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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 67

The Letter "K."

The Letter "K."

The hieroglyphic system of writing is of immense antiquity, of a time so remote as to be almost beyond our realization. As a script it was beginning to fall into disuse before Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt—that is, before the national birth of the Hebrew people. All the events which, occurring in. Palestine, have so affected the history of the world, took place since the hieroglyphic system of "verbal phonograms" passed away; it can scarcely be doubted that this early form of writing originated in Egypt, not later than 8,000 years ago. The Hieroglyphic passed into the Hieratic, and it was this form which was adopted by the Hebrews.

The k found in the hieroglyphs is called kaph, and is written as a cup or bowl (see Plate XX., fig. 1). In the Hieratic script, kaph is written as a hand, with bent or looped fingers (fig. 2); this form merged into the Jewish kaph. Kaph is usually held to mean "palm of the hand," or, more probably, as Böttcher suggests, "the bent hand." "The form of the Hieratic character in the Papyrus Prisse seems to be decidedly in favour of this explanation, as will be seen by placing the two figures side by side."* The Hebrew form (fig. 3) evidently represents the hand and fingers. The Semitic ki.e., kaph, "the hand," became the Greek k or kappa, early Moabite kaph (fig. 4), Nineveh kaph (fig. 5), Baal Lebanon kaph (fig. 6). The Baal Lebanon inscription was written on bronze fragments, which when discovered were broken up smaller by a peasant, in order that he might ascertain if they were made of gold. The inscription states that: "This vessel of good bronze was offered by a citizen of Carthage to Baal Lebanon, his Lord." The Pelasgic = k, but the Etruscan and Oscan as in fig. 7; the Messapian = fig. 8. These last show resemblance to the kappa of the Thera inscriptions. The island of Thera (Santorin) is said to have been the place where Cadmus invented the Greek letters. The island is a long-extinct volcano, but under its ashes inscriptions have been found upon the rocks, and these are supposed to be the oldest Greek inscriptions in the world. One of these (see fig. 9) reads κριτoφúλoν; not only is the kappa turned, but the writing

* "The Alphabet," Taylor, vol. i., p. 172.

page 356 is in the Semitic manner, from right to left. This kappa show how the k form was derived from the Egyptian Hieratic ([unclear: fig.] through the Hebrew kaph.

Egyptian words showing the connection between "hand" and "cup" (or bowl) are kaf, "the hollow of the hand;" kefa, "a [unclear: fist] kep, "the fist;" kep, to "seize, catch;" khep, "one hand;" [unclear: ka] "two hands;" kab, "libation, liquid;" kaf, "to seize; to [unclear: el] with the hand." If we now compare Polynesian, we shall [unclear: fi] the word "cup," and "hand," in its primitive shape and [unclear: sou] In New Zealand Maori, kapu* means "the hollow of the hand "curly," "to close the hand," "to drink out of the [unclear: hollos] the hand;" kapukapu, "to curl," as a wave; kapunga, [unclear: "f] palm of the hand;" kapuranga, "a handful;" kapo "to [unclear: sna] at," "to catch." This "hollow of the hand" is the [unclear: primit] "cup," the first bowl from which our early ancestors [unclear: dra] When the Maori chief was tapu, so that no vessel might [unclear: touch] lips, he held the hollow of his hand, turned upwards, [unclear: beneath] lip, and the slave poured the liquid into his master's [unclear: mou] So the Brahmin in India receives his drink, lest the brass [unclear: l] should touch his mouth and then be polluted by even [unclear: t] shadow of another.

