Sunday, March 2, 2014

Karduniash and Chalsidonhiash: The Reed Symbol and Land of the Chaldees


This is the hieroglyphic reed symbol (to the right) and to the left is our letter I from the Latin Alphabet.  This shows that this reed character has the Egyptian phonetic value for the letter I in our alphabet.

The character is acrophonic in Egyptian, meaning that, as a letter, it stands for the initial sound of the thing that it is a picture of.  In this case, it is Iaru or Yaru, a reed or reeds. (

This character was translated as "Land of the Chaldees" by Joseph Smith, calling it Chalsidonhaish or Zakioanhiash (or Kulsidonhish).  Here is an image of where the translation is given for this character in the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar:


Here is an image of one of the Book of Abraham manuscripts showing the same character representing a marker for the text item Land of the Chaldees in Abraham 1:1:


And here is another section from another one of the Egyptian Alphabet Documents:


Before the part of the Sensen Papyrus containing these characters flaked off when the lacuna became bigger, Joseph Smith was able to translate this symbol along with the hieratic W symbol (that we had talked about in a different post).  Together, they represent a marker for the text "In the Land of the Chaldees, I Abraham..." (i.e. the very first part of Abraham Chapter 1, verse 1.)  Here is where it was located on the Sensen Papyrus before it flaked off (encircled in red):

Here is another 
illustration put together by someone that makes the point:

And also, this:

The "text" of the Sensen Papyrus goes from right to left.  As you can see, this is at the beginning of the so-called text.  However, in the system of interpretation of other Egyptians that used the text differently than the original author of it, as demonstrated in the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, to them it was not an Egyptological text at all, but individual characters with individual meanings in their own contexts, more along the lines of how each symbol in the Hypocephalus or Facsimile #2 is interpreted separately from each other in Joseph Smith's explanation for the picture.  Some individuals like Ed Ashment have oughtright dismissed Joseph Smith's translation of the Chalsidonhiash character.  Hugh Nibley commented on the translation of it in the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, saying:

. . . there cannot be the slightest doubt that the writer here intends to relate specific Egyptian characters to specific English words and ideas. Now this is something like it; this is the sort of demonstration for which we have been looking, in which things are properly pinned down. But alas, if this is the beginning of a rigorous demonstration it is also the ending; for with the second line of the text the project is lamely given up—at that early stage of the game any further attempt to number Egyptian symbols by way of matching them with definite English equivalents is abandoned. [i]

But, Nibley didn't follow up with deeper research on the character to check to see if it actually did translate.  It actually does.  Was not the Land of the Chaldees the land of Sumer?  Yes, indeed it was:

SUMER and Sumerian. The Babylonian name Shumer was used in the cuneiform inscriptions together with Akkad, viz. mat Shumeri u Akkadi, " land of S. and A.," to denote Babylonia in general (see Akkad). In the 'non-Semitic ideographic documents the equivalent for Shumer is Kengi, which seems to be a combination of ken, "land" -}- gi, "reed" i.e. "land of reeds," and appropriate designation for Babylonia, which is essentially a district of reedy marshes formed by the Tigris and Euphrates. [ii]

Indeed, Kiengi or Kengi is the Sumerian name for the place!  It was the Sumerians that used the reed symbol for the place.  And while Abraham was a Shemite, he certainly Sumerian by nationality.  There can be no doubt about the possibility that he spoke that language, being from Ur.  And further, we read:

The name Sumer was given by the Akkadians. The Sumerians referred to themselves as the Kiengi [iii]

And again:

All of the lowland folk were united in their enmity toward the plundering hillmen of Susa, or Elam as the Bible calls the hill country that surrounded Susa. The valley folk named their own region Kengi, or the land of reeds, since all about the marshy shallows of the river grew great reeds a dozen feet in height. [iv]

Paul Y. Hoskisson, a BYU Professor, notes that "The Kassites, the other possible referent of the Hebrew kasddīm, moved into Mesopotamia from somewhere in the north and became the ruling class during the Middle Babylonian period."  Then, in his note for this statement in the end notes, he states, “Their native word for Babylonia was Karduniash. Notice that the main element of this name, Kaldū . . .contains a liquid. . ."[v]  He is referring to the R or L in the varying versions of this name, such as Kardu or Kaldu or Kasdu, being what is termed in phonetics as a liquid consonant.[vi]  Joseph Smith’s phonetic reading for the reed character in the Egyptian Papers is “Chalsidonhiash.”  It is clearly the same exact place name, and manifesting an "ls", precisely where the "liquid" exists in the name.

