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The Punic-Libyan Inscription is an important ancient bilingual inscription dated to the 2nd century BC, which played a significant role in deciphering the Berber (ancient Libyan) language. The inscription once formed part of the Libyco-Punic Mausoleum (Mausoleum of Ateban) at Dougga in Tunisia, before it was removed in the mid nineteenth century and taken to London, where it is now in the British Museum's ancient Middle Eastern collection.[1]

Punic-Libyan Inscription
Inscription bilingue de Thugga.jpg
Bilingual inscription of Dougga.
Size69 cm high and 207 cm wide
Created146 BC
Present locationBritish Museum, London



In 1842, Sir Thomas Reade, the British consul in Tunis, ordered the removal of this inscription from the Mausoleum of Ateban, which in the process seriously damaged the monument. Recognising the importance of the bilingual inscription in decoding the Libyan language, Reade had it immediately dispatched to London for the 'benefit of science'.

The Mausoleum of Ateban, where the inscription was found.


The Mausoleum of Ateban was built in the second century BC by the inhabitants of Dougga in remembrance of an important prince or dignitary of Numidia. Some have conjectured that it was built for Massinissa, King of Numidia. A limestone frieze with bilingual script was installed on the podium of the mausoleum. The left half of the inscription was engraved in the Punic language, the other half in ancient Libyan. The bilingual nature of the inscription made it possible for scholars to decode the ancient Libyan alphabet and script, which was written right-to-left.

Translation of the InscriptionEdit

A modern translation of the inscription indicates that the tomb was dedicated to Ateban, the son of Iepmatath and Palu. According to the most recent research, the names cited in the inscription refer to the monument's architect and the representatives of different professions involved in its construction.[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ British Museum Collection
  2. ^ [Pierre Gros, L’architecture romaine du début du IIIe siècle à la fin du Haut-Empire, tome 2 « Maisons, palais, villas et tombeaux », éd. Picard, Paris, 2001, p. 417]

Further readingEdit

  • F. Frances (Ed), Treasures of the British Museum, London, 1972
  • D.Colon, Ancient Near East Art, British Museum Press, London, 1995
  • R Parkinson, Cracking codes: the Rosetta Stone and decipherment, British Museum Press, London, 1999