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10646Re: Earliest alphabet

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  • Brian Colless
    May 8, 2009
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      This is a useful addition to the discussion.

      One might have expected Crete to have been the intermediary island for
      transmission to Greece. The bowl (ks) fromTekke (near Knossos) has a
      Phoenician ('Proto-Canaanite' script) inscription (C9 tomb; difficult
      to date precisely). It is similar to the Kefar Veradim bowl from a
      contemporary tomb (north of Akko). (What strikes me about the two
      vessels is that both have the name ShM`.)

      The Phoenicians are said to have arrived in Cyprus in C8 BCE (see
      below), to live alongside the Myceneans ( I suspect they were the
      true Minoans who ruled from Crete).

      May I add that I have a special interest in the Cyprian scripts, and
      my ideas are being presented gradually at:


      <Cyprus scripts> has tables of syllabograms, showing how the signs
      developed from Cretan Linear A through to the Iron Age syllabary that
      was replaced by the Greek alphabet.

      <Cyprian Name List> These assigned values enable us to find Semitic
      and Hurrian names in a list from Ugarit.
      <Cyprian weight> TEKELO = ThQL/ShQL (shekel)
      <Enkomi cylinder> with a name SARIZETI and the sequence MALIKI (king?)

      So there was a Canaanite (Proto-Phoenician!) presence in Cyprus in the
      Bronze Age, as also in Crete (Cyrus Gordon, Jan Best, and others).

      Brian Colless
      Massey U, NZ

      On 7/05/2009, at 12:21 PM, David Chibo wrote:
      > > He suggests that the reason the alphabet is so meagerly attested
      > in Cyprus prior to the Hellenistic era should be attributed to the
      > pervasive conservatism of Cypriote Greek culture.
      > > He then expands on the Mycenaean roots of Dark Age Cyprus Greece,
      > and the conservative creativity which resulted from the isolation
      > experienced of that island.
      > > And notes that what he calls the 'Mycenaean civilization in exile'
      > was the only part of the Greek world where literacy was preserved.
      > >
      > > However he then writes: "It was Cypriot Greek scribes, trained in
      > the profession of writing, aware of their orthographic surroundings,
      > and perceptive of the advantage of the alphabetic script who adopted
      > the Phoenician writing system who adapted the Phoenician writing
      > system and created the Greek alphabet ... Knowledge of Linear B had
      > long disappeared from the collective memory ...the Cypriot Syllabary
      > had become the script of the Mycenaean tradition of Cyprus" (p.224)
      > and "Who would be more likely to investigate new writing systems
      > than professional scribes?" (p.230)
      > >
      > > Well, we all know about cognititive dissonance: the common
      > observation that the more one has paid for a painting, the less one
      > is willing to believe it is a fake.
      > >
      > > One could equally argue that the Greek-Cypriotes who were
      > justifiably proud of their creativity during that dark period (one
      > during which their inventiveness which may also have resulted in the
      > discovery of carburized steel), would fervently defend their
      > Syllabary as a heritage to be kept alive as long as possible.
      > What Woodard unfortunately leaves out is that Cyprus saw the arrival
      > of Phoenician colonists to Cyprus, about 800 B.C. who settled in
      > several areas and shared political control with the Greeks until the
      > arrival of the Assyrians. Cyprus then became an Assyrian colony from
      > 709 B.C. under Sargon II of Assyria, until 663 B.C. Seven Cypriot
      > kings had paid him homage; subsequent Assyrian documents speak of 11
      > tributary kingdoms, the seven (Curium, Paphos, Marion, Soli,
      > Lapithos, Salamis, and Amathus) plus Kitium, Kyrenia, Tamassos, and
      > Idalium. During the Assyrian dominance the number of city-kingdoms
      > increased to ten, one of which was Phoenician.
      > The copper ores of Cyprus made the island an essential node in the
      > earliest trade networks, and Cyprus was a source of the
      > orientalizing cultural traits of mainland Greece at the end of the
      > Greek Dark Ages, hypothesized by Walter Burkert (Orientalizing
      > Revolution 1992:5) who states, "The Assyrian expansion to the
      > Mediterranean together with the spread of trade in metal ores in the
      > whole area provides a persuasive historical framework for the
      > movement of eastern craftsmen to the West, as well as for the spread
      > of the Phoenician-Greek alphabet."
      > Burkert continues (Orientalizing Revolution 1992:27), "There is much
      > to substantiate the idea that Cyprus had a role to play as an
      > intermediary station in the transmission of writing: The distinctive
      > designation of the Greek letters as Phoinikeia seems to presuppose
      > that other "scribblings" (grammata) were known from which the
      > Phoenician were different. This was the case only on Cyprus, where a
      > linear script of Mycenaen type had been adapted to the Greek and
      > persisted to Hellenistic times; the first document now known for its
      > use in writing Greek dates from the eleventh century.
      > Burkert (Orientalizing Revolution 1992:27) continues, "�the argument
      > employed with great success at one time, that the great differences
      > which appear from the start among local Greek alphabets presupposes
      > a 'long development' stretching over many decades, if not centuries,
      > has been firmly refuted by Lilian Jeffery. The so-called
      > development, or rather the process of transmission, including some
      > errors in copying, idiosyncrasies of 'hands,' and some intentional
      > additions did happen extremely fast, within a few decades, if not
      > years, reaching even the Phrygians in one direction and the
      > Etruscans in the other near simultaneously."
      > Burkert (Orientalizing Revolution 1992:28) goes even further when he
      > states, "In the increasing quantity of Greek geometric ceramics
      > which can be classified and dated with a reasonable degree of
      > precision, not a single scribbling has so far been discovered that
      > looks like a Greek letter before, say, 770 BC, while in the decades
      > from 750 to about 700 there are now dozens and dozens of documents.
      > A cultural explosion has happened here; there is nothing to suggest
      > that the Greek alphabet had been in hiding for centuries before that
      > date. Thus the existence of Greek script in the tenth and even in
      > the ninth century appears, from the state of things, to be virtually
      > impossible."
      > Burkert (Orientalizing Revolution 1992:29) explains, "Thus it is
      > clear that the adoption of the Phoenician script by the Greeks was
      > more than the copying of letter forms; it included the transmission
      > of the technique of teaching and learning how to read and write."
      > Futhermore (Orientalizing Revolution 1992:34), "In any event, the
      > fashionable claim that the Greeks adopted only the alphabet from so-
      > called Phoenicians and created all the further achievements of their
      > written culture on their own should be approached with caution.
      > Writing tablets and leather scrolls at the very least came with the
      > script and moulded the techniques and concept of the book. There was
      > no tabula rasa. So much of Semitic written culture has been
      > completely lost that general probability would suggest that rather
      > there were far more numerous, richer, and denser connections than
      > can be demonstrated by the meagre remains available."
      > So the Greek aquisition of writing neatly co-incides with the same
      > period that Cyprus was first settled by the Phoencicans and then
      > subsequently conquered by the Assyrians.
      > The cultural borrowing that had gradually seeped out of the Middle
      > East, to the West, from the Hittites, Egyptians and Mesopotamians
      > before this period may have turned into a flood with Cyprus acting
      > as a cultural superhighway.
      > Regards,
      > David Chibo
      > www.gilgameshgames.org

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