Proto-Sinaitic script and Proto-Canaanite script The earliest known alphabetic or "proto-alphabetic" inscriptions are the so-called Proto-Sinaitic or Proto-Canaanite script sporadically attested in the Sinai and in Canaan in the late Middle and Late Bronze Age. The script was not widely used until the rise of new Semitic kingdoms in the 13th and 12th centuries BC.
The Phoenician alphabet is a direct continuation of the "Proto-Canaanite" script of the Bronze Age collapse period.
The so-called Ahiram epitaphfrom about BC, engraved on the sarcophagus of king Ahiram in Byblos, Lebanon, one of five known Byblian royal inscriptionsshows essentially the fully developed Phoenician script,  although the name "Phoenician" is by convention given to inscriptions beginning in the mid 11th century BC.
History of the alphabet Beginning in the 9th century BC, adaptations of the Phoenician alphabet -- such as GreekOld ItalicAnatolianand the Paleohispanic scripts -- were very successful.
This simple system contrasted with the other scripts in use at the time, such as cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphswhich employed many complex characters and were difficult to learn. Later finds indicate earlier use in Egypt. Its simplicity not only allowed it to be used in multiple languages, but it also allowed the common people to learn how to write.
This upset the long-standing status of writing systems only being learned and employed by members of the royal and religious hierarchies of society, who used writing as an instrument of power to control access to information by the larger population. Modern rediscovery[ edit ] The Phoenician alphabet was first uncovered in the 17th century, but up to the 19th century its origin was unknown.
It was at first believed that the script was a direct variation of Egyptian hieroglyphs. However, scholars could not find any link between the two writing systems, nor to hieratic or cuneiform.
The theories of independent creation ranged from the idea of a single man conceiving it, to the Hyksos people forming it from corrupt Egyptian.
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Development[ edit ] The Phoenician letter forms shown here are idealized: There were also significant variations in Phoenician letter forms by era and region. When alphabetic writing began in Greecethe letter forms used were similar but not identical to the Phoenician ones and vowels were added because the Phoenician alphabet did not contain any vowels.
There were also distinct variants of the writing system in different parts of Greece, primarily in how those Phoenician characters that did not have an exact match to Greek sounds were used.
The Ionic variant evolved into the standard Greek alphabet, and the Cumae variant into the Latin alphabetwhich accounts for many of the differences between the two. Occasionally, Phoenician used a short stroke or dot symbol as a word separator. The sound values often changed significantly, both during the initial creation of new alphabets and from pronunciation changes of languages using the alphabets over time.The Phoenician Resort is a luxury resort in Scottsdale.
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