Wednesday, November 16, 2022



Photograph: Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority

A variety of photographs and drawings are available at those sites, with extensive commentary. According to the Times of Israel, Daniel Vainstub (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev) is responsible for the published reading of this remarkable inscription (in the JJAR article), and this is my response to it; in my considered opinion (based on my experience of writing systems over 80 years of my life) his interpretation of the text is basically correct, but with quite a few errors (mostly relating to identification of letters and their sounds).
    My table of signs for the early alphabet is available here:
    Be it known, the title of the official article is: "A Canaanite's wish to eradicate lice on an inscribed ivory comb from Lachish". The writers could have saved themselves from embarrassing ambiguity and inaccuracy by reducing it to the last six words. Apparently his wish was granted: after a diligent scientific search, no lice were found on the comb; well, hardly any; lice remains were found on one tooth. However, here is their clear statement: "The inscription expresses the wish that the comb on which it is engraved will eradicate the lice from the hair and beard of the owner of the comb" (109). Their actual translation is: "May this tusk root out the lice of the hair and the beard". Quite so, but rather than a wish, this could be a strong affirmation from the maker of this device: it will remove the pests from the user's scalp and chin, that is, advertising, something like this: "It expels every louse from hair and beard". That is my understanding of the inscription, at this point in my "work in progress" (20/11/22), but it could change if I notice any more letters in the text. By the way, the mention of "beard" allows us to assume that the possessor was not a woman, but not necessarily so.
    My working hypothesis will be (25/11/22): The caption does not express a wish made by the user of the comb for relief from parasites; it is not an aspiration but an affirmation made by the comb itself that it is kosher, fit for purpose, having the proficiency to exterminate every louse in the user's hair and beard.
    Here we have yet another West Semitic inscription to add to our growing collection, and once again we express our thanks to Yosef Garfinkel for discovering it at Lakish (alias Lachish). For the other documents, go here:
     Be not deceived: this is a tiny artefact, 3.5 cm x 2.5 cm, with "fine teeth" on one side, for catching lice and their nits (eggs and larvae), and six big teeth on the opposite side, for knots and tangles (Fig. 15, 91). Also, the writing is minuscule (its characters are 1 to 3 mm in width), so much so that it was overlooked for several years; we are studying magnified pictures, and we have to marvel at the skill of the engraver; but we can imagine the stylus slipping and leaving unintended marks in amongst the intended characters of the text; and some significant strokes might be faint, and overlooked by scholars.
    As regards the age of the inscription, a very tentative date around 1700 BCE has been proposed, in the Bronze Age, when the alphabet (or the proto-alphabet, in my terminology) was young; but the comb was found in a position belonging to the Iron Age (about 1000 BCE). This could mean that the inscriber was well acquainted with the West Semitic scripts, and chose archaic forms for the letters; in this case he would have been a citizen of Israel, and this comb would belong in the field of Biblical Archaeology;  but the object may have already been old when it came to rest in its find-spot, judging by its state of disrepair.
    The editors have decided that the writing starts from the bottom right corner and runs leftwards above the fine teeth of the comb; they think that the text continues from the upper right, but the engraver turned the object around 180 degrees, so that the writing on this line is inverted in relation to the first line. This seems plausible, though possibly the right side was the top, and we are then looking at two vertical columns extending downwards; or else the fine teeth are at the top, and the text starts from the top left corner, running from left to right. In this last scenario, the third letter would become /\/\ (M) not \/\/ (Sh), and this possibility will need to be considered.
    This is their proposed reading of the letters:
    YTSh H.T. D LQM|L S``[R W]ZQT
    "May this tusk (H.T. D) root out (YTSh) the lice (L-QML) of the hair (S``R) and (W) the beard (ZQT)."
    For my initial response, I am grateful to them for doing the ground work, and finding the words for louse (QML), hair (S``R), and  beard (ZQT, actually ZQN, in my view), but this (D/Dh) and tusk (H.T.) are not valid, and YTSh (root out) might be YTM (destroy), or something else.
    At the outset, I am compelled to blurt out some harsh criticism: yet again an early West Semitic inscription has been entrusted to scholars who can read Israelian and Phoenician texts from the Iron Age, but have no competence for interpreting proto-alphabetic Canaanian documents from the Bronze Age, since they use the discredited Albright paradigm when assigning sound-values to the letters they encounter. I offered a new paradigm in 1988 and 1990 and refined it in 2014. My essay on The Origin of the Alphabet (2014) is actually listed in the vast bibliography of this article, but no attention has been paid to its contents in the attempt at deciphering this "lousy" inscription.
    Daniel Vainstub has my gratitude for replacing the term "Canaanite" (woefully mispronounced by the phonetically crippled English) with "Canaanean", so that "Kana`an" is heard, not the abomination of desolation "Kaynen". Unfortunately the Kaynenites are back in full force here .
    Let's do it my way. The first principle of epigraphy is acknowledgement that the only person who really knew the intended meaning of an inscription is the person who composed it, and this will usually be the person who inscribed it. I will now argue that the editors of this text have not fully understood all the ramifications of the text they are attempting to elucidate.
    The first atrocity they have committed is the chronic failure to ask the essential question: Is this text syllabic or consonantal? This fault has caused the downfall of many published interpretations of West Semitic inscriptions, reducing them to nonsense, though the perpetrators (and their hapless readers) are blithely unaware of their mistakes.
    In my grand unifying theory there are four closely related types of early West Semitic script, but not many scholars recognize this elementary fact; and the members of this "quadrinity" constitute an evolutionary system:
Protosyllabary > Protoconsonantary > Neoconsonantary > Neosyllabary.
These were all in operation till the Iron Age, when "the Phoenician alphabet" became the standard form of consonantal script in the Levant. These unassailable truths are presented here:
    Apparently Lakish was uninhabited at the time when the Neosyllabary was flourishing (the period of the Judges in Israel) so this is not likely to be a neosyllabic inscription, and also the editors feel that it dates from the Bronze Age. To my mind (with tables of signs at my disposal for both syllabaries), there are no clear indications that this is protosyllabic or neosyllabic, and so it is proto-alphabetic, that is, either protoconsonantal (with about 27 consonants) or neoconsonantal (with less than two dozen consonants represented).
   For the editors of this inscription it is simply "written in the Canaanite script" (90). However, they show some inkling of distinguishing a long alphabet (protoconsonantary) and a short alphabet (neoconsonantary), when they state that the engraver has made "a clear distinction between d and z" (107). This is certainly a key indicator of the protoconsonantary (as in Sinai 375a, for example, and Thebes 4) but I think the sign for d (=) may be lacking here.
    One other thing must not be overlooked: I have access to a much wider range of examples of inscriptions than they have, including four lists of the consononantograms of the proto-alphabet, from Thebes and Puerto Rico (sic!).
    Time now to examine the letters, beginning at the presumed beginning in the lower right hand corner, with the Vainstub numbering.


(1) Y a Yod, hand (side view), with forearm and usually also with elbow, which is vaguely possible here; an additional mark is thought to be a thumb; but to my eyes the character looks like an ox-head (with horns and an eye? NYT photograph), and therefore 'Alep.
(2) X-shaped Taw, apparently, but it has extra marks, and K is also possible.
I am not able to supply an exact match for this form of K, but the X-sign stands for KU in the Protosyllabary, and the syllabogram KI (a palm-branch, kipp) is the same as the K (with an oblique stem) in the Phoenician alphabet, and also KI in the Neosyllabary; I have to say that this X-type K is an idiosyncratic form employed by this scribe (perhaps borrowed, as were most of the letters of the Protoalphabet,  from the Protosyllabary, which was known in his city), and apparently there are four instances of K: 2, 17, 14 (indistinct), and 6, which may have a different form.
(3) Sh  \/\/ or a less likely /\/\ Mem. Note that according to my (tried and true) paradigm the \/\/ character was SHA in the Protosyllabary, acrophonically derived from shad "breast", but in the Protoconsonantary, which recognizes more consonants, it is Th from thad "breast", and it becomes Shin in the short alphabet, the Neoconsonantary, and SHI in the Neo-syllabary; the sun symbol  \o/ with two serpents (Sinai, Thebes), or one serpent o_o (Wadi el-Hol), or simply the sun-disc o (Byblos. Gebel Tingar) represents protosyllabic SHI from shimsh "sun", and protoconsonantal Sh; the sun-sign was replaced by the breast-sign in the Neoconsonantry, covering Shin and Sin and Th. Now, if this inscription is using the long alphabet (as the editors intimate, with regard to D and Z co-exisiting in this inscription) then it must be classified as protoconsonantal, and \/\/ will be Th not Sh. The editors do not comprehend these fundamental distinctions, because of their adherence to the Albright paradigm as disseminated by Gordon Hamilton, with the sun-sign Sh misunderstood  as a bow and as denoting Th from *thann, and necessarily and erroneously endorsed as the predecessor of Shin and Sigma, because the breast-sign has been overlooked (Hamilton, 231-244); and their chosen Sh has only one attestation [!] as a thorn, *shawt (Hamilton, 123-126). Arabia has the sun as Th and the breast as Sh, and this is a reversal of their roles; this nevertheless verifies my choices (assisted by the cuneiform consonantary of Ugarit, and the Thebes tablets published by Flinders Petrie), but gives no support to the Albright scheme.
( ) G ? R?  an angle below the \/\/, but it seems to be  a rough square with a horizontal stem, perhaps representing a head, R.
(4) H rather than their; they make an unsteady case for finding a counterpart for this letter in the various forms of H. in the Arabian scripts, which are reminiscent of a bow and arrow, and they conjecture an acrophonic connection with h.z./h.s. "arrow"; Arabia is usually helpful in this respect, as we have just seen (with Sh and Th), and it will certainly aid us in recognizing Qop further along the line; but this sign actually has a counterpart in the Sinai turquoise mines. The editors are heavily reliant on Gordon Hamilton's manual of alphabet origins, which has a dozen or more errors of identification; Hamilton has depicted an equivalent letter on Sinai 358, but he and Vainstub do not realize that it is an inverted form of the rejoicing person
(matching hieroglyph A29), perhaps somersaulting rather than dancing, and acrophonically denoting H (from hll "exult"). Notice the tick (/|) at the leg end of the figure in each case; it is absent from their drawings of the letter (Fig. 15, 18, Table 4). This is H, and it would be worthwhile to consider the rest of this Sinai 358,  as it shares a number of letters with the comb text; it is an obituary for a literate metal-worker, not one of Orly Goldwasser's illiterate miners, who are incredibly credited with inventing the alphabet at the turquoise mines.
   "Asa ('s: ox 'alp, fish samk) has done (p`l: mouth pu, eye `ayn, crook l) his work (mlkth: water maym, crook l, hand k, taw t, H)"
    If we also consider Sinai 376, in which Asa the smith records the sickness that will cause his death, we can find examples of W, Q, S., and R to compare with possible counterparts on the comb.

