The weekly photo challenge offers us a prompt every Friday to interpret with photos. This week, the challenge urges us to find a string of letters out in the open.
My mind was taken back immediately to all the old inscriptions on stone that I have seen during my travels. These were records of activities that were done by people- kings, ministers, commoners- that still survive to tell us the tale.
I most recently travelled to Bhopal to see the ancient Buddhist monuments at Sanchi. This carving got my attention immediately because the animal was strange (it seems to be a mix of an elephant, a deer,a horse and maybe a bull). But above it was an inscription in the ancient Brahmi script- an early writing system in use in the Indian subcontinent from 3rd century BCE to about the 6th century CE. In fact the inscriptions at Sanchi were key to help decipher the entire script.
Exactly a year ago, I visited the Brahadeesvara Temple in Tanjore- a spectacular edifice in stone which has inscriptions where King Raja Raja Chola describes how he built the temple in the early 11th century CE. The inscriptions are in Tamil though anyone who reads Tamil today will have a hard time reading the script because of how it has evolved over the centuries.
This magnificent inscription lies in the centre of Rome on the arch of Titus- a triumphal arch that was built by Titus’ brother Domitian shortly after the former’s death in order to commemorate his victories (most notably the sack of Jerusalem in 70 AD). The inscription reads
DIVO TITO DIVI VESPASIANI F
which roughly translates into “The Senate and the People of Rome dedicate this monument to the Divine Augustus Titus Vespasianus, son of the Divine Vespasian”.