Alice Kober Gesellschaft für die Entzifferung antiker Schriftsysteme
A safe place for technical script decipherment

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James Hoch (1990) confirmed: The Byblos syllabary is indeed adopted from the Egyptian Consonant Alphabet

Back in 2017, Marwan Kilani pushed us to new realms by recommending Harvey Sobelman’s (1961) n-gram analysis and James Hoch’s (1990) suggestion of comparing the Byblos script to the Egyptian phonographic (consonantial) sub-alphabet. Departing from the successful sound value attribution of ;  pa compared to p3 in Anchesen-pa-Aton’s hieroglyphic name on the Berlin Familienstele, combined with the proposal of the logo-phonograms  ATON and  AMUN (the latter being used on the historisizing Garbini (2004) seal, because Anchesen-pa-Aton changed her name into Anchesen-pa-Amun in late Amarna period), the show must now go on. Supervised by Michael Mäder, GEAS contributor Elizabeth Schmutz conducted a sequency search for all signs showing graphical similarity (as understood by the GEAS Methodology for script comparison) to the Egyptian Syllabic Alphabet. In a preliminary report, we found out that it is exactly the group of the most frequent Byblos sign types (i.e. the signs statistically prone to depict high frequency syllables from late Phoenician (or Hurrian, depending on which linguistic hypothesis you are attracted to) to have over-coincidence (low graphical levenshtein distance LDg) to Egyptian Consonant signs. As Mäder puts it in his forthcoming article: «So hat, wie mir scheint,

Mäder will try to integrate this latest finding into his Berlin Stele vs. Bylbos seal article in Ugarit Forschungen. The matches are extremely promising, because they a) could lead the path to internal (linguistic) confirmation of the suspicions provided in the list above, and with that, serve as a late justification of the prudent, methodically soberly executed, and simply ingenious approaches by Sobelman (1961) and Hoch (1990).

Moreover, according to the GEAS methodology, such a surge of poly-lowLDg ∧ zeroLDp matches, all of them taken from the subset of statistically high-frequency graphemes, is a beautiful runway for futher exploration… one can feel the clouds on the horizon of proto-alphabetic misteries dissolving quietly: What if the Byblos research will be the one to confirm Émile Puech’s (2015) and Orly Goldwasser’s transition thesis? What if future Byblos research will show that the Egyptian feather sign indeed represents ʾaleph and is the real predecessor of proto-sinaitic, phoenician and alphabetic  ʾaleph (interpreted as a Taurus’ head due to it’s positioning and shape on the rocks of Ṣerābit-el-Khadīm by Phoenician mercenaries, simply because they weren’t aware of the Egyptian word for ‘feather’)? What if the Byblos feather sign  () is the missing link between Egyptian ʾaleph and later  (in the alphabetic line of descendance) as well as Arabic أ? Has this trace the potential to heave Byblos Script research from a low-life peripheral existance up to an important field clearing the question of the provenance of our alphabets?

Many hours of Unicode based work ought to be spent on these questions, so do not hesitate, use the GEAS devices and contact the team for sorting out your contribution!


Hoch, James E. (1990): “The Byblos Syllabary: Bridging the Gap Between Egyptian Hieroglyphs and Semitic Alphabets”, Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities 20, 115-124.

Mäder, Michael (forthcoming): “Zwei Lautwertvorschläge zum Byblos-Syllabar: ;  me und ;  pa. Mit einer Kritik an der Methode bisheriger Entzifferungsversuche.” Ugarit-Forschungen.

Puech, Émile (2015): “Aux sources de l’alphabet: de quelques anciens témoignages en écriture alphabétique.” In: Rico, C. & Attucci, C. (Hrsg.): Origins of the Alphabet: Proceedings of the First Polis Institute Interdisciplinary Conference. Newcastle upon Tyne. 73-123.

Sobelman, Harvey (1961): “The proto-byblian inscriptions – a fresh approach”, Journal of Semitic Studies 6/2, 226-245.