(  )  M   to the right of the top of the H there is an oblique stroke which seems to be joined to a sequence of waves; on the other side of the H there are two vertical wavy lines, the second possibly possibly ending with + Taw. None of this is recorded in the drawing
(5) a large circle on an oblique stem, difficult to discern, possibly an illusion; letters that fit this prescription (none of them recognized in the Albright paradigm) are:
   Z. (z.l/s.l, shade,
parasol, known from lists but not yet seen in a text);
(--o-) see letter 8;
  R head with neck, P-shaped;
  T. (, o-+, originally the Egyptian nfr hieroglyph, Semitic t.ab, good, attested in Sinai 351 and lists, and as T.A in the Protosyllabary); Vainstub tries to make this a distorted attempt to write the other form of, where the cross is inside the circle; but if this is Tet the cross would be exterior, and there is indeed a black line crossing the stem on Fig. 17, and that photograph seems to show a smaller circle than depicted on the drawing (Fig. 18); a nfr is thus faintly possible, but  W (waw nail) might be a suitable companion for the preceding H, making the pronoun hw (huwa, he or it), but this view would exclude the three Mems.

(6) a hand (kap) with fingers, or else a palm branch (kipp), but this is a letter K, a cross (X) with extra marks (all is revealed on Fig. 17); there is no reason for detaching two of the strokes to make Dh (=), as Vainstub does (95);
(7) a clear arc, but difficult to discern whether it has a curl at the top or the bottom; Vainstub chooses the top as likely (see Fig. 17); it is perhaps too rounded to be a crook; it is more like a coil, but the editors deny this.
(8) identified as a monkey (qop) by the editors, based on the erroneous view (promoted by Hamilton, 209-221) that the sign for Q is the Sadey character of the proto-alphabet, which is actually a tied bag (s.rr) (o<, compare Arabian S., and Phoenicia S.adey, which has one side of the bag removed, as P has one lip of the mouth missing), but the sack is remoulded by Hamilton and now Vainstub and his team, to represent an ape; they even add a tail to this one; the true Q/q is a cord (Hebrew qaw) wound on a stick (--o- or --o< with the end of the string shown); the Arabian scripts attest --o- unanimously! It stands unobserved in Sinai 345, 363, 376, all Asa inscriptions. The main photograph (Fig. 14) seems to allow a long stem extending right down to the teeth; this is certainly so with letter 16, also apparently Q.
(9) M andnot N (snake) but it is depicted thus (
\/\ ) on the drawing (Fig. 18) and subjected to special pleading, dubiously characterizing it as "a reduced mem" (97) with only one wave remaining of the water sign (/\/\/\/\); but if we gather together some of the other lines floating around below it we can see an untidy M, and it becomes the L needed to create the word QML, "louse"; but more thought needs to be given to what is really here.


( )  Here at the top right corner there is a missing piece of the ivory, on which a letter may have been engraved.
(10)  L  a C-shaped character, apparently, but I think it has a stem and a loop, like 7 and 9 (according to my interpretation of them).
(  )  a vertical wavy line, which could be a water-sign, Mem, or a meaningless scratch.
(11)  "This letter shows no resemblance to any letter known so far in the corpus of Canaanite inscriptions", and this incorrect assertion is followed by four pages of speculation to make the unidentifeid sign represent a sibilant (98-101); they search for "an animal with a slightly triangular head", and they propose (among other animal and vegetable improbabilities) a snake (srp, with Sin as its sibilant); of course, the serpent (adder and cobra) is in the proto-syllabary and the proto-alphabet as NA and N, and I will identify one in the top line, far left; the simple solution to the present problem is that this is the head of a fish, and its body (with scales? and a dorsal fin? and a tail?) is detectable. Experts on the Phoenician and Hebraic alphabets can not see the fish on the Izbet Sartah ostracon, in the 'abagadary, roughly in the position of Samek, but obviously Samek, which would be acrophonically derived from samk "fish", not dag "fish", representing D (a fishy tale spread by Hamilton, 66 -75); the fish in the fourth line of the Qeiyafa ostracon is likewise left unnetted; incidentally, the script on these two ostraca is the Neo-syllabary. Our friend Asa the Smith of Sinai has the fish-sign for his Samek.
(12) `(ayn)  an eye, with two confusing dots, as on the fish head; situated above H (4).
(13)  R (a human head) is expected here, to provide the word S`R "hair"; this "location" is described as "completely damaged"; the main photograph (Fig. 14) seems to depict a head with hairs standing on end, showing nits; another possible head is a ghostly image above this spot.
(14)  [K?] I suspect another X-shaped letter is lurking in this damaged area (where fingers manipulating the comb pressed heavily?); they suggest W.
(  )  [W?] 
I detect a vertical --o on Fig. 17 and also Fig. 14.
(  )  [L?]   a horizontal stroke with a round end, touching the stem of the Waw.
(15)  Z a clear "bow-tie", or plausibly a double ax-head to Hamilton; I have proposed manacles (ziqq); Hamilton and Vainstub only know of two other instances:  Sinai 375a (but they do not realize that it says mpkt zkt "pure turquoise"), and the Izbet Sartah ostracon (where it represents neosyllabic ZA), but other examples are recorded here.
(16) the two projections (end of stick and end of cord) do not meet to form a semicircle (Fig. 17), and rightly so; the same applies on letter 8; one stroke is the top of the stick, the other is the end of the cord wound on the stick .

(  )  N needed for the word ZQN "beard", and a cobra (curved tail on the right, neck on the left, possibly with a head?) is visible on Fig. 17 and the best view is on the NYT photograph; the snake is similar to this one from Egypt:

(17)  K another X-shaped sign, with an additional line at the bottom; this reminds me of the K in Sinai 351, unmistakably K, as the initial consonant in the recurring word KBShN "furnace", but interpreted as Taw by Albright. 

The title of the editio princeps article runs: "A Canaanite's wish to eradicate lice on an inscribed ivory comb from Lachish". The implications of this would be: the language of the inscription is West Semitic, and the text contains words for eradicate, lice, ivory, and comb. The editors add an apt quotation from the Babylonian Talmud (Niddah 20b):
"He sent to her a comb that kills lice"
This is Aramaic, a West Semitic language closely related to the  "Canaanic" and "Hebraic" tongues.  The final word in the sentence, KLMY, "lice" turns up on the comb as QML (with the original Q, and before metathesis changed ML to LM), but I regard it as singular "louse", as is QML, "a louse", on the ancient Aramaic Sefire inscription (105-106, a summary of the various Semitic forms of the term); but it might be used as a collective noun here. The "ivory" is discovered as H.T., a rare word for an animal tooth, translated here as "tusk"; but that reading is quite wrong, and the accompanying Dh for "this" is an unfortunate fabrication. The word corresponding to "kill" is construed as YTSh, from the root NTSh, meaning "expel", or "root out" in their translation, equivalent to "eradicate" in the title of their article; but the Yod is actually 'Alep, and the Taw is K. There is no word for comb in their reading, but it covered by their non-existent "tusk", a tooth term; in my interpretation the text is a statement made by the comb itself.
    Here is my analysis of the inscription, which apparently runs thus:
' K Sh R H M T K L Q M L
L S ` R K W L Z Q
    Literally (agonizingly so!):
"I will cause to succeed the putting to death of every louse
from your hair and from your beard"

: I am taking the V-shaped consonant as 'alep, the X-shaped letter as K, the W-shaped sign as Sh or Th, and the neglected fourth letter as R, a vertical stylized human head with a short neck. This would produce a verb, first person singular imperfect, from the root KShR (as in kosher!). This root was originally KThR, and if this text is using the Protoconsonantary we would have to read the word as 'KThR. The root is known in the name KThR-W-KhSS ("skillful and intelligent"), the god of arts and crafts in Ugaritic myths; and it is found as Akkadian kasharu "succeed". It is not much attested in Biblical Hebrew, but its semantic range covers "be right, fitting, successful" and "do successfully"; The Hip`il causative form is found in Ecclesiates/Qohelet 10:10, "cause to succeed": "wisdom gives success". I think that is what we have here: "I cause to succeed", or perhaps "I do successfully".
HMT: H for hillulu "exultation", M a vertical wavy line, a small + cross. This would be the grammatical object of the preceding verb; it could be a verbal noun (infinitive) from the root MWT "die", again a Hip'il form, but with its initial H intact, "causing to die", or "putting to death"; the result is perhaps "I will successfully put to death", and lice will be the object of this combination. If there is indeed a Waw floating around in that space, it might produce HMWT, showing all the consonants of the root MWT; or as a it might be a logogram for "good" or "well", "exterminate for good", as it were.
KL: definitely K, not Dh; clearly L, the Semitic word for "all" or "every".
QML: a word for louse, which takes many forms, as stated above and noted by the editors (105-106), hence "every louse".  In the Bible, kén is possibly "louse", or some other pest that moves in swarms, such as "gnat" (Exodus 8:16-21).



