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Alphabet Originated Centuries Earlier Than Previously Thought

Date:
November 23, 1999
Source:
Johns Hopkins University
Summary:
The discovery of a traveler's ancient "calling card" indicates that the first alphabet -- from which all modern alphabets have evolved -- is centuries older than previously believed and was probably invented in Egypt.

Sometime during the beginning of the second millennium B.C., long before ancient biblical times, a traveler passing through a desert valley of what is now southern Egypt, stopped at a rock and inscribed on it his name, his title and probably a short prayer for safe passage. The discovery of this traveler's ancient calling card, and another one similar to it, indicates that the first alphabet -- from which all modern alphabets have evolved -- is centuries older than previously believed. It was probably invented in Egypt, not, as previously thought, in the Levant Region, what is now Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Until now, scholars believed that the forefather of written Hebrew, Arabic, Greek -- virtually all alphabets, including ours -- was invented in the 1700s B.C. The inscriptions in Egypt now point towards an origin in the 1900s B.C. The significance of the discovery was determined by a team of scholars from The Johns Hopkins University, Yale University, Princeton Theological Seminary and the West Semitic Research Project in California. The group presented its findings at an American Oriental Society conference Nov. 22. "These inscriptions are for epigraphers what Lucy was for palaeontologists," said Kyle McCarter Jr., the William Foxwell Albright Chair in Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University and an expert in epigraphy, the study of ancient writings. The inscriptions were discovered in the summer of 1998 in a desert valley called, in Arabic, "The Valley of Horrors." The finder was Egyptologist John Darnell, an assistant professor at Yale and former Hopkins undergrad. Darnell, who stumbled across the rock while surveying the area, was unfamiliar with the writings. When he returned to the United States, he brought photos of them to Chip Dobbs-Allsopp, who studies the writings of the Iron Age, or ancient Biblical times.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Johns Hopkins University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Johns Hopkins University. "Alphabet Originated Centuries Earlier Than Previously Thought." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 November 1999. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/11/991122153642.htm>.
Johns Hopkins University. (1999, November 23). Alphabet Originated Centuries Earlier Than Previously Thought. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/11/991122153642.htm
Johns Hopkins University. "Alphabet Originated Centuries Earlier Than Previously Thought." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/11/991122153642.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

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