The Cretan Alphabets.
Mr. Louis Dyor, M. A., gave the second of his three lectures on "Recent Discoveries in Crete" in the Fogg Lecture Room last night, taking as his special subject "The Cretan Alphabets." He said in part:
Until recently the only account of the original Phoenician alphabet -- from which it is agreed the Western alphabets descend through their undoubted ancestor, the Greek,--said that it was derived from an Egyptian Hieratic system of writing. In this theory there is a break of more than a thousand years which separate the Moabite stone from the Prisse Papyrus, "the oldest book in the world." It is possible that the Semites contributed to our alphabet the names of the letters. With these names came, probably through the same people, its specifically alphabetic character. But it is evident that, previous to the name-giving and selecting intervention of the East, the long history of our alphabet was a Western one and its home was the Mediterranean
It was the Eastern and Aegaean shores of the Mediterranean, including Asia Minor, that witnessed the earliest development of what may be called a Western civilization. In the Western part of this East-Mediterranean area, Mr. Arthur Evans in 1894 found some records of an ancient Western system of writing, an outgrowth of the early savage pictograph made in all parts of the Mediterranean district by primitive mankind. He found on Cretan engraved stones a system of Cretan pictographs corresponding to the Hittite pictograph. He also found a system of Cretan linear signs analogous to the Capriote characters. We can approximately make out that these Western systems of writing, centered in Crete, go back to the date of the early Egyptian Hieratic script selected as the model of the Phoenician alphabet by Count Emmanuel de Rouge's theory and thus, if theory is abandoned, and a derivation from Cretan pictographs is substituted, we have a more or less ascertained history to substitute for de-Rouge's backward leap of one thousand years.
The resemblances between Cretan pictographs actually discovered at Knossos by Mr. Evans, and the "Phoenician" alphabet of the Moabite stone are very numerous and striking. On the other hand, those pointed out by de Rouge with Egyptian Hieratic of the XII Dynasty are almost purely fanciful.
The hypothesis may be made that the Eteocretans migrated to southern Syria and there became Semitized as the Philistines of Holy Writ. They carried with them from Crete a system of pictographs which was renamed and perfected in Syria, and from which was derived the "Phoenician" alphabet which in later days was restored to its originators by Cadmus.