The caption does not express a wish for relief from parasites by means of the comb; it is an affirmation made by the comb itself that it is kosher, fit for purpose, proficient to exterminate every louse in the user's hair and beard.

Friday, October 21, 2022


 In the past, over many years, I have thought about the languages and writing systems of Crete and Cyprus (all the scripts belonged to a family, but there was a variety of tongues), and my musings have ended up as essays and tables on my websites (Cryptcracker and Collesseum). This one will be something like "Ancient Kaptar (Crete) revisited". The main reason for this return visit is that I have discovered, at long last, a mention of Kaptar (alias Keftiu and Kaphtor) in a Linear A inscription.

The name KAPTAR
Kaptar was a name applied to Crete in the Bronze Age; it was Kaphtor in the Bible (Kaphtorim were from Kaphtor, Deuteronomy 2:23; Philistines came from Kaphtor, Amos 9:7; ditto, Jeremiah 47:4);
in Ugaritic texts; and Keftiu in Egypt.
Kaptar is attested in the 18th Century BCE in a document of Zimri-Lim in the palace of Mari (on the Euphrates River): a measure of tin (in minas) "to the Kaptarian (a-na kap-ta-ra-i-im)", and also "to the interpreter (targaman, dragoman) of the chief merchant of the Kaptarians in Ugarit" (Davis, 182). Notice the need for an interpreter for the merchants of Kaptar in the West Semitic (Amorian, Amorite) kingdoms of Mari and Ugarit. So the Kaptarians might be Anatolian or Grecian (Danaian), according to the choices I see for the ethnic types in Bronze Age Crete, but others are possible.

 I have now turned my gaze towards the Keftiu incantation in the London Medical Papyrus (14th Century BCE); firstly because I wanted to look at the subject again; and secondly because I had I have experienced difficulties: getting copies of the incantations,

Resources from my own vast library (every room in the house has books, and the spacious garage has 15 bookcases, and an electric bike, but no car):
   Richard C. Steiner, Northwest Semitic incantations in an Egyptian medical papyrus of the fourteenth century B.C.E., Journal of Near Eastern Studies 51. 3 (1992) 191-200.
   Brent Davis,  Minoan stone vessels with Linear A inscriptions (2014) 182-189 (ancient sources of information on Minoan language).
The Keftiu incantation is embedded in a set of Northwest Semitic magical spells transcribed into Egyptian hieratic syllabic script ("group writing"), in the section numbered 27 to 33; modern scholarship has discovered their Semiticness.

No 32 is said to be in the language of Keftiu. One implication of this statement might be that even though Spell 32 is embedded in a series of Semitic utterances it is in a different language. On the other hand, it might mean that this spell is in the Cretan Semitic dialect. An assumption is sometimes made that the next spell in the series (33) is also Keftian, and it is clearly Semitic; but the scribe has not told us this, and so we should not assume it.
Richard Steiner has had extensive experience in reading Semitic texts written in Egyptian scripts, and he gives alphabetic transcriptions of these incantation texts, but passes over No 32, on the assumption that it would be non-Semitic (196).

As a prelude to our examination of No 32, we should perhaps look at some examples from the collection.
The first three (27-29) are fragmentary, but No 30 ("incantation against the fnt [snake]", a kind of worm?) is clear enough;  but it seems to have at least one error (a b omitted in the second  sbkn); Steiner's interpretation is:
   sbkn 'mr s(b)kn (twice) 'mrnu hrsn
   Leave us, I say, Leave us. We have said our incantation.
The verb sbk is taken as cognate with Aramaic ShBQ, as in the cry from the cross, "My God, why hast thou forsaken me? (sabakhthani in Greek transcription, Mark 15:34).  However, if we refrain from emending the skn, we might invoke ShKN, and hence "Submit" or "Settle" (take up your abode elsewhere); but the determinative "twice" demands that we repeat it as sbkn, "Leave us" (Begone from us). Further, hrsn needs to be modified metathetically to give us LHSh, "whispering", used in the Bible for snake-charming (Is 3:3, Jer 8:17, Qo/Eccl 10:11). As always, my epigraphic principle applies: Only the writer of the words knew their intended meaning, and in this case the Egyptian scribe may have had no idea what they meant; I also find myself groping about in the dark.
No 33 is against smun (disease), Akkadian samânu. Steiner interprets this portion of it:
   ... yd (walking legs) h.mktu (seated person) rpy (deity) ...
   ... let the strangulation demon(s) go out, my Healer ...

Brent  Davis (Fig. 110) provides a beautiful hieroglyphic transcription of Spell 32, but only an English translation of the introductory statement
"Spell for the Asiatic illness in the language of the Keftiu".
I would like to know whether "the" is with Keftiu in the Egyptian text; Davis (n. 1048) has it also as 'the "language of Keftiu"'. In another 14th C. inscription (mortuary temple of Amenhotep III) Crete is named k-f-ti-u, with the hill-country determinative for foreign land, although mainland ta-na-yu without a determinative, for which Davis (182) proposes Danaoi.

Following Brent Davis (186) I would transcribe No 32 thus (V = vowel):
sa an ta ka pV pi wa ya 'a ya mV Vn ta r  ku ka ra

The term "Asiatic" in the introduction to the spell means Semitic, and looking at the text Semitically, kukara resembles kikkar (disc-shaped "talent", or round loaf of bread, kakkaru in Akkadian), and santaka conjures up "your (-ka) sleep", or "your hatred" (used for the supposed animosity of Yahweh towards his people Israel, Deuteronomy 1:27), or "your teeth"; but in each of my suggestions the first vowel is different from the Egyptian, though samânu is written s-mu-n in No 33, I notice.
   Next, p piwaya could be "in my mouth", and this invites "your teeth" and the "bread" to form a picture; -ntar might imply the root nt.r "guard, keep", or ntr "leap" or 'tear apart". Does the patient have difficulty in making his food stay in his stomach?
   Finally, 'ayam, and a word aya  appears in Linear A as possibly "indeed", or it is h.ayyam "alive" or "life" (Lekhayim! To Life!), and the problem is staying alive in defiance of this sickness.
(Maybe it will be clearer to me tomorrow morning, but a Semitic text seems possible here.)

Louise Hitchcock expressed the thought that we might expect a bit of Greek at this stage of Cretan history, with Akhaians (Mykenians) in control.

Some scholars would like it to be Anatolic, and I am ever on the lookout for something in an indigenous language of Crete; and so the Anatolian deities Sandas and Kubaba have been proposed for the opening sequence (reported in Davis n. 1052); this seems likely. Shanta is an Anatolian god in plague spells.

This interpretation of No 32 has been shared with me:
sa an ta ka pV pi wa ya 'a ya mV Vn ta r  ku ka ra
"Shanta, Kupapa come! Perform the mantillya anointing ritual"
The sequence sa-ta occurs on Hagia Triada tablet 117a.7;
and ku-pa-pa on HT 88.4; but there may not be any connection.

Brent Davis observes that No 32 has 9 of the 12 consonants in the Linear A inventory (q z d absent), and none of the "distinctively Afroasiatic consonants" (Davis, 186), as compared with No 33 (h.) and No 30 (h); this would appear to exclude Semitic, which would struggle to fit its more than two dozen consonants into a system that apparently catered only for a dozen.

However, as I have attempted to demonstrate heretofore in this forum, I am certain that most of the religious inscriptions written in Linear A (the stylized Knossos script) are West Semitic, and I am now about to add another one to my list, one which I had hoped was Anatolic or Hellenic, but is arguably Semitic, and apparently includes the name Kaptar.

Do you know the one I mean?

Knossos Zf 13 Gold Ring


If this is a Semitic inscription, we need to remind ourselves that more than two dozen consonants have to be accommodated in the Linear A inventory with one dozen consonants.
   Thus, R syllabograms cover R and L,  while S serves for a range of sibilant sounds (S S. Sh Th), and the gutturals have to be ignored in transcription; P includes B, K embraces G, and so on. Here am I trying to prove that most Linear A inscriptions are West Semitic,  and there are so many variables that my readings look illusory,  like confidence tricks. The words are not separated by spaces or marks, but here is an attempt to find some, and make a coherent statement out of them.
ARE  `al (The  `ayin guttural is ignored, the L is represented by R, and the final -e should be treated as a "dead" vowel) "upon, about, by"
NESI (Hebrew nasi') "prince, leader, ruler"
DI (WS d) "of"
SOPI (Hbr. s.aba') "host, army"
KEPAYATARI  (apparently lurking here is one of the names of Crete, that is, Kaptara, Egyptian Keftiu, Hebrew Kaphtor, named in the Bible as the previous home of the Philistians, and presumably also of the Kaptorians and Keretians; the YA in the middle is disconcerting; if it were misplaced from the end of the word it would produce an adjective, Kaptarian)

"By order of the leader of the army of Kaptar"

For the rest, ITE could be 'et "with" or "the". MEA might be "100".  RIME, perhaps from the root rwm, "be high". The final letter is probably U, though it may be AB34, which I transcribe as KRA, and here perhaps standing for QRA, the root  qr' "call, summon, decree". I would like to get something like "supreme command" out of all this. YAKRA
See now the additions made to this study of the gold ring, at the end of

The Anatolic language of Crete has been detected in personal names, and in inscriptions that I can not decipher (!). Who is working on them? Call up the hittitologists!