It will, of course, be objected that, according to the [unclear: "] and dried" rule, no one should be allowed to compared Maori word with an Egyptian or Hebrew one: but [unclear: there] some words which I believe to be "world-words," and [unclear: whi] were of either very wide adoption or else the root-formation of ancient languages is as yet totally misunderstood. "Cup" one of these, (including the idea of "hand," and "concaved and with change of the p, through ph, into f and v, seems [unclear: al] universal. The Greek κúπϵλλoν, "a cup;" κúπη, "a [unclear: cavit] "cavern;" κνμβαλoνα, "a cymbal" (from its hollow [unclear: shape;] Sanscrit, khumba); the Latin cupa, "a tub;" cavea, "a [unclear: cavi], "a coop;" caverna, "a cavern;" "to make hollow;" [unclear: I] cupan, cupa, copan, copa, all = cup. Scottish cuppel, "a [unclear: s] tub;" Lithuanian kupka, "cup;" Breton kop, Polish [unclear: k] ancient Slav koupa, Servian kupa; all mean "cup." [unclear: Sea] navian kupa, "a round vase;" Danish kop, Swedish kopp, [unclear: Fre] coupe, Spanish kopa, Italian coppa, Icelandic koppr[unclear: =] Icelandic koppr also means "the eye-socket;" spé-koppan[unclear: ,] dimple in the cheek," kupa, "a bowl," haus-kupa, "the [unclear: sk] kupadr, "bowl-shaped;" Russian kopani, "a cistern;" kubu[unclear: ,] alembic," kopati, "to hollow out ground, to form a [unclear: tren] Sanscrit kambi, "a ladle or spoon;" kambu, "a shell;" [unclear: kup] "a small pot or pitcher; kûpa, "a well, cave, hollow;" [unclear: kûpa] bottle," "the navel;" kumbhi, "a pot, or jar." Assyrian [unclear: ka],

* The short a of kapu is better represented in English letters [unclear: by] than by käh-poo.

page 357 "a goblet," and kuppu "a cage" (i.e., coop).* Zend khumba, "a pot or jar;" Cymric cwm (for cwmb), "a valley or combe;" Anglo-Saxon cumb, "a measure of liquids;" Middle German kump, "a vase or cup."

These examples, from Central Asia to Iceland, show a field of vast extent covered by this word to the westward. Let us take up the Polynesian, and carry the same word thousands of miles to the eastward.

Samoan, 'apu, "a cup or dish made of a leaf." This is really kapu, as the apostrophe implies a lost k, and is heard as a slight catch or break in the voice; apulautalo, "a taro-leaf cup;" apo, "to cling to." Rarotongan kapu, "a cup;" Mangareva kapu, "a cup," "to enclose," "to contain;" Marquesan kapukopu, "to take up water with a cup;" Tahitian (also lost k) abu, "concave, or hollow," as abu rima, "the hollow of the hand;" abu mata, "the socket of the eye;" apuroro, "brain-cup," i.e., the human skull (compare Icelandic above quoted); apu, "the shell" of nuts, seeds, etc.; aapu (for kakapu), "to take up with the hand;" aabu, "the shell of nuts," etc.: "to hold out any cup or concave vessel to receive anything." Also, compare aipu, "a cup," "a cocoanut-shell used for a cup," with the Tongan ipu, "a cup," and the New Zealand Maori ipu, "a calabash." This last shows clearly an abraded form of the word. Hawaiian (lost k) apu. "a cup made of cocoanut-shell for drinking awa" (kava); apu, "a dish or cup of any material;" aapu, "to warp or bend," as a board in the sun, "a concave vessel;" hoo-aapu (causative and reduplicate = whaka-kakupu), "to tum the hollow of the hand upwards;" aibu, "a cup;" aipu, "a cup," "a cocoanut-shell used as a cup."

I do not think any other conclusion can be arrived at, in reference to these words, than that they radically imply : 1st, the curved hand; 2nd, anything curved or hollow; 3rd, a cup or container. This, as either kap, kup, kaf, or cav, from Iceland to Hawaii.

* See "Cuneiform Inscriptions," Schrader, pp. 199 and 292.

Massey's remark ("Book of Beginnings," vol. ii., p. 154) that the Egyptian fa, "the hand," is a worn-down form of kefa. kaf, or kep, "the hand," is doubtful, if we compare the Maori wha-wha, the Tahitian fa-fa, "to touch or feel with the hand." The Polynesian is too primitive (apparently) in construction to allow of kapu becoming fa-fa, and it is probable that these words are from separate roots, but common to both languages. Cuvier and Blumenbach are the authorities that the ancient Egyptians were members of the Caucasian race, and that their skulls are purely Asiatic. Baron Bunsen also lends the weight of his great name and learning to this belief. The Icelandic , to "touch, grasp, take hold," is also Polynesian,