Kikuyu People - Ancient Scripts and Symbols similar to Egyptian hieroglyphs
1. Egyptian 'MS' biconsonantal (wines skins) symbol and 2. the Anjiru Clan symbol
Vestiges of Ancient Writing Systems
Writing falls into two major categories:
1.When there is no painted or drawn design.
This first method of memory aids is referred to by experts as mnemotechnic writing. Here the writer intends to either communicate with self or with others. Notched sticks for the recognition of debts is one example. In the case of the Kikuyu as I was informed by Michael Waweru (mutigairi), one was able to follow the history of his herd by such notches on a stick. A certain notch on a stick that identified a specific cow would signify insemination; another notch would record the birth of the calf and by such records the cattle breeder was able to estimate the amount of milk from his herd.
It is noteworthy that the word for letters or numerals in Kikuyu is ndemwa, which translates to those that have been cut. Father Cangolo of the consolata fathers who lived among the Kikuyu in the 1930s recorded that:
"Recently an old Kikuyu took to a public meeting a wooden stick on which he was able to read the amount of tax paid by him to government on each year since it began being collected (Cagnolo)
Another example of mnemotechnic writing is the knotted chord such as the complex quipus of the incas. Waweru told me that the Kikuyu used the knotted chord to count down the days towards an appointment or major event. If for example there was a meeting in seven days, seven knots would be made on a string. On the morning of each new day, a knot would be untied until the last knot was untied and the record keeper punctually attended his appointment. An African writer, Gathigira who I believe was educated by the Consolata fathers, noted that:
"The Kikuyu believed that when a person was born, God made a knot. When he (God) wanted to recall a person, he undid the knot (Gathigira s.)
The second kind of writing happens:
2. When there is a design that has been painted or drawn.
One symbol documented by Routledge, was stated as being the symbol of the Anjiru Clan.The meaning that was attached to this symbol is now lost. What remains to be seen is the signifier, but the signified has been lost in antiquity. The symbol has nine lines that intersect at the head. Perhaps the Anjiru clan had a special place among the nine clans of the Kikuyu. It resembles the symbol of wine skins that represents 'ms' bi-consonant in Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Other symbols, which were also documented by Routledge, were inscribed on property such as beehives. Routlege implied that each clan had its own type.
The Gichandi was a gourd on which certain designs were inscribed. Cowry shells were added on the surface as part of the inscription or story that the user of the Gichandi wanted to tell. The user of this picture rattle as Routledge (1924) called it moved around the countryside singing to tell his story. This writer assumes that objects had been sealed in the gourd to make it rattle.
Both Cagnolo and Routledge gave the impression that the Gichandi was a vestige of a period when some form of writing was in use.
Other symbols were used for branding cattle but unfortunately none has survived in the available literature.
It is my opinion that the Arathi (seers) and Ago (traditional healers) were able to maintain more complex records including mathematical computations. The Ituika ceremony that took place every thirty years for instance would require accurate reckoning if its regularity had to be maintained. Its counterpart in Egypt, the Hebsed, was reckoned by observing the sky for the rising of the star Sirius (dog star).
All Kikuyu numerals start with the prefix i, except seven and nine. Only ‘1’ replaced by ĩ – ĩmwe.The rest are; 2. igĩrĩ; 3. ithatũ; 4. inya; 5. ithano; 6. ithathatũ (literally two threes);7. mũgwanja; 8. inyanya (literally two fours);9. kenda; 10. ikũmi. Leakey, (1959, p. 23) gives an alternative word for ten as “mũrongo, which signifies a complete unit…almost always used for each of the units of 10 between 20 and 90...”
One hundred is igana and one thousand is ngiri. No word for one million has been identified.
To the best of my knowledge, percentages are preceded by the term Gacunji ga … ( One piece from …).
Gacunji ga ikumi – 10%, Literally this may be translated as “one piece from ten pieces.”
Gacunji ka igana – 1%, literally “one piece from one hundred pieces.”
Hieroglyphic numerals for 3, 4, 6, and 8 and Equivalent Kikuyu
Egyptian numerals were represented by strokes, with the number of strokes corresponding to the numeral - one stroke for numeral "one"; two strokes for numeral "two" etc. Numeral "six" is represented by doubling the three strokes that represent numeral "three". In the same way, numeral "eight" is represented by doubling the strokes that represent numeral "four".
In the Kikuyu morphemes that represent the numerals three, four, six and eight, a similar pattern can be observed.
Three is ithatu. Six is ithathatu, a repetition of the word for three; ithatu. It appears that the original word before the natural effect of language change took place was ithatu-ithatu, similar to the doubling of the Egyptian Hieroglyphics for three to indicate numeral six.
Similarly, eight is inyanya, which was possibly inya-inya - a repetition of the word for four; inya. The antiquity of the root in the Kikuyu word for eight may be apparent by comparing with the Arabic word for eight - tamanya.
All forms of letters and numbers are called ndemwa - from the word tema, to cut. For them to be referred to as ‘those that have been cut,’ the Kikuyu were probably were privy to writings that had been incised on stone as was common during the 18th dynasty of Ancient Egypt.
Tara - to count
This is another interesting word. When computers came into fashion, Swahili scholars were taxed to find a suitable word for this machine. They eventually came up with Tarakilishi. The prefix Tara, means to count in Kikuyu. Many Swahili coined terms borrow from ancient Kiamu (Lamu) dialect which surprisingly has many archaic words that are still in use in Kikuyu. Lamu island is the only place in the world where a cat breed that resembles the ancient Egyptian breed (Bubastis) can be seen alive today. It would be interesting to research Tara in ancient tongues to see if it included the idea of ‘compute’ in its semantic field.