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Tamil Bell (wikipedia.org)
374 points by Thevet on March 24, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 123 comments

The Tamils originally wrote on dried palm leaves with a sharp scribe. So, if you didn't want to tear the leaf, you had to avoid straight lines and dots. That's why there are so many curves in the script.

Also, one of the meanings of my first name "Mani" is literally "Bell".

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamil_script Also: I'm Tamil.

Palm leaves were commonly used to write in Sinhalese as well, and the alphabet, similarly, is very curvy[1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinhalese_alphabet

It's fascinating (to me) to think that the medium influences the script - something I had never considered. I wonder if we can find medium-based influences on other scripts, say, Roman and Arabic.

My Archaeological/anthropological knowledge doesn't even extend to spelling those words correctly (thank you Chrome spell-checker), so I can't do more than wonder unless someone here... (nudge, nudge)

>I wonder if we can find medium-based influences on other scripts, say, Roman and Arabic.

Interesting question. Cuneiform may be one:


Excerpt from above page:

Cuneiform script (/kjuːˈniːᵻfɔːrm/ kew-nee-i-form or /ˈkjuːnᵻfɔːrm/ kew-ni-form), one of the earliest systems of writing, was invented by the Sumerians.[1] It is distinguished by its wedge-shaped marks on clay tablets, made by means of a blunt reed for a stylus. The name cuneiform itself simply means "wedge shaped".[2]

I remember reading about it in Social Studies in school :) - along with the Indus Valley civilization and maybe one or two others.

> I wonder if we can find medium-based influences on other scripts, say, Roman and Arabic.

Two examples:

Serifs on Roman letters originated as a way to clean up the ends of the characters when carved in stone.

When I was a kid in California, you'd regularly see gang graffiti painted in square block lettering that imitated what it would look like carved in wood (e.g. a park bench).

Runes are the most obvious example I can think of. Runes have vertical lines and diagonal lines, but no horizontal lines. This is because the normal medium for runes were narrow wooden sticks, or staves, and horizontal lines would go with the grain and would therefore be hard to see, and while carving a horizontal line you could too easily get stuck in a groove and mis-carve. With the added difficulty of carving curved lines, you necessarily get runes’ distinctive angular style: ᚠᚢᚦᚨᚱᚲ

This[1] is a fascinating book that delves into this subject in an interesting way. In addition to looking at each letter of the modern Latin alphabet and its history and evolution, the author extrapolates the evolution of each character into three possible future forms that are influenced by different writing implements. It's also quite beautiful in its layout, typography, and presentation of information. Unfortunately it looks like it may now be out of print.

[1]: https://www.amazon.com/Shapes-sounds-cowhouse-Timothy-Donald...

In Sri Lanka earliest writings (which were mostly religious) were preserved first in the mediums such as Palm leaves, and the alphabet clearly shows that influence. As the top comment points out, making sure that you do not damage the script was a pretty important concern, and rounded letters certainly helped. If one studies the evolution of Sinhalese (and Tamil) alphabet it can be clearly seen that things got curvier as the alphabet developed from earlier Brahmi scripts [1].

[1] http://www.akuru.org/developsinhla2.htm

Roman block lettering avoids curves because it was often curved. That's why the U and V sounds were represented by the same letter, and only later diverged. Norse runes are similar, and lack curves entirely.

sorry - what is "it" in your comment? Do you mean the medium was often curved, like on the sides of bowls?

I believe they meant carved, as in into stone. "Roman block lettering avoids curves because it was often carved."

It doesn't really avoid curves, though, even when carved into stone. Look at the inscription on Trajan's Column [1], f'rinstance; yes, it's got the classic U written as V, but the C, D, O, S etc are all as curvy as you could possibly want.

The Romans wrote most ephemeral stuff on wax tablets which could be smoothed over for re-use; this is where the phrase "tabula rasa" comes from. Some examples survive and also show curves [2].

