Major portion of inscriptions on 650-yr-old Spanish fortress deciphered

April 6th, 2009 - 2:31 pm ICT by ANI  

London, April 6 (ANI): Scientists have deciphered a major portion of the inscriptions on the 650-year-old Alhambra fortress-palace in Granada, Spain.

Visitors to the Alhambra have for centuries been mystified by the Arabic inscriptions that adorn its intricately carved medieval walls.

The script that winds round the filigree arches and pillared courtyards is so stylised that it’s often difficult to disentangle words from images, and few can decipher the classical Arabic in which they are written.

Now, according to a report in The Independent, the carvings have been logged and translated, finally answering the question that what do these inscriptions mean.

Researchers have produced an interactive DVD that decodes, dates and identifies 3,116 of some 10,000 inscriptions carved on the building that symbolizes centuries of Muslim rule in Spain and is today the country’s top tourist landmark.

Arabic artisans, supervised by poets employed in the 14th-century court of King Yusuf I, drew up the decorative plans and planned the spaces where verses - original, or copied - were to be engraved.

Inscriptions of poetry and verses from the Koran that have inspired generations represent only a minimum percentage of the texts that adorn the Alhambra’s walls, despite the mistaken belief that they are smothered in writings of this kind.

The researchers built upon studies begun 500 years ago by the conquerors of the Nazrid dynasty, who ruled the kingdom of Al Andalus and created this fabulous pile.

The prominent inscription, which is repeated hundreds of times on walls, arches and columns, is the motto of the Nazrid dynasty - “There is no victor but Allah.”

Isolated words like “happiness” or “blessing” recur, seen as divine expressions protecting the monarch or governor honoured in each palace or courtyard.

Then, there are aphorisms like, “Rejoice in good fortune, because Allah helps you,” and “Be sparse in words and you will go in peace.”

There are also verses by the acclaimed Islamic poets Ibn al-Khatib and Ibn Zamrak, some of which describe the place where they appear, such as the Hall of the Two Sisters, which represents a garden.

Until now, efforts to transcribe such verses have revealed only a fraction of the material.

With modern technology, including a 3D laser scanner, “we have achieved not so much a discovery as an exhaustive labour that seeks to register all the inscriptions,” said Juan Castilla, from the School of Arabic Studies at Spain’s Higher Scientific Research Council, whose team produced this still-incomplete guide. (ANI)

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