The Levant Comes of Age: The Ninth Century BCE through Script Traditions
Parker, Heather Dana Davis
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It has long been recognized that the alphabetic scripts present within the Northwest Semitic inscriptions of the first half of the first millennium BCE belong to three separate script traditions — Phoenician, Aramaic, and Hebrew. Although there have been valuable studies of the early history of each of these traditions, including some discussion of the interrelationships between them, there has not been a comprehensive and systematic palaeographic study of these traditions viewing all three from a comparative perspective and attempting to identify the time and circumstances of the origin of each as a distinct tradition in relation to the others. The goal of this dissertation is to fulfill the need for such a study. This investigation will show that by the end of the eleventh-beginning of the tenth century, Phoenician seems already to have emerged as a separate script; and over the course of the early Iron II period (tenth-eighth centuries BCE), at least two additional scripts emerged from Phoenician: Hebrew, in the ninth century, and Aramaic, in the eighth. Markedly, this change in the character of alphabetic writing in this period corresponds to contemporary socio-political developments and suggests that the development of these individualized scripts arose under the patronage of specific polities. The Phoenician script arose in the commercial power centers of the Phoenician city-states on the Levantine coast. The advent of the Hebrew script corresponds to Israel’s rise to predominance in southern Canaan. Finally, the genesis of the Aramaic script parallels the rise of the Assyrian Empire in Syria and this empire’s appropriation of Aramaic as an administrative tool and mode of communication throughout its realm.