The Key which Unlocked the Alphabet was the Serabit Sphinx
I told you in the last Nugget that the key that clinched the theory for Sir Alan Gardiner was the discovery of a unique bilingual inscription on a small sphinx with the meaning of the inscription left in a two parallel texts – one Egyptian hieroglyphics and the other this new Canaanite text. Let’s take a closer look at the significance of this find. It is as dramatic as the Rosetta Stone.
The Rosetta Stone is on display in the British Museum
The Rosetta Stone was discovered in 1799 in Memphis. No, not Memphis, Tennessee but Memphis in Egypt. It contains three versions of a decree made by Ptolemy V Epiphanes in 196 BC. What is unique about the stone is that the same decree is recorded in three different ancient texts. The text on the upper part of the stone is written in Egyptian Hieroglyphics, the middle section is written in Egyptian Demotic script while the bottom panel is recorded in Classical Greek text. The differences between the accounts is minimal which then makes the Rosetta Stone an invaluable resource for cracking the code between the three scripts. The Rosetta Stone has been on display in the British Museum continuously since 1802 and is the museum’s most visited exhibit.
The Serabit Sphinx is to the cracking of the code between Egyptian Hieroglyphs and the new Canaanite Script as the Rosetta Stone is to breaking the code between Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Egyptian Demotic Script and Classical Greek. The discovery of this small Sphinx containing the two different scripts inscribed on the sphinx was crucial to the work of Sir Alan Gardiner in providing a translation of the inscription. This led Gardiner to provide the initial translation from which Orly Goldwasser and others could work.
The text on the Serabit Sphinx was not quite identical but enough to enable the linguists to decipher the meaning of the new alphabet (Canaanite). The text on the both legs of the sphinx is written in what is now called Proto-Sinaitic script while the writing on the right shoulder of the sphinx is Egyptian Hieroglyphics. The fact that the Proto-Sinaitic script is based on the first letter of words in the language, therefore becomes the first truly phonetic script found which is highly significant in the developments of the alphabets we are familiar with in this day and age. This ingenious approach of these supposedly unskilled Asiatic labourers in effect becomes the forerunner for the modern alphabet systems of the world.
This Proto-Sinaitic alphabet is crude compared with the elegance of Egyptian script. The inscriptions at Serabit are rough and unfinished in comparison with the similar Egyptian characters which supports the claim that the writers of such a scripts were likely to be labourers and not scribes or statesmen. Orly Goldwasser believes not only were these workers Asiatic (Canaanite) Egyptians based at Serabit, but she is of the belief that we may even know their names. One name in particular is mentioned in several Egyptian Hieroglyphic inscriptions, the name of Khebeded, who is referred to as “the brother of the Ruler of Retenu”. Retenu was the region between Gaza and the Baqaa of Lebanon. The name the Asiatic inhabitants of the Delta region of Egypt used was Rulers of Retenu. It is clear this Khebeded was a Canaanite. There is one stela at Serabit (Stela 112) where Khebeded is depicted riding on a donkey. No Egyptian would allow themselves to be recorded as riding on a donkey. However inhabitants from the east are indeed seen in stele riding donkeys.
These facts are in accord with the research and findings of David Rohl and Manfred Bietak which I shared with readers of the Nuggets in an early series on Proof of the Exodus. Specifically related to the evidence for Joseph in Egypt. There is ample proof to suggest the inhabitants of Avaris (Tel ed Daba) were in fact Asiatics, dwellers to the east of Egypt. These tribal people, not skilled in the language and writings and the ways of the courts and artesans of Egypt were in fact the ones who developed a phonetic alphabet based on Egyptian hieroglyphs. Maybe that is likely the key as to why the characters of this Proto-Sinaitic alphabet so closely resemble the Hebrew characters.
The story continues . . .