Friday, September 09, 2016


This is a supplement to CRETO-SEMITICA
Semitic inscriptions on offering-vessels
AP Za 1 Offering bowl
YA TA I SO U YA......
My offering is brought
AP ZA 2  Cylindrical jar
... NA SI . I PI NA MA . . . . . .I? KU PA NA TU NA TE
... PI MI NA TE . I NA YA RE TA . . . QA

IO Za <1>  Ladle
IO ZA 2   Offering table
A TA I SO WA YA . YA DI KI TU . YA SA SA RA [me . u na ka na] SI  I PI NA MA .
SI RU TE . TA NA RA TE U TI NU . I DA . .  .  . . . . .
I bring my offering, O DN, and we  shal lcertainly gather abundantly
IO Za 3   Offering table fragment
A TA I SO WA YA . AU (!) . . . . . . .
IO Za 4   Offering table fragment
... SO WA .......
IO Za 5  Votive ladle or lamp fragment
... I YA RE DI YA . I YA PA . . . . . .
IO Za 6  Bowl (c. 5 cm diameter) with petaliform rim
IO Za 7  Offering table fragment
A TA I SO WA YA . YA TI MO . . . . . (dmqt?)
I bring my offering, O DN
IO Za 8   Offering table fragment
A NA TI SO WA YA . . . .
I give my offering
IO Za 9  Offering table corner
. . . YA SA SA . . . . O DN
. . . U NA KA . . . and we shall gather
IO Za 11   Offering table fragment
>. . . NA [MI?] DA DA . . . .
. . . U TI NU . I NA I DA . . . <
IO Za 12   Offering table fragment
. . . YA SA || SA RA ME . I TI . . .
IO Za 13   Offering table fragment
. . . MA I . . .
IO Za 14   Offering table fragment
. . . RU TE . I DI . . .
IO Za 15   Offering table fragment
. . . I PI NA MA . SI RU . . .
certainly abundantly
IO Za 16   Offering table fragment
. . .  PG 157/AB123 . YA SA SA RA ME . U NA RU KA  (rt lqh.)
123 AROMAT ? This symbol seems to represent a beer mug with a strainer on top (Philistian). Reference books do not explain it. The one PG instance has mesh-lines on the top part. Is it equivalent to osuqare (shikr) 'beer' in TL Za 1? Yes, it has the same symbol, misread as the syllabogram O (an eye).

KN Za !0  Offering table fragments (restored)
. . .  . TA NU MU TI . YA SA SA RA MA || NA .  DA WA [MI?] DU WA MU? . I YA . . .
root n`m?
KN Za 17 Offering table fragment
 YA QE .
KN Za 18 Offering table
... YA . . . . .YA . YA WA . . . . .
KN Za 19  Bowl fragment
KE YU MI (L to R)
A118 (DWO?) MI NA

KY Za 2  Ladle

Palaikastro (Petsofas)
PK Za 4  Stone cup fragment
A SA SA RA . . .
PK Za 8  Offering table
.. NU . BA E . YA DI KI TE TE .  A307 (DWO?) BU RE . TU ME I
YA SA . . . . . . . U NA KA NA SI
I PI . . .
PK Za 9  Offering table pedestal
... YA U? PA? MA I DA SO DI . . .
PK Za 10  Offering table fragment
. . SI . I PI NA MI . SI . . .
PK Za 11  Offering table
PK Za 12  Offering table
A TA I SO WA YA . A DI KI TE . . . . . .
. . . SI RU . . . . . .  RA ME
A . . . A NE . U NA RU KA NA YA SI .
A PA DU PA . . . . . . . . . . . . . YA . . . . . YA PA QA
PK ZA 14  Offering table fragment
. . . TU ME? I  YA SA SA . . . . .
PK Za 15  Offering table fragment
PK Za 16  Offering table corner
 . . .  TO? SA . BU
. . . RE YA
PK Za 17  Offering table corner
. . . I DA . . . .
PK Za 18.Offering table fragment
. . . TE  . I  DA . YA YA . . . .
PK Za 20  Offering table fragment
. . . U NA KA . . .

PR Za 1 Stone box (offering receptacle)

PS Za 2  Offering table fragments
. . . -RE I/NO KE
TA NA NO/1 SO TI . . . . . . YA TI . YA SA SA RA ME .

Kato Syme
SY Za 1  Offering table (circular)
A TA I SO WA YA . I DA MI . YA . . . . .
SY Za 2  Offering table
I bring my offering, O DN, OLIVES, and we will gather OIL, indeed
SY Za 3  Offering table fragments (circular)
A TA I? SO WA  . . . . SE? KA NA SI . TE? . . . . . SI RU TE
SY Za 4  Offering table (circular)
SY Za 5  Offering table (circular)
. . . MI/RA YA . YA WA BA
SY Za 6  Offering table (circular)
SY Za 8 Offering table fragments (circular) (No 7)
. . . I SO WA YA . YA YA?   (I/NO has 4 fingers and thumb)
SY Za 9  Offering table (circular)
SY Za 10  Offering table (circular)
SY Za 11  Offering table (circular)
. . .  QA RO/ZA  (beer?)
SY Za 12  Offering table (circular)
A (just like Cyprian I-I-I = A)

TL Za 1 Ladle

. . . NA MA . SI RU . . . .
I bring my offering, beer,  O DN, and we shall certainly gather abundantly
VR Za 1 Offering table (corner)
certainly abundantly

Sunday, August 21, 2016


This antique bowl was (reportedly) discovered at Byblos (Gubla, Gebal), an important maritime city of ancient Phoenicia, on the coast of Lebanon, 32 km north of Beirut. It was in a private collection (1950s) of Jack Colheart (USA), and is now in the possession of Wayne French (Cooranbong, New South Wales).
   It has an inscription, in a recognizable form of the Phoenician alphabet. I would date it in the Bronze Age (before 1200 BCE) rather than the Iron Age (after 1200 BCE, the Biblical Period),
   This imprecisely provenanced object is unlikely to be a forgery, in my opinion, though a replica has been made, as shown here:
   In studying the inscription we can start with Wayne French's useful transcription of the text (click once on the image to see an enlargement):

  For identifications of the letters of the protoalphabet, refer to this essay: Alphabet and Hieroglyphs.

