Phoenician alphabet2to the Hyksos people forming it from corrupt Egyptian.
With the discovery of the pictographic Proto-Sinaitic alphabet, scientists discovered the missing link betweenEgyptian hieroglyphs and the Proto-Canaanite script. This discovery reinforced the earlier hypothesis of Phoenician'sEgyptian origin. The Proto-Sinaitic script was in use from ca. 1850 BC in the Sinai by Canaanite speakers. There aresporadic attestations of very short Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions in Canaan in the late Middle and Late Bronze Age, butthe script was not widely used until the rise of new Semitic kingdoms in the 13th and 12th centuries BC. Byconvention the new script of these kingdoms, which was abstracted and lost its pictographic character, is calledProto-Canaanite until the mid 11th century, when it is first attested on inscribed bronze arrowheads, after which it iscalled Phoenician.
The oldest known inscription that goes by the name of Phoenician is the Ahiram epitaph,engraved on the sarcophagus of King Ahiram from circa 1200 BC.
Spread of the alphabet and its social effects
The Phoenician adaptation of the alphabet was extremely successful, and variants were adapted around theMediterranean from ca. the 9th century, notably giving rise to the Greek, Old Italic, Anatolian and Paleohispanicscripts. Its success was due in part to its phonetic nature; Phoenician was the first widely used script in which onesound was represented by one symbol. This simple system contrasted the other scripts in use at the time, such asCuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphs, which employed many complex characters and were difficult to learn.
Thisone-to-one configuration also made it possible for Phoenician to be employed in multiple languages.Another reason of its success was the maritime trading culture of Phoenician merchants, which spread the use of thealphabet into parts of North Africa and Europe.
Phoenician inscriptions have been found in archaeological sites ata number of former Phoenician cities and colonies around the Mediterranean, such as Byblos (in present-dayLebanon) and Carthage in North Africa. Later finds indicate earlier use in Egypt.
Phoenician had long-term effects on the social structures of the civilizations which came in contact with it. Asmentioned above, the script was the first widespread phonetic script. Its simplicity not only allowed it to be used inmultiple languages, but it also allowed the common population to learn how to write. This upset the long-standingstatus of writing systems only being learnt and employed by members of the royal and religious groups of society,who used writing as an instrument of power to control the access of information by the larger population.
Theappearance of Phoenician disintegrated many of these class divisions, although many Middle Eastern kingdomswould continue to use cuneiform for legal and liturgical matters well into the common era.As the letters were originally incised with a stylus, most shapes are angular and straight, although more cursiveversions are increasingly attested in later times, culminating in the Neo-Punic alphabet of Roman-era North Africa.Phoenician was usually written from right to left, although there are some texts written in boustrophedon(consecutive lines in alternating directions).
Phoenician uses a system of acrophony to name letters. The names of the letters are essentially the same as in itsparental scripts, which are in turn derived from the word values of the original hieroglyph for each letter.
Theoriginal word was translated from Egyptian into its equivalent form in the Semitic language, and then the initialsound of the translated word become the letter's value.
However, some of the letter names were changed inPhoenician from the Proto-Canaanite script. This includes:•
"throwing stick" to