Discussion about Mediterranean anthropology.

Gerard Cheshire's picture

Dear H-SAE members,

Those of you interested in anthropology of the Mediterranean during the Medieval may wish to start a discussion.

Recently the writing system of a Medieval manuscript was revealed to be proto-Romance: i.e. the ancestor to the modern Romance languages. In addition, it is written with a proto-Italic alphabet. It is the only known document of this kind and therefore has considerable linguistic and historic importance.

Two papers have been issued, which explain the writing system and translate a number of excerpts as examples. They can be freely downloaded from the LingBuzz website. 

  1. Linguistic Missing Links: http://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/003737 
  2. Linguistically Dating and Locating MS408: http://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/003808

The manuscript reveals that proto-Romance was a combination of simplified spoken Latin and words taken from various other languages, resulting from trade, political conquest, slavery, royal marriage and the communication of ideas. So proto-Romance was an effective way of communicating between people from many lands. When the political map became more fixed, the relative isolation of different populations then caused proto-Romance to evolve into the modern Romance languages that exist today.

From the anthropological point of view, the manuscript provides a number of insights into the influence of Italian geography on European belief sytems. For example, it is clear that the concept of the fiery underworld in Christianity came from the presence of volcanoes in the region. Also, vestigial pagan beliefs, including astrology, have a strong presence in the manuscript due to their being preserved on the Mediterranean islands. 

The discussion is this: Can the central Mediterranean be thought of as the beginning of the modern world? 


Gerard Cheshire.

University of Bristol.