Earliest Alphabet a Canaanite Invention—Preserved in Sinai Mines

Sidebar to: Fifteen Years in Sinai

The earliest alphabet—from which all other alphabets in the world are derived—was invented in Canaan in the late 18th or early 17th century B.C. This alphabet consisting of pictographs is referred to by scholars as the proto-Canaanite alphabet. Only a few short inscriptions in this alphabet have been found in Canaan, however. Most of the inscriptions in this alphabet were discovered in or near the turquoise mines at Serabit el-Khadem in Sinai and date to a few hundred years after the initial invention. The Sinai version of this alphabet is called proto-Sinaitic and is identical to proto-Canaanite.

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