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No. 4


The Alphabet at the Turn of the Millennium
The West Semitic Alphabet ca. 1150–850 BCE. The Antiquity of the Arabian, Greek and Phrygian Alphabets

Benjamin Sass

The Alphabet at the Turn of the Millennium addresses the epigraphical and archaeological aspects of the West Semitic, Arabian, Phrygian and Greek alphabets ca. 1150–750 BCE, and explores the processes and background that brought about the transition from the Proto-Canaanite to the Phoenician-Aramaic and Hebrew scripts in the first half of the ninth century, to the genesis of the Arabian alphabet at about the same time, and to the transmission of the alphabet to the Phrygians and Greeks ca. one hundred years later.

Price: $35.00, including airmail postage


Acknowledgements 9
Introduction 11

Chapter 1. The West Semitic Alphabet ca. 1150–850 BCE 13

1.1 Introduction 13
1.2 From Proto-Canaanite to Phoenician ca. 1000 BCE: The 'Traditional' Chronology and Its Problems 14
1.3 From Proto-Canaanite to Phoenician-Aramaic and Hebrew ca. 900–850 BCE 16
1.3.1 Chronology of the Archaic Byblos Inscriptions 1: Non-palaeographic Criteria 16 Abibaal and Elibaal 16 Ahiram 17
1.3.2 Chronology of the Archaic Byblos Inscriptions 2: Palaeographic Criteria 22 Introduction 22 Archaizing and Non-archaizing Features in the Script of the Byblos Inscriptions 28 'Eccentric' Features in the Script of the Byblos Inscriptions 31 The Bordreuil Champlevé Inscription, and an Interim Balance of the Byblos Archaism 32
1.3.3 Chronology of the Latest Proto-Canaanite Phase 34 Two Inscribed Bronze Bowls and Their Archaeological Contexts 34 The Tell Fekheryeh Script 40 The Arrowheads and the Last Proto-Canaanite Phase (Tenth–Ninth Centuries)—Conclusions 43 The Antecedents: The Penultimate Proto-canaanite Phase (Twelfth–Tenth Centuries) 44
1.3.4 Chronology of the Archaic Byblos Inscriptions 3: The Extent of the Archaism 45 Relative Chronology: Palaeography and the Sequence of the Byblos Kings 46 Absolute Chronology: The Beginning and End of the Byblos Sequence 48 The Byblos (and Fekheryeh) Script: A Possible Source 50
1.4 The West Semitic Alphabet ca. 1150–850 BCE and Its Cultural and Political Background 50
1.4.1 West Semitic Writing ca. 1150–850 BCE 50 Introduction 50 New West Semitic Chancelleries and the Phoenician-Aramaic and Hebrew Scripts 51 The Galloping 800s: From Proto-Canaanite Via Byblos to Dan and Mesha In Less Than a Century 52 The Linear Alphabet in Phoenicia and Syria ca. 1150–850 BCE, and Iron I Antecedents 53 Elusive Beginnings: The Phoenician–Aramaic (and Hebrew) Script ca. 900–850 BCE 55
1.4.2 The Social and Political Background of the West Semitic Alphabetic Developments 61 The Northern Levant 1: Aramaean Statehood in the Eleventh–Tenth Centuries? 61 The Northern Levant 2: Aramaeans, Luwians and Assyrians in the Ninth Century 64 Phoenicia and the Southern Levant: An Iron I Prelude 66 Conclusions: The Levant and Its Alphabets, Chiefly ca. 900–850 BCE 67 Beyond the Levant: The Semitic Alphabet and the Phoenician Westward Expansion 68
1.5 The West Semitic Alphabet ca. 1150–850 BCE—Synopsis 68
1.5.1 Main Points Recapitulated 69
1.5.2 The Chronology and Its Implications—An Overview 70
Excursus A. Six Notes on Ahiram's Sarcophagus, Its Reliefs and Their Time 75
Excursus B. Non-Hebrew Inscriptions of the Ninth Century 83
Excursus C. Ninth-Century Hazor and the Earliest Hebrew Inscriptions 85
Excursus D. Dating the Ain Dara Sculpture Against Its Syro–Hittite Background 89
Excursus E. On the Chronology of Gozan 93

Chapter 2. The Antiquity of the Arabian Alphabet 96

2.1 Recent Excavations in Yemen and Their Inscribed Finds 96
2.1.1 Yalâ 97
2.1.2 Raybûn 100
2.1.3 Hajar Êêurbân 104
2.1.4 Al-Midaman 105
2.1.5 Early Monumental Inscriptions 106
2.1.6 Comments on the Published Results of the Excavations (Sections 2.1.1–2.1.5) 106
2.2 The Adoption of the Alphabet in Arabia 113
2.2.1 Non-epigraphic Evidence 113 Archaeological Dating of Excavated Inscriptions, Stylistic Dating of Inscribed Seals 113 The General South Arabian Picture and the Assyrian Synchronism 115 Fertile Crescent Picture 118
2.2.2 Epigraphic Evidence 119 The West Semitic Prototype and the Time of the Adoption 119 The hlú Alphabetic Order and the Time of the Adoption 122 The Early South Arabian Cursive and the South and North Arabian Stone Inscriptions 124
2.3 The Antiquity of the Arabian Alphabet—Synopsis 128

Chapter 3. The Antiquity Of The Greek And Phrygian Alphabets 133

3.1 Introduction 133
3.2 The Adoption of the Alphabet by the Greeks 134
3.2.1 The Antiquity of the Greek Alphabet—Selected Studies 1933–2000 134
3.2.2 The Mother Script and Locale of the Transmission—Selected Studies 138
3.2.3 The Antiquity of the Greek Alphabet 140
3.3 Phrygian Precedence? 146
3.4 The Antiquity of the Phrygian and Greek Alphabets—Synopsis 149
Excursus F. On Protogeometric and Geometric Chronology 153
Excursus G. The Osteria dell'Osa graffito 155

Afterword 157
List of Tables and Figures 159
Bibliography and Abbreviations 161
Addenda 183
Indices 186

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