Undeciphered writing systems
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Many undeciphered writing systems date from several thousand years BC, though some more modern examples do exist. The difficulty in deciphering these systems can arise from a lack of known language descendants or from the languages being entirely isolated, from insufficient examples of text having been found and even (such as in the case of Vinča) from the question of whether the symbols actually constitute a writing system at all. Some researchers have made claims of being able to decipher certain writing systems, such as those of Epi-Olmec, Phaistos and Indus texts; but to date, these claims have not been widely accepted within the scientific community, or confirmed by independent researchers, for the writing systems listed here (unless otherwise specified).
Certain forms of proto-writing remain undeciphered and, because of a lack of evidence and linguistic descendants, it is quite likely that these writing systems will never be deciphered.
- Jiahu symbols — Peiligang culture, from the 7th millennium BC.
- Vinča signs — Neolithic Europe, from the 6th millennium BC.
- Dispilio tablet - Neolithic Europe, from the 6th millennium BC.
- Banpo symbols — Yangshao culture, from the 5th millennium BC.
Bronze Age scripts
The following is a list of undeciphered scripts from the Bronze Age (3300 to 1200 BC).
- Indus script — Indus Valley Civilization, proto-writing from ca. 3300 BC, mature script ca. 2500-1900 BC.
- Proto-Elamite — Elam, from ca. 3200 BC.
- Linear Elamite, from ca. 2200 BC.
- Linear A — Minoan, from ca. 1900 BC, a syllabary.
- Cretan hieroglyphs - from ca. 1900 BC.
- Wadi el-Ħôl script, ca. 1800 BC, likely an abjad.
- Byblos — the city of Byblos, ca. 1700 BC.
- Phaistos Disc, ca. 1600 BC, a unique text found on one single object; a short inscription on the Arkalokhori axe possibly represents the same type of writing.
- Cypro-Minoan syllabary, from ca. 1500 BC.
- Southwest Paleohispanic script, from ca. 700 BC.
- Sitovo inscription, probably Phrygian; see ru:Ситовская надпись.
Many Mesoamerican writing systems have been discovered by archaeologists. Many of them remain undeciphered because we lack knowledge of the original language. These writing systems were used between 1000 BC and 1500 AD.
- Olmec — Olmec civilization, ca. 900 BC, possibly the oldest Mesoamerican script.
- Isthmian, ca. 500 BC, apparently logosyllabic.
- Zapotec — Zapotec, ca. 500 BC.
- Mixtec — Mixtec, 14th century, perhaps pictographic.
South American scripts
- Quipu — Inca Empire, 15th century, is thought by some to have been a writing system, but is generally believed to be an accounting system.
Medieval and later scripts
- Issyk writing (ancient Turkestan and Afghanistan)
- Jurchen script (Manchuria)
- Khitan small script — Khitan, 10th century.
- Singapore Stone, a fragment of a sandstone slab inscribed with an ancient Southeast Asian script, perhaps Old Javanese or Sanskrit. At least 13th century, and possibly as early as 10th to 11th century.
- Rongorongo — Rapa Nui, before 1860.
Fictional undeciphered writing systems
Possible hoax undeciphered writing systems
- Voynich manuscript, estimated to have been created circa 1450-1520, based on illustrations contained within the manuscript. Some claims date the book as early as the 11th century. Recent carbon dating has dated it to the 15th century . In terms of provenance, the earliest confirmed references to the work date only to the early 17th century.
- Jindai moji - a diverse collection of different styles of script, found mostly or exclusively in Japan. Promoted by Japanese nationalists of the 1930s as examples of archaic, native Japanese writing systems, pre-dating Chinese influence. The Jindai Moji, taken as a whole, are now widely considered to be inauthentic in regards to such claims. However, the ages, origins, and significance of the different styles of script remain unclear.. Among the styles of writing included in this category, some are pictographic or runic in appearance, others are similar to Korean Hangul characters. Some of the writings are/were "undeciphered".
- Rohonc Codex, before 1838.
- Reformed Egyptian