[1] https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b8/002_Conr...

[2] http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/newl...

I'd assume Egyptian hieroglyphics were influenced by chiseling in rock

Interesting! I always thought "Mani" mean't "Gems". At least in Sanskrit Mani is a Bead/Gem.

Well, the GP was talking about Tamil, not Sanskrit. Tamil is one of the few Indian languages which does not have (much of a) Sanskrit influence (not sure about the languages of the North-Eastern states). Also I've read that Tamil is an extremely old language, maybe as old as Sanskrit or so / more.

Bell in Hindi is घंटी (ghanti).

It means both :) . It can take on either meaning based on the context.

Malayalam, the language of Kerala, is similarly curvy. Same reason. I have several old palm leaf 'books' with Malayalam script.

And it is also a great palindrome!

Only in English because, in Malayalam 'ma' and 'am' would be different letters.

If you observe the 2 scripts in the pic in wikipedia, you would notice that in the original one, the "i's are not dotted" as it were. This seems to be a practice that has carried over from palm leaf writing to metal inscriptions.

Does it appear as if the inscription says Muhayidun rather than Muhayideen? Obviously the script has changed with time, but that seems more like a modern du than a dee.

Dammit, that's so inventive.

Out-of-place artifacts[1] are cool. A really interesting one is the Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca head[2], a part of a terracotta figurine that was found in a pre-Columbian site in Mexico that is speculated to have Roman origin.

Learning more about this is actually kind of hard. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of pseudoarchaeology concerning pre-Columbian transoceanic contact.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Out-of-place_artifact

[2] http://www.unm.edu/~rhristov/calixtlahuaca.html

One of my favourites (being Norwegian an'all) is the Maine Penny [1].

IMHO the most likely explanation is that it is either a modern-day hoax (that is, planted at the dig site) or a result of native American trading (After all, the fact that there were Norse settlements in Newfoundland is not in doubt - so conceivably, someone got the coin there and carried it south, that someone not being Norse)

It would be fun if a Norse settlement in the US could be proven, though. We'd be happy to incorporate you as a county of good ol' Norway.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maine_penny

The first Puritan settlers of Massachusetts were from Lincolnshire, and the people of that region were still called Jutes in the 1600s.

So we already are an extension of Jutland, complete with morose temperaments and bad cooking.

I'm a physicist, and I imagine this sort of thing are like studies looking for magnetic monopoles, really out there stuff that capture the imagination of the public and non-experts, but are fringe and/or really difficult to get funding for vs. the usual, safe path.

I doubt it's necessarily that crazy. There's a lot more to the world and human history than documented. Plus, for some reason, 'the west' tends to have an insular viewpoint. Oddball physics has fewer avenues of 'being true but unobserved'. I need sleep.

We have enough provable, documented examples of very long range contact and trade that it seems highly implausible that there was no such contact that we aren't aware of. If a Christian monk can be born near Beijing in 1220, walk all the way to Europe and meet the pope then it' beggars belief that similar journeys were never done in more ancient times. After all Marco Polo wasn't the first European to go to China either, his father and uncle had been there before him.

I do accept that we have to distinguish between mythology and history, but lets analyse this according to scientific principles for a moment. If you have a theory and it accurately predicts what happens, we call that science. If the Aztec believed there were bearded white people living beyond the eastern sea that would one day come and conquer them, then it actually goes and happens, then I think it’s reasonable to take the origins of that belief seriously.

Travelling over the medieval Silk Road though was much easier and safer than oceanic travel.

>Out-of-place artifacts[1] are cool.

True :) Hadn't remembered this for some years, but your point above reminded me of it: There is a temple in Madurai (Tamil Nadu), or maybe another city in Tamil Nadu (which has tons of temples), where on the tower (gopuram) there are one or more carvings of a man (only the face) with a hat - like a Western hat. Had seen it as a kid when we went on a tour of South India. I remember my relatives saying that it could be that it depicted a Westerner, though the temple was made hundreds of years ago or more.