Shalom/ Shelama/ Salaam

Brian Edric Colless PhD ThD


Wednesday, December 15, 2021


Photograph [1] Rectangular Lakish Sherd
Credit: Felix Höflmayer et al., 2021 (figure by J. Dye,
which is clearer in its original setting, see below for the link)


This is the first part of a series on
West Semitic Syllabic and Consonantal Scripts 

The first thing I must say is this: many scholars are named in this exposition, and I am not meaning to make personal attacks on any of them; they are respected colleagues. My criticism is directed at the flawed tradition they are upholding, and the errors that they and I commit with our damaged implements, when we are studying ancient West Semitic inscriptions. If the reader detects lampooning in this exposé, please keep in mind that I personally use the word "lampoon" to signify "shining a lamp on a thing to show up its silliness". However, I am still free to satirize my own self and its failings.
   This is work in progress; I am posting it at this constructional stage so that you can see where I am coming from, and where I am going to, and how I arrive at my destinations, and reach my provisional conclusions; I want to set up sign-posts (an apt metaphor under the circumstances of surveying significant signs) to show others the right paths to proceed along, and also offer a compass to guide us in the right directions; accordingly, a typology of categories is being presented here to encompass the corpus of early West Semitic scripts and inscriptions.
   I hope I will not spoil your search for truth if I tell you now that I am trying to demonstrate ("prove" and end with QED, quod erat demonstrandun) that the script on this sherd is not consonantal alphabetic, as is widely and unthinkingly claimed, but syllabic; and the same applies to the talismanic
cylinders from Tuba (Tell Umm el-Marra in Syria), which have also been given warranted publicity, but unwarranted interpretation.
   If you have fallen into the trap of "pan-alphabeticism", an obsessive compulsion disorder, and you can only see "Early Alphabetic" in ancient West Semitic syllabic and consonantal texts alike, then I am here to help you out of this pandemic affliction; with your compunction and our shared compassion, this ailment can be cured, and the masks concealing shamefaced countenances can be removed. However, this journey is a long and arduous trek, tortuous and torturous, with a profusion of  details to be absorbed, and so you may prefer to just look at the pictures and try to recognize some of the scary characters: logograms, syllabograms, consonantograms, acropictophonograms, rebograms. Or perhaps you will be happy to take my word for it: practitioners in this field are blithely and blissfully unaware of the disgrace they are  heaping upon themselves by blindly disregarding the presence of the early West Semitic proto-syllabary as the constant companion of
its own offspring, the proto-consonantary (that is, the proto-alphabet). This is an opportunity for me to give an overall summary of my system, and enshrine my ideas on the Worldwide Web, allowing them to hover over the closed dark grottoes where the early alphabet ìnvalids feed on the fetid flesh of inválid fallacies and fantasies; and when I have departed to even higher realms, in my original form as stardust, the rock ceilings may collapse under the weight of this knowledge, and the healing waters may cleanse the sick, and the illuminating light restore them to the health of truth; meanwhile, methinks I need a remedy for my hyperbolic colic.
   Confession: I have been working on this project since April 2021, and I still can not say that I have definitively deciphered the message in this inscription; I would be disappointed if I had to conclude that the scribe was merely practising random letters. However, on the 14th of June 2021 I came to a tentative conclusion that the message on the sherd contains the verb `BD (work, transitive) and the noun GANNAT (garden), and it says: "I am cultivating the garden".
   More news: on my 85th birtthday anniversary, 12th of July (shared with the Battle of the Boyne) I received another "(Proto-)Canaanite" inscription, from Khirbet al-Ra`i, which is situated near Tell Lachish.; apparently it bears the name YRB`L, an alias of Judge Gid`on in the Bible (Judges 6-9); and it is also being hailed as a "missing link"; but I am still waiting for the "unmissing links" to be discovered by scholars other than myself.

   Pass through the turnstile here, and embark on the lechery cruiser for your voyage of uncovery (a printer's devil or diabolical gremlin has interfered with this pious ejaculation, I fear).
   This is your ticket, your worker's pass permitting you to labour in a particular garden.

Here we go again: from the ruin-mound of ancient Lakish (modern Tel Lachish in Israel, Arabic name Tell ed-Duweir) a sherd with yet another antique West Semitic inscription has been brought to light, and published aptly in the journal Antiquity, and also conveniently put on open internet access  by Cambridge University Press. (15 April 2021)


We can see from these two titles that the four authors are promoting it as "the missing link" in the early development of the alphabet; I  think that it might be a piece from a different series, and not the alphabetic chain they have in mind. However, they argue that the Carbon 14 method of dating is now more reliable, and so they can assert: "Dating to the fifteenth century BC, this inscription is currently the oldest securely dated alphabetic inscription from the Southern Levant, and may therefore be regarded as the ‘missing link’."
   Regrettably, from my viewing point, some "fake news" and "alternate facts" are lurking here, although this was not the intention of the authors; what I mean is that the epigraphist Haggai Misgav and the rest of the team (Felix Höflmayer, Lyndelle Webster, Katharina Streit) have jumped to the incorrect conclusion; in football terms, Misgav has scored an own goal, by mistakenly kicking the ball into the wrong net, and losing a point for his side; in plain language, they have not asked the crucial question: Is this text syllabic or consonantal? Complying with the deplorable practice in the infertile field of West Semitic epigraphy, they have simply assumed that it is alphabetical, that is, consonantal, where each letter represents a consonant;  but it might be a syllabic text, in which each character is a syllabogram, representing a syllable (consonant plus one of three vowels: BU, BA, BI). Consequently, their identifications for its letters could be entirely erroneous, and their attempt to determine its place in the early history of the alphabet will be replete with alternative facts, in the sense of irrelevant data, including a swarm of speculations, causing them to gamble recklessly, and back the wrong horse on the wrong course; pardon my coarse language. Needless to say, no mention is made of any published research results with the name Colless attached to them; this is a regrettable oversight, but the times are changing. It is still my mission to speak out when academics inadvertently cross the line between truth and error, and  to tell them that they are innocently guilty of a serious transgression: promulgating incorrect information about the four early West Semitic scripts.
   On the scale of merit, in their review of "other potential early alphabetic examples from the area" ("Historical context") they do not include any syllabic inscriptions; in contrast, Christopher Rollston's survey of the evidence (in his essay cited immediately below) is heavily on the demerit side, unable to distinguish syllabic from consonantal, and it will be my task to arrange his monomial list of plants (an unhealthy monocultural crop) into four separate garden-beds (this metaphor is appropriate, because Semitic words for garden will have an important part to play in my discussion of the data).

Coincidentally, a claim has also been made for some inscribed clay objects from a tomb in ancient Tuba (Tell Umm el-Marra in Syria, east of  the antediluvian but still newsworthy city Aleppo): these tiny artefacts allegedly have the oldest examples of alphabetic writing known to us. This is a stupendous claim, or perhaps a stupid idea, if the writing is actually syllabic. I can see the mother (umm) of all alphabets in these specimens of writing, but not the proto-alphabet itself. This Arabic word for “mother” reminds me to tell you that I will be using the term West Semitic (covering the scripts and languages of the region that extends from Syria down to the Arabian peninsula, but excluding East Semitic Mesopotamia), rather than North-West Semitic (referring only to Syria-Palestine, also known as the Levant), and this is because Arabia was also involved in the development of the early alphabet.

