• By The Financial District


Archaeologists digging in the ancient Canaanite settlement of Lachish have unearthed a 3,500-year-old pottery shard inscribed with what they believe is the oldest text found in Israel that was written using an alphabetic script.

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Earlier Canaanite texts are known, but they were written using hieroglyphs or cuneiform characters, Ariel David reported for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The discovery of the alphabetic writing fills a gap in the early history of a script that apparently was developed by Canaanite migrants in ancient Egypt. From the Levant, the writing system would eventually spread around the world, becoming the most commonly used writing system to this day.

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Back in Lachish, the tiny shard is the remnant of a clay pot that had been imported from Cyprus and written on using ink in Canaan.

Measuring just 4 by 3.5 centimeters, the fragment contains a handful of characters spread over two lines. It was discovered in 2018 by an Austrian expedition digging at Lachish and was published Thursday, April 15, 2021, in the journal Antiquity.

While experts are still struggling to decipher the short text (more on that below), they are confident it can be dated to around 1450 B.C.E, at the beginning of the Late Bronze Age. This provides researchers with a “missing link” in the history of the alphabet, connecting earlier alphabetic inscriptions found in Egypt and Sinai to later texts unearthed in Canaan, says Felix Hoflmayer, a researcher from the Archaeological Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

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During the subsequent Iron Age, this proto-Canaanite alphabet would develop into the writing systems used by the peoples of the Levant.

Palestinians and Jews share 80% of their genome with the Canaanites while the 80% of the genome of the Lebanese tallies with the Phoenicians.

The ancient Israelites would use it to pen the Hebrew Bible, while the Phoenician version of the script would be spread by merchants across the Mediterranean, to Greece and then Rome – eventually becoming the Latin alphabet that you are reading at this very moment.


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