Here’s a request from a visitor to Omniglot that maybe you can help with:

I purchased a copper pitcher from an antiques dealer in Baghdad recently and found two characters marked under the lip of the pitcher. The dealer wasn’t aware of the marks and assures me that the piece is from Iraq/Iraqi made, yet, though they appear to be some form of Arabic, none of our interpreters have been able to tell me what the marks mean. Can you please tell me what they are? I have studied every alphabet chart online, but cannot find an exact match.

Mystery symbols from a copper pitcher

The image on the left was the one sent to me. The other ones are the same image flipped round.

This entry was posted in Language, Puzzles, Writing.

4 Responses to Puzzle

  1. Christopher Miller says:

    The top looks like عا = ‘aa (but beginning with what looks like a medial form of ع = ‘ain); the bottom could be either دد = bd or بر, = br but since what I interpret at first glance the initial form as ب = b at first glance is undotted, it could just as well be the initial form of t, th, n or y, which all have the same initial shape and differ only by the number and placement of dots.

  2. Christopher DeCou says:

    To me, the letters are reminiscent of Syriac letters. The first two for example look like the Shin and Alep, and the second set like the Nun and Zayn. Check out the wiki site here for the alphabet: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syriac_alphabet

  3. TJ says:

    The two possibilities (Arabic and Syriac) are possible here.
    it can be `á(?)r, or something like Shánz(d,r).

    To me, I think it is merely the signature of the maker. If he was an Arab, then most probably it is his name and most probably it could be: `ábir or `ábid [عابر، عابد] respectively from right to left. These are the names that I could think of that can be closely relevant to this form of writing, despite the dotless letter.

    I’m reluctant to say Syriac, although there is some similarity, because of the first letter, which has an open loop. the “SH” in Syriac is usually closed even in the beginning of a word, whether that is Estrangelo, Nestorian or Serto. Anyway, since it is taken from Iraq, we might concentrate the efforts on Nestorian and Estrangelo more.

    The name `ábir عابر by the way, is the Arabic version of “Eber” as far as I remember. Also in the language, it means “passer-by”.

  4. Dan Hatcher says:

    Thank you very much for the help. I too believe it is a maker’s mark and `abir sounds very plausible.

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