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proto-Sinaitic script

Subject Linguistics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


The writing of inscriptions discovered on the Sinai peninsula and in south Palestine dating from the early second millennium bce . Also known as ‘Sinai script’, this writing was employed by turquoise miners in Sinai. Since these apparently belonged to a Semitic tribe, the discovery of this writing at the beginning of the twentieth century attracted a great deal of attention. The renowned Egyptologist A. H. Gardiner in 1916 first interpreted it as the earliest form of alphabetic writing. He was led to this conclusion and convinced several of his colleagues of its soundness by his identification of the name of the Canaanite goddess Ba'alat in the inscriptions ( Figure 17 ). Furthermore, Gardiner advanced the important hypothesis that the Sinai script was a stage of writing intermediate between Egyptian hieroglyphics and the Semitic alphabet. His assumption was that the letters of the Sinai script were derived from Egyptian hieroglyphs on the basis of the A crophonic principle . If this connection could be substantiated, one of the most conspicuous gaps in the known history of writing could be closed, the origin of the Semitic consonant scripts. Attractive though Gardiner's suggestion was, little progress has been made since his spectacular reading of the goddess's name. The epigraphic data are few, and knowledge about the Semitic variety spoken in Canaan of the late Bronze Age is ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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