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Writing and Literature                    59
ink from Beth Shemesh, the characters upon which are certainly
archaic but not pictorial. Of greater importance is the series
of inscriptions discovered by the foully murdered excavator
Starkey at Tell el-Duweir (Lachish). Of these the oldest is a
dagger bearing four letters placed vertically (see Plate I,
fig. 2), the second of them a clear head like that common at
Serabit, and the third possibly but not certainly a snake. The
dagger is dated by Starkey 'perhaps before, but not later than
1600 B.C.' Next in order of development is a ewer bearing
ten or eleven letters clearly less pictorial, which Starkey placed
without hesitation at the beginning of the thirteenth century
B.C. (Plate I, fig. 3). Several of the signs correspond pretty
obviously to Serabit characters on the one hand, and to Phoeni-
cian letters on the other. The zigzag for m, the cross for t,
and the snake for n are confidently interpreted by many as
the common Hebrew word mattdn 'gift of . . .', and the
probability of this interpretation is enhanced by the presence,
after these letters, of three dots, obviously a word-divider as
in certain early Greek inscriptions. Further along are a Idmsdb
with the crook at the bottom as in Phoenician and Latin, and
an dlepb that no longer much resembles an ox-head, but has
affinities with the dleph of the Moabite Stone on the one hand,
and with a Greek alpha on the other. A third text from Tell
el-Duweir (PL I, fig. 4)1 has a combination of five letters
followed by a word-divider like that on the inscription of
Ahiram (see below), and Hebraists and Serabitists alike have
joined hands in reading these letters as besbelosbetb Tor the
third time'. Here we are nearer to Phoenician both in graphic
development and in date; Starkey assigns the bowl to the third
quarter of the thirteenth century, Yeivin to the fourth. If the
first character on the bowl (^ be really beih, then the divergency
1 Doubts have been felt as to which way up this inscription should be
placed. I have followed the opinion of J. Obermann, who places it in such
a way that it reads from left to right.