbof Belgrade( Serbia), some 120km from Tordos. Later, more such fragments were found in Banjica, another part of Belgrade. Thus the culture represented is called the Vinča culture, and the script often called the Vinca-Tordos script.
The discovery of the
Tartaria tabletsin Romania by Nicolae Vlassa in 1961 reignited the debate. Vlassa believed the inscriptions to be pictogramsand the finds were subsequently carbon-dated to before 4000 BC, thirteen hundred years earlier than the date he expected, and earlier even than the writing systems of the Sumerians and Minoans. To date, more than a thousand fragments with similar inscriptions have been found on various archaeological sites throughout south-eastern Europe, notably in Greece( Dispilio Tablet), Bulgaria, former Yugoslavia, Romania, eastern Hungary, Moldova, and southern Ukraine.
Most of the inscriptions are on
pottery, with the remainder appearing on whorls (flat cylindrical annuli), figurines, and a small collection of other objects. Over 85% of the inscriptions consist of a single symbol. The symbols themselves consist of a variety of abstract and representative pictograms, including zoomorphic(animal-like) representations, combs or brush patterns and abstract symbols such as swastikas, crosses and chevrons. Other objects include groups of symbols, of which some are arranged in no particularly obvious pattern, with the result that neither the order nor the direction of the signs in these groups is readily determinable. The usage of symbols varies significantly between objects: symbols that appear by themselves tend almost exclusively to appear on pots, while symbols that are grouped with other symbols tend to appear on whorls.
The importance of these findings lies in the fact that the oldest of them are dated around 4000 BC, around a thousand years before the proto-Sumerian pictographic script from
Uruk(modern Iraq), which is usually considered as the oldest known script. Analyses of the symbols showed that they had little similarity with Near Eastern writing, leading to the view that these symbols and the Sumerian script probably arose independently. There are some similarities between the symbols and other Neolithic symbologies found elsewhere, as far afield as Egypt, Creteand even China. However, Chinese scholars have suggested that such signs were produced by a convergent development of what might be called a precursor to writing which evolved independently in a number of societies. Indeed, there are some similarities between Sumerian cuneiform scriptand stone markings from Çatalhöyükin Turkey and Kamyana Mohylain Southern Ukraine, both predating the Vinča culture by several millennia Fact|date=July 2008.
Although a large number of symbols are known, most artifacts contain so few symbols that they are very unlikely to represent a complete text. Possibly the only exception is a stone found near Sitovo in
Bulgaria, the dating of which is disputed; regardless, the stone has only around 50 symbols. It is unknown which languageused the symbols, or indeed whether they stand for a language in the first place.
Meaning of the symbols
The nature and purpose of the symbols is a mystery. It is not even clear whether they constitute a
writing system. If they do, it is not known whether they represent an alphabet, syllabary, ideograms or some other form of writing. Although attempts have been made to decipher the symbols, there is no generally accepted translation or agreement as to what they mean.
At first it was thought that the symbols were simply used as property marks, with no more meaning than "this belongs to X"; a prominent holder of this view is archaeologist
P. Biehl. This theory is now mostly abandoned as same symbols have been repeatedly found on the whole territory of Vinča culture, on locations hundreds of kilometers and years away from each other.
The prevailing theory is that the symbols were used for religious purposes in a traditional agricultural society. If so, the fact that the same symbols were used for centuries with little change suggests that the ritual meaning and culture represented by the symbols likewise remained constant for a very long time, with no need for further development. The use of the symbols appears to have been abandoned (along with the objects on which they appear) at the start of the
Bronze Age, suggesting that the new technology brought with it significant changes in social organization and beliefs.
One argument in favour of the ritual explanation is that the objects on which the symbols appear do not appear to have had much long-term significance to their owners - they are commonly found in pits and other refuse areas. Certain objects, principally figurines, are most usually found buried under houses. This is consistent with the supposition that they were prepared for household religious ceremonies in which the signs incised on the objects represent expressions: a desire, request, vow, etc. After the ceremony was completed, the object would either have no further significance (hence would be disposed of) or would be buried ritually (which some have interpreted as
Some of the "comb" or "brush" symbols, which collectively compose as much as a sixth of all the symbols so far discovered, may represent numbers. Some scholars have pointed out that over a quarter of the inscriptions are located on the bottom of a pot, an ostensibly unlikely place for a religious inscription. The Vinča culture appears to have traded its wares quite widely with other cultures (as demonstrated by the widespread distribution of inscribed pots), so it is possible that the "numerical" symbols conveyed information about the value of the pots or their contents. Other cultures, such as the
Minoansand Sumerians, used their scripts primarily as accounting tools; the Vinča symbols may have served a similar purpose.
Other symbols (principally those restricted to the base of pots) are wholly unique. Such signs may denote the contents, provenance/destination or manufacturer/owner of the pot.