  In our search for the various letters (assuming a maximum of twenty-two consonant-signs, which is typical for Byblos) we start with the rectangles (including the squares). These are both unusual forms for the letters they represent, especially as compared with the Phoenician alphabet as used at Byblos in the Iron Age.
   [H.] The double or divided rectangle (1, 6, 11, 15) is wide for the letter Het (H. or Kh), but we can safely accept this identification; its original form was a house with a courtyard.
   [B] The square (12, 14, 21, 26) must be Bet (B, Beta), showing the ground plan of a simple house, and this is very archaic.
   ['] There is at least one ox-head (8, and also possibly 22) for Alep (Alpha, ', glottal stop); this stance is surprisingly archaic; in the standard Phoenician alphabet it is on its side, and in its evolution it can appear in an inverted form, as in Alpha..
   [T] The cross (29) is Taw (the signature mark of an illiterate person).
   [M] The water-wave sign is present, with two waves (9) or three (5).
   [Sh] One example (4) of Shin (originally depicting a human breast, shad) in an oblique stance.
   [G] Gimel (originally a boomerang) is there (7).
   [N] We look for a snake, and 25 and 28 are tempting in this regard, but the simple vertical stroke (2, 3, 13, 18) is also a possibility; there may be some faint heads and tails lurking on them..
   [L] 25 and 28 could be Lamed, and they make a nice hypothetical sequence at the end: LB`LT, "to Ba`alat" ("the Lady", the title given to the chief goddess of Byblos).
   [`] `Ayin is an eye, and 27 seems round enough for that letter.
   [W] The Y-shaped character (17) would be Waw rather than Yod (which is not found in this text).
   [S.] 23 is a good candidate for Sadey, which was originally a tied bag.
   [T.] Tet is usually a circle containing a cross, and 20 is the nearest sign to that formula; it actually matches the South Arabian letter for Z. (which is not in the Phoenician alphabet, but was in the longer form of the early alphabet). In the inscription of King ShPT.B`L of Byblos, the T. in his name has (anomalously) only one stroke in the circle, but in its second appearance it has two, though the circle is not clear!
    [S] Samek is normally a spinal column (--|-|-|, samk "support") but also a fish (samk); I suspect that 19 is the tail and 20 is the body of a fish (they are joined on the bowl, not separated as on the drawing).
   The missing letters are P (possibly there, in position 24), K (a strange absence, given its relative frequency, and the expectation of the word ks, 'cup, bowl'), R (also abnormal), H, W, Z, D, Q (but these five are in the less frequent half of the table). We might wish that the inscription had been longer to see what forms the writer had for these absentees.
   Interpreting the text has been a year-long process for me. In sequencing the continuous stream of letters (no separation of words by spaces or marks) many possibilities have been tried, but I offer here what seems to be the best division of the words that I can envisage, beginning and ending at the point where Wayne French sees an oblique line, indicating the end of the sentence; and I take it to be a single statement about the contents and context of the bowl.
   H.NN: the 'grace' root (as in the names Hanna and Johann).
   ShMH.: the 'joy' and 'rejoice' root (Deuteronomy 16:14, "you shall rejoice in your feast"); in Hebrew this is written with Sin rather than Shin, but Phoenician writing did not make this distinction.
   H.G: 'feast' or 'festival'. The H. is understood as serving for the final and first letter of the adjacent words: ShMH. (H.)G; or else it is an error of haplography.
   'M: 'mother', here presumably referring to a goddess.
   T.H.B: this looks like a scribal error for T.BH., the 'slaughter' word, and the noun having the meaning 'meat for a festival offering' (attested in Mishnaic Hebrew). If the following stroke is N, it could make the word plural; but -m would be expected, rather than Aramaic and Arabic -n, though this plural form is found in the Sinai inscriptions, in rb, 'chief of the overseers'.
   BH.LB: the L sign and the B are at point where a triangular piece has been glued back into place; they are the same as the subsequent LB (25, 26) but here the L is lower; this could be H.LB 'milk', with the preposition B 'in' or 'with'; or else  'the cream/fat', meaning 'the choicest', as in 'the best of the oil, wine, wheat' (Numbers 18:12).
   WN: 'wine', and the w is an indication of the Bronze Age; wn also occurs in the Wadi el-Hol inscription (horizontal) in the phrase 'plenty of wine' (rb wn); it is found in its later form (w>y) as YN on the Beth-Shemesh ostracon (Iron Age I).
   SB': the tipple root; here a noun, 'liquor', or possibly 'beer'; found as 'tippling' or 'carousing' on the Beth-Shemesh ostracon.
   S.P: the reading is not certain but appropriate, meaning 'overflowing', as in 'he made the waters overflow them' (Deuteronomy 11:4).
   LB`LT: 'to/for Ba`alat', that is,  the Lady of Byblos (B`LT GBL) who is known from Byblian inscriptions of Iron Age II; 'Ba`alat' appears frequently in the inscriptions of the Sinai turquoise mines in the Bronze Age (example, Sinai 345, votive sphinx: z nqy lb`lt, "this is my offering to the Lady", identified with the Egyptian goddess Hathor).

Translation: "Gracious (H.NN) and gladsome (ShMH.) is the Feast (H.G) of the Mother ('M): sacrifice-meat (TBH.) with (B) the finest (H.LB) wine (WN) and liquor (SB') overflowing (S.P) for (L) the Lady ( B`LT)".

Notice that every word of this Phoenician text (including B`LT!) can be read with the aid of a Classical Hebrew dictionary, showing the closeness of the two West Semitic dialects or languages.

Friday, May 20, 2016


Here I set out on a quest for a Semitic language in ancient Crete
For Linear A,  I am basically using:
Carlo Consani e Mario Negri, Testi Minoici Trascritti con Interpretazione e Glossario (Roma 1999). More readily accessible for us all is John Younger's relevant website

