The early history of the alphabet may require rewriting. Four clay artefacts found at an ancient site in Syria are incised with what is potentially the earliest alphabetic writing ever found. The discovery suggests that the alphabet emerged 500 years earlier than we thought, and undermines leading ideas about how it was invented.
A popular idea is that the alphabet first appeared in Egypt about 3800 years ago, when 20 or so Egyptian hieroglyphs were repurposed as the first alphabet’s letters. The script was then used to write …