That reminds of the legend of the horsemen statue on the island of Corvo in the Azores. Purportedly the statue looked to be dressed in a Moorish style.

Besides that, there's plenty of evidence of pre-Portuguese presence in the Azores. There are theories that everyone from the Phoenicians to the Greeks to the Chinese discovered the island before Portugal did.

Interesting. I've also read in a few places that others from Europe reached the East coast of North America much before Columbus did. Vikings or others.


This one I discovered in a local history book in Utah. It is a coin from India 1830 that was found buried in Southern Utah as part of a Spanish cache. Apparently Spanish priests during that time were amassing good sums of gold from their native american converts and would bury their loot.


> Translated, it says "Muhayideen Baksh’s ship’s bell".

I like language, and this inscription makes me wonder. Why write on a bell that it's a bell? I'd be less surprised if the bell had said "Muhayideen Baksh’s ship".

I mean, I get that school buildings say "School" because otherwise it's really just a building. But a bell? Isn't that a bit like writing "Headmaster's Office Door" on the headmaster's office door?

I wonder whether maybe it was just an artsy kind of joke. A bit like how in import stores you can buys forks that say "FORK" on the handle.

I now imagine the crew on that ship looking up to the bell every once in a while, grinning, thinking "that Baksh fella is a tough one but at least he has some sense of humor".

This bell seems very well made, designed to last a good long while. Given that a wooden ship tends to have a much shorter lifespan than a ship's bell, it seems possible that Muhayideen Baksh commissioned it with the idea that it would be going on a succession of ships, some of which may not be his, he may have had it cast with such to denote that it was his bell, and not the bell of the ship it happened to be on. So his (ship's bell) instead of (his ship)'s bell.

In some languages, it makes sense to add the "bell", otherwise the sentence is incomplete.

In my native Hindi, you would say "X's ship's bell". If you drop the the "bell", it becomes "X's ship". Obviously it's not a ship. And if you drop the "ship", it becomes "X". That would mean the bell's name is "X". So the only complete, logical sentence has to be "X's ship's bell".

I suppose it could be that in that language the ship bell and temple bell would have two different names, but obviously that nuance is lost when translated into English.

It's like in English you have fingers and toes, and obviously fingers are not toes, and toes are not fingers. But for example in Polish, they are both called the same thing, so you need to specify which "fingers" you mean - so you could have a sentence that says "foot fingers", which when translated into English could end up being "foot toes" - obviously to an English speaker it makes no sense, since toes are only on a foot, so saying foot toes is pointless. But it makes perfect sense in Polish, and yet this nuance is lost here.

Yes, good point. Sort of the same is true in Hindi. I don't think (correct me if I'm wrong, anyone) that there are separate words for fingers and toes in Hindi - the word ung(a)li [1] is used for both, IIRC - and they may add the Hindi word for foot if they are referring to toes rather than fingers.

Just checked it in Google Translate:

finger - उंगली toe - पैर की अंगुली (finger of foot)

though you can see that they use two different spellings for ungali there - the latter one reads as anguli.

I used to think that the former was the right spelling, but on seeing the above now, remembered the story of Angulimala and Buddha, so maybe both are correct spellings:


I think the inscription's aim might have been to stress that this is ship's bell as opposed to a Temple's bell, etc. I am a Native tamil speaker and there are quite a few "bell" words in Tamil

I think it is not too odd to inscribe "Captain's iPhone" on an iPhone instead of just "Captain's." Can't see why bell would be different.

Or on a log.

You're overthinking it. It's not english, and the conventions/forms of the language don't necessarily follow english expectations.

Anecdotal reason: I'm Indian, and we have some high quality (and possibly expensive) utensils that have been passed down for a couple of generations. They have all have my grandad's name etched on them somewhere, as a means of identification.