For Eteocretan:
Yves Duhoux, L'Étéocrétois. Les textes, la langue (Amsterdam 1982). An amazing monograph.
For the Semitic viewpoint on the evidence:
Cyrus H. Gordon, Evidence for the Minoan Language (Ventnor 1966)
C. Gordon,  The Decipherment of Minoan and Eteocretan, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 1975, 148-158.
Jan Best, The Language of Linear A, in Jan Best and Fred Woudhuizen, Lost Languages from the Mediterranean (Leiden 1989) 1-35.
Gordon and Best have numerous publications on the subject.
Of course, I am basically reliant on L. Godart and J.-P. Olivier, Recueil des inscriptions en Linéaire A (5 volumes).
The useful book that has stimulated me to look into this subject again:
Brent Davis, Minoan Stone Vessels with Linear A Inscriptions (Leuven-Liège 2014).
I have always been reluctant to use the term MINOAN, which was coined by Arthur Evans from the name of Minos, the legendary King of Crete, and is currently applied to an epoch stretching from around 3000, or else 2000, BCE, but certainly in the time when palaces were built.  What I wanted to know was whether Minos reigned in the period of Linear A (before the 15th Century BCE) or Linear B (the era when Mycenaean Greek was the official language used at Knossos, as it was in the cities of the mainland, such as Pylos). Given the tradition that Minos lived a few generations before the Trojan War, the end of the Bronze Age seemed to be the correct time for him. 
   The story of Minos and his Minotaur, in which young people from Greece were brought to Crete as a sacrificial form of tribute, suggests to me that Minos was a tyrant who had conquered Crete and was subduing Greece, and that the language and era of Linear A was his. Seeing that a Semitic language is detectable in Linear A documents, the question now becomes: was Minos Semitic or Hellenic?
Since Minos was traditionally associated with Europa and Kadmos (clearly from the Semitic East, qadm) he would not be Hellenic but Semitic.
   The terrm 'Eteocretan' (Duhoux Étéocrétois) seems to say echt-Cretan, original Cretan; but it is applied to the language of the late tablets inscribed with a Semitic language in Greek alphabetic letters (Cyrus Gordon). The implication seems to be that the original Cretans were Semitic. But I doubt this. The so-called Eteocretans may have been the dominant people of the Minoan period (17th century onwards) but they were Semitic interlopers who had invaded the island and imposed their rule. A possible reason for this invasion was the expulsion of the 'Hyksos' Semites  from northern Egypt, though Crete might have become part of this empire even earlier. (Conversely, the Philistines who settled in Palestine at the end of the Bronze Age, and who reportedly came from Kaphtor [Amos 9:7, Jer 47:4; cp. the Kaphtorim from Kaphtor in the region of Gaza, Dt 2:23] which is undoubtedly Crete [Kaptara] may have been Semitic; the Philistian language has not been clearly identified )
    In this scenario a strong but not necessarily exclusive Hellenic presence pervaded Crete before the Semitic invasion, and there was a resurgence in the Mycenean period and beyond, to the present day. My suspicion is that the two logo-syllabic (unhelpfully called 'hieroglyphic') writing systems were constructed acrophonically on the basis of Hellenic.The northern script is found at Knossos and Mallia; the southern script is represented by the Phaistos disc and a few tablets, and the disc has been read by Steven Fischer as an account of a naval invasion, written in a Hellenic dialect; and I suggest that it might well be the Semites who are attacking Phaistos. Thereafter, the official script is Linear A (which is a stylized form of the Knossos script, not the Phaistos script).
   With regard to Kadmos: he is said to have introduced writing to the Greeks, and this is usually  thought to refer to the Grecian alphabet, which emerges in the 8th Century BCE, the time of Homer. Another possibility is that the model of the acrophonic logo-syllabary, as known from Byblos and elsewhere, was what came from the East, and was the basis for the two pictophonic writing systems of Crete, specifically the Knossos and Phaistos scripts.
(1) Kingship
Evidence for kingship is hard to find in Crete, and at this point I am struggling to detect a word for it in the Linear A and Eteocretan documents that are available at present.
   When the language is West Semitic (Phoenician, Hebrew, Arabic) the word is malku/malik/melek. In East Semitic (Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian) it is sharru ($arru). In the decipherment of the Ugaritic cuneiform alphabet script, and in the cracking of the West Semitic (Phoenician) alphabet, and its predecessor the West Semitic (Byblian) syllabary, mlk was an important clue. See my summary article, which does not mention mlk!
<>  My search for an instance of m-r-k (r represents l or r) in the Cretan texts has been fruitless, thus far.
Nevertheless, there may be a word for 'ruler' in Praisos 2 (Eteocretan): MOSEL, Hebrew moshel (Gordon 1966, 11).
And malik can be seen (and also sar) in Cypro-Cretan (Cypro-Minoan) documents:
Enkomi cylinder, lines 2-3  <>.
Cyprian tablet from Ugarit (RS 20.25) line 19 <>
On the Hagia Triada tablets a term SARU occurs (86, 94, 95, 123); also SARO (9, 17, 19, 42); and  SARYA (11. 18, 28, 30, 32).
Jan Best (11-15) has studied HT 11b. one of the SARYA tablets (he transcribes SARA2 as sari, 'my king').
He notes that the two words accompanying it could be Semitic titles. My version of these would be:
RUZUNA = Hbr razon, 'dignitary, potentate' (root rzn, 'have weight'); in Proverbs 14: 28 it is in parallel with mlk, 'king').
SAQERI = Hbr sokher, 'trader'; in I Kings 10:28, it refers to 'the king's buyers' (Solomon's agents).
The tablet ends with the KURO, meaning 'total', and that seems to correspond to Semitic kullu, Hbr kol, 'all'.
(2) Numbers 
In Creto-Semitica (1) Kingship,  I struggled to find a Semitic word for 'king'. In Linear A texts, SARU was a faint possibility (East Semitic sharru 'king', or Hebrew sar  'prince, officer, leader'), but no trace of West Semitic malku. However, Eteocretan MOSEL (written in Greek alphabet letters) could be moshel 'ruler' (Hebrew).
   We now begin a quest for numbers/numerals in Linear A texts ('Eteocretan A', perhaps) and ' Eteocretan H' texts (Hellenic, in that they use the Greek alphabet, but the language is the same as in some, if not all, Linear A inscriptions). I must ask from the outset this serious question: if the language is indeed West Semitic, why did they not use the Byblos syllabary in the Bronze Age, and the Phoenician alphabet in the Iron Age, since Linear A and the Greek alphabet are not suited to a language which has so many different sounds needing to be separately recorded?
    If we could find the words for the numbers (the names of the numerals) we could see immediately which language family we are looking at, whether Afro-Asiatic (Hamito-Semitic), 'Euro-Asiatic' (Indo-European), 'Anatolic',  'Caucasic' (Hurrian), Finno-Ugric (it has been suggested that Sumerian might belong here, but its numeral-names are entirely different from Finnish), or an unknown unique tongue. In the latter case, it has been said that what we see in the Linear A and Eteocretan documents bears no resemblance to any known language (Yves Duhoux, Brent Davis); but practitioners of the 'discredited' etymological method of decipherment will beg to differ, along several separate paths, of course, and mine will be the Via Semitica.
    We know the signs of the Cretan numerical scheme:  it is a decimal system, with digits (|) for 1 to 9, and horizontal strokes  (--)  for tens; but these ideograms conceal the names of the numbers from us.
  We accept that KURO introduces the total of the numbers in lists, particularly on Hagia Triada tablets, but there is an example from Zakros: Tablet ZA 15ab concerns wine, as the five occurrences of the VIN ideogram testify. There are ten words in its list, and as usual we wonder whether they are names of persons (anthroponyms), places (toponyms), or things (common nouns); each has an accompanying numeral.
   The first line of ZA 15ab has: *47 ku na sa VINa (and no numeral).
SA is a simple Y-shaped representation of a cuttle-fish (*sapia, sêpia).
NA is an eye with a tear-flow (nama)
KU is dog-head, with an eye and a protruding tongue (kuôn).
AB 47 is a  circle with  X, and it might be YI, or a variant of AB46 YE, representing a person walking.
  A sequence yikuna looks very Semitic, as a verbal form, from the root kwn, 'be'; but the additional SA produces a possible word from the root k-n-s or k-n-sh, 'gather, collect'. When we come to examine the formulas on offering-tables, we will encounter unakanasi, and 'collect' would fit the context of giving and gathering that a Semitic reading reaps from those inscriptions. Here the introductory word might refer to the wine that has been collected; it is a heading and therefore does not have a number.
    ZA 4ab tells a similar story about wine, but it is damaged, and the first line is lost; it shares two words with ZA 15ab: kadi and sipiki. ZA 5b also has sipiki, again with a wine connection, but much of the text is lacking on both sides. Hebrew spq denotes 'abundance' and has been used with reference to wine;  but Semitic sh-p-k has the meaning 'pour'; the universe is riddled with coincidences, and perhaps neither of these choices is valid. WS kad 'jar' or 'jug' was for liquids or grains. If these two items were containers (for pouring wine), then the rest of the words would presumably refer to vessels; but speculation is cheap. Incidentally, the -i ending could be the indicator of masculine plural (kadi, 'jugs')
  Note also that  the Zakros scribe distinguishes I and NO clearly (on ZA 6, for example): the sign for NO is an upraised hand (in my view it symbolizes kheirôn nomos, the law of force) with a prominent thumb on the right side; the I-character might be a suppliant's olive branch wound round with wool (' iketêria elaia) with the end of the thread projecting on the right. Also of importance for us is the sign AB34 (on ZA 6a.1) which, I have long maintained, stands for KRA (it represents a side-view of an eyeball with the pupil, glênê); and it is not a mere variant of AB35, KRO (klôstêr, 'thread' or 'line') which shows a cord wound on a stick, a measuring 'line'; this  same character is the origin of Q in the alphabet (qaw, a 'line'). KRA appears in a Linear A legend  on a bowl from Knossos (KN Zcb), in a word kratiri  (=kratêr).
  Turning now to the KURO in ZA 15, the sum of all the numbers (57+10+3+6+2+5+4+5+3) is 95; but the kuro total is divided into two parts: VINa 78, RA VINa 17.

