The first example of our alphabet, a possible mnemonic phrase that helped someone to remember «ABCD«, Has been discovered in an inscription on a piece of pottery from 3,400 in Ancient Egyptsays Thomas Schneider, professor of Egyptology and Near Eastern Studies at the University of British Columbia.
Three of the words begin with the old equivalent of B, C and D respectively, in what may be a mnemonic phrase.
Schneider reported the discovery in an article recently published in the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, adding to LiveScience that this discovery "would be the first historical certification of our alphabet sequence."
Today's specialists call the primitive ancestor of our alphabet sequence ABCD as 'Abgad sequence', because this phrase mentions some of the first letters of the early version of our alphabet.
Until this discovery, the earliest example of this sequence dated from about 3,200 yearsSchneider specified.
The alphabet we use today is derived from the Phoenician, a civilization that flourished approximately 3,500 to 2,300 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean.
They used what is known as semitic language, a term that refers to a branch of languages that traces its origins to the Middle East, each sharing a few words.
The early precursor of our alphabet was written in Semitic languages, yet few texts written in the Semitic language date back 3,400 years or more.
The BCD inscription
A team of archaeologists discovered in 1995 the ceramic piece with the aforementioned inscription, in a tomb that belonged to Egyptian officer Sennefer, being recently studied and deciphered by Schneider.
As long as the text is written in hieratic, a form of Egyptian hieroglyphic writing, 'all words appear to be of foreign linguistic origin and are mostly Semitic"Said Schneider.
One side of the pottery contains a series of Egyptian hieroglyphs representing the words "bibiya-ta" (land snail); "Garu" (dove) and "da`at" (could mean "comet").
More than 3,000 years ago the letter "g" would have represented the current sound of the "c", which means that the first letter of each of these words is the old equivalent of "BCD".
Another alphabetical sequence: HLHM
The other side of the ceramic inscribed piece also contains a Semitic word series written in hieratic.
On it are spelled the words «hahāna lāwī ḥelpat mayyin leqab«, Where the first letters of the first four words of this series,«HLHM«, represent the first letters of another ancient alphabet sequence It never became as popular as the ancient forerunner of our alphabet.
Whoever wrote these inscriptions 3,400 years ago may have been trying remember the beginning of both alphabetic sequences, and more considering that it belonged to Sennefer, an Egyptian foreign affairs official, who probably understood the Semitic languages spoken in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Schneider's paper was published recently and the reaction of academics to this finding remains to be seen.
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