In spite of the tradition carried down to us (via Herodotus) that King Cadmus of Tyre invented the alphabet from whole cloth (Jackson, 1981), other ancient writers, equally authoritive, do not agree with this opinion. For instance Tacitus states: "The Phoenicians gained the reputation of inventing a form of writing, which they merely received." (Annals, 11.14)
And Diodorus Siculus repeats an already ancient tradition when he writes:
"Men tell us . . . that the Phoenicians were not the first to make the discovery of letters; but that they did no more than change the form of the letters; whereupon the majority of mankind made use of the way of writing them as the Phoenicians devised." (Lib. Hist., Book V)
There are equally ancient and venerable traditions which point to a western, rather than an eastern, origin of our alphabet. For instance, in the same work Diodorus mentions that the Phoenicians had discovered a marvelous Atlantic island during their excursions outside Gibraltar. Atlantis was long gone, of course, but the survivors of that catastrophe still existed on the Canary Islands (and possibly others) and it is known that the Guanches inhabiting those islands possessed a system of characters which the Phoenicians could have commandeered.
Manetho (250 B.C.) also recorded that the Egyptians themselves derived the elements of their writing from an island in the west. Ancient Egyptian papyri also attribute the invention of writing to the god Thoth who ruled a "Western Domain". These same papyri declare that Thoth came from an Island of Flame (Atlantis was very volcanic, and perished in flames). The Turin Papyrus (1700 B.C.) lists Thoth as one of the ten kings who reigned during the "reign of the gods," more than 12,000 years ago.
And what about the Iberians? Strabo, the Greek historian, records a tradition that Tartessos (on the Atlantic coast of Spain) had written records that go back 7,000 years before their time (500 B.C.), which is equivalent to saying that writing was being utilized in southwestern Spain 9,500 years ago. Of the Turduli and Turdetani he says:
"They are the most cultivated of all the Iberians; they employ the art of writing, and have written books containing memorials of ancient times, and also poems and laws set in verse, for which they claim an antiquity of six thousand years." (Strabo, Geography, Bk. iii).
Many have asserted that numerous old Iberian inscriptions are written in the "Punic script," which cannot possibly be the case, since the Carthaginians did not even settle in North Africa until about 850 B.C., and they derived their script from their mother culture, the Phoenicians. All these scripts may be similarbut who got it from whom? Solid evidence indicates that it was the ancient Phoenicians of the Near East who derived their character-set from more ancient Western sources, not vice versa. All that is necessary is for one to look at the dates and do the math.
Iberian funeral stele inscribed in Old Iberian characters
Martin Schøyen (2005) lists a number of epigraphers, including Hans Jensen, Stephen Fisher, Michaël Guichard, who date the inscriptions found at Dolmen d'Alvao in Portugal to be at least 6,000 years old; and signs engraved on objects of the Vinca culture have been carbon-dated to about 4000 B.C. According to Michaël Guichard, Vinca (not far from modern Beograd) is rightfully associated with the Late Neolithic period of Danubian culture (5000-3500 B.C.). The Phoenicians were not using an alphabet until the Late Bronze Age (LB1).
There are strong indicators of the very real existence of an older, unnamed culture in the west that had long been familiar with the art of writing. We cannot help but remember the 12,000-year-old Azilian painted-rocks (Pfeiffer, 1969), as well as the 20,000-year-old bone calendars (Marshack, 1964). Both are believed to be early forerunners of writing according to experts in anthropology and paleography (Landsberg, 1983; Marshack, 1972).
Can a relationship be demonstrated between some of the better known western "alphabetic" (more properly, syllabic) writing systems and our Glozel prototype? The answer is, "Yes!"
First, there are the inscriptions on the Canary Islands discovered by Dr. René R. Verneau (especially those on Hierro and Grand Canary): the script resembles Numidian and appears to be composed of some twenty four characters and a number of ideograms (Cline, 1953). We have already mentioned the Iberian inscriptions.
One of several Canary Island Inscriptions (Hierro Island).
Although usually called an alphabet, the ancient Numidian (Berber) writing is actually a syllabary (Gelb, 1974). The Tuaregs of North Africa speak Tamachek, but their written language, T'ifinagh, is also syllabic and is closely related to the Basque language. T'ifinagh is being forgotten before it can be either properly classified or translated (Friedrich, 1957).
Even the Aymara Indians living along the shores of Lake Titicaca in South America were in possession of an ideographic form of writing when the Spanish conquistadors appeared on the scene (in spite of a ban on writing put in effect by the 63rd Inca ruler, Topu Gaui Pachacuti). Some of these signs correspond exactly to the characters found on the Canary Island inscriptions and among the Tuaregs and Berbers in North Africa (Wilkins, 1946).
Does all this sound familiar somehow? Basques, Berbers, Tuaregs, Guanches, and even the Aymaras of South America? We are talking about the same areas, the same people, the same language, and the same culture called "Atlantic" by learned scholars. In other words, our Cro-Magnon-Atlanteans.
There must have been a "western" prototype (which I believe we have in the Glozel Tablets), completely independent of the eastern writing system which evolved thousands of years later in Sumar, for all these "Atlantic" systems to be so much alike.
Prof. William Z. Ripley (1899) agrees: "A system of writing seems also to have been invented in western Europe as far back as the stone age . . . The Phoenicians were perhaps antedated in their noted invention by the dolmen builders . . . " We will demonstrate the validity of this startling statement in the article entitled Ancient Alphabets Compared.
Since Cro-Magnoid skulls have also been unearthed in South America, it would be interesting if some competent linguist should inquire into possible linguistic links between the Basque (Euskara) and South American (e.g., Aymara and/or Araucanian) languages. Any such study should, of necessity, be based largely on structural and syntactical similarities rather than mere vocabulary correspondences.
Champollion, Jean Francois, (translator) The Turin Papyrus, 1700 B.C.
Cline, Walter, "Berber Dialects and Berber Scripts," Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, Vol. 9, 1953.
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History (Oldfather's translation), Book V, 8 B.C.
Friedrich, Johannes, "Extinct Languages," Philosophical Library Inc., New York, 1957.
Gelb, Ignace J., "A Study of Writing," (Revised edition) The University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London, 1974.
Jackson, Donald, "The Story of Writing," Taplinger Publishing Co., New York, 1981.
Landsberg, Marge E., "Prodromes of Writing," Occasional Publications, vol. 11, Issue 2, Epigraphic Society, 1983.
Manetho, Egyptian Dynasties, circa. 250 B.C.
Marshack, Alexander, "Lunar Notations on Upper Paleolithic Remains," Science, November 6, 1964.
Marshack, Alexander, "The Roots of Civilization," McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1972.
Pfeiffer, John E., "The Emergence of Man," Harper & Row, Publishers, New York, 1969.
Ripley, William Z., "The Races of Europe," D. Appleton & Co., New York, 1899.
Sch°yen, Martin, "The beginning of writing and the first alphabets," The Sch°yen Collection, No. 4 (Palaeography 4.1), Oslo, February 2005.
Strabo of Amasya, Geography (63 B.C.-24 A.D), translated by H. L. Jones, Loeb edition, 1917-1932.
Tacitus, "Annals" (55-120 A.D.), English translation by Alfred John Church & William Jackson Brodribb, 1906.
Wilkins, Harold T., "Mysteries of Ancient South America," Rider & Co., London, 1946.