HT 122b  has an interesting addition to this practice (again there are two totals): 
kuro 31 (122a 8) kuro 65 (122b 5) potokuro 97(?) (122b 6).
The potokuro must mean 'grand total', or 'sum total' of the two totals. If it is a Semitic term, perhaps it is bat (Hbr bath) kul, 'daughter total'; but this could possibly imply that the new total is less than its two parent-totals, but not necessarily; I have not found an analogy for this.
   Here is another thought: it says 'pan-total', 'all in all'. Could poto be related to pant- or pantô(s), as a Greek loan-word? My suspicion is that there was a Hellenic dialect lurking in Crete (before the Mycenians came) and it may even be recorded on the imprinted disc from Phaistos, near Hagia Triada.
   KIRO is another word on the administration tablets; it is believed to mean something like  'deficit'; at the moment I can only suggest a faintly possible connection with Hebrew kl', 'hold back, withhold')
Is there an equivalent to kuro  in the late Eteocretan H inscriptions? These are not accounting documents, so there is no counterpart for 'total'. But on Praisos 1 and 3  there is a sequence KLES  (Kappa Lambda Epsilon Sigma). Cyrus Gordon understood  kl es as West Semitic kol 'ish, 'every man'. 
  One Semitic numeral that stands out in decipherment exercises is the number three (3): t-l- t/sh-l-sh. My search in Linear A texts has not brought anything like that to light. But Gordon has highlighted three possible numerals in Praisos 2 (and Yves Duhoux did not take sufficient account of these in his critique of Gordon's Semitic hypothesis): 
SPhA[A] (Hbr sheba`) 'seven'; TSAA (Hbr tesha`) 'nine'; SAR (Hbr `eser) 'ten' (or perhaps TORSAR, 'twelve').

There is enough material here already to show that these two Cretan media of writing (Linear A, Greek alphabet) were not adequate for recording West Semitic:  S syllabograms and Sigma had to cover a batch of sibilants (s, ts, shin, sin, t, z); and 'gutturals' had no letters to accommodate them ('alep, `ayin, gh, h, h., h). This will also make it easy for the sceptical to dismiss my case.
(3) Vessels
Words for containers have already been considered in section 2, namely kadi (jars?) and sipiki ('pourers', jugs?) in ZA 4 and Za 15. we move now to HT 31 (unfortunately one-third of its text is obliterated); it has depictions of various vessels with their names written above them, and these are probably Semitic. Actually, this tablet should have been saved for the grand finale of my presentation of the evidence, so that it could function as the verifying "tripod" (a Linear B tablet with a Greek  word ti-ri-po-de, and a drawing of a three-legged vessel confirmed Michael Ventris's decipherment). By coincidence, this Linear A document (HT 31) also depicts a tripod vessel, but there is apparently no name above it. However, my climax will focus on reading sentences (see CRETAN SEMITIC TEXTS), but at this point it is a matter of identifying Semitic vocabulary.
To be continued....


This is a printed document, from around 1700 before the current era, 
long before printing was invented!
 Detailed photographs are available here (Wiki)
My account of it is posted here: 
 The 45 characters on the Phaistos Disc (after Arthur Evans)
 The Phaistos disc was discovered in 1908 in a Bronze-Age building, 
a palace, at Phaistos in SW Crete. 
   Could the Phaistos disc be a forgery? 
That would be a very elaborate hoax to perpetrate: making 45  stamps
to imprint on clay, on both sides of the object, and printing 30 clusters 
of signs (words or phrases ?) on one side and 31 on the other.
    I know personally two different scholars (out of a host of hopefuls) 
who have published confident attempts at decipherment (both read 
it as Hellenic, but produce entirely different transcriptions and 
    My observations on it, after looking at all the other scripts of Crete 
(and Cyprus) is that it does not belong to the same family as Linear B 
(used for Mycenean Greek texts).
     There is a line of development in Crete from a set of pictographs to
stylized Linear A characters (language uncertain) and even more 
stylizedLinear B; and on Cyprus a derived syllabic script from the same 
source (through Linear A), used for a Greel dialect and other languages.
My judgement is that the Cretan pictographs and the Phaistos glyphs
(in spite of similarities and apparent correspondences) do not belong 
to the same system. 
    There were two different but related writing systems on  Crete: 
(1) the Knossos script (northern), a picto-phonetic syllabary > 
Linear A and B;
(2) the Phaistos script (southern), a picto-phonetic syllabary. 
Looking at the 30 accountancy tablets from Phaistos (as distinct from 
adjacent Hagia Triada, where the Linear A script was used, a stylized 
form of the northern picto-phonetic script), most seem to be Linear A, 
but some (PH 8, 9, 13, 15, 17, 26) have signs known from the 
Phaistos Disc, and notably PH 12: 

PhD sign 14 (fetter, Greek pedé, Linear B PE), PhD 1 (striding man),
PhD 22 (cuttlefish, Greek sépia, Linear B SA), PhD 27 ( hide, talent?).
PH 13
has a fish (Phaistos Disc sign 35), which is not found in the
northern picto-syllabary or its descendant, Linear A. 

Thus the Phaistos script has its own set of signs, but some of them are
shared with the Knossos  syllabary.

