Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Origins of the alphabet in the Levant, a recent discovery at Tel Lachish

From Victor Mair in Language Log.

Candida Moss, Archaeologists Think They’ve Found Missing Link in Origin of the Alphabet, The Daily Beast, Updated Apr. 25, 2021 8:18AM ET / Published Apr. 25, 2021 8:17AM ET.

From the article:

In a recently published article in Antiquity, a research team led by Felix Höflmayer, an archaeologist at the Austrian Archaeological Institute, describes the discovery of three and a half millennia old milk jar fragment unearthed at Tel Lachish in Israel. The pottery fragment includes a partial inscription that dates to the fifteenth century BCE. Höflmayer said that the “inscription is currently the oldest securely dated alphabetic inscription from the Southern Levant.”

General scholarly agreement maintains that our oldest examples of alphabetic writing comes from the Sinai Peninsula and Egypt and can be dated to the nineteenth century BCE. These important inscriptions were discovered in 1998 in western Egypt and were published by a team led by Yale Egyptologist John Darnell. It’s clear that at some point alphabetic writing moved from Egypt to ancient Palestine but—until now—the earliest examples of alphabetic writing from the Levant were dated to the thirteenth or twelfth century BCE, some six hundred years after the Egyptian examples. How and under what circumstances the alphabet was moved from Egypt to Israel was anyone’s best guess.

More at Language Log.

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