Once again we see that the Egyptian actually does translate to what Joseph Smith said it did, yet he translated this from two letters:  the hieratic I and the hieratic W, of all things.  It is the use of the character as an abstraction and giving it a literal value assignment, very similar or almost identical to an alphabetical acrostic, like how the Hebrew letters are used in the acrostics in the Book of Psalms in the Bible.  It was a translation of alphabetic/phonetic characters, also treating them like pictograms, somewhat.  It is precisely the system of interpretation we were expecting, according to ancient precedent.

There is something going on here with representing place-names and other things using the letters pictographically at times.

Contrary to Brother Paul Hoskisson's beliefs and the beliefs of others that follow his same paradigm, however, it appears that Abraham's Ur was down south.  This unexpected evidence on the reed character from the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar demonstrates that the notion that Abraham's Ur was northward near Haran is an incorrect idea, because the Ur of Karduniash, Kiengi or the Land of Reeds is Southern Iraq down by the ruins of the fabled city of Eridu.

Wikipedia has this on the place name Karduniash, and shows that it specifically refers to southern Babylonia:

Karduniaš, or Karduniash (also Karaduniyaš, or Karaduniše), is a Kassite term used for the kingdom centered on Babylonia and founded by the Kassite dynasty. It is used in the 1350-1335 BC Amarna letters correspondence, and is also used frequently in Middle-Assyrian and Neo-Assyrian texts to refer to the kingdom of Babylon. The name Karaduniyaš is mainly used in the letters written between Kadashman-Enlil I, or Burna-Buriash, the Kings of Babylon, and the Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt-(called: Mizri), letters EA 1-EA 11, a subcorpus of letters, (EA for 'el Amarna'). Much later, a version of the name was used in the Babylonian Talmud as Kardunya referring to similar locations.[vii]

Interestingly enough, I was unaware until a google search turned up a presentation that John Tvedtnes gave at the 2005 FAIR conference, where he came to the same exact conclusion that I have on the name Karduniash:

Here’s one I kind of like- Kalsiduniash. The name Kalsiduniash is spelled in various ways in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. In one it appears as chalsidon hish(sp?) and is identified as the land of the Chaldeans. This meaning is also given in another of the text where it is spelled as Za Ki-oan hiash, and also chalsidon hiash(sp?). It appears in other spelling forms as well in those documents. The ending ‘iash’ is interesting to me. It is known from the name of the Cassite (inaudible) and the names of the Cassite kings of Babylon (inaudible). The Cassites controlled Mesopotamia during the 17th century B.C. This of course postdates the time of Abraham—he was 20th century B.C.—but it’s hard to ignore the fact that the Cassites called Mesopotamia Kar-Duniash which closely resembles the name found in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers with the interchange of the ‘l’ and the ‘r’ again which are common between Semitic languages and those in the broader language family which includes Egyptian called Afro-asiatic.[viii]

Congratulations for noticing that Brother Tvedtnes.  I wish I would have known about this quotation several years back.  Here is some more information on the Kassites and their language:

The name of the Kassites is known from several sources:
- <gal-zu> and <gal-du, gal-šu> (?) which seems to be the native pronunciation, Kaššū <(d) kaš-šu-u> with Akkadianized phonetics (Balkan 1954:131sq), which seems to be their eponymic God-name . . .