 The 45 characters on the Phaistos Disc (after Arthur Evans)
 If this is a discovery I have made, it will still not help us read the Disc!
Or perhaps it will. If enough signs are common to both systems, and we
substitute the known values from Linear B, then we are on our way
with a flying start.
I could argue for at least 20 correspondences out of
45 (the number of  separate signs on the Disc).  This was the approach of
Steven Fischer
in his attempt at decipherment.

And the Arkalokhori Ax has 15 characters, some of them duplicates, 
with apparent connections to the Phaistos Disk set of signs, and/or to 
the Knossos inventory.

 For futher developments in my research on Aegean scripts
see the  Creto-Cyprian section of
and for West Semitic presence on the island of Crete 

Friday, May 06, 2016



Some interesting inscriptions on stone have been brought to light in Texas (USA). They were found in Rockwall, a town which has an ancient rectangular wall (6 x 3.2 miles); it had a hot spring and a cold spring inside the enclosed area. Situated near Dallas, it is accessible via the Trinity River, which flows down to the Gulf of Mexico. There is now no reason for denying the fact that three thousand years before Columbus and his little boats reached America, ships from the Mediterranean region were already crossing the Atlantic Ocean. The accumulation of evidence is overwhelming, although each piece is regularly dismissed as nonsense or coincidence.
   John Carr and John Lindsey have studied the archaeological evidence: they suggest that the wall has similarities to the infill walls of Canaan (Syria-Palestine) in the Bronze Age.
   The Sanders Stone was pulled out of the wall in 1955; it was 35 feet below the surface; it has now disappeared but photographs exist. In the middle of the line of writing is a clear ox-head with horns, which we may assume to be an Aleph/Alpha. At the beginning of the text (far right) is a W-shaped sign, the original Shin/Sigma. The penultimate character (on the left side) looks like a hand with fingers, and it might be Kaph/Kappa.
    At the bottom of the Hanby Stone on the left, there is another such K. Above it there is possibly a  wavy line for the letter M. Reading from the top, the first character might be a snake, an erect cobra, and thus N; beneath it is Q (from qaw, a stick with a measuring cord wound around it); then B, a house (a simple square, showing the ground plan of the dwelling).
   These two Hanby stones were found under the Hanby house (built in the middle of the 19th Century). The one on the left has the shape of a round-topped stela, which is typical of the ancient civilization in the Mediterranean world, and is also found in the Olmec culture of Mexico; this is one of many indicators of contact between Americans and Mediterraneans in the Bronze Age (before 1200 BCE), together with pyramids and ziggurats, cylinder stamps and flat stamps, and writing systems.
   The script or scripts represented here could be West Semitic (syllabic or/and alphabetic).
   One question is: what was the attraction that brought Phoenicians to this particular place; was there a silver mine, as in Kongsberg in Norway?
   In this regard, my tentative reading of the Hanby stela is:
         N Q B   M K  "mine tunnel"
NQB: root meaning, 'bore, pierce', Arabic naqb 'tunnel', Syriac neqba 'hole'
MK: root mkk, 'sink down'; the word mk is found on Sinai turquoise mines (Sinai 352, 354, 379)

Found about 4 miles south of the wall.
14 feet below grade.
It originally had 4 radiating triangles

Wednesday, March 09, 2016


Here are three views of an object that was brought to my attention in November 2000, by the Volcano Art Gallery in Auckland. I have never seen or handled the artefact, but details were supplied by Neil de Croz, the director of the gallery. Its age and origin are not known
   Dimensions are: 26" x 20" x 9". Weight: 78 lbs.
   The end bowl: 6.5" diameter, 3" deep (charred)
   The central bowl: 7" diameter. 2" deep, inscribed, black stone embedded in the centre .
   The bowl is in a six-pointed star (14" from point to point across) with 6 embedded stones.
   The star is within a circle: 16" diameter.
   An inscription runs round inside the circle, but does not intrude into the star.
   The letters are RUNES, from the Germanic Runic alphabet (futhark, th as in thing), having 24 characters..
    Runes are based on the Greco-Roman alphabet.
   Their use is attested from the 2nd century of the current era till early modern times.

What purpose did this object serve? Divination? Burning incense?
What are the messages in each inscription?
You tell me!

The Germanic futhark had 24 letters; Scandinavia had 16; the Anglo-Saxon system had up to 31.  The runes in the upper circle are arranged in six sections (formed by the six points of the star) with four runes in each of the six fields. That makes 24 (6x4). So it is the Germanic futhark.

Expert opinion has come to our aid: the letters do not form words, apparently, but merely represent each of the signs.
James E. Knirk
Professor, Runic Archives, Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo

The runes around the outside of the six-pointed star I was able to read, but it was not easy. I start on your blogspot picture with the runes to the right of due north, i.e. from 12 o'clock and on around. They read:
ozhk (or: oRhk, one uses both transliterations)
ïsjr   ebfu   wtpi   ŋmgd (the first an ng-sound)   aþnl

This is then all 24 runes in the older rune-row, but in apparently random, at any rate not linguistically understandable or linguistically motivated order. It is very difficult for me to see this as anything other than a relative recent attempt to write runes. For me, this is confirmed by the form of the r-rune. In much of the New Age runic literature about runes as means for fortelling the future and other very popular presentations and the like, the r-rune has a special form that is basically unknown in genuine runic inscriptions, be it from the oldest times or even up to "modern" times (here meaning the Reformation, early 1500s). It is like our R, but the leg going obliquely down from the pouch is truncated, usually very short -- exactly like in this inscription. There is absolutely nothing that seems genuine (i.e. "old") about this piece.

I hope you are not disappointed by the fact that this apparently is something maybe 20-40 years old, and of little or no interest to runology, and probably not to cryptology either.

It seems to me that the inscription in the bowl is meant to be the same as the one around the star.
One thing I was surprised and delighted to find about the runic system is that the characters can be used not only as simple single-sound letters, but also as syllabograms and logograms.
Thus the M-sign can represent mon 'human' (logogram), and the syllable mon ('rebogram') in Solomon.
   I have discovered that the pictograms of the proto-alphabet were used in those same three ways, as I point out in all my articles on the early alphabet in the Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age. This was how the Egyptian hieroglyphs functioned, too. But how did this practice carry over into the Runes, when the Greek and Roman alphabets (derived from the Semitic alphabet) apparently did not have this idea?