That's not the issue. They're asking why the word "bell" is on there, not the person's name. The person's name makes perfect sense, at least to us English speakers. The "bell" part doesn't; it would be look your expensive utensils each having inscribed on them, "Ravi's fork" or "Ravi's spoon". You can look at it and tell it's a fork or spoon, so why would you write that piece of obvious information on there?

I think OP was talking about the 'bell' inscription rather than the person's name. It seems weird to write bell on a bell because you can tell it's a bell just by looking at it

A lot of other comments already, and one or more may be similar, but will add mine anyway:

>I like language, and this inscription makes me wonder. Why write on a bell that it's a bell? I'd be less surprised if the bell had said "Muhayideen Baksh’s ship".

I think it may mean "the bell from that particular ship" to distinguish it from any other ship's bell or any other bell.

Edit: Could be, in case of theft or loss of the bell (would make it easier to find and restore to the ship). Though of course, someone could possibly rub that writing off with a file or other tool.

I'm guessing that the construction and workmanship of the bell made it an item of adornment for the ship. Inscribing a name on it would make sense if it were so valuable.

I think you misunderstood my point - I don't wonder about the entire inscription, but the word "bell". Edited my comment to clarify.

Sometimes in other languages, the way that you say something is different. I mean, in the english language and culture I agree your point has some sense but in old Tamil it may need to be described that way because of the language structure. The translation may not be perfect either as sometimes a concept that is expressed in one language just has no equivalent in another.

edit: native Tamil speaker also contributing


I think to soo.

I was on a trip to Malaysia recently and met many native Chinese speakers who reply "Can" when you ask them something like "Can you meet me at 5 tomorrow?". I asked him why they don't say "Yes" and he said that in Chinese, that would sound really silly.

I imagine it's similar to writing "Sword of so and so" on a weapon rather than just writing ones name. In some languages, it's more... regal.

I think it's more accurate that the Chinese speakers are saying "I can" (可以). It's clearly an answer in the affirmative. If you wanted a more explicit response, you could say "I will" (我会 or 会的).

Come to Singapore - there's plenty of native English speakers here who will use "can" in the same sense!

Oh yes. That's where I first heard it. I don't know if I'm misremembering but I think they said things like "can can" to emphasise the positive response and "no can" to indicate a negative.

Ha, I remember hearing that too in KL long ago. Though I took it to be a shorter form of "I can". La is another sound they add on to the ends of sentences, a sort of exclamation, I think it is.

Maybe, the bell was taken as a trophy and the inscription was done to identify from whom it was taken.

Probably was done so people wouldn't mistake its purpose and use it as a cooking pot, or something.

Theres ambiguous separation between the words on the picture.

It reads phonetically as "MugayatheenPak Udaya Kappal Mani". The translation is spot on.

Source: I'm a native speaker from Tamil Nadu.

True even the old inscription (on the bell) is pretty easy to read, compared to some of the old stuff you find in temples in Madurai / Tirupati.

If I remember correctly the inscriptions in Madurai or other temples around South India are in the Grantham Language which is why its much harder for us modern Tamil speakers to read.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grantha_alphabet


Wow, first time I've heard of it. Read some of the article. Seems like Malayalam, Sinhalese and one or two other languages are derived from Grantha, and Tamil is a sister language of it.

Also interesting is that the article says that at some period, some documents were written in a mixture of Sanskrit and Grantha, sometimes mixing them even in the same word(!)

Edit: IIRC, I also first got to know about the Modi script via some earlier thread on HN:


So am I. I was surprised when it said some of the characters were in Old/Archaic Tamil but I could read the characters fairly clearly.

Also, I noticed the actual inscription on top is pronouncing something else that i cannot understand. Only the bottom inscription (translation) is comprehensible for me. I think the bell has only the top section sentence inscribed in it. Can you comprehend the top one?

