Archaeologists Rewrite Timeline

Posted by bobbapink on Dec 28, 2001 at 11:23 (

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Archaeologists Rewrite Timeline Of Bronze And Iron Ages

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Using information gleaned from the sun's solar cycles and tree rings, archaeologists are rewriting the timeline of the Bronze and Iron Ages. The research dates certain artifacts of the ancient eastern Mediterranean decades earlier than previously thought. And it places an early appearance of the alphabet outside Phoenicia at around 740 B.C.
Writing in two articles in the forthcoming issue of the journal Science (Dec. 21), archaeologists from Cornell University and the University of Reading (England) and a physicist from Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg (Germany) have given a new kind of precision to the timeline of the Bronze and Iron Ages in the Aegean and the Near East.

"Establishing this chronology means that the objects -- metalwork, furniture, woven textiles, and an alphabetic inscription found in a tomb in central Turkey -- were older than previously thought by some 22 years," said Peter I. Kuniholm, Cornell professor of art history and archaeology.

Among the artifacts found in the Midas Mound Tumulus at Gordion, the capital of ancient Phrygia, a site west of Ankara, Turkey, is a shallow, bronze bowl with a patch of beeswax on the rim carrying an alphabetical inscription. The inscription is a precursor to -- or contemporary with -- the earliest attested occurrences of the Greek alphabet. In addition to letter forms known from ancient Greek, there is a vertical arrow, known also from Etruscan inscriptions.

With the new chronology, the bowl now is independently dated circa 740 B.C., making its inscription as old as the oldest known artifacts on which the Greek alphabet appears: an oinochoe (a wine pitcher) from the Dipylon cemetery in Athens and a cup from Pithekoussai (now Ischia) in the Bay of Naples. The estimated dates of these pots previously had provided archaeologists with only an approximate date for these early alphabetic inscriptions. "The alphabet, which originated in Phoenicia at a time that is still disputed, was moving west at a rapid pace, traditionally thought to be by sea but now clearly by land as well. That's what this chronology shows: The alphabet was really catching on," says Kuniholm. Scholars believe that the birthplace of all Western alphabets, including the Greek and Roman, was Phoenicia (present-day Lebanon, Israel and Palestine). The oldest known Phoenician inscription was found in the Ahiram epitaph at Byblos, Lebanon, dating from about the 11th century B.C. Scholars think the alphabet was spread throughout the Mediterranean by traders who found the new shorthand an improvement over the syllabic scripts such as Linear B and cuneiform Hittite.


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