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Pottery shard - ‘missing link’ in alphabet’s development

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A 3,500-year-old inscription on a pottery shard found in Israel is offering scholars new clues about the development of the alphabet that formed the basis for many modern writing systems.

The discovery appears to be the oldest writing ever recorded in Israel, reports Rossella Tercatin for the Jerusalem Post. Archaeologists found the fragment during excavations at Tel Lachish in south central Israel in 2018. Using radiocarbon dating of barley grains found alongside the shard, they were able to date it fairly precisely to about 1450 B.C., when the area was a center of Canaanite society. The team published its findings in the journal Antiquity.


Inscribed on a tiny fragment of a clay pot, the writing consists of six letters on two lines. As study co-author Haggai Misgav, an epigraphist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, tells Haaretz’s Ariel David, the first three letters may spell out the word ebed, meaning “slave” or “servant.”

In a statement, the researchers argue that the script represents a “missing link” connecting alphabetic inscriptions found in Egypt and Sinai with later writing from Canaan. The writing uses an early version of the alphabet in which letters bear a resemblance to the Egyptian hieroglyphs they evolved from.




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