I thought the top one simply has a slightly different writing style.(For ex: the thi in muhaiyatheen).. Apart from that there does seem some grammar/or other rule/mistake.. I can see 'udaiya' (or something lke it) twice. once joined with 'buks' and once before bell... Which is unusual, and makes me wonder if it was written by someone not familiar with the language..

Check that.. .After going through that grantha script(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grantha_alphabet#/media/File:G...) someone posted here.. I think the 'thi' difference can be from grantha script influence... But that 'udaiya' repeated for both name and ship is very interesting...almost like trying to be very explicit...

Hey scriptdevil ! We've met before remember ? We both share a common name right ? Don't worry I won't dox you on HN

What is "MugayatheenPak"?

"Muhayideen Bak" i.e., the person who owned the ship from which the bell came.

Is Muhayideen related to the Arabic word "mujahideen" or is it just a coincidence that they look kind of similar?

They're quite different.

Ud-deen means of the religion. So, there are many names like Tajuddeen (crown of the religion), Shamsuddeen (Sun of the religion) and in this case, Muhiyyudeen (vivifier? of religion).

Mujahid is a person is a person who engages in jihad. The plural is Mujahideen (which is quite different when written in arabic but dramatically similar when transliterated into english). https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/mujahid

bold hypothesis: The bell was used as alarm for attacks of warriors, next to a bell for tsunami, storm, etc ... and a tsunami took the bells to the ocean. Very unlikely though that Arabic name would be used when the temple or whatever tried to resist the cultural invasion.

I wonder, what means Bak? Big?

Many words in places influenced by Arabic (or other Semitic languages) take similar forms, in this case mu_a_i_d (een is plural). Arabic has a triliteral root system and this form is a way of structuring a root to indicate the person who does the thing the root refers to. I don't know if Tamil was influenced by Arabic; in this case it could be an utter coincidence.

It could be also there is word محيي الدين spells like "Muhyeeddeen" roughly means person who celebrates, enlightens religion.

I think it is a name .(and probably common).

You might find this interesting:

"Australia experienced a wave of migration from India about 4,000 years ago, a genetic study suggests."


Interesting. There has to be more evidence of other nations discovering Australia and New Zealand before the ones mentioned in our history books.

Nearer to me, the Tiwi islands just off the coast of North Australia have unearthed jade figurines and artifacts that seem to originate from China or another Asian country, which date back to before the time of Captain Cook.

Update: Article on early Chinese explorers reaching Australia a long time before Dutch or English explorers - http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/11/24/1037697982893.h...

I'm from Palau, not quite all the way out to Australia and NZ, but say half way there. My memory is hazy, but I remember learning from social studies in grade school that when Europeans made first contact, they observed terraces that apparently for rice paddies which the Palauans didn't make (I think they could do that sort of thing to an extent but not quite a out of a complete hill side). When the European captain asked the natives whether they made the terraces, the Palauans said, "the gods made them." And I think the captain guessed in his logs that previous settlers (Chinese) had made them long ago and left them. So, even back then, Europeans knew explorers from other groups probably went before them.

This is a side tangent: I remember learning as a kid that legends had it that "gods" came out from the sea and taught the first Palauans skills and craft, like how to cook and fish, make canoes, build houses and all those sorts of things. That mixed with the above always lead me to believe those "gods" were just visitors from other islands or lands. Also, realize the island was no more than 60 miles from northern most point to southern most point, but my ancestors believed the universe ended a couple of miles beyond those tips on either end, so they didn't really conceive of other places or people. Our language does share strikingly similarities with some Indonesian words, and I've seen pictures of their ancient architecture which look eerily like some of ours. I'm not sure what makes more sense though, explorers randomly marooning and imparting knowledge and skills while integrating, or that the first settlers who would become my ancestors just bringing their culture and craft with them. The latter makes much more sense I guess from a logical perspective.

>That mixed with the above always lead me to believe those "gods" were just visitors from other islands or lands.

Makes you wonder if the "gods" that other religions worship(ped) were also just visitors from elsewhere with superior technology... Of course, there's no physical evidence for this, but it does make me wonder.

