Is it funny or sad if a group of academics make an error which even the unlearned can easily find out as being a serious mistake on the behalf of these academics?
Let me explain what I am referring too: I came today (16 November 2012) across a study on the website of the ‘АКАДЕМИЯ ТРИНИТАРИЗМА‘ (Academy of Trinitarianism) which is based in Moscow (see their website at www trinitas ru).
In that article they try to analyze a particular stone which was found in the Pskov region (a city located about 20 kilometers (12 mi) east from the Estonian border, on the Velikaya River). After their lengthy analysis they come to the conclusion that:
1. The inscription on the stone is an epitaph. (correct)
2. Dialectal Russian language inscriptions. (incorrect)
3. Alphabet mixed, including Cyrillic characters, archaic Greek and Latin. (incorrect)
Here is the photo as published on their website:
And the drawing by the researchers:
Now, let’s turn the photo upside-down:
Indeed, you need to turn the stone upside-down to find out that the stone has Hebrew text carved on it. But we have to admit that even when you turn the stone upside down, it stays hard to decipher the text. People with experience will have an easier time to decipher the text. I tried my luck. It seems to be a gravestone for a lady called Chaya, daughter of Yitschak, who passed away between 5680 and 5689 which corresponds to 1919-1929. I only wonder how a stone which does not seem to be that old, looks broken like this stone.
It must that the stone suffered wars or (anti-Semitic) vandalism. According to Mr. Witold Wrzosinski from Avanim (see http://avanim.pl/) the stone does not look damaged or broken. Such rough stones were quite often used in smaller towns.
The transcribed text reads:
Update: I sent the Academy an e-mail on 16th of November. A few hours later they replied to me while referring to a correction on their website (on another page): www trinitas ru/rus/doc/0001/005a/00011233.htm. They also added a new transcription of the text on the gravestone which looks indeed much better. I do however still think that the transcription is not 100 percent correct. The date for example is something I do not agree with, but this is still much better then the first analysis they have made.
Their new theory is that the gravestone reads the following:
מיי בת המר יצחק
Allow me to wonder why they still keep on their website (which was still the case on November 18, 2012) the page with the original analysis and the mistaken conclusion while they don’t refer at the same time in that article to the other page on their website with the corrections?
Here is their analysis: www trinitas ru/rus/doc/0211/005a/02111158.htm and here is the page with the corrections: www trinitas ru/rus/doc/0001/005a/00011233.htm.
Mr. Witold Wrzosinski (see his website http://avanim.pl/) believes that the gravestones reads the following:
סיינה ב’ר מ’
יצחק כ” ניסן
the decent Ḥaya
Sayna, daughter of Mr.
Yitsḥak [died] 20 Nisan
Let her soul be bound up in the bond of life
Mr. Marcel Apsel from Antwerp adds to this that the samech and the sy’en/‘shy’en have been switched by mistake; a samech (ס) and sy’en (ש) are phonetically the same sound. So Seina or Sayna could be Sheine or Shayne, a widespread used female name, meaning in Hebrew Yaffa.
For general information about Jewish headstones, deciphering these stones, the customs on Jewish cemeteries, et cetera, I can recommend the following two books from Avotaynu:
- ‘A Field Guide to Visiting a Jewish Cemetery’ by Rabbi Joshua L. Segal: http://www.avotaynu.com/books/CemeteryField.htm
- ‘A Practical Guide to Jewish Cemeteries’ by Nolan Menachemson: http://www.avotaynu.com/books/Cemeteries.htm
- ‘Avnei Zikaron: Stones of Remembrance’ by Neil Rosenstein and Dov Weber: http://www.avotaynu.com/bookrefj.htm#az
Sources and further reading:
- פורום שורשים משפחתיים – תפוז פורומים, http://www.tapuz.co.il/forums2008/viewmsg.aspx?forumid=325&messageid=165684296&r=1
- Уникальные камни Псковской области, www trinitas ru/rus/doc/0211/005a/02111158.htm
- Cossacks’ Uprising at ‘Jewish Encyclopedia’, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/4685-cossacks-uprising
- Pskov at ‘Wikipedia’, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pskov
- Google Translate, http://translate.google.com
- Read the article online in Russian: www trinitas ru/rus/doc/0211/005a/02111158.htm
- Or read the translation (by Google Translate) of the text in the following PDF document: click here
- Or read the Russian text in the following PDF document: click here
- Read the correction (in Russian) in this PDF: click here
- Read the translation (by Google Translate) of the correction in this PDF: click here