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Early “ABCs” Identified on Artifact From an Egyptian Tomb

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Egypt ABC sequenceVANCOUVER, CANADA—An inscribed piece of limestone is thought to be the earliest example of our alphabet sequence, according to a Live Science report. Thomas Schneider of the University of British Columbia said three of the words in the 3,400-year-old inscription start with the equivalents of the letters B, C, and D. At the time, he noted, the letter “g” was used to produce the sound we now represent with the letter “c.” So in this case, “B” is for “bibiya-ta,” or “earth snail;” “C” is for “garu,” or “dove;” and “D” is for “da’at,” or kite. Symbols in front of the letters may mean “gecko,” or “lizard,” suggesting the whole phrase read, “and the lizard and the snail, and the dove and the kite.” The stone was discovered in the tomb of an Egyptian foreign affairs official named Sennefer, and although the text was written in hieratic, a form of Egyptian hieroglyphic writing, Schneider said the words themselves were Semitic in origin. He thinks the artifact may have been used as a mnemonic device to help Sennefer remember the order of the letters in Eastern Mediterranean languages. Another alphabetic sequence that has since fallen out of use was found on the opposite side of the piece of limestone. For more, go to “Dawn of Egyptian Writing.”

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