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Writing and, Literature                      57
sign puzzled me, since it was not clear what it represented.
Running my eye down the Phoenician alphabet in the first
reference book that came to hand, I naturally stopped at
Idmedh , though here the hook was at the bottom,not at the
top. Disregarding this trifling difficulty, I now read Ba'alat, the
female Ba'al, familiar as the designation of a prominent Semitic
goddess. Were then the enigmatic tablets votive offerings to
Ba'alat ? I had the strongest reasons for believing it, since (i)
the regular Egyptian translation of the Semitic divine name
Ba'alat was Hathor (so at Byblus) and (2) the goddess of the
temple of Serabit was well-known to be 'Hathor, lady of the
Turquoise5, her name occurring on a large majority of the hiero-
glyphic inscriptions there found.
Thus, without any forcing or parti pris on rny part, by the
mere combination of a few simple observations with a few
established facts, the Sinai texts in the unknown script had
yielded the precise name one might most have expected to
find there. Could this be mere coincidence? I thought and
still think not. But if not, obviously I had hit upon the origin
of our alphabet, for the train of reasoning employed formed a
rigid system, and if the conclusion were accepted, it would be
wellnigh impossible to deny the premisses. In other words,
but for an almost unbelievable chance, the name Bacalat is the
true reading and demonstrates a genetic relationship between
the Egyptian hieroglyphs, the Sinai characters, and the Phoeni-
cian letters with their traditional names. It was only some years
later, after the conclusion of the War of 1914-18, that there came
into my hands an article by the Gottingen scholar Kurt Sethe
written about the same time as my own, in which by a number
of brilliant a priori arguments he sought to prove that the
Phoenician alphabet must have been derived, though with the
employment of much originality and genius on the part of its
Semitic inventor, from the Egyptian hieroglyphs. In particular
Sethe elaborated Schafer's argument that the absence of vowels