> Article on early Chinese explorers reaching Australia a long time before Dutch or English explorers - http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/11/24/1037697982893.h....

The conclusions in that article are exceptionally controversial. From https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gavin_Menzies

> Within the academic world, the book (and Menzies' "1421 hypothesis") is dismissed by sinologists and professional historians.[29][30][31] In 2004, historian Robert Finlay severely criticized Menzies in the Journal of World History for his "reckless manner of dealing with evidence" that led him to propose hypotheses "without a shred of proof".[6] Finlay wrote:

> "Unfortunately, this reckless manner of dealing with evidence is typical of 1421, vitiating all its extraordinary claims: the voyages it describes never took place, Chinese information never reached Prince Henry and Columbus, and there is no evidence of the Ming fleets in newly discovered lands. The fundamental assumption of the book—that the Yongle Emperor dispatched the Ming fleets because he had a "grand plan", a vision of charting the world and creating a maritime empire spanning the oceans—is simply asserted by Menzies without a shred of proof ... The reasoning of 1421 is inexorably circular, its evidence spurious, its research derisory, its borrowings unacknowledged, its citations slipshod, and its assertions preposterous ... Examination of the book's central claims reveals they are uniformly without substance.[32]"

> A group of scholars and navigators—Su Ming Yang of the United States, Jin Guo-Ping and Malhão Pereira of Portugal, Philip Rivers of Malaysia, Geoff Wade of Singapore—questioned Menzies' methods and findings in a joint message:[27]

> "His book 1421: The Year China Discovered the World, is a work of sheer fiction presented as revisionist history. Not a single document or artifact has been found to support his new claims on the supposed Ming naval expeditions beyond Africa...Menzies' numerous claims and the hundreds of pieces of "evidence" he has assembled have been thoroughly and entirely discredited by historians, maritime experts and oceanographers from China, the U.S., Europe and elsewhere.[27]"

Well, even if people don't agree with his methodology or analysis, there there appears to be actual evidence of Chinese contact with the aboriginals of Arnhem land [0].

[0] - http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-10/old-chinese-coin-found...


Was Australia a part of Indian subcontinent back then?

We are talking artifacts that are maybe 500 years old, not millions of years, which was when Australia was part of Gondwanaland.

I assume you are joking, but India was actually smooshed up against Australia back in Pangea 335m years ago: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pangaea#/media/File:Pangaea_co...

Actually continental drift explains a variety of phenomena that have been falsely attributed to human exploration: English is spoken in New York, for example, because the british isles used to be connected to New England. Even the names reflect this: when the landmasses separated Queen Victoria proudly viewed them as a geological projection of the British sphere of influence and christened her new islands "New England" "New York", "New Hampshire" etc.

Dunno if trolling or actually serious...

The name of the ship's owner (mohayideen) is Arabic, transliterated into Tamil script. There is a well known history of the Arab trade network throughout Southeast Asia but it's fascinating that this artifact represents a fusion of Arab and Tamil culture.

It makes me ponder whether the owner of the ship was himself cross cultural.

The Arab presence in Southern India actually predates the advent of Islam, so even it's possible (though not likely) that this artifact hails from before that time.

EDIT: TFA notes that the script is datable to 500 years old so it is probably not pre-Islamic.

Very good point. There was also significant foreign trade between Egypt, Arabia, and India/Pakistan going back at least 4000 years, so your conjecture makes a lot of sense.

Edit: I followed the footnote to vol 1 of the NZ Journal of Science where the suggest a Portuguese origin, presumably because of Portuguese saying prowess. In fact of course Tamil Nadu was an initial colonization point of many European invaders, all of whom by definition were sailing nations.

In fact who's to say that the bell didn't arrive within the century preceding Colenso's seeing it?

I would just add that Tamils were a sailing nation with trade links in Southeast Asia well before European colonization - as is clearly evident in their cultural influence on and from Southeast Asia [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamil_inscriptions_in_the_Mala...

