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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

Writing and Literature                    61
century B.C.—to the statue of Abiba'al, bearing the names of
Shoshenk I and published by Dussaud at the same time as the
sarcophagus, was soon added another statue commemorating
a third king of Byblus named Eliba'al, this showing the pre-
nomen of Osorkon I. Still more remarkable was the apparently
very slight change in the Phoenician writing right down to the
fourth century before our era. Dussaud and Bauer are correct
in stating that the letter-forms of Ahiram are, if anything, still
more unlike the objects signified by the Hebrew letter-names
than the forms on the Moabite Stone (about 842 B.C.). Thus
Ahiram's alefh is £ , where the supposed muzzle of the ox has
completely vanished and the horns are a very doubtful quantity;
the mem $ is upright, and consequently ceases to show any
similarity to the Egyptian sign for water <«»**. The betb,ddleth>
*ayin and resh are no more like a house, a door, an eye, or a
human head than they were five centuries later. In fact Gesenius'
theory of the original conformity of letter-forms and letter-
names appeared to vanish into smoke.
Impelled by these considerations, Dussaud emphatically re-
asserted the claims of the Phoenicians to have been the real
inventors of the alphabet. 'At the first attempt', he wrote, 'they
attained perfection; the deformations which time has brought
about in their system have not improved it.' Perhaps Bauer is
the only other Semitist who has strongly defended this curious
analogy to the theological doctrine of special creation, his recent
monograph quoting several examples of native tribes that have
similarly fabricated complete systems of writing of their own.
The reasons which swayed Dussaud and Bauer were, however,
sufficiently potent to turn many students against the Serabit
hypothesis, some reviving de Rouge's quite untenable theory of
a derivation of the Phoenician alphabet from the Egyptian
hieratic script, while others looked for an explanation to a new-
comer into this controversial field, the cuneiform alphabet of
Ras Shamra. That new alphabet from a coast-town a full