The Alphabet versus the Goddess de Leonard Shlain
Phoenicia, Canaan, and Egypt are advanced as the three most likely sources of the alphabet. Yet, most archeologists acknoledge that the oldest alphabet discovered is the one found in the Sinai desert. In 1905, Sir William Flinders Petrie found a script resembling Hebrew letters, art the site of an Egyptian temple dedicated to a goddess. Surrounding the area were rocks upon which Petrie found further evidence of this alphabet. Petrie called these precursor letters, dated at around 1800 B.C., the Proto-sinaic alphabet. Few challenge the fact that the sinaic inscriptions are the oldest known alphabet script. Petrie descovered them in one of the most moon-crumbled remains of empires, few water sources and hardly any vegetation; yet, evidence of the oldest alphabet stared at him across the millennia from the craggy surfaces of sun-baked rocks.
The numerous exotic place-names of the ancient world are redolent with oriental opulence and stirring events. Egyptian wall paintings and hieroglyphs sumptuously record the grand pageantry of Thebes, Memphis, and Karnak. The Babylonian cities of Ur, Uruk, and Nineveh call to mind scenes of intrigues, battles, and coronations.
There is only one major event associated with the name "Sinai". It was here that Yahweh gave Moses the Ten Commandments for the Hebrew people. It seems like an exraordinary coincidence and a striking intersection of myth and science that the oldest alphabet was found in the place where "the" seminal episode in the history of the ancient Hebrews occurred.
The biblical version of what transpired in the Sinai recounts the rededication of an entire people to their solitary God. Monotheism was a revolutionary idea, and many believe it is the primary legacy of the Hebrewq to future generations.
The other revolutionary idea emerging in the Sinai shaped the future of all human aspirations: Yahweh proclaimed that there exists a code of morality that stands above human intercourse. The Ten Commandments applied "universally" to everyone. No King, pharaoh, or potentate was above the law. If human society was to be organized on a principle other than "might makes right", all would to submit. The codes of Draco, Solon, and Justinian, the Magna Carta, the United States Constitution, and the Miranda rights can all be traced back to what happened in the Sinai.
Perhaps the transforming event that transpired so long ago at the foot of Mount Sinai was the invention of the alphabat.