Ancient writing systems in the Mediterranean

A critical guide to electronic resources


- ca. 1700-950 B.C.

Examples of writing

Gezer potsherd

Gezer potsherd
Source: Sass 1988, fig. 147

Discovered in 1929 on the surface of Tel Gezer (IDAM 54.3). 
The dating of the potsherd is difficult (17th-15th century B.C.).
The direction of writing is not certain.
The three signs, read vertically, are:
The second sign (here x) could be a n, or a l, or a w.

Lachish ewer

Lachish ewer
Source: 1988, fig. 156

A fragmentary pottery jug discovered in 1933 in the Fosse Temple of Lachish (IDAM 34.7738).

The archaeological dating of the decorated ewer places it in 13th century B.C.

The inscription, written from left to right, reads:

mtn. šy […]ty ’lt

The first word mtn could be a personal name “Mattan”, or a common noun “gift”; the last word is the feminine form of “god”, i.e. “goddess” (or a divine name “Ilat”).

The reconstruction of the lacuna made by F.M. Cross [lrb]ty “[to my La]dy” is not certain and based on the doubtful identification of the goddess depicted on the ewer.

The more plausible translation of the inscription is “A gift of tribute… goddess”.

Abecedary from ‘Izbet Ṣarṭah

Abecedary from ‘Izbet Ṣarṭah

Storage jar fragment with a five-line inscription made after the jar was broken (IDAM 80.1).

The archaeological dating is unclear (ca. 12th-11th cent. B.C.).

The inscription comes from an unskilled hand and several letters are not clear. Line five is an abecedary, the other lines are not deciphered (perhaps a writing exercise).

The five lines, from left to right and beginning from the top, read:

1) ’, b/l, š, d, ḥ, ’, t, ?, ?, ’, ‘
2) k, t, n, ‘, q, ḥ, ’, t, b/l, ’, š, ?, ṭ, ‘, b/l, ṭ, ṭ
3) ?, ?, q,  ?, q, q
4) ‘, q, ?, b/l, n, ḥ, p, ’, t, b/l, h, d, z, q, b/l, ‘, t, ‘, ’, ‘, b/l, ’, ḥ, b/l, r, ‘, b/l, ?
5) ’, b, g, d, h, w?, ḥ, z?, ṭ, y, k, l, (m), n, (s), p ‘, ṣ, q, q, š, t