   My source has been R. I. Page, Runes, British Museum, 1987

Saturday, December 26, 2015



Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research,
BASOR  374 (2015): 233–45, Benjamin Sass et al.
A copy is available on Sass's page at ACADEMIA.
Obviously Sass is the author of the epigraphical section of the article (p.236-243; his name appears first on the otherwise alphabetical list of four contributors: Garfinkel, Hasel, Klingbell) and I will take this opportunity to respond to his views on the origin and early development of the alphabet, as I have done for Gordon Hamilton and Orly Goldwasser. I give notice that I intend to be  critical of his blinkered  approach. We both published our own major study of the genesis of the alphabet in 1988, and I have constantly cited him in my subsequent articles.  Unlike Hamilton and Goldwasser, Sass has never taken account of my research on this subject. Apparently he is unaware of the new instruments I have offered for classifying West Semitic proto-alphabetic documents and identifying their letters; and he ignores (whether accidentally or deliberately) my idea that the characters of the original alphabet could be used not only as consonantograms but also as logograms and "rebograms" (or "morphograms").
   An introductory article on the Lakish sherd appeared in the Times of Israel (10 Dec 2015). Its photograph (click on it to see the whole  picture) is large, but the BASOR article (p.235) has two clear photographs and three  drawings.
     Notice that the letters were inscribed before firing (p.233b) so it is a sherd from an inscribed jar,  not an ostracon, like the  Izbet Sartah, and Khirbet Qeiyafa ostraca, which are on sherds that are used as tablets (drawings of these and other relevant inscriptions are presented on pages 237-241). It therefore belongs to the same category as the Khirbet Qeiyafa jar.
    However,  whereas the Qeiyafa jar and the Jerusalem Ophel pithos yielded more than one  piece of their pots  to the excavators (but not enough to reveal the entire text in each case), the Lakish sherd stands alone, and apparently  its text is  incomplete. It was found in a temple area, and this might give a clue to understanding its inscription and its connection with the artefact.
     Note: I prefer to write Lakish, as the ancient inhabitants would have said it, rather than Lachish or Lakhish.
     The two Qeiyafa texts (ostracon and jar) differ in the direction of their writing: the ostracon's lines run from left to right (dextrograde), and the jar's single line goes from right to left (sinistrograde). 
     Let it be said at the outset that my recent research leads me to the hypothesis that these two ostraca (Izbet Sartah and Qeiyafa) have syllabic writing, that is, each letter has three different stances or forms  for distinguishing their accompanying vowels (for example: bi, ba,bu); this may be designated as 'the neo-syllabary', which was constructed from the letters of the early alphabet, and  those proto-alphabetic signs were originally borrowed (at least eighteen of them) from the West Semitic 'proto-syllabary' (the Byblos script, which West Semitic epigraphists are reluctant to look into, terrified of having their reputation ruined).
   My term for the original alphabet is 'the proto-alphabet', as the prototype of the consonantal script that developed into the Greco-Roman alphabet, but it was used as a syllabary in early Israel (and later in Ethiopia, India, and Southeast Asia, but this statement needs clarification and refinement). Sass (236a, n.3) speaks of  'early alphabetic inscriptions', and he offers 'pre-cursive' as a new technical term to cover the various labels already in use, namely 'Proto-Canaanite', 'early Canaanite', and 'linear alphabetic' (as distinct from 'cuneiform alphabetic');  he makes no reference to my 'proto-alphabetic'; but 'proto-alphabet' is not meant to be a formal word. 
    For the sake of precision, I would have to say that the original alphabet was a picto-phonetic system which functioned as a logo-morpho-consonantary: the signs were pictorial, acrophonically standing for the first consonant of a West Semitic  word that goes with the image, but also allowing the picture to represent the whole word, or all of its sounds for use in forming other words in writing; thus the snake-sign says N from n-kh-sh 'snake', or 'snake' in any language (logogram), or as a rebogram with the addition of -t (NKhSh-T) 'copper'. That is how the Egyptian hieroglyphic script worked, and it should not be hard for us to accept that the first alphabet, although it was a major simplification,  could carry those features (remembering that our earliest proto-alphabetic documents come from Egypt and Sinai).
     These ideas are not (yet) known in handbooks on the early alphabet, nor in articles such as the one under review here. This view of the history of early West Semitic ('Canaanian') writing systems is not yet acknowledged as 'received knowledge'.
    Now, the city of Lakish has bequeathed a valuable collection of inscribed objects from the Bronze Age (dagger, bowl sherd, ostracon, ewer, bowl, censer lid, sherd, bowl fragment, and the late epistolary  ostraca from the 6th Century BCE) and we are glad to welcome this new one and any others that the current excavations may bring to light, including the missing parts of this one (233b).  All these brief but valuable documents show various stages of the development of the alphabet, from pictorial (the dagger) to cursive (the Lakish letters).
    For information on the  Bronze Age  items from Lakish,  see:
     Benjamin Sass, The Genesis of the Alphabet, 1988, 53-54, 60-64, 96-100;
     Emile Puech, The Canaanite inscriptions of Lachish and their religious background, Tel Aviv 13-14, 1987, 13-25;

    Brian E. Colless, The proto-alphabetic inscriptions of Canaan, Abr-Nahrain (Ancient Near Eastern Studies) 29, 1991 (18-66), 35-42.

