Ibn Wahshiyya

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Ibn Wahshiyya the Chaldean (Arabic: أبو بكر أحمد بن وحشية الكلداني‎, /ʼabū bakr ibn waḥšiyyah al-kaldānī/;[1] fl. 9th/10th centuries) was a Chaldean Iraqi alchemist, agriculturalist, farm toxicologist,[2] egyptologist and historian born at Qusayn near Kufa in Iraq.[3] He 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.


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[edit]

In agriculture, the Filahât al-Nabâtiyyah (Nabataean Agriculture) of Ibn Wahshiyya the Chaldean 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 the Chaldean translated from Nabataean (Babylonian Chaldean 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.


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


Ibn Wahshiyya the Chaldean 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]


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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Okasha El-Daly (2005), Egyptology - The Missing Millennium, UCL Press
  2. ^ a b Iovdijová, A; Bencko, V (2010). "Potential risk of exposure to selected xenobiotic residues and their fate in the food chain--part I: classification of xenobiotics" (PDF). Annals of agricultural and environmental medicine : AAEM 17 (2): 183–92. PMID 21186759. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Dr. Okasha El Daly, Deciphering Egyptian Hieroglyphs in Muslim Heritage, Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester
  4. ^ a b Dr. Okasha El Daly (2005), Egyptology: The Missing Millennium: Ancient Egypt in Medieval Arabic Writings, UCL Press, ISBN 1-84472-063-2 (cf. Arabic Study of Ancient Egypt, Foundation for Science Technology and Civilisation)
  5. ^ Hameen-Anttila, J. 2002 "First, the books of the Nabatean corpus themselves claim to be translations from "ancient Syriac" (e.g. Filaha 1:5) made by Ibn Wahshiyya"
  6. ^ Houtsma, T. (1993). E. J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936 4. E.J. Brill. p. 1011. ISBN 9789004097902. Retrieved 10 December 2014. 
  7. ^ "Natural History" by S.H. Nasr in A History of Muslim Philosophy, edited and introduced by M.M. Sharif (1966), volume II, p. 1323
  8. ^ Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila Ideology 2002, Nabataean Agriculture 2006
  9. ^ "Ancient Alphabets and Hieroglyphic Characters Explained: With an Account of ... : Aḥmad ibn ʻAlī Ibn Waḥshīyah, Ahmed ibn 'Ali ibn al Mukhtar ibn 'Abd al Karim, Joseph Hammer-Purgstall , Pforzheimer Bruce Rogers Collection (Library of Congress) : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". archive.org. Retrieved 10 December 2014. 
  10. ^ McKie, Robin (2004-10-03). "Arab scholar 'cracked Rosetta code' 800 years before the West". The Observer (Guardian News and Media Limited 2007). Retrieved 23 May 2007. 
  11. ^ Mattord, Michael E. Whitman, Herbert J. (2010). Principles of information security (4th ed.). Course Technology. p. 351. ISBN 1-111-13821-4. 

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