EDIT2: In retrospect, the surname Baksh actually suggests a Persian/Central-Asian ancestry[1], so the cultural picture of the owner is actually even more complex.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buksh

>The name of the ship's owner (mohayideen) is Arabic, transliterated into Tamil script.

I think you'll find that today most people with that name are South Asian.

As a Tamil, I am surprised by so many such things that I come across about our ancestors. No wonder we take a lot of pride in our culture, sometimes to the extreme.

You may be interested to know that the word 'Coromandel' is a anglicized corruption of the 'Chola mandalam'. The Cholas had a sea empire that stretched all the way up to Vietnam. You probably know that there are Hindu temples in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia. Wherever the Cholas landed they set up a temple with a local caretaker who later grew in power.

>You may be interested to know that the word 'Coromandel' is a anglicized corruption of the 'Chola mandalam'.

Interesting. I've heard a different version when I studied in South India, that Coromandel [1] is the anglicized version of karu manal (mannal?) meaning black sand - because there are beaches in the Coromandel Coast that have black (and also red and other color) sand. E.g. At Kanyakumari a.k.a Cape Comorin, the southernmost tip of India, you could buy small plastic bags with multi-colored sand as a souvenir. I remember at least black, normal light brown, red and purple colors.

[[1] Update: The Wikipedia article says what you say about the name Coromandel:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coromandel_Coast ]

Similarly, catamaran, I've heard, is from kattu maram - tied tree (trunks). Very stable boats, and that principle is now adopted in modern high-tech catamarans too. [2]

Once when on a school picnic on that coast, I asked for and got a ride on a catamaran of the local fishermen. We went out quite a way to sea, for maybe half an hour or more. I was sitting on one of the logs in the front, with my legs nearly up to the waist, in the sea. Could feel the water rushing past my legs. Good fun.




Indeed when I started reading the article I assumed this would be something from the big days of the Chola empire. But the bell seems to be more recent than that.

Fascinating. I'm from Tamilnadu (where Tamil is spoken in southern most part of India) and so far we have only heard of early day explorations so far as current singapore, malaysia, cambodia etc. This news is really interesting.

Same here.. and even the script is easily readable too.. compared to some of the old works of Tamil, found in old temples.

Tamil is over 2000 years old and it is fascinating to see how the script has changed from back then to now.

A lot of people express their surprise about "other nations discovering AU, NZ, US" etc.

You do understand homo sapiens did not evolve separately on these different continents/lands right?

The actual discovery was when the first homo sapien settled in US, AU, NZ etc.... Of course some cultures managed to travel to these lands long before our history records tells us. Native Americans are not a separate species of homo sapiens, they did not evolve there separately.

Yes, but we're not talking about that here. We're talking about the interconnectivity of the ancient world. That's something completely different.

Here is the bell in the Te Papa Tongarewa collection: http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/Object/213397

This is not implausible. Maritime Southeast Asia had trading relationships [1] with aboriginal Australians in the northern coast of Australia. It is not too surprising (still very interesting) if a ship every now and then made it to New Zealand or further. The main difference between them and the European Colonial Age is that most ships did not return. Note that there was a long Indian 'colonial age' in Southeast Asia, though it was more cultural and trade exchange with naval influence rather than remote hegemony. Likewise the Western Coast of India had maritime activity with the civilizations of Middle East, Europe, and Africa, from as long ago as the Indus Civilization. The point is that coastal Indians were reasonably adept sailors and maritime trade played a major role in South Indian and Western Indian civilization(s) and culture(s). Over several thousand years, it is not too unlikely that a few ships made their way to Australia, etc.

