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Oldest alphabet from 4 millennia ago might be somewhat like Hebrew?


That would make it and other very ancient documents possibly decipherable. From Bruce Bower at ScienceNews:

The world’s earliest alphabet, inscribed on stone slabs at several Egyptian sites, was an early form of Hebrew, a controversial new analysis concludes.Israelites living in Egypt transformed that civilization’s hieroglyphics into Hebrew 1.0 more than 3,800 years ago, at a time when the Old Testament describes Jews living in Egypt, says archaeologist and epigrapher Douglas Petrovich of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada.

Hebrew speakers seeking a way to communicate in writing with other Egyptian Jews simplified the pharaohs’ complex hieroglyphic writing system into 22 alphabetic letters, Petrovich proposed on November 17 at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research. More.

We really don’t know, but who would bet against finding even older writings? Then the big problem is, what do they mean?

See also: Neanderthal artwork: Academic bombshell obliterates “lesser human” theory

Code written in Stone Age art?


The search for our earliest ancestors: signals in the noise

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News, I happened to run across a work by a Rabbi in my local public library, "Mysteries of the Alphabet," by Marc-Alain Ouaknin, Abbeville Press 1999, translated from French. This seems to argue much as the above, though of course there will be updated evidence and argument over the course of 20 years. On its contents, there has been discussion along these lines for over 100 years, but of course stoutly resisted by the establishment. This book traces the evolution of each letter, and raises one striking point to me: a connexion to the prohibition on idols in the decalogue. Obviously, Egyptian paganism pervades everything in that culture, including its hieroglyphs. (Think, magical spells and their representation in hieroglyphs as just one illustration. Even the gods are magicians in Egyptian mythology.) Likewise, we can infer that discomfort at idolatrously tied images and representations would have been present in Hebraic culture long before the Exodus -- all they had to do is observe their neighbours and oppressors in Egypt. So, it makes inherent sense that they would seek to abstract away from tainted stylised drawings to representing sounds, while retaining some degree of connexion to the existing body of learning. This would of course then trigger the crucial abstraction found in alphabetic writing, and the tendency would continue across generations. Alphabetic text and similar number-symbols, of course, are foundational to digital code; starting with the principle of distinct, recognisable identity so that we can represent sounds, values, and onward colours, signals etc through codes of digital -- discrete state -- character. So, all of this is very important. A second major point in this book, is that the alphabetic principle spread far and wide, as far as Java and Cambodia to the E and of course to the N and W in Europe. Egypt itself devised an alphabetic script, demotic IIRC. Though, eventually Coptic script is obviously modified from Greek. So, let us see how the balance on the merits pans out. KF kairosfocus
News, I observe a caption to an illustration:
LETTER STONE Inscriptions in stone slabs from Egypt, including this specimen dating to almost 3,500 years ago, contain the world’s oldest alphabet, which one researcher now argues was an early form of Hebrew. New translations of these inscriptions contain references to figures from the Bible, including Moses.
In the main text:
The origins of writing in different parts of the world — including that of the alphabet carved into the Egyptian slabs — have long stimulated scholarly debates (SN: 3/6/93, p. 152). A German scholar identified the ancient Egyptian writing as Hebrew in the 1920s. But he failed to identify many letters in the alphabet, leading to implausible translations that were rejected by researchers. Petrovich says his big break came in January 2012. While conducting research at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, he came across the word “Hebrews” in a text from 1874 B.C. that includes the earliest known alphabetic letter. According to the Old Testament, Israelites spent 434 years in Egypt, from 1876 B.C. to 1442 B.C. Petrovich then combined previous identifications of some letters in the ancient alphabet with his own identifications of disputed letters to peg the script as Hebrew. Armed with the entire fledgling alphabet, he translated 18 Hebrew inscriptions from three Egyptian sites. Several biblical figures turn up in the translated inscriptions, including Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his half-brothers and then became a powerful political figure in Egypt, Joseph’s wife Asenath and Joseph’s son Manasseh, a leading figure in a turquoise-mining business that involved yearly trips to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula [--> this would be a breakthrough in a piece of history most definitely not recorded in the Bible, with implication that for generations the Hebrews were prominent in Egypt]. Moses, who led the Israelites out of Egypt, is also mentioned, Petrovich says.
Note too, this comment in the combox:
Douglas Petrovich • 7 days ago I would like to correct several (obviously unintentional) factual errors in the story. (1) Sinai 375a, depicted in the article in picture- and drawing-form, contains three hieroglyphs, on an otherwise PCH (proto-consonantal Hebrew) inscription. (2) The spelling of the name of the overseer in Sinai 375a is “Ahisamach” in English Bibles. He is the father of Oholiab, one of the two men appointed to build the tabernacle (after the exodus, but before the entry into Canaan). (3) The big break actually came while minding my own business at my desk in Toronto, when using online tools to conduct totally unrelated research. The text to which Bruce Bower refers, the caption of Sinai 115, dates to Year 18 of Amenemhat III (1842 BC by my dating). (4) My view is that the Israelite stay in Egypt is “430 years to the very day” (Exod 12:40-41), equaling 1876-1446 BC, at one time the time-honored, majority view. (5) The number of inscriptions I translated is 18 if we count Sinai 345a, 345b, 346a, and 346b independently, rather than as two. Otherwise the number is 16. (6) Joseph ONLY appears in ME (Middle Egyptian) inscriptions, which is reserved for the unfinished companion volume. The same is true of Manasseh. The 3 biblical figures mentioned within the 16 inscriptions are Asenath, Ahisamach, and Moses.
This too:
Douglas Petrovich Dan • 7 days ago I am not a Zionist, Dan. I'm not even Jewish. But thanks for playing on the show! If you would like to know some of the many reasons why we can know it is Hebrew, try these: (1) a min-comparative (i.e. comparative adj + superior noun + min-preposition + inferior noun[s], in this case being 3 in number), (2) doubly-spoken consonants (i.e. written once and spoken twice, as in the BGDKFT letters), (3) typical VSO word order, (4) lack of “vowel letters,” which is to be expected at this time, (5) adverbial clauses, (6) relative clauses, (7) atypically emphatic constructions, such as SVO word order, (8) two “bilingual” inscriptions (Note: not the same text repeated twice, but movement from ME (Middle Egyptian) to Hebrew . . . and back again, in one case), (9) a standard ME formula for designating (a Hebrew in) an official office (i.e. “overseer” + official’s office + official’s name), (11) optional/occasional mimation with the name of the man whom Orly Goldwasser correctly attributed (in my estimation) as being the inventor of the language, and (10) a typical Hebrew proverb that mentions “El” (one of the words of God used numerous times in the Pentateuch).
Then, this:
Douglas Petrovich MAdScientist72 • 7 days ago Mad Scientist, the letters in the middle column are projected as original, based on the best available evidence, especially the ones that I hand-drew electronically. The ones that appear to you as badly drawn hieroglyphs are how the author of Sinai 115 (the "Hebrews Caption") actually drew the corresponding ME (Middle Egyptian) hieroglyphs, as found on other Sinai inscriptions in ME. This provides a virtually exact approximation of how he wrote the pictograph (i.e. in the new proto-consonantal Hebrew, as well as in ME).
This is almost amusing, but in the end is quite sad:
glene77is Sabb • 8 days ago As I read these types of discussion, everything seems rationale, until the Old Testament says something relevant ... then doubt quickly shadows everything. We all have our biases, and our biases are not consistently rationale. I think it is a miracle that we even have fragments and pieces from so very far back, about which we can talk.
The scholar has to defend himself (you're a . . . a . . . CREATIONIST):
Douglas Petrovich Ben • 6 days ago Ben, my credentials include a M.A. and a Ph.D. from the Univ. of Toronto in Syro-Pal archaeology, with a 1st minor in Egyptology and a 2nd minor in ANE religions. This should be beyond questioning from anyone. And yes, my research is absolutely on the level. The candid truth is that there are very few people on earth who actually are qualified to verify my research, simply because a mastery of so many fields/sub-disciplines is required. The ones who "may" come the closest are epigraphers of ancient Hebrew and Semitic languages. However, even all of them but one (to my knowledge) have glaring weaknesses, including a poor or non-existent understanding of ME (Middle Egyptian). Most or all of the few who come close to having all of the right qualifications actually have an anti-theological axe to grind. If you're looking to find and judge people with an agenda, you honestly need to start with them. All the best, Doug
If this stuff holds up, it will be the final nail in the coffin for the longstanding JEDP style hypothesis. (Note my discussion on biblical vs general timelines as a backgrounder for a draft AACCS course here.) We should not overlook the implicit inferences to intelligently directed configuration as best explaining the scratches on the stones, and also the implications of even tentatively reconstructing text. So, now, what about the traces of what is obviously the oldest text of all? Namely, that in the heart of the living cell, recorded using molecular nanotechnology? What does the role of information -- and especially textual, digitally coded information -- play in understanding our world? What role should it play? How are we -- individually, institutionally, as a civilisation -- responding to this? Why? What does that response reveal about the secrets of our hearts? KF kairosfocus
Well, I would imagine they will have trouble getting other scholars to agree with that. No one wants to recognize the possibility of Jews being in Egypt at the time the Bible says. In cases like this, interpretation can easily become bias either way. If confirmed, it would be huge news, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Still, it is a very interesting idea! tjguy

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