UPDATE Nov 5, 2015: It’s come to my attention that some people have taken this post to be about a serious theory on the origin of the Georgian alphabet. It’s not. It’s about a kooky, nutball theory. Developed by Zurab Kapianidze — philologist, thespian, member of Georgian parliament — the theory deals entirely with the asomtavruli script (the oldest form of the Georgian alphabet), but in a bizarre and borderline insane way. Although I shouldn’t have to say this, I don’t endorse this idea at all.
If you want to see what I actually think about the origin of the Georgian alphabet, check out this post. That said, if you want a fun-but-crazy theory about where the Georgian alphabet came from, read on.
The story goes like this. Long ago the Sumerians had the cuneiform alphabet with which we’re all familiar. But they also had another alphabet, a secret, cosmic alphabet which encoded a great deal of knowledge about astronomy and the gods. This second alphabet was known only to the Sumerian priests, but the Semites (Akkadians) who conquered Sumeria knew of its existence. They demanded that the Sumerians teach them the secret alphabet, but instead the priests fashioned a crude simulacrum of the secret alphabet, which was “devoid of all philosophic content, but good for practical activities”. This alphabet was the Phoenician alphabet, which would later give rise to every script of Europe and the Middle East.
The secret Sumerian alphabet was forgotten by the world, but the knowledge of it remained with the descendants of the Sumerians…the Georgians! (Kapianidze tells us “The Sumerian language, considered a dead language for about four milleniums, is still alive in the ancient dialects of the Georgian language-Svanian and Megrelian.”) And the secret alphabet is none other than…asomtavruli!
The shapes and ordering of the asomtavruli letter are supposed to deities and their relations to each other. I haven’t yet been able to understand this part of the theory in full, but the asomtavruli a, for instance, is supposed to represent the moon, while the d is supposed to represent the Earth. Kapianidze also makes a lot of the geometry of the letters. Overlaying all the letter atop one another, he determines that they all fit on a kind of grid he calls a bikila.
The bikila is complex enough that it’s hard to imagine a letter which wouldn’t fit on it.
So there you have it: Sumerians, Semites, secrets, geometry, and Georgians.
To put things in perspective time-wise: most people (those, including me, who believe one of the various stories about the spread of Christianity) believe the Georgian alphabet to have been devised between 300 and 400 AD; many Georgians (that is, those who believe the story about King Parnavaz) place it between 300 and 200 BC; Kapianidze’s theory has it being created by Sumerian priests no later than 2000 BC.
- The Origin of the Georgian Alphabet (some theories that, unlike this one, are plausible and not insane)
- The Georgian Alphabet: A Gallery of Specimens