help in identifying mss scroll script: the upshot

David Magier magier at COLUMBIA.EDU
Tue Mar 21 16:03:55 UTC 2006

Thanks to everyone who took a look at those peculiar manuscript scrolls


and attempted to help figure out which language/script they might be. There 
were lots of speculative responses pointing to about 6 different parts of 
the world (ranging from Semitic to Soghdian to Devanagari to Dravidian to 
Burmese), but no one felt confident about any sort of identification, 
EXCEPT Prof. Oktor Skjaervo of Harvard, who felt it was Bactrian Greek, and 
who pointed me to Prof. Nicholas Sims-Williams of SOAS. He is a Bactrian 
specialist whose opinion below seems to be the final word on the matter. 
Another great example of the power of the internet for broad scholarly 

Thanks again to all.

David Magier
Columbia University Libraries

------------ Forwarded Message ------------

Dear Mr Magier,

Professor Skjaervø has forwarded your message to me since he recognized the
script as the Bactrian variety of Greek script, which is a speciality of

Unfortunately the manuscript seems to be a modern forgery, of which there
are many on the market nowadays. The letters are mostly correctly written,
presumably copied from genuine documents, but they are not joined up as
they would be in a real text and therefore cannot be transcribed, let alone
translated. I cannot tell whether or not the sealing is authentic, as the
photo is quite blurred, but it seems to be attached to the document the
opposite way up to the writing.

I am sorry to be the bringer of disappointing news.

All the best,
Nicholas Sims-Williams

---------- End Forwarded Message ----------

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