[2] Tuba tubular amulets, with West Semitic proto-syllabic writing

"Tell Umm el-Marra (Syria) and Early Alphabetic in the Third Millennium: Four Inscribed Clay Cylinders as a Potential Game Changer" (Christopher Rollston, George Washington University)
This article by Colin Barras has been published in New Scientist (24 April 2021) page 15 (and that is where I studied it, not being a subscriber with access to their website, although I buy this magazine at my local shop every week). Three scholars were asked for their opinion: Aaron Koller (Yeshiva University, New York) was doubtful, as he could not fit this evidence into "our current theories about the invention of the alphabet" (but the current theories are faulty, and it has a primary place in my theory; I thought he knew that from our past correspondence); Benjamin Sass (Tel Aviv University) does not know what the script is, but these objects do not challenge his ideas of the alphabet's invention (in fact they do affect his ideas, which are constantly moving further away from reality); John Darnell (Yale University) was more open, suggesting that these signs could represent "a proto-history" of the alphabet (and he is right, but he would not know why, even though we have discussed his discovery of really early alphabetic writing in the Wadi el-Hol in Egypt, and he has responded favourably to my interpretation).
   Glenn Schwartz, one of the archaeologists who found these objects, is Professor of Archaeology at Johns Hopkins University; his colleague P. Kyle McCarter, now W. F. Albright Professor Emeritus, is listed as one of his consultants; McCarter works in the field of West Semitic epigraphy and is reputedly an expert on the origin of the alphabet; he should have been able to assist Schwartz in identifying this writing system, but he is a member of the American school of thought that only countenances an "early alphabetic" category, and  (on pain of loss of tenure and reputation) they ignore the parallel line of "early syllabic", even though this is fundamental to the other. Their university was formerly the base of the great William Foxwell Albright (1891-1971, the polymath who practised Biblical Archaeology alongside philology. Albright was an unashamed orientalist, and he is my guru for Ancient Near Eastern studies. Albright certainly recognized the significance of the inscriptions from Byblos ("the Canaanites had invented a syllabary of their own, clearly modeled to some extent after the Egyptian hieroglyphic system"); he thought that this would have happened before the end of the 3rd millennium BCE, in the time of "the Old Empire" (1961, 334); the writing on the Tuba cylinders could fit into this framework. Disappointingly, although Albright acknowledged that the proto-alphabet was "the direct progenitor" of the later Phoenician alphabet, he averred  that "there is little reason to believe that it was directly influenced by the earlier syllabic script of Byblos" (1961, 339f) . Unfortunately, Albright's opinion on the syllabary, and his defective detective work on the early alphabetic inscriptions, culminating in his faulty table of signs and values, have severely corrupted "archaeological research", in its wider sense.                                    
   In his book on  Archaeology and the Religion of Israel (1942, 1968, p. 36) Albright states that he is using the term "archaeology" in its inclusive sense, covering all written documents and unwritten materials; but occasionally he restricts it to its narrower meaning, which excludes  "philological investigation". Glenn Schwartz, the archaeologist, certainly has a philological side encompassing languages and literature, having studied Assyriology with Benjamin R. Foster, and he was probably expecting to find cuneiform texts on clay tablets in his excavations, but instead he discovered linear markings on little clay cylinders. Glenn has been mulling over the script for years, and has now plumped (in an injuriously  heavy fall) for earliest alphabetic, even though I told him long ago (when the fragments were first publicised on the expedition's website) that it was the West Semitic syllabary (or Canaanite syllabary, or Byblos script), which I now call the West Semitic proto-syllabary,  and I maintain that it was the predecessor and progenitor and companion of the early alphabet.
    In his "Potential Game Changer" essay (cited above), Rollston supports Schwartz, and in so doing he has become another of the  epigraphists who can not differentiate the proto-syllabary from the proto-alphabet, a benighted band who will never be knighted (well, they are nearly all US Americans). On the other hand, we could admit that Rollston and Schwartz are approximately one-third right, since most of the letters of the Phoenician consonantal alphabet (which has no signs to represent vowels) and the subsequent Greco-Roman vocalic alphabet (with vowel-letters) were originally in the West-Semitic syllabary; they were borrowed from the proto-syllabary for the new consonantal writing system, and continued on into the European alphabets. So a mistake like this would seem to be excusable. However,  an examination mark of 33% is a D-grade, and in the realm of failure. As you can see, I am trying to write this so that university students can understand, since my hopes are invested in them, that they will understand this elementary (LMN-T) theory, which has already been verified by experiments, but is incomprehensible to established academics, because (1) they did not think of it, so it must be wrong, and (2) it is not what their teacher taught them, and (3) it is propagated by three marginal scholars (Colless, Mendenhall, Hoch), who are dying or dead. For my part (alone and the one in the dying category), desperation could be creeping in; but inconstant continents were eventually but reluctantly allowed to drift, by hidebound scientists; and syllablic-consonantal paradigms can shift, too, if scholars take their blindfolds and blinkers off. By the way, the considerable number of shared signs in the syllabary and the consonantary will be an important aspect of our interpretation of the new Lakish inscription.
   I would like to clarify this matter  here and now, at the very outset. By rehearsing all the background details, I will strengthen my own case in my own mind, and hopefully teach the reader how to interpret early West Semitic writing. For those outside this subject area, my presentation may be funny ha-ha (take note, there is our first syllabogram, and HA is represented by the ground-plan of a temple when you are looking for it); for those professionally involved in this area it may possibly be funny-peculiar and offensive to boot. 
   Here beginneth the first lesson. George Mendenhall and myself each compiled tables of sound-values for the syllabograms in the collection of inscriptions from Gubla/ Gebal/ Byblos; mine was based on his, and I have been applying it to many other texts, such as these Tuba examples.

A better view possible at: (The West Semitic Proto-Syllabary)
Glenn Schwartz does not find my views on his cylinders convincing (he graciously gave me a footnote in 2010: "this interpretation does not seem persuasive"); but his ideas are based on mystical meditation on the Indus script (by the way, the lotus position is known in that civilization), and external inspection of a few samples from Byblos for comparison, without internal investigation of the proto-syllabic system in all its manifestations around the ancient world, including Atlantic Europe and Transatlantic America. He has now dived in deeply out of his depth, suggesting that the characters are early alphabetic letters; he thinks he can find versions of  A, L, O, and K, but he can not identify any words.

[3] Tuba tubular amulets with proto-syllabic writing

    A would not be the vowel a, but rather 'Alep/Alpha (glottal stop in Semitic) and represented by the head of an ox, still visible to us today if the A is inverted; he must be referring to the glyph in the middle of the second piece; in his 2010 drawing he omitted the clear vertical stroke, and included the faint horizontal line at the top, to produce a vaguely bovine head; no, it is not a short-horned bull, but probably WA (waw, a hook or nail) and that is certainly carried over from the proto-syllabary into the the proto-consonantary (the early alphabet) as W.
    O would be `Ayin, an eye, which certainly appeared in the Phoenician alphabet as a circle (sometimes with a central dot), in the Iron Age, and went vocalic as O in the international alphabet; but the circle (with or without the dot that is present here) was the sun in the Bronze Age, standing for the syllable SHI and the consonant Sh (from shimsh "sun").
    must be at the right end of the top piece, but I take that to be `U, `Ayin plus U; or else the curved line at the left end of the bottom fragment, but that is NI, a tusk, which was surplus to requirements in the proto-alphabet, and the snake that was NA and which became simple N is at the end of the lower piece; at the start of the top fragment is a bee (nubtu > NU) every scribe struggled with drawing this character, and there was no standard form; and when the consonantal alphabet was constructed, the snake (NA) told the bee (NU)  to buzz off, and take the tusked elephant (NI) with her. Hey, it's a jungle out there, and a jungle book in here. This knowledge is for children, too, so I am reaching out to them, trusting them to pass it on to their elders.
    K.  Yes.  OK. That tripodic figure is KA (actually three fingers of a hand, apparently, or think of it as a thumb with the four fingers in a V-form, or the three main fingers shown with the thumb and fourth finger embracing behind), and by sleight of hand it slipped into the alphabet as K; we will meet it again in an early alphabetic inscription from Thebes; but the story of the letter K is complicated.
   In case you have missed my point, I am arguing that Schwartz has no idea how he should interpret these early examples of West Semitic writing; but you may also detect uncertainty in my identifications for the characters.

[3] Tuba tubular amulets

   What have we overlooked? There is one more letter awaiting our attention at the end of fragment 1, and a portion of something at the broken end of fragment 2. The latter sign is difficult to discern
   HI could easily go unnoticed (to my eternal shame I overlooked it in my early research on these texts); we focus on the end of the top piece and see a reversed E; this syllabogram is indeed the ultimate origin of E (Epsilon not Eta); the middle stroke has a short extension that might well be complemented by the short stroke on the small piece, pictured below, on the recapitulation of Photo 2; in any case, the other end of this stem seems to have a circle, for a head, and the whole character represents a person in jubilation (hillul, as in Halleluyah).
   The other mysterious marking may in fact be complete; thus a curved line with two crossbars can be GU (gupnu "vine"); the word gu means "voice", which would be reminiscent of the term "true of voice" for deceased persons who have passed the judgement of the heart and gained entry to the realm of Osiris, the god of resurrection. A circle with one crossbar at the top of the stem would be Egyptian `Ankh, a symbol of life (the top vertebra of a bull) and produce H.I (h.iwatu "life"). A circle with two crossbars on its stem is the nefer symbol of goodness and beauty, which combines with Semitic t.abu ("good") to render syllabic T.A and alphabetic T. (and finally Theta). We could break our bee (NU) into two pieces, and discover `Ankh.  It so happens that these two logograms denoting "good" and "life" appear in another proto-syllabic inscription (mistakenly published as early alphabetic) on an amulet against sickness, from Egypt.
   NA. We now need to scrutinize the two serpents at the end of each NIKAWANA sequence (see the photographs below). There is no doubt that the snake (NA) passed into the alphabet to act as the letter N (note that the head is on the right side in Roman N); in the proto-alphabet the snake for N could be a reposing cobra (Egyptian hieroglyph I10) or a prone viper (I9), but the syllabary preferred the erect cobra (I12); and that is what we are looking at here; examining the tail of each serpent, we see that it is not flat on the ground but has a curve or an angle (as in the hieroglyph); this feature occurs consistently in the Byblos syllabic texts (though I have not made this detail clear on my various tables). We need to grasp this rearing reptile by the tail and hold on to it till the very end; this is the key component in my argumentation. Of course, you can steer off course and look fore or aft at the Lakish sherd and see my sneaky snaky point, and expend no more energy on this journey.
   Here I need to say that my readings are tentative, according to the Colless principle that the only person who knows the intended meaning of an inscription is the person who wrote it. Accordingly we can commiserate with Glenn Schwartz as he attempts to make sense of  his great discoveries; but these texts are early syllabic not earliest alphabetic; he was arguing from the wrong premiss (like the two women in their respective apartments shouting at each other across their alley; a passing philosopher observed that they could never agree because they were arguing from different premises). I intend to prove to you that my premiss is the right one in this case.