Griffen (2005) claims to have partially deciphered the script, identifying signs for "bear", "bird" and "goddess". He compares two spinning
whorls, Jela 1 and 2, with almost identical marks, and identifies similar marks on bear and bird figurines. The whorl inscriptions would read "bear — goddess — bird — goddess — bear — goddess–goddess" which he interprets as "bear goddess and bird goddess: bear goddess indeed", or "the bear goddess and the bird goddess are really a single bear goddess". Griffen compares the amalgamation of a goddess with bearlike and birdlike attributes in Greek Artemis. Griffen's "goddess" sign is two vertical strokes, apparently symbolizing a vulva; this is reminiscent of the Linear B"female" sign, two upright slanting strokes.
Marija Gimbutas and Vinča as pre-writing
The primary advocate of the idea that the markings represent writing, and the person who coined the name "Old European Script", was
Marija Gimbutas(1921-1994), an important 20th century archaeologist and premier advocate of the notion that the Kurgan cultureof Central Asia was an early culture of Proto-Indo-Europeans. Later in life she turned her attention to the reconstruction of a hypothetical pre-Indo-European"Old European" culture, which she thought spanned most of Europe. She observed that neolithicEuropean iconographywas predominantly female—a trend also visible in the inscribed figurines of the Vinča culture—and concluded the existence of a " matristic" (her term for "woman-centered", as opposed to androcentric, but not necessarily matriarchal) culture that worshipped a range of goddesses and gods. (Gimbutas did not posit a single universal Mother Goddess.) She also incorporated the Vinča markings into her model of Old Europe, suggesting that they might either be the writing system for an Old European language, or, more probably, a kind of "pre-writing" symbolic system. Most archaeologists and linguists disagree with Gimbutas' interpretation of the Vinča signs as a script.
Like most undeciphered writing systems, the Vinca script has attracted the attention of fringe authors. The Serbian archaeologist
Radivoje Pešićproposes in his book "The Vinča Alphabet" (ISBN 86-7540-006-3) that all of the symbols exist in the Etruscan alphabet, and conversely, that all Etruscan letters are found among the Vinča signs. This view is not accepted by mainstream archaeologists.
Tărtăria tablets, the most complex examples of these signs
* Jiahu signs, an even older example of probable proto-writing
* Vinča culture
Old European cultures
List of undeciphered writing systems
* Gimbutas, Marija. 1974. "The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe 7000 - 3500 BC, Mythos, Legends and Cult Images"
*Griffen, Toby D., "Deciphering the Vinca Script" [http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/8610/index.html] , 2005.
* Winn, Shan M.M. 1981. "Pre-writing in Southeastern Europe: the sign system of the Vinča culture, ca. 4000 BC"
* [http://www.omniglot.com/writing/vinca.htm Vinca-Tordos symbols] at omniglot.com, including a font
* [http://arxiv.org/html/math.HO/0309157 The Number System of the Old European Script - Eric Lewin Altschuler]
* [http://www.prehistory.it/ftp/winn.htm The Old European Script: Further evidence - Shan M. M. Winn]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Vinča symbols — Tordos redirects here. For the Romanian commune called Tordos in Hungarian, see Turdaş. The Vinča symbols, sometimes called the Vinča script or Old European script (also Vinča signs, Vinča Turdaş script, etc.) are a set of symbols found on… … Wikipedia
Vinča culture — The Vinča culture was an early culture of Europe (between the 6th and the 3rd millennium BC), stretching around the course of Danube in what today is Serbia, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, and the Republic of Macedonia, although traces of it can be… … Wikipedia
Escritura Vinča — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Una vasija de barro desenterrada en Vinča, encontrada a una profundidad de 8,5 m La escritura Vinča, también llamada alfabeto Vinča o Escritura europea antigua es el nombre dado a un tipo de marcas encontradas en una … Wikipedia Español
Tărtăria tablets — The Tărtăria tablets are three tablets, discovered in Tărtăria, Romania. They bear incised symbols that have been the subject of considerable controversy among archaeologists, some of whom claim that the symbols represent the earliest known form… … Wikipedia
History of writing — Writing systems History Grapheme List of writing systems Types Featural alphabet Alphabet Abjad Abugida Syllabary Logography Shorthand … Wikipedia
Neolithic — An array of Neolithic artifacts, including bracelets, axe heads, chisels, and polishing tools. Neolithic stone implements are by definition polished and except for specialty items not chipped. The Neolithic … Wikipedia
Belgrade — For other uses, see Belgrade (disambiguation). Belgrade Београд Beograd City … Wikipedia
Writing system — Predominant scripts at the national level, with selected regional and minority scripts. Alphabet Latin Cyrillic Latin Greek … Wikipedia
Bird goddess — The term Bird goddess was coined by Marija Gimbutas with relation to Neolithic Europe. The Vinca culture, in particular, had a bird goddess. Griffen (2005) even claims to have discovered a sign for the bird goddess in the Vinča signs.Later… … Wikipedia
Vin — may refer to: *Voltage input (an alternative form for Vin ) *Vin, California, in Yolo County *Vinča signs *a diminutive of the name Vincent , as in: **Vin Diesel **Vin Scully **Vin Suprynowicz *Vin, the name of a character from the video games… … Wikipedia