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N.S. Gill

Oldest European Alphabet

By August 29, 2008

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I don't know how long this wonderful resource has been available. Robert W. M. Greaves (aka Bingley) just told me about The Sch°yen Collection, which is a repository of manuscripts from the last 5000 years. Many of the mss have been scanned and so are available for an online peek. Among the most intriguing is an ancient Greek alphabet from 800 B.C. See if you can find what appears to be the alphabet on the copper tablet. If you don't know the standard Greek alphabet, look here:but realize this standard evolved over time and the alphabet on copper is early.
MS 108 The Earliest Greek Alphabet
"MS in Greek on copper, Cyprus, ca. 800 BC, 2 tablets, 21x13 cm, single column, (19x10 cm), 20-23 lines in archaic Greek capitals with some North Semitic (Phoenician) letter forms by 2 or more scribes.
Binding: Greece, ca. 800 BC, strung together on both sides so as to fold in concertina fashion with holes in all 4 corners of both tablets.
Context: This is the oldest European alphabet, the oldest writing tablets extant, and part of the world's oldest book in codex form.


September 1, 2008 at 12:56 am
(1) Carol A says:

Thanks so much for posting this – these are wonderful resources.

September 4, 2008 at 4:22 am
(2) William C says:

I see you have entries in Ancient History on Linear A and Linear B from Crete. One of these entries states that Linear B was the alphabet of the Mycenaeans. Surely you should be referring to Linear B as the oldest European alphabet (unless there is an older one).

September 4, 2008 at 5:49 am
(3) Peter Williams says:

As she points out, Linear B’s not an alphabet, it’s a syllabary…

September 5, 2008 at 1:19 am
(4) priscilla says:

What a find thank you! Great to have an immediate illustrated source to hand to use in debate on this subject.

September 5, 2008 at 7:41 am
(5) NSGill says:

It’s gratifying to read that other people appreciate this resource as much as I do.

September 7, 2008 at 2:02 am
(6) Zamolxes says:

welll … it is another one, much older even that cretan alphabet … in Transilvania, at Tartaria, was found some clay tablets, inscripted with some strange pictograms … clay tablets was dated around 6000 BC, suposed be a part of Vinca Culture …

September 7, 2008 at 7:54 am
(7) NS Gill says:

No claim is being made about this being the earliest writing system. The Greeks had writing before this – Linear A and B. This is the earliest example of a Greek *alphabet*, however.

December 8, 2008 at 8:31 pm
(8) Marco Grandmann says:

Has there been a translation yet? Or a black & white transcription? As this appears to come from the Greek dark ages and shows a lot of similarities to Linear B it could well be older than that or a transcription of an earlier text.

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