The Serabit Inscriptions in light of the Wadi El Hol

Essay by NilsLAUniversity, Bachelor'sA, May 2006

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During the quest of an ancient road located in the west part of the Nile in the Sahara, Egyptologists have discovered inscriptions that may have been examples of the earliest alphabet in the world. While they were studying ancient travel roads in the south-west part of Egypt during the 1994-95 field season of the Theban Desert Road Suvey, Dr. Darnell and his wife, Deborah, made this discovery at Wadi el-Hol. Their discovery was a key element in determining the period and the place of the origin of the alphabet.

Carved on soft stone's cliffs, those inscriptions were written between 1900 and 1800 B.C. "The only words the researchers think to have understood are, reading from right to left, a chief's title, at the beginning, and a reference to god at the end."

These inscriptions are located at Wadi el-Hol where soldiers and merchants traveled between Thebes and Abydos along the so-called Farshut Road.

This location was important due to its strategic implications regarding religious, trade and military activity. This leads us to think that the inscriptions are somewhat related to those activities as "many of these inscriptions relate to soldiers and military activities" . Consequently, the oldest alphabet was created, within a militarized/economic setting, to serve the main purposes of ancient civilization for its sustainable development.

There are many uncertainties about the period in which those inscriptions were carved. Scholars used to describe it as "isolated phenomenon, an unparalleled southern exportation of Canaanite literacy" . Before this discovery, scholars attributed "the Serabi inscriptions to the early 18th Dynasty or, in Albright's own low chronology between 1550 and 1450 B.C." Those old evidences of the oldest alphabet known as "Serabit el-Kadem to which we refer as Proto-Sinaitic"3, aging from approximately 1550 and 1450 B.C., were discovered in the Sinai and...