[2] Tuba tubular amulets
 Top left: nu-shi-`u, "saved"
Bottom left and top right: ni-ka-wa-na, "established"

Glenn Schwartz could not identify any words in these markings. You want woids? How about this pleasant plethora of verbose verbiage. Imagine the triumphant headline: "Oldest missing link for the Semitic root that gave us the name Jesus found on an ancient lucky charm for salvation and resurrection in a luxurious élite tomb in war-torn Syria is a potential game changer".
   In this regard, Glenn thinks his artefacts could be amulets, and I would support this idea; and the two words I have detected (nu-shi-`u, "saved"and ni-ka-wa-na, "established") seem appropriate to dead people undergoing judgement before entering the next world. This could mean that the three occupants of the tomb were believers in the Egyptian view of the afterlife, and their minuscule documents were equivalent to the Book of the Dead that an Egyptian man or woman carried with them into the judgement hall. As I see it, the man, woman, and child were comfortably installed in their resting place, with plenty of pots providing sustenance for their sojourn, and a spear to protect them; subsequently their tomb became a crime scene: they were victims of posthumous murder!
   The grave was a double square rectangle, with the north and south walls twice as long as the west and east sides. The male body was centered at the west wall, right next to a collection of unbroken pots in the northwest corner. The female bones were in the corner of the west and south walls, and her jewelry was still there, suggesting that robbery was not the foremost motive in the mind of the tomb-raider. The child's body was further down the south wall. This arrangement could imply that they were all headed westwards, to a paradise. There is a line of three smashed pots, running SE from the NW corner, and the four cylinder fragments were found in their vicinity. If these were talismans, threaded on a string, they could have been on the bodies, and the destroyer tore them away and shattered them, in the belief that these tickets to eternity would now be inválid; but they could conceivably have been strung around the three broken jars, which contained the most important organ of each person, namely the heart; the placing of the heart in a vessel is in accordance with Egyptian funeral customs; it was not the brain that would be judged, but the heart, because it contained the memory, and the record of the person's actions and experiences in life would be recorded on the tablets of the heart (learned by heart, as the saying still goes).
   Further discussion on the identification of the characters is given elsewhere: my 2007 recognition of the script on these cylindrical objects has now been updated here:
This assessment is reported in my article on "The origin of the alphabet" in Antiguo Oriente 12, 71-104, Colless 2014:78, n. 22), and "The Mediterranean Diet in Ancient West Semitic Inscriptions", Damqatum 12, 3-19, Collesss 2016:4-5); so it has been published in academic journals, and both articles are available at:

[3] Tuba tubular amulets

  Yes, the Umm el-Marra/Tuba texts can be confidently regarded as the oldest-known West Semitic inscriptions written in a West Semitic script, but it is the proto-syllabary not the proto-consonantary. Christopher Rollston is quite wrong in asserting that these Tuba inscriptions are "Early Alphabetic".     
   To bolster his case for  widespread employment of the alphabet, Rollston  presents a list of "Early Alphabetic" inscriptions, which is actually an unsorted jumble of four different categories of syllabic and consonantal texts (it is reproduced and rearranged at the end of this essay). I think it is scandalous that the people who work professionally in this field can allow themselves to ignore the so-called Byblos pseudo-hieroglyphic syllabary (the West Semitic proto-syllabary); sadly, it amounts to an undeclared and unintended conspiracy, and it must be recognized and remedied.

   Now, before we study the new Lakish inscription, let me lay down the foundations again. The first basic thing is that I do not believe anything. Why? because all human knowledge is tentative (merely a messy mass of attempts to make sense of all the phenomena around us), and provisional (with multiple provisos attached to it, open to alteration by new evidence and fresh insights). However, I give a large amount of credence to my theory of the origin of the alphabet; and I am encouraged by the number of people who are  looking at my essay on the subject, in these two places:

     I weep with Cassandra. "When will they ever learn?" Complicated writing systems with hundreds of characters (such as Mesopotamian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphic) have been successfully deciphered; but the simple little proto-alphabet is ravaged by all who lay hands on her; and her mother the proto-syllabary is not difficult to deal with, and yet she is shunned.  Such a state of affairs is disconcerting and disgraceful, and all my efforts to remedy it have failed, it would seem. My credentials are derived from eighty years of wrestling with the writing systems of humankind, starting with the most intractable of them all: English alphabetic orthography.
    This is an opportunity for me to expound my ideas and discoveries relating to the evolution of the alphabet, comprehensively but concisely. These are the facts (tentative, but tenable, not tenuous):
the West Semitic syllabary, alias the proto-syllabary, was the predecessor and progenitor and companion of the consonantal alphabet; and this non-syllabic pictorial alphabet engendered two more consonantaries and another syllabary; one outcrop of these, the Phoenician consonantary, provided the resources for the construction of the Greco-Roman alphabet.

Rollston kindly gives us the chronological dates and data: the Tuba script (recognizable to me as the proto-syllabary) is Early Bronze Age (more precisely the 24th Century BCE, in the Old Kingdom period of Egypt); and the early alphabet (Sinai, and Egypt) is Middle Bronze Age (possibly 19th Century BCE, Egyptian Middle Kingdom period). This shows that the proto-syllabary preceded the proto-consonantary (the proto-alphabet); but it did not predecease it.

The proto-syllabary was not only the predecessor of the alphabet, but also its procreator; the number of genes or graphemes that they share proves their common lineage, and even parentage on the part of the forerunner. First notice that the proto-syllabary (according to my research calculations) has signs representing slightly less than two dozen (XXIV) consonants, apparently twenty-two (XXII), which is the same number as in the later consonantary (the Phoenician alphabet, from which the Greco-Roman alphabet was fashioned), whereas the proto-alphabet has slightly more than two dozen consonants (XXVII at least). Focusing on the Phoenician alphabet (which developed out of the proto-alphabet), we can see that most of its twenty-two consonantal graphemes (consonantograms) already functioned as syllabic signs (syllabograms) in the West Semitic proto-syllabary; additionally, the gestation of the proto-consonantary (proto-alphabet, with twenty-seven consonants) involved creation of some new "members" on the body (namely D, H, T,
G, Z.).

The two genetically related systems operated side by side; the syllabary did not die in giving birth to the consonantary. The mother and the daughter traveled together over lands and seas, in the 2nd Millennium BCE (Middle and Late Bronze Ages): they both left their traces in Egypt,
Sinai, Canaan, and Scandinavia; and also in the ancient trans-Atlantic continent (Texas, for example) and islands (Jamaica), and notably Puerto Rico, where we find figurines with proto-syllabic and proto-alphabetic inscriptions, and a plaque exhibiting the letters of the proto-alphabet. (Rollston had been consulted about the marks on the figurines, but he did not notice their significance.)


[4] Puerto Rico figurines

Left figurine: 9 syllabograms of consonants `Ayin, H, T
(note crucifix-cross for a T- syllable,
and the 9-shaped HA, temple, which I promised)
Right figurine: The sun-sign Sh stands in the centre
(2 serpents guarding the disc)

Incidentally, it has now been proved that Mediteranean ships could have crossed the ocean to the Americas.
This fellowship of syllabary and consonantary can also be observed at a silver mine in Norway.
  The largest collection of proto-consonantary inscriptions is at the Sinai turquoise mines (Colless 1990).

Three new related systems came into existence, not simply by evolution but through human intervention; I classify them with these technical terms:
neo-consonantary, a shorter consonantal alphabet;
cuneo-consonantary, a cuneiform alphabet, with characters made up of wedge-shaped components;
(3) neo-syllabary, a syllabary constructed from the letters of the neo-consonantary.

(1) First came the neo-consonantary: the pictorial characters became stylized, and the number of letters was reduced; the resulting short alphabet (neo-consonantary) can be distinguished from the long alphabet (proto-consonantary) by the presence of any of the five additional consonantograms listed above, especially >ooo (H), and = (D); at the same time, if we find in the text
a word that originally had H (for instance) but has (example: h.wh. "hole" in Hebrew, but with h in Arabic) then we have an indication of the short alphabet. By the same token, if any of these three additional proto-alphabet signs (= D, >ooo H --|) Z.) appear in a text, then it could not be proto-syllabic, because those consonants are not recorded in the syllabary; the breast sign (\/\/) is an exception, because it functions as SHA (from thad / shad, "breast") in the proto-syllabary, but it is T (Th only) in the proto-consonantary, and then it covers Shin (Sh/Th) in the neo-consonantary (the short alphabet); and the proto-consonantogram G (ghanab, "grape") is a vine-stand, but acts as a T- syllabogram in the proto-syllabary. These are some of the complications of categorizing West Semitic inscriptions, when a  new example comes to our attention. "Early Alphabet" monomania prevents other practitioners from following these proper procedures.

(2) The cuneiform alphabet (cuneo-consonantary) was invented in the Late Bronze Age, modeled on the characters of the proto-alphabet, and it likewise had long and short versions. We have much more evidence of this West Semitic system (most of it from Ugarit), because its clay tablets were less perishable than parchment and papyrus.

[5] Cuneiform consonantary             

               'A B G Kh D H W Z H. T. Y K Sh L
                M Dh N Z. S ` P S. Q R Th
                Gh T 'i 'u `S  
I have a facsimile of this object, purchased at the museum in Damascus, many years ago. Let me demonstrate briefly my idea that the inventor of this partly syllabic cuneiform consonantary (!) tried to represent the pictophonograms of the proto-consonantary with wedge-shaped (cuneiform) components: B a square house constructed with four wedges; G a throwstick, and early versions showed the angle at the top clearly; H (Kh) has the three loops of the hank of thread; D a door, apparently with its post at the bottom; H has the arms and head, but not the body, as with its descendant E; W is a hook; Z has its two triangles represented;,, and Sh have a small wedge on an angle, denoting a circle, and representing the round courtyard of H.; the heart in the nfr/t.ab symbol of beauty (+o); the sun-disc with a serpent or two; Q also has a circle, being a cord wound on a string (--o<); T (+) is a cross, but has only one wedge; the Samek spine-sign (-|-|-|) is clearly represented at the end.

 (3) Another innovation was the neo-syllabary: the alphabetic letters were used as syllabograms, with three syllables (-a, -i, -u) for each consonant, as in the proto-syllabary (and there is a partial analogy in the cuneo-consonantary with its three characters for 'Alep representing these three vowels); generally speaking, the various syllables for each consonant were marked by a change in stance or shape for the usual character. This time the roles have been reversed: a consonantary engenders a syllabary.

