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Writing and Literature 63
and similar doubts have been expressed in more than one other
competent quarter. Albright is inclined to place the tomb
round about noo B.C. upon the basis of the potsherds found
in it. However this may be, I myself must venture upon the
remark that even if the Ramesside date be maintained, typo-
logically the letter-forms of Ahiram can hardly be early ones.
As regards the letter dleph) the Moabite Stone and the earliest
inscriptions of Zenjirli far away in the north of Syria agree in
showing the muzzle of the ox, which moreover is very clearly
presupposed by the oldest Greek forms, and in view of the great
distances involved, the eccentric form used by Ahiram cannot
well be the common ancestor. The Moabite stone and early
Greek inscriptions agree in showing a horizontal mem, and the
oldest Zenjirli form is at any rate not vertical. To add to the
difficulties of Dussaud's theory, there has now emerged at
Byblus a linear inscription of undetermined date which Dunand,
its discoverer, considers to be Phoenician (PL I, fig. 7), and to
this Ahiram must apparently yield the priority. Thus we are
forced to the conclusion that the demonstrative value of the
sarcophagus has been considerably overrated. Furthermore, no
serious attempt is made by either Bauer or Dussaud to account
for the proto-Sinaitic inscriptions, which are merely pushed
aside as tentative essays in the direction of alphabetic writing.
Let it be admitted, accordingly, that the Serabit hypothesis
remains an hypothesis, and that barely one-half of the alphabet
can as yet claim, to have received well-grounded explanation,
but the cumulative evidence in its favour completely outweighs
that in favour of any alternative theory hitherto advanced.
The date of the Sinai inscriptions has been much disputed.
I had thought it likely that they belonged to the close of the
Twelfth Dynasty, but Sethe preferred attribution to the Hyksos
period. Butin returned to my view, but the evidence is slight,
and this point is best left in abeyance.
Assuming the Serabit theory to be correct, exactly how much