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Writing and Literature                     55
and Syria is wellnigh certain, but there is no indisputable
evidence. In Babylonian and Assyrian reliefs of the eighth
century and later two scribes are often depicted, the one
writing on a clay tablet and the other upon some flexible
material which Breasted took for papyrus, but which R. P.
Dougherty has shown to be leather.1 On the other hand,
Breasted was able to point to a relief from Zenjirli where an
Aramaean scribe carries under his arm an undoubted Egyptian
More important even than the Egyptian origin of the princi-
pal writing-material used by the Greeks would be their debt
in connexion with the alphabet, if it could be proved beyond a
peradventure that Egypt was the source. Herodotus (v. 58)
explicitly states that the lonians derived their letters from the
Phoenicians, and a comparison of the earliest forms places the
relationship beyond a doubt. Which people of the two were
the originators is indicated by the Greek letter-names, of which
some, e.g. alpha, Hebr. dleph cox', beta, Hebr. beih 'house',
delta, Hebr. ddUth cdoor', are common Semitic words. How- -
ever, the further question whence the Phoenicians themselves
derived their script has been and still is a matter of endless
controversy. The present writer is none too well placed to be
an impartial judge in this matter, since he was the actual
author of the hypothesis which counts the largest number of
adherents. The issue is, however, so vital to the present chapter,
that the pros and cons must necessarily be given a large place.
To simplify exposition I find it easiest to drop the pronoun of
the third person and to tell my story directly.
Some twenty-five years ago the Egypt Exploration Fund
entrusted the late Professor Peet and myself with the publica-
tion of the inscriptions discovered and copied by Sir Flinders
Petrie at Serabit el-Khadim in central Sinai. Most were written
1 See Am. J. Sent. Lang. Lit., xxxii. 230 ff. and J. Am. Or. Soc. xlviii. 2.
109 fL I owe the ktter reference to Mr. Gadd.