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Ancient Alphabets

Ancient History


The earliest known writing systems in the ancient world were Mesopotamian cuneiform, about 3100 B.C., and Egyptian hieroglyphics, about 3000 B.C. They were probably first used for business or religious purposes. Both of these systems were composed of pictograms and ideagrams (idea-symbols) and phonograms (sound-symbols).

The picture writing system evolved into a way of writing sounds by using a picture to represent not just a concept, but also the first sound of the word.


As the Mediterranean gradually became the scene of a great amount of trade, the flow of merchandise, cultures, and ideas required an easier way to write. So, between 1800 and 1300 B.C. the Semitic people of the eastern Mediterranean region developed the first true alphabet, where each symbol represented single speech sounds, rejecting the previous combination systems. This alphabet was spread widely by the Phoenicians, and became the source of most modern types of writing.

The early Phoenician alphabet consisted of only consonants.

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