[6] Izbet Sartah (Ebenezer) neo-syllabic ostracon  

Pictured is the amazing ostracon from Izbet Sartah, ancient Ebenezer (1 Samuel 4:1); the scribe is demonstrating how the new syllabary works; the alphabet at the bottom is apparently intended to exhibit the syllables with the vowel -a ('a, ba, ga, da etc.); the text shows the letters in different stances ('Alep in line 1, Taw [+ x] in line 2 and elsewhere); he uses signs as logograms: example, the `Ayin early in line 2, a dotted circle, represents the word `ayin, "eye".; the `Ayin at the end of the first line says "see", as an ideogram. "I am learning the signs; I see that the eye gives the breath of a sign to the ear through a stylus on clay..." See the full presentation at the collesseum website.
   Again, the new syllabary and the new consonantary operated together. This is conveniently demonstrated in the two inscriptions from  Shaaraim (Khirbet Qeiyafa, Sha`arayim, 'dual gates", the two-gated fortress overlooking the Elah Valley, where David confronted Goliath): the Qeiyafa ostracon is syllabic; it is an oracle from Yahu concerning David's defeat of the `anaq Guliyut; we finally have inscriptional evidence for David from his own lifetime, as "the servant of Elohim", though this is before he became King David; the legend on the Qeiyafa jar is consonantal; it includes the name Eshbaal, a son of King Saul; he eventually became King of Israel, but he was presumably the governor who lived in the palace in this military base. A remarkable feature of this pair of texts is that the -i syllabograms (examples: BI, GI, DI) usuually have the same forms as the corresponding consonantograms in the  Phoenician consonantary, but the Eshbaal inscription does not employ any of these.
   Examples of all five of these early West Semitic varieties could be lurking in the ruins of Lakish (Tel Lachish), and we will  test this idea when we come to examine the new sherd from that city.

[7] Thebes inscriptions
Meanwhile, here is another example of the togetherness of the proto-syllabary and the proto-consonantary:  six inscribed pieces of stone from Thebes in southern Egypt (the top two are only peeping into the picture, but they will not be overlooked). They were published in a book on The Formation of the Alphabet by W. M. Flinders Petrie in 1912, and are of immense significance; and yet they have been ignored by the academicians in this field of endeavour. The two tablets in the middle and the one above them actually display all the letters of the proto-alphabet, and they are studied in detail here.
   Above left is an important proto-alphabetic inscription, which has much to teach us; it would be upside down if I had included it in this photograph, though actually it was the only one of the six that was right way up in Petrie's published photograph, as the frontispiece of his book; all the others were unwittingly inverted.

[8] Thebes proto-consonantal inscription
 Notice the D sign (=) at the end of the line (running from left to right), which indicates that this is the long proto-alphabet (proto-consonantary); its counterpart Z (which will eventually swallow it up, in the short alphabet) is the second sign (double triangle with the three strokes of Greco-Roman Z hiding in them); the mouth-sign above the D is functioning as P, a truth that is ever denied in favour of an angle-sign, which  is really a boomerang, representing G; the obvious Q (--o-) is in evidence, but goes unrecognized in other accounts of the early alphabet, because the bag-sign for Sadey is wrongly identified as Q. All this may be news to you, but I wish to reassure you that this is not false information, and it displays the chaos that prevails in "Early Alphabetic" research. Another major error on the standard alphabetic charts is the equating of the fish-sign as D (hypothetically from dag "fish") whereas it is S (samk "fish"); the door-signs (for D, which still shows it is a picture of a door) are wrongly identified as the letter, and the true is mistakenly classified as a variant of B. The falling domino effect goes even further than this, and so the upholders of this broken cistern-system can not flush out its impurities and read the inscriptions. This text actually speaks of refining metal: LZQQT.KPD; the doubling of the Q is achieved by the two dots above it; there are other examples of doubling dots in the proto-alphabetic literature, but you will not read about this in the academic manuals on the subject; the Q would be puzzling to the establishmentarians, as it is a discovery I have made, and they have ignored or dismissed it,  even though the South Arabian alphabet (an obvious descendant of the proto-consonantary, but we will set it aside for the most part in this discussion) has this same form for its Q, and our Q/q still shows its origin: it was a cord wound on a stick, qaw, "line", with its own Egyptian hieroglyph to confirm that ancient and modern builders alike use this instrument (though in my lifetime the string is wound on a flat pencil); as already intimated, the standard (but wrong) sign for Q on charts of the early alphabet is a tied bag (unrecognized as such) for the letter S.adey (S., emphatic S). The next letter in the text is the Egyptian nefer symbol, signifying "good and beautiful", and it was amalgamated with Semitic t.abu (good)  for T.A in the proto-syllabary (see the following inscription from the same bunch) and T. ( in the proto-alphabet; it became Theta, eventually; here it might be a logogram; the expected crossbar (o-|-) is not clearly evident; so it could be W. The K is patently obvious, and we can see how it will develop into the form K. The word PD means "fine gold". My literal interpretation would be: "To (l) refine (zqq) good (t.ab) as (k) gold (pd)".
   It so happens that a similar statement has been found in a syllabic inscription at a silver mine at Kongsberg in Norway.

[9] Kongsberg silver mine proto-syllabic inscription  
The text runs left to right: LA HU ZA QA QI "To be refined"

   Again we encounter the root zqq "refine" (compare Hebrew nip`al or hop`al infinitive). The last sign is new to me; I am presuming it is a wall, qir, hence QI. The ZA is an animal tail (zanab) which usually has a bend at the end, as we shall see; the HU is from hudmu "footstool"(also the second sign in the Thebes inscription below). The first syllabogram is very important; it looks like a snake but it is a somewhat deformed version of the Egyptian hieroglyph for "night", and Semitic layl gives the syllable LA; note that it has a horizontal bar at the top; if you want to jump ahead, you can see examples on the two proto-syllabic inscriptions from Lakish; it is an important indicator of the syllabary.

   Let us put my derailed train of thought back on its track. (Notice the railway lines that the scribe of this inscription has laid for his train of syllable wagons to run along.)

[10] Thebes proto-syllabic inscription

In this fabulous collection of a half-dozen gems from southern Egypt, the odd one out is the proto-syllabic inscription at the bottom of the composite picture (originally published at the top, and unwittingly inverted, but reproduced here clearly and correctly).  

[11] Thebes inscriptions
 The small one beside it  is apparently consonantal;  at its centre, at the end of a line of writing, it has a door sign (a rectangle with a doorpost, the same as the letter Dalet on the Lakish sherd) which would say D /d/; the accompanying syllabic inscription (running from left to right) also has a door-sign, with two panels, and as a syllabogram it would say DA (from dalt "door", Greek Delta). The alphabetic tablet apparently has (at the start of its "D for door" line) a D (=); if so. this should indicate that it is neither proto-syllabic nor neo-consonantal, but proto-consonantal, since that sign was not in the Byblos repertoire, though I have seen it in one inscription functioning as ZA; the usual ZA is an animal's tail, as on the Lahun Heddle Jack, and in the silver-mine inscription (above).  If the inscription is proto-consonantal the 3-shaped letter beneath the door would be Th (thad "breast"), which becomes Sh in the neo-consonantary, and ultimately Greek Sigma and Roman S. The consonantal sign for Sh was the sun (shimsh "sun"), and it represented SHI in the syllabary, while the breast was SHA. The sun-sign was basically a circle, sometimes with a dot in the centre, or with one or two protective serpents, as in the accompanying syllabic inscription. For the alphabet, the widely held origin of Th/Sh is a "composite bow" (from an imagined word *tann), a wild guess, but it contrives to shoot arrows of error all over the landscape.  Actually, the shimsh-sign (with serpent or serpents but no sun-disc) is probably holding sway in the top right corner.  If we go back to Photograph 7, and inspect the middle right tablet, we will find Thad (lower centre) and Shimsh (far right); they are very similar in appearance, but still distinguishable.
   Incidentally, on the spatula tablet, to the right of the D is a 3 with an extra peak, representing three water-waves; this is the letter M. I confess I can not read this
text, and I am uncertain about its classification, whether syllabic or consonantal, but I suspect the D is a logogram for "door" (as also on its accompanying proto-syllabic tablet, where the Dalt has two door panels).
   An apposite aside: with regard to his tiny artefacts, Glenn Schwartz observes that “given the small number of sign values attested, it is difficult to ascertain whether the system was logographic, syllabic, alphabetic, or a combination of these” (Schwartz 2021, 258). The same cautionary remark could apply to our new Lakish sherd.  However, the important point is the possibility of "a combination" of functions for an ancient writing system. The art of writing began with logograms (or we might say pictologograms for the earliest examples): the character expressed the word (in any language) that the sign depicted; then the sounds of the word could be used as syllabograms (single or multiple syllables) to represent the sounds of other words. When the acrophonic principle was put into service, in the new and original West Semitic syllabary and consonantary, the sign would represent the first syllable of the pictured word, or the first consonant. It is not generally accepted, but my contention is that the proto-syllabary and the proto-consonantary retained the older functions alongside their acrophonic roles; for example, a snake-sign can say NA in the proto-syllabary, or N in the proto-alphabet, but in either system it can represent the full word NAKhASh  ("snake"), and even stand for a word with the same sounds, in this case "copper".

[10] Thebes proto-syllabic inscription

   Gazing again at our syllabic inscription from Thebes, I propose that the door-sign is here acting as a logogram and so it says DALTU ('door") followed by the sign for HU (hudmu "footstool"), hence "his/its door".
   The next grapheme is possibly WI (apparently a copper ingot, connected not with the NKhSh word mentioned above, but with East Semitic weru "copper"); this might be a logogram, and the sentence is stating that "its door is copper", and it may be referring to a temple or tomb in the Valley of the Kings; presumably the six inscriptions were produced there by West Semitic workers in the Late Bronze Age.

