In Our Time
At the start of the twentieth century, in the depths of an ancient Egyptian turquoise mine on the Sinai peninsular, an archaeologist called Sir Flinders Petrie made an exciting discovery. Scratched onto rocks, pots and portable items, he found scribblings of a very unexpected but strangely familiar nature. He had expected to see the complex pictorial hieroglyphic script the Egyptian establishment had used for over 1000 years, but it seemed that at this very early period, 1700 BC, the mine workers and Semitic slaves had started using a new informal system of graffiti, one which was brilliantly simple, endlessly adaptable and perfectly portable: the Alphabet. This was probably the earliest example of an alphabetic script and it bears an uncanny resemblance to our own.The other contributors were Eleanor Robson and Rosalind Thomas.
Did the alphabet really spring into life almost fully formed? How did it manage to conquer three quarters of the globe? And despite its Cyrillic and Arabic variations and the myriad languages it has been used to write, why is there essentially only one alphabet anywhere in the world?
And speaking of radio programmes, Stephen Carlson has posted comments on Fresh Air featuring Bart Ehrman.