Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
- Author(s): Rilly, Claude
- et al.
The Meroitic language is known from more than two thousands inscriptions found in the northern part of Sudan and in Egyptian Nubia. Although it was written only during the Kingdom of Meroe (300 BC – AD 350), the language is already attested in Egyptian transcriptions of personal names from the second millennium BC on. Meroitic was written in two scripts, cursive and hieroglyphic, both derived from Egyptian scripts. The system is alphasyllabic and uses twenty-three signs plus a word-divider made of two or three dots. The scripts were deciphered in 1907-1911 by F. Ll. Griffith, but knowledge of the language itself still remains incomplete. However, the linguistic affiliation of Meroitic has been recently established: it belongs to the Northern East Sudanic branch of the Nilo-Saharan phylum. Further advances in understanding the Meroitic texts are expected from comparative linguistic research made possibly by this discovery.