   The three lines on the new Lakish sherd can be transcribed thus (reading from right to left):
    L K P [
    R P S [
    ` P/G [P?] [
   As a general rule it can be stated that Iron-Age neo-syllabic texts  run rightwards, and consonantal alphabetic texts run leftwards. It seems clear enough that the direction here is sinistrograde (right to left) and thus the script should be consonantal rather than syllabic (according to the hypothetical principle stated above, which is based on the available evidence). But the question remains whether this practice was only Israelian, and not Canaanian, or Philistian. From their context and content, I read the two ostraca (Figs. 14 and 19) as Israelian; the Gath Sherd (Fig.15) would presumably be Philistian. 
    A tentative reading of the text as it stands might be:
    Pikol the scribe (spr) .....
    Pikol is found in the Bible (Genesis 21:22) as the name of the commander of the Philistine army of Abimelek of Gerar.  
    For the scribe (spr) there are numerous examples in the Hebrew Scriptures, but 'Ezra the scribe', alias 'Ezra the priest' (Nehemiah 8:1-2) is an interesting case, if the square sign below the p and r is an archaic Bet, and like the square on the Gezer sherd (from a cult stand) it could be a logogram for 'house' or 'temple', then Pikol could be a scribe of the sanctuary in which the object was found. Incidentally, Fig.8 (Gezer sherd) possibly has the drawing in the wrong stance: the hand should not be pointing upwards but to the right, the snake should probably be horizontal, and the house should have its opening at the bottom, as in the instances on Figs 4 and 5 (from Lakish) though both are different from each other and from the Gezer Bet; however, as it stands, it has a parallel in the drawing of Sinai 352 (Fig.10); note that most of the Sinai instances of Bet have no gaps in the four sides. 
    The point is that the Gezer sherd says kn B, 'temple stand', and here we might have spr B, 'temple scribe'. 
    Nevertheless, the supposed B  here could be `Ayin, an eye, though we are told the apparent dot in it is illusory and therefore not included in the drawings. The third line might have been pg` (root meaning: 'meet' or 'strike') 'stricken' (with some infirmity?). A name Pag`i'el existed (prince of tribe of Asher, Numbers 1:13).
   The text is finally regarded by the authors as "undecipherable" (236a), since, for example, pr could be 'fruit' or 'bull'. Indeed, we can play many games with it: 'the mouth (p) of every (kl) scribe (spr)'.
    One possibility needs to be examined: 'flask (pk) for (l, belonging to) the scribe (spr)' (unless it is 'fruit-juice flask', allowing the Samek to be Cretan NE, which derives from nektar, in my view; see below). We must always remember my guiding principle: only the writer of a text knew what it means! And since the words were added before the pot went into the oven, they would presumably state the purpose of the vessel, or identify the owner, or both. 
    The word pak denoted a flask or cruse, such as 'the cruse of oil' that Samuel emptied on the head of Saul on the occasion of his anointing as king (1 Sam 10:1). It is usually assumed that this vessel was small, but the reconstructed jar (Fig,2 f) is about 35 cm tall, though this is not certain, as they admit (236).
    So, it is worth proposing this interpretation:
            Flask for the scribe [P]G`  |
     For the remainder of the article(236-244) "palaeography is the principal subject". 
    The Samek in the middle line comes as a pleasant surprise: it is hailed as "the earliest secure occurrence of the letter" (p.242a).  What we should say, however, is that here we see another example of that particular form of Samek which depicts a spinal column (root smk 'support', denoting stability, as in the corresponding Egyptian hieroglyph R11), as distinct from the other form, a fish (samk); in my opinion (not widely accepted) there are actually two allographs (alternatives) for Samek. Here Sass refers us to his 1988 discussion (p.126 on original Samek, and also p.113-115 on Dalet) where he reports that the fish had formerly been acknowledged as S, but Albright argued in favour of  the value D (as in dag 'fish'), and, let me say,  most have unfortunately followed this false lead. When they look at the alphabet on the Izbet Sartah ostracon (its bottom line) at the point where Samek should be they see neither the fish nor the spine, and they are puzzled at this 'nondescript' and 'unhelpful' character (Sass et al 2015, 244a); but it is a fish (as Emile Puech will also testify). 
   The letter Dalet is a door; its name means 'door', and "D is for door"  has always been the case, though originally it was "Dalt is for D", with the picture of a door representing the sound d, by the principle of acrophony. The trouble is that the door-signs, even though their door posts are clearly shown, have been regarded as fences (or sometimes even accepted as doors) and interpreted as Het (H.) (Sass 1988, 117-120). Thereafter the dominoes keep on falling and the truth about several other letters disappears. Gordon Hamilton (under the guidance of Frank Moore Cross) tries to have the fish and the door as allographs of D, but this argument is not helped by the occurrence of a fish and a door side by side on a Sinai inscription that Sass displays for us (Fig. 11, Sinai 376).
      Gordon J. Hamilton, The Origin of the West Semitic Alphabet in Egyptian Scripts, 2006, 61-75
    The fish and the spine both occur on a tablet which shows the letters of the proto-alphabet, from Thebes; however,  this is not a text but an abgadary: the spine and the door are together at the top, and the fish is below the spine (see section  17 S here); in the cuneiform alphabet from Ugarit, there is a counterpart to the djed column, with three  crossbars, standing for `S (as noted by Sass, 242a); a representation of a fish (apparently) was employed for cuneiform Samek as S; the cuneiform Dalet is unmistakably a door. See my study on the cuneiform alphabet as an adapted version of the pictorial proto-alphabet.
    Focusing again on the Samek on the sherd, it has to be said that there is a counterpart on the Lakish dagger, though it lacks the bottom horizontal line, and it resembles a telegraph pole with only two cross bars.My reading of its four letters (bag, head, snake, spine) is S.R N S, which can say "Foe flee". By contrast, Hamilton (390-391) makes the Samek a double cross for an anomalous T, turns the tie of the bag into Dh, and the body of the bag into  L, producing Dh L RNT, "this belongs to Rnt", a name that would correspond to Biblical Rinnah (1 Chron 4:20), which is  a man's name , though it looks feminine ('Joy'); but this is an unnecessary hypothesis, based on a stubborn refusal to recognize the tied bag as the letter Sadey (S.).
   Hamilton (2006, 197, n.254, uses the term 'bizarre' to describe  my acceptance of this character  as a bag and as Sadey; he wants it to be  a monkey (qop), and he mistakenly identifies it as Qop, thereby rejecting the sane suggestion of Romain Butin (to whom the book is dedicated in memoriam) that it was Sadey, though Butin was not sure what the sign depicted.
    Sass has conveniently provided (Fig. 9, Sinai 349) Albright's drawing of an inscription which contains the word that has  caused all this confusion. The second line has this sequence: head, house, snake, bag, house, snake, that is, rb, which means 'chief of the prefects', and he would be the supreme leader of the Egyptian turquoise-mining expedition. The erroneous view (with the bag as Q rather than S.adey) produces 'chief of the borers' (understood as 'miners'); but the miners were not the only members of the work force; the metalworkers were the essential part of the team, because they made and repaired the copper tools, and they were Semites (as we know from the Egyptian inscriptions on the mining site).This stela (Sinai 349) refers to their equipment ('nt in the top line, and `rk in the third line).
    On the stela reproduced below it (Fig. 10, Sinai 352) they describe themselves as bn kr ('sons of the furnace') and the letters accompanying  the large fish (which is S not D) specify  that they are 'pourers of copper' (nsk N) , with one of the snakes acting as a rebogram for NKhSh, not 'snake' but 'copper'(which does not always need a final -t). The two letters at the top of this column (an ox-head for Aleph and a sun-symbol for Sh, from shimsh, 'sun') say 'sh, 'fire', and this stela marks the spot where their fire burned. These examples show the true origin of Sadey as a bag, and Samek as a fish, but the fish did not survive into the Phoenician and Hebrew alphabet of Iron Age II.
   The simplified form of of the spinal Samek, with only two crossbars on a vertical stem,  was already present in the proto-syllabary (the Byblos script), representing the syllable SI, together with a 'monumental' character that matched more closely the original hieroglyph (R11), and this should not be dismissed as inadmissible evidence, since there was a close relationship between that syllabary and the consonantary (the proto-alphabet) that it engendered. I presume that it likewise stood for si  in the new syllabary, though it is not yet attested. However, the legible and identifiable signs in this text (P, K, L) correspond to PI, KI, LI, though the presumed R has its head facing in the wrong direction
    But there is cause for concern in the shape of the character on the Lakish sherd: comparing the drawing and the photograph (p.242a) we observe that the middle line is not perfectly straight but curls round on the right side. A counterpart can be found in the Linear A syllabary of Bronze Age Crete, in some forms of the syllabogram NE.
    My work in progress on the syllabary of Crete (and Greece and Cyprus) is summarized here: The Cretan scriptsI espouse the minority view (first proposed by Cyrus Gordon) that at least some of the Linear A inscriptions in Crete were West Semitic.  I see the NE sign (acrophonically derived from nektar, the divine drink) as a libation vessel with a handle and a spout, and it has no connection with Egyptian hieroglyph R11 (the djed, a straight spine, a symbol of stability).
   Here I must record that the writing of this essay was neglected  while I looked again at the Linear A inscriptions on Cretan offering altars, and I realized that they are in Canaanian (Phoenician/Hebrew) saying:
"I bring my offering of new wine/beer/olives/blood, O  [name of a deity])". These rites were performed at 'peak sanctuaries',  equivalent to the 'high places' condemned by the  prophets of Israel. Remember you heard it here .The work in progress is viewable at

