[The “Eulin pot” of Osteria dell’Osa, c. 775 BCE]
Let’s start at the very beginning.
A very good place to start.
When you read you begin with ABC…
Alphabets are, arguably, supremely efficient technologies of transcription. Twenty some characters can be used to write the whole range of human languages. While not as informationally dense as the more graphically complex syllabic and logographic systems from which it was derived and by which it was inspired, the graphic and phonetic efficiency allowed early alphabetic writing to travel quickly around the Mediterranean basin almost as soon as it came into being in the late Bronze Age. Here, I discuss the origins of these alphabets and the earliest known example of their western Mediterranean expression (what would ultimately diverge into the Greek, Etruscan, and Romans alphabets, among others): a five-character inscription made on the side of a small clay jar and buried as a gift to a Latin widow at the time of her death, around 775 BCE.