(ORDO NEWS) — This research points to a paradox: our writing system was designed by people who couldn’t read.
In 1905, Egyptologists Sir William and Hilda Flinders Petrie excavated the temple for the first time, documenting thousands of sacrifices.
The scientists also found curious signs on the walls of the temple and began to notice them in other places, on the walls and small statues.
Some of the signs were clearly related to hieroglyphs, but they were simpler than the Egyptian writing on the temple walls.
Petri recognized the signs as an alphabet, although it took another decade to decipher the letters, and even more to find who invented it.
Who invented the first alphabet
The Flinders Petrie family brought back to London many of the treasures they found, including a small red sandstone sphinx with the same set of letters on the side as in the temple.
After ten years of studying the inscriptions, in 1916 the Egyptologist Sir Alan Gardiner published his transcription of the letters and their translation: the inscription on a small sphinx, made in the Semitic dialect, read “Beloved of Baalat”, referring to the Canaanite goddess, the wife of Baal, the powerful goddess Astarte.
Some letters were borrowed from hieroglyphs, others were taken from life – as a result, all the sounds of the language spoken by these people were represented in writing.
The temple complex tells in detail about the people who mined Egyptian turquoise in Sinai. The stelae that line the tracks describe each expedition, including the names and titles of each person working at the site.
The bureaucratic nature of Egyptian society today gives a clear picture of the labor immigrants who flocked to Egypt in search of work four millennia ago.
Religious ritual was central to foreign workers learning to write.
At the end of the day’s work, the Canaanite workers had to watch the rituals of their Egyptian counterparts in the beautiful temple complex of Hathor and marvel at the thousands of hieroglyphs used to offer gifts to the goddess.
The workers were not embarrassed by their inability to read the hieroglyphs around them; instead, they began to write their own way, inventing a simpler and more versatile system.
Perhaps this is how the alphabet appeared.
The alphabet remained on the cultural periphery of the Mediterranean until six or more centuries after its invention, occurring only in words scrawled on objects found throughout the Middle East such as daggers and pottery.
For a long time it did not pass into literature and documents. But then, around 1200 BC, there was a huge political upheaval, known as the collapse of the late Bronze Age.
The largest empires in the Middle East the Mycenaean Empire in Greece, the Hittite Empire in Turkey, and the Ancient Egyptian Empire all collapsed due to internal civil unrest, invasions, and droughts.
With the advent of small city-states, their leaders began to use the local languages to govern. In the land of Canaan, these were Semitic dialects written using alphabets obtained from the Sinai mines.
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