Proto-Sinaitic Script

Proto-Sinaitic Script(1850 BC-1550 BC )was an ancient script that demonstrated the earliest example of alphabetic writing--using symbols to represent sound. It had 27-29 characters taken from 40 inscriptions and fragments. It was an abjad(all symbols seemed to be consonants) derived from Egyptian Hieroglyphs and the cursive Egyptian form of Hieratic. The script was discovered and identified as unique at Serabit el-Khadim in 1905 by Flinders Petrie. Forty years before Flinders, Thomas Palmer had discovered a similiar script at Wadi Maghara, but failed to identify its distinctiveness. The decipherment of the script came in 1916, by Gardiner. Sinai was populated by Semitic workers, working the mountain turquoise mines of Serabit el-Khadim. It is believe the alphabet was developed during Egypt's Middle Kingdom or Middle Bronze Age, since the Middle Kingdom is when one finds a significant Semitic speaking population in Egypt.

Proto-Sinaitic represented a northwest semitic language. It could have been a Canaanite dialect, but the latter is not certain. The Proto-Sinaitic Alphabet would split into the Proto-Canaanite and the South Arabian Script during the late Bronze Age. The Ethiopian Ge'ez Script would be derived from the South Arabian script. The Proto-Canaanite would evolve into the Phoenician Alphabet, influencing numerous Asian(Brahmi, Arabic, etc.) and European scripts(Greek, Latin, etc.). The Punic Script of Carthage, founded by Phoenicians, would be derived from the Phoenician Script. The Berber/Tuareg script Tifinagh would be derived from the Punic Script. The discovery of the Proto-Sinaitic Alphabet gave credence to the early claims by the Greeks that the alphabet came from Egyptian Hieroglyphs. The Wadi el-Hol Incscription, pre-cursor to the Proto-Sinaitic Script, compounds the latter claim.

tags: ancient egypt scripts alphabet writing