What language? What is it?

I have five (5) old wooden strips, as seen in the photos at the following links. The wood is very thin and there are handwritten characters inscribed on them.

I do not know what language is used, or what it says… and do not know what purpose they served (e.g. why the 2 small holes on each strip?). I have no clue if the orientation of the strips is correct, and assume they are not “in order.” The writing is on the front and back, hence the two photos.



Can anyone help me?



It looks vaguely Thai or Cambodian, but I am not a linguist and have no idea what it actually says.

Yep, Thai or Cambodian. Looks more like Thai to me.

The images won’t show for me. Says I have to register.

nod Probably Thai or Khmer. Outside chance that it could be Armenian - it looks a bit like those two, especially when handwritten - but look to those two first.

I can’t see the pics, but could they be pieces to a wooden fan?

I am sorry some of you have had a problem viewing the photos. Please try copying and pasting the following links into your browser. BTW: I tried the links in my original message using Google Chrome, IE* and Firefox… and the images came up fine. Not sure why they would not come up for you.



Thank you for your input thus far. Yes, it might be that the wooden strips were originally intended for use in constructing a fan… but the writing would be obscured if a fan was assembled.

I will send a link to the photos to various linguists as suggested.


If your keyboard supported those kinds of characters you could type them into Google Translator and it would spit out some idea of what it means. I just don’t know how to input those characters into Google Translator. :slight_smile:

That looks very much like a typical South Indian or Southeast Asian palm-leaf manuscript, with holes in the leaves to run a string through to hold the “book” together. Sometimes such manuscripts might be written on strips of wood or bark instead. Image search “palm leaf manuscript” and you’ll see lots of examples. It’s definitely a manuscript and not a utilitarian object like a fan.

It definitely looks like a Southeast Asian or maybe even South Indian script you’ve got there, but I don’t know which it is and can’t read it.

I think most of us are suffering from corporate firewalls. Silly exec.s, don’t you know I *need *imageshack to do my job?!? :dubious:


According to a message from someone on another message board, the language is Khmer (that is, what he described as “old Khmer” balei) written on palm leaves. I was also informed that the photos present the manuscripts upside down (my bad… but how would I know?).

As Kimstu noted, the “wooden” strips are most likely palm leaves, also supported by the information at this site:

It seems likely that these are quite old, but how old is yet to be determined.

So… now to find someone who can tell me what these palm leaves say. Any suggestions? I will post what i find out for those who are interested.

Thanks again!


The problem doesn’t seem to be with the browser, at least not for me. It’s Image Shack. They’ve wanted me to register before.

Yes, looks similar to upside down Thai.

I think it is Khmer script (upside-down). I guess Khmer prayer books were traditionally written on bamboo leaves. The script resembles Thai script slightly – both derive from the same ancient Indian alphabet (itself derived from the ancient Near East alphabet) – although Thai and Khmer are in unrelated language families.

Although Khmer script, the language might be Pali – a Sanskrit-related language used in Buddhist prayer.

Seeing the Khmer script reminds me of an amusing postcard. I’ll spoiler the anecdote since it’s unrelated to the thread.

[SPOILER]My Mother visited us in Thailand, returned to California, and sent us a postcard. She wrote our address in clear English and the message in English, but, as a joke, scribbled a little randomly at the bottom of the message that was supposed to look like Thai script.

When we got the postcard, it had postal stamp showing it had been routed through Phnom Penh.[/SPOILER]

Thank you for all of the suggestions. A helpful person in Chennai, India has offered to decipher the text. Based on his knowledge, he believes the text is an old version of Tamil mixed with Sanskrit and the scripts are in Manipravalam - a mix of Malayalam & Tamil.

The fellow offering help is a moderator on a very interesting forum site called “Skyscraper City” at http://www.skyscrapercity.com/index.php

I posted photos of the script on their 900+ page thread (!) entitled “Tamil Nadu Arattai Arangam (Tamil NADU Chaibar - Discussions) - அரட்டை அரங்கம்.”

What a resource, this Internet can be.


I’m not surprised. They look very much like manuscripts Michael Wood shows us in his excellent series The Story of India

That’s the first thing that came to my mind when I saw them.

It’s a role-playing game.

If I had seen that script before, I would definitely have said South Asian.

It’s really nice now and then to see the internet used as originally intended! Thanks for sharing the journey.