A new study of tablets which were discovered in the 1960’s at Tell Deir ‘Alla has revealed a Late Bronze Age alphabet, the only one known from this time period in Jordan. The clay tablets were discovered while archaeologists were excavating a Late Bronze Age temple and auxiliary buildings that had been destroyed sometime around 1180 BC. They were rectangular in shape, inscribed with a stylus, and featured a script with linear lines and dots at the ends. Over the years 15 such tablets have been unearthed at Tell Deir ‘Alla. While numerous attempts at translation have been made, a satisfactory reading remained illusive. Recent studies have demonstrated that the script was written from left to right and contained 29 signs, small enough to consider it an alphabet. Scholars have concluded that the Deir ‘Alla tablets share similarities with the proto-Sinaitic script and other proto-Canaanite alphabets. The language has been identified as Northwest Semitic, which the authors of the study are calling Canaanite. By reading the signs with reference to later Hebrew grammar, which preserves earlier Canaanite forms, the tablets seem to contain short ritual texts and cultic prophetic proverbs related to the local temple. It appears that the Deir ‘Alla alphabet disappeared sometime around the end of the Late Bronze Age.
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