Meroitic was a writing system
employed by the ancient Meroites, who occupied Sudan
from the third century BCE
to the fourth century CE
. It was displaced by Coptic
with the arrival of Christianity to the region. The language for which it was written seems related to an ancient member of the Indo-European language family
, but whether Meroitic itself was a member is unknown. Person, place, and divine names have been identified, but many words are still unknown and the absence of any bilingual monument poses an obstacle to further decipherment.
The Meroitic writing system was an alphabet with certain qualities of a syllabary. These syllabic values are redundant characters for ne, se, te, and to. It is thought they might have been introduced to help bridge between dialects. It was written from right to left, and sometimes vertically on decorative monuments. These were the most common paths, however Meroitic has been found in left to right sequence as well. The alphabet has two written versions. The original form is a cursive script made up of single, double, or triple strokes with each letter disconnected. The derived form is a substitution of Egyptian heiroglyphs for every letter based on relative similarity of shape. Since Egyptian was in use in the area long before Meroitic, this substitution was probably made for decorative purposes to preserve continuity. The alphabet codes for fifteen consonants and three vowels, whose values were derived through comparison with proper nouns from Egyptian texts by the Englishman F. Ll. Griffith in 1910.
Daniels, Peter T., Bright, William. The World's Writing Systems. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.