    In this connection, a Cretan syllabic inscription has been discovered at Lakish, and it is likewise dated to the 12th C. BCE (both from Level VI, apparently). It is described as a Linear A text, though this was the age of Linear B, a Hellenic  script derived from Linear A, which itself was a reworking of an older set of pictorial characters; the RI sign (originally representing a human leg) is more like a Linear B form, though reversed. The sign for NE does not appear in its brief text.Note that it was a piece of a large limestone vessel which seems to have been made locally.(A thought: Linear A continued to be used for Semitic writing outside of Crete.)
    A Linear A Inscription from Tel Lachish (lach ZA 1),  Margalit Finkelberg; ; ; Yoram Eshet, Tel Aviv, Volume: 1996, Issue: 2, Sep 1996, pp. 195 - 207.
    On the potential significance of the Linear A inscriptions recently excavated in Israel. Gary A. Rendsburg, Aula Orientalis, 16, 1998, 289-291
     However, the characters on the new sherd from Lakish  are not Cretan: the K in the top line could be an Aegean TI (inverted), but we need not doubt that we are looking at the letters of the West Semitic alphabet, though this Samek may have been influenced by the Linear A syllabogram NE, since the curl on the middle stroke is hard to explain. The bottom line of NE represents the base of the libation vessel (as can be seen from the pictorial versions), and this is true of the spinal Samek as derived from the Egyptian djed; but, as noted already, early forms (syllabic and consonantal) had a long stem with no base, and only two crossbars; but the standard Phoenician version had three bars on a vertical line which extended below the bottom bar. Sass (242b) shows the two cases of Samek on the Kefar Veradim bowl: one has a slight protrusion of the vertical at the top, and the other at the bottom; Sass ( 242a) regards these as "incidental", and "suggesting that at this stage the letter was still perceived as legless, just as in the Lachish jar sherd". It is his argument (notice the word 'still') that  has no leg to stand on, since the protruding vertical stroke was already ancient.
    The sherd we are studying here is dated to the 12th Century BCE, but it has the letter forms of the Phoenician alphabet. And now we have two astonishing signature inscriptions from the Sealand (southern Mesopotamia), dated to the end of the 16th Century BCE (Late Bronze Age). Their direction of writing is sinistrograde, as with the Phoenician alphabetic inscriptions from Iron Age II, and the letter forms are much the same as those in the Phoenician alphabet of the Iron Age (NABU 2012 no.3, 61-63; there is  no Samek for comparison,  though L,P, G, `Ayin, and other letters are attested; but not much can be said; these match their later counterparts, but for the Lakish sherd the Qeiyafa and izbet Sartah ostraca offer more examples. In this respect, Joseph Naveh (1978, 35) is quoted (237b, n.11) to warn us about  the Izbet Sartah writer's "confusion of letters and his mistakes" which would be due to his "poor training or bad memory". Certainly we can see from his first words in line 1 that he is a beginner: "I am learning the letters" ('lmd 'tt), but it seems that his variations for each letter (as compared with the models he presents in line 5) were intentional, and what he was learning was the new syllabic use of the alphabet as practised in early Israel.
   Here is an opportunity to look at my neo-syllabary hypothesis, using the drawings available in this BASOR article: Izbet Sartah ostracon (Fig.19), Qeiyafa ostracon (Fig.14, Ada Yardeni), Qubur el-Walayda bowl (Fig.6); and pictures of them here). 
    All three are dextrograde, and exhibit variant forms for their letters. From my observation, as a rough rule, the Izbet Sartah alphabet shows the -a syllabograms; the Phoenician alphabet has the forms that were used for -i syllable-signs; the -u signs are the left-overs.
     Consider the case of the letter Shin. The first sign on the QW bowl is clearly a form of Shin (originating from a depiction of a human breast, thad/shad, according to my system): the breasts are pointing to the left.The Izbet Sartah Shin has the breasts on the right (sha?). At the beginning of the second line of the Qeiyafa ostracon, there is an equivalent sign in a word that can be read as sha-pa-t.a ('he judged'); and at the end shi-pi-t.i ('judgements'), where the breast is horizontal, as in the Phoenician alphabet; the QW bowl has a personal name, Sh-m-b-`-l  ('Name of Ba`al'?), and shum is the expected ancient form (Hebrew shem). So we seem to have successfully identified the three syllabic forms of Sh (sha, shi, shu). Notice there is no dot in the QW eye-sign (a circle, incomplete) as in the Phoenician alphabet,  so this should say `i. The preceding letter would presumably be ba, though it differs from the IS B-sign; nevertheless, in line 3 of the Q ostracon we have the sequence ba`ala, where the `Ayin has a dot (as on the IS alphabet), but here we see another verb ('he has prevailed') not the name or title Ba`al, in my view.
    For the record, here is my tentative reading of the Qubur el-Walayda bowl inscription ("12th-century context")
      shu mi ba `i li | 'i ya 'i lu | ma h.u
      Ugaritic name ShMB`L (cp. shum-addi)
      The second name is the patronymic, presumably ('son of I'). 
      The last word means 'fatling' (mah.u) and possibly refers to a sacrificial offering.

    This exercise will not be consummated here, but note in passing the two opposing p-forms in the 'judge' words in the Q ostracon, line 2: one is pa (the IS form) and the other is pi (with the stance of the P on the Lakish sherd and in the Phoenician alphabet)
    Reverting to Sass's treatment of the Lakish sherd inscription, and the comparative material he employs,  Sass dismisses some known inscriptions as pseudo or irrelevant, and others he tacitly ignores. possibly because they were discovered by unsuitable anonymous people (such as the two unprovenanced copies of the proto-alphabet which Flinders Petrie obtained in Egypt; at the start of the twentieth century; these could not have been forgeries, as even the Phoenician alphabet was not well understood). One could suggest ignorance and arrogance on the part of some academics who set themselves up as experts in this field of research; it is not  a case of scientific scepticism and rational caution, but wilful obfuscation and reprehensible avoidance of some parts of the available evidence.  There is needless agnosticism ("samek is still not identified with certainty in the Proto-Sinaitic  inscriptions", speaking for himself). There is doctrinaire dogmatism in dating the Wadi el-Hol and Sinai inscriptions to the 13th Century BCE (237a, n.8), leaving little time for development of the letters from pictorial to stylized forms. This is his ultra-low chronology, putting ages in chaos; originally he had presented the case for OK and NK and now his compromise is to put them at this impossibly late stage. The proper solution is to recognize that some are OK and others are NK.

   Even if Sass rejects my ideas, he must take account of the numerous inscriptions I have brought into the picture.