“the phonemic systems of the two [Hurrian and Kassite] languages seem to be largely alike.” (NPN 184). It is interesting to note that several people of Ancient Mesopotamia are named after their eponymic deities:
- Assyrians after Aššur,- Urartians, apart from the profane Urarṭu, had an old and secret name based on the name of their god Ḫaldi, as noted in Friedrich (1932). This accounts for their name as Chaldeans, which was later attributed to the Assyrians. This word has a conspicuous trace of a lateral fricative in Hebrew: kaśdîm [ כַּשְׂדִּים ] ‘Chaldeans’, with the letter sin corresponding to the <-l-> of other languages [i.e. the letter S in Hebrew corresponds to the L of other languages!  Once again showing this to be the "liquid consonant" Brother Hoskisson was talking about, and Joseph Smith represented it with the letters LS!]. This is an important signal that Urartian and Hurrian indeed had lateral fricatives.

It is intriguing to compare the names of several people located to the north of the Mesopotamia:  Ḫald- for Urartians, Ḫatti for Hattic in central Anatolia, Kaška for another people to between Hattic and the Black Sea  and then we also have the Kassites: Galzu ~ Kaššu. All these names share the same
“pattern” which looks like a root: *Kašt-, *Kald- with some velar stop as initial. This ethnonymic
feature would tend to show that Kassites originate more to the north of Mesopotamia close to Hattic,
Urartian and Kaška and share with them the same ethnonymic formative. It can be further noted that
Kartvelian also seems to share that formative.[ix]

So, to translate this back to plain English, the L in some of these versions of the name is often swapped out with an S, and it is clear that Kassite is closely related if not just a dialect of Hurrian or Urartean (i.e. the language from the land of Ararat).  Its too bad that they didn't suggest an ancestral root, something like *Kalsd-, which would be consistent with the name Chalsidonhiash.  However, it is clear that one of the versions of the name anciently was either galzu or galsu, said to be the "native" pronunciations (i.e. the pronunciations that they called themselves).  As you see, these pronunciations place the S after the L just like in Joseph Smith's version of the place name.  However, in the Hebrew version of the name, Kasdim, the D comes after the S, preserving the ancient placement of the D after the S.  Joseph Smith once again gets an A+.  The identification of Chalsidonhiash as Karduniash and the Kassites of Babylonia as the "Chaldees" of the Book of Abraham is a pretty slam-dunk, except for the fact that they didn't move into the area of Babylon until after Abraham's time.  Before that time, some sources place them in the Zagros Mountains of Iran.  Others, as we have seen, place them to the North originally.  But the reed symbol places Ur of the Chaldees in the South.  The anachronism is probably due to Abraham's descendants acting in the capacity as editors or redactors, but the story is clear.

But one significant point is, the language referred to in the Book of Abraham as "Chaldee" is not Aramaic as some have believed.  It is Kassite, making it the language of the rulers of Babylon during the Kassite dynasties.  That means that it is the Kassite language of Hurro-Urartian extraction (i.e. part of that language family).  This means that the assumptions made by some people that these words such as Rahleenos or Egyptus (Zeptah) should be Semitic might be wrong about that.  We should be looking for an attestation of something like these words in Hurrian or Urartian in some cases, since we don't have enough of the Babylonian Kassite language left for comparison.  How many more words in the Book of Abraham and in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers may end up being Hurro-Urartian?  If it isn't confusing enough that it has been demonstrated that the "Egyptian Counting" pronunciations are Indo-Iranian with a sprinkle of Sino-Tibetan, now we have Hurro-Urartian in the mix.  And furthermore, we have words such as Ah-Mestrah, which is Semitic, meaning Egypt.  There is just a hodge-podge of influences here and it will not be simple to tease them all out.

[i] The Meaning of The Kirtland Egyptian Papers, Hugh Nibley,, emphasis added
[iv] The_Story_of_the_Greatest_Nations_and_the_Worlds_Famous_Events_Vol_1/ancientb_hc.html
[v] Paul Y. Hoskisson, “Where Was Ur of the Chaldees?” in The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations from God, ed. H. Donl Peterson and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1989), 119–36.
[vi] See the following for more on this liquid consonant:
[viii], 2005 FAIR Conference, "Authentic Ancient Names and Words in the Book of Abraham and Related Kirtland Egyptian Papers," John Tvedtnes, 5 August 2005;
[ix] "The Kassite Language In a Comparative Perspective with Hurrian and Urartean," by Arnaud Fournet, The Macro-Comparative Journal, Vol.2 No. 1, pp. 2-3,