[1] http://blogs.bl.uk/untoldlives/2012/05/australian-aborigines...

here's some interesting speculation on this topic: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/a-three-hour-tour/

Basically there's genetic (Y chromosome) and linguistic evidence suggesting an infusion of Indian immigration (~5000 years ago so maybe a distinct event from this). One plausible explanation is that some Dravidian seafarers crash-landed in Australia and got absorbed by the local population. From their perspective it probably would have felt like sinking into savagery.

> From their perspective it probably would have felt like sinking into savagery.

This sentence is incongruous with the rest of your post. Why would you think such a thing?

The sentiment is lifted directly from the linked post.

It's hard to argue with given the subcontinent had agricultural, seafaring populations while Australian populations never made it past Paleolithic hunter-gathering.

I think this discussion is sadly lacking a fair bit of Szukalski.

If you don't know him, he's a total weirdo. But, like so many totalitarian weirdoes, he was also a bit of a genius.

Of the mad variety. Mad, but nevertheless interesting.

So, one of his mad genius ideas is that the world has endured a number of cyclic catastrophic events, every 65k years or so, which completely obliterates civilisation and culture and replaces it with naught but refugees and a relatively clean slate. On account of The Deluge.

If you imagine that the Earth, 65k years (or so) ago might've had an Advanced Civilisation, Szukalski is gonna be right alongside, albeit way ahead of you.

One of the things he proposes is that the survivors of The Deluge have inter-mixed, around the globe, and you can see it in ancient art - common themes, originally expressed from a root culture (the 'mother tongue' of the prior civilisation), which eventually degrades over time as entropy - and the shifting oceans of The Deluge - separate us all.

Anyway, Szukalski had some things to say about sea-faring survivors whose language echoes through the ages. If you want a bit of a "Weird Art" kick, because the Tamil Bell is indeed weird art, then take a look at Szukalski. The Protong Lives!

What I would like to know is how Colenso got the bell. Did he purchase it, simply take it, or offer a better replacement?

Neither the Wikipedia nor a broader web search addresses this. And Colenso's own wikipedia page doesn't even mention the bell!

Trincomalee would be a good base, second biggest harbor in the world. Cool to see something Sri Lanka related on HN

While we're on the topic of interesting artifacts on Wikipedia, this is pretty cool:

Voynich manuscript – Undeciphered book from the 15th century


with a sharp scribe

That sounds incredibly unwieldy.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13948225 and marked it off-topic.

More details on this context - the sharp scribe is wielded deftly so that they can write freely in the dried palm leaves. The sharp scribe is called "ezhuthaani" (where zhu is a special L sound) which literally means writing nail. The dried palm leaves are commonly referred as "olai suvadi" which literally means dry leaf book.

PS: The word Tamil itself should be pronounced "Tamizh" where zh is a special "La" sound, unique to Tamil language.

I think you mean something like 'stylus'. A scribe is a person.

A word can have more than one meanings. From https://www.google.com/search?q=define%3Ascribe&oq=define%3A...

3. a pointed instrument used for making marks on wood, bricks, etc., to guide a saw or in signwriting.

A word can have more than one meanings

Lies spread by Satanist band.

3. a pointed instrument used for making [...]

Communist dictionary.

- You make a snide comment

- Someone misinterprets it as an honest mistake and tries to explain things

- You take on a condescending tone attempting to ^educate^ this obviously clueless person who doesn't know what word they ought to be using

- Someone patiently points out that it is you who is wrong

- You now use humour and pretend to be dismissive (instead of either not saying anything or acknowledging that yes, you did learn something new).

Bravo! Now everyone knows just how witty and smart you can be!

Nah. Everyone already knew.

You forget that scribes are voice activated!

Proud moment for a Tamizhan on HN !


Am I missing some context here? How is this related to HN?


> On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity.

If it's #1 on the front page, people most likely find it interesting (or voting ring; but the mods have some practice spotting those).

Science. Exploration. Discovery. Stretching the limits. Challenging common belief patterns... - all things that intelligent people, and those with a creative bent enjoy discussing among like minded colleagues.


Actually the URL says news.ycombinator.com

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