|The Global Prehistory Consortium at EURO INNOVANET|
IT COMMUNICATED MESSAGES SUCH AS THE NAMES OF A DIVINITY OR ITS EPITHETS, MAGICAL OR LITURGICAL FORMULAS, FORMS OF DIVINATION, BLESSINGS AND INVOCATIONS; ONLY IN RARE CASES WAS IT USED TO TRANSMIT NARRATIVE CONTENTS SUCH AS MYTHOLOGIES, TALES OR DETAILED DESCRIPTIONS.
In this temple model from Gradesnica (north-west Bulgaria) made at the beginning of the seventh millennium, the facade, roof and walls are decorated with a symbolic and sacred design ; the columns framing the entrance have writing signs carved on them.
messages are conveyed by the inscriptions of the Balkan-Danube script?
They were mainly made up of one or two signs, and
were able to evoke the name of the divinity or some of its attributes,
recall the name of the worshipper, contain a magic formula or a divination,
offer a dedication, pronounce a blessing, promise or wish, or draw up
Anyone could understand simple magical notations, to be jotted down during household rites and used when concentrated individual effort was sufficient for success (i.e. a good catch of fish, a flawless piece of pottery). In the most elementary cases, it was enough to copy a sign from a model which had been handed down from generation to generation in order to benefit from the superhuman powers it incarnated. A certain lack of skill in using the sacred signs may in part explain the great amount of clumsily traced inscriptions.
More important situations (child-birth, health, wedding and death) were likely to require more complex and formal rites and needed the presence of a religious authority. In this case, a female or male shaman or a high-priest or priestess carried out the ceremonies, including magic writings or invocations with one of the many names/attributes of the divinity, perhaps painting it with the sacred colour of ochre or inserting ashes or barley-seeds in it. The faithful may have been asked just to touch or copy the signs made by these officiants.
Only in the (rare) inscriptions consisting of many different signs can we hypothesise a narrative content, such as the recounting of myths, situations or events, states of mind Many authors deny that proto-European writing has these functions. The powerful Hittite poem "God forsook them" reminds us, however, that only a few words are necessary to evoke the scarcity of food, the disappearance of the divinity and the ritual actions desperately accomplished to regain the god's benevolence. (Merlini 2002a)