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Ibn Wahshiya

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Ibn Wahshiya

Ibn Wahshiyya (Arabic: أبو بكر أحمد بن وحشية‎, Abu Bakr Ahmed ibn 'Ali ibn Qays al-Wahshiyah;[1] fl. 9th/10th centuries) was an Iraqi alchemist, agriculturalist, farm toxicologist,[2] egyptologist and historian born at Qusayn near Kufa in Iraq.[3]

Ibn Wahshiyya was one of the first historians to be able to at least partly decipher what was written in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs,[4] by relating them to the contemporary Coptic language.

Works

Ibn al-Nadim (in Kitab al-Fihrist) lists a large number of books on magic, statues, offerings, agriculture, alchemy, physics and medicine, that were either written, or translated from older books, by Ibn Wahshiyya.[5]

His works on Alchemy were co-authored with an Alchemist named Abu Talib al-Zalyat, their works were used by Al-Dimashqi.[6]

The Nabataean Agriculture

In agriculture, the Filahât al-Nabâtiyyah (Nabataean Agriculture) of Ibn Wahshiyya is the most influential of all Muslim works on the subject. Written in the third/ninth century and drawn mostly from Chaldaean and Babylonian sources, the book deals not only with agriculture but also with the esoteric sciences, especially magic and sorcery, and has always been considered to be one of the important books in Arabic on the occult sciences.

Ibn Wahshiyya translated from Nabataean (Babylonian Aramaic) the Nabataean Agriculture (Kitab al-falaha al-nabatiya) (c. 904), a major treatise on the subject, which was said to be based on ancient Babylonian sources.[8] The book extols Babylonian civilization against that of the conquering Arabs. It contains valuable information on agriculture and superstitions, and in particular discusses beliefs attributed to the Sabeans that there were people before Adam, that Adam had parents and that he came from India. These ideas were discussed by the Jewish philosophers Judah ben Samuel Halevi and Maimonides, through which they became an influence on the seventeenth century French Millenarian Isaac La Peyrère.

Toxicology

He wrote a toxicology treatise Book of Poisons, combining contemporary science, magic and astrology.[2]

Egyptology

Ibn Wahshiyya was one of the first historians to be able to at least partly decipher what was written in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs,[4] by relating them to the contemporary Coptic language used by Coptic priests in his time. An Arabic manuscript of Ibn Wahshiyya's book Kitab Shawq al-Mustaham, a work that discusses a number of ancient alphabets, in which he deciphered a number of Egyptian hieroglyphs, was later read by Athanasius Kircher in the 17th century, and then translated and published in English by Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall in 1806 as Ancient Alphabets and Hieroglyphic Characters Explained; with an Account of the Egyptian Priests, their Classes, Initiation, and Sacrifices in the Arabic Language by Ahmad Bin Abubekr Bin Wahishih, 16 years before Jean-François Champollion's complete decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs.[3][9] This book was known to Silvestre de Sacy, a colleague of Jean-François Champollion. Dr Okasha El Daly, at University College London's Institute of Archaeology, claims that some hieroglyphs had been decoded by Ibn Wahshiyya, eight centuries earlier than Champollion deciphered the Rosetta stone.[10]

Cryptography

He published several cipher alphabets that were used to encrypt magic formulas.[11]

See also

References

External links

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