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Oldest alphabet identified as Hebrew

Controversial claim argues that ancient Israelites turned Egyptian hieroglyphics into letters

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8:00am, November 19, 2016
Egyptian stone slab

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.

SAN ANTONIO — 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.

“There is a connection between ancient Egyptian texts and preserved alphabets,” Petrovich said.

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