10646Re: Earliest alphabet
- May 8, 2009David,
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).
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
> 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.
> David Chibo
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