   The next syllabogram depicts a rainstorm (Hebrew h.aziz), hence H.A.

   Thereafter, a very important character, a symbol of the sun with two serpents, standing for ShIMSh "sun", and the syllable ShI; this is also a feature of the proto-consonantary, as Sh, though the sun-disc is usually omitted there; the disc can stand alone, or with one serpent, or with two (as here).

   A problematic triangular glyph follows: I suggest DU, from DUDU "jar". The sequence H.AShIDU  does not lend itself to an easy resolution; given that the preceding ingot stands for copper, H.AShI mighr be a phonetic complement to make it clear that the word for copper (see the sentence above the illustration) is to be supplied, while DU is a relative pronoun (also DU and ZU in Semitic languages), resulting in "Its door is of copper that is orange-coloured (TRG, the next sequence of signs). However, if we compare
H.AShIDU with Hebrew H.ASID, "pious", and consider its connotations of "faithful" and "loyal", then we might contemplate "genuine copper"; but the idea of "solidarity" in Hebrew H.ESED, and the Arabic verb H.AShADA, "gather together, mass, concentrate" might support "solid copper" (rather than timber covered in copper sheeting).
   Then we see a pair of musical semiquavers, but this is the grapevine Taw (TA or TU?) that we saw on a Puerto Rico figurine earlier. The next glyph is a bird, a vulture, RU, which we will meet again at Lakish. Then a throwstick, with an acute angle, GA (there is one of these on the new Lakish sherd). 

   We now have the root trg, which refers to citrus, and the colour orange. Josephus (Jewish War 5.5.3) likewise describes the gates of the Jerusalem Temple, plated with gold and silver, and one of Corinthian khalkos (copper, brass). One possible interpretation would thus be: "Its door is solid/genuine orange copper".

   Moving on to the remaining two letters, whose sequence is unsure, but the rectangular sign is one of the indicators of the proto-syllabary, representing an altar, MIZBAH.U, for the syllable MI; the circular character is apparently the Egyptian nfr glyph (o-||-), used for Semitic T.ABU (good), and the syllabogram T.A, and the consonantogram T.; as ever, only the writer knew what it all meant; it might say "a fine altar" or "the altar is fine" (though the adjective should have a final t to mark the feminine gender); if t.ami is equivalent to Hebrew t.ame', then the copper door is "unclean"; or we retain "good" for the copper or the door, and MI is "from" (as with Corinth in the Josephus text) and assume that the name of the place has been washed away, and it could have said Alashiya (Cyprus) or Tarshish (Tartessos in Spain?). If we allowed the GA to be united with the MI, we would have a word for papyrus (I have seen an inscription with this combination, GAMI; cp. Hebrew gome`). Or could Hebrew gam "also" be invoked, saying "also good".

   Where are we? That was a test for the Mendenhall-Colless decipherment of the West Semitic syllabic script, with my additional praxis of looking for logograms; in the absence of the person who wrote the message long ago I can not verify my multifarious interpretation, but the characters are certainly recognizable as belonging to the proto-syllabary.

   At the same time it was a presentation of my typology of four categories of (non-cuneiform) West Semitic scripts, and their developments, in the Bronze Age (before 1200 BCE) and the early Iron Age (after 1200 BCE):

[1] PROTO-SYLLABARY (Early Bronze to Early Iron) acro-picto-phonograms > syllabograms; also logograms, rebograms
[2] PROTO-CONSONANTARY (Middle Bronze to Late Bronze)
acro-picto-phonograms >  consonantograms; also logograms, rebograms
[3] NEO-CONSONANTARY (Late Bronze to Early Iron) reduced number of consonantograms; also logograms, rebograms

[4] NEO-SYLLABARY (Early Iron) neo-consonantal signs adapted to produce a syllabary, including the three vowels -u, -a, -i;
also logograms, rebograms

My fourfold classification of the evidence
 is an evolutionary scheme


Each species generates (>) the next in this evolutionary process;
the basis of evolution is that new species are descended from
earlier species, though in the development of writing systems,
human invention and intervention are always guiding factors.

Before I continue with this presentation of my own system, focusing on the wealth of material from Lakish, we should consider the failings of my learned colleagues seated on the other side of the House,  and ask what the loyal opposition in this parliament of unintentional fools is saying about the same material. Their deficiency is simply that they are all exponents of "die althebräische (or more grammatically der althebräischen) Grammatik", oder "Inschriftenkunde", relating to the Iron Age; they innocently apply the principles that they follow in that field to the complex area of Bronze-Age West-Semitic scripts; consequently and ineluctably they experience infelicitous failure; though they are blithely unaware of their lack of success as they bathe in the bliss of ignorance. I can speak in this judgemental way because I know I have a considerable modicum of support for my position, but scepticism towards it is rife, as befalls every new paradigm in science (in my case we could say 'articultural science').
   Gordon Hamilton has been productively prolific in publishing studies on West Semitic inscriptions of the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, notably in his book The Origins of the West Semitic Alphabet in Egyptian Scripts (2006), and in his essay on Reconceptualizing the Periods of Early Alphabetic Scripts, in An Eye For Form (F. M. Cross
Festschrift, 2014). Additionally, Gordon has enriched the field by bringing many early West Semitic inscriptions to light, with photographs, especially of those that Flinders Petrie published with only drawings (Lahun heddle jack, Ajjul spouted cup); but he has overlooked the six immensely important documents from Thebes (highlighted here), which would force him to rethink some of his erroneous ideas; the two abgadaries in that collection should have been the starting point and foundation of his Harvard thesis, but he simply asserts the identity of each proto-alphabetic letter according to the tradition laid down by W. F. Albright (which was to some extent based on guesswork), as transmitted by F. M. Cross, supervisor of the thesis, though GJH insists he had differences of opinion with FMC; but he has certainly departed from the scheme offered by Romain F. Butin (to whom Hamilton's book is reverently dedicated), the foundation on which my system is built.  For my part, I can honestly say that Hamilton does cite my publications scrupulously in his book, though he apparently does not believe what I am saying; but he has no place for me in his chronology article, and that is understandable, because I have not yet published my ideas on dating-criteria for early alphabetic inscriptions.
   The approximate dates that Hamilton assigns to the Sinai inscriptions are generally helpful; in his book (Chapter 3.III) he rightly divides the corpus among three periods; we both agree that it is not a question of either Middle Kingdom or New Kingdom, but both MK and NK.  In his palaeographical essay, he sets up three Early Alphabetic periods:
 A (c. 1900 - 1400 BCE), B  (c. 1400 - 950), C (c. 1050 - after 900).
   However,  he is unable to recognize syllabic inscriptions and valiantly jousts with them to unseat them from their rightful status; then he forces them to falsely confess, consonantally and not syllabically; three examples of proto-syllabic texts that have been tortured with his inquisitional instruments are: Lahun heddle jackRifeh amulet, Megiddo gold ring.  

 [12a] Lahun heddle jack
     Here is the heddle jack, from Egypt (Middle Kingdom); it is pictured on the far left of the drawing (please ignore the oversized letter I have drawn on it); Hamilton's consonantal reading is at the bottom; the D seems secure, since we have seen that door elsewhere in Egypt (in a syllabic inscription, 10); the oval sign in the middle is taken to be an eye, hence `ayin, but I prefer it as a mouth, hence P (or PU), but Hamilton has formulated a firm law that there is no mouth-sign in the alphabet (we refuted that earlier, in the Thebes inscriptions); the character on the far right certainly looks like a bovine head, hence 'alep, but another choice is available. 
 [12b] Lahun heddle jack
 From this perspective the supposed 'Alep ox-head becomes an eye, viewed from the side to show the white (LUBNU > LU); the presumed B (a wide-open house, and closer to the modern Hebrew Bet than any example from the Bronze Age) is an animal's tail (ZANABU > ZA), and we saw a curtailed version of that at the silver mine in Norway [9]; the cross  (taw) has to be T- (but I am uncertain whether it is TU or TA). As a West Semitic syllabic text, it reads:
Using a West Semitic (Hebrew) dictionary I can forcefully extract a meaning such as this: 
   "This (ZA) is a weaving (DALU) instrument (TUPU)"
Applying vocabulary from an East Semitic lexicon, I can offer:
    "This (ZA) tiny (TAPU) partner (DALU)  (of mine)"
Both are attractive interpretations, but it seems that we need to be seeking other possibilities.
Further details here:
    Analysing the data in this inscription, we see three graphemes that could be either syllabic or consonantal (door D, mouth P, cross T), and two distinctly syllabic characters (white of eye LU, tail ZA) which verify the syllabic nature of the text. When we examine the new Lakish sherd we will need to employ this kind of analysis. 

Megiddo gold ring    
The Megiddo signet ring is one of the “tripods” (a term used for the documents that confirmed the Ventris decipherment of the Cretan Linear B syllabic script) that authenticate the Mendenhall-Colless decipherment of the West Semitic proto-syllabary:
“Sealed (nu-h.u-ta-ma) the sceptre (shubt.u, logogram) of (sha) Megiddo (magaduda).
Of the ten graphemes in this text, only three (SHA =Th/Sh, GA=G, DA=D) can be construed as consonantal. Nevertheless, Hamilton twists it out of shape, then melts it in his fiery crucible, and turns its syllabic and logographic gold into consonantal dross. 
 Examples of the various types of scripts,  from Tel Lachish

Our new Lakish inscription may not have enough graphemes for us to classify it definitively, but the ruin-mound of the city has provided several examples of the script categories, which may assist us in our quest.

The completion of this expedition to LAKISH is recorded here: