It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the Phoenician alphabet in the history of writing. The earliest definitely readable inscription in the North Semitic alphabet is the so-called Ahiram inscription found at Byblos in Phoenicia (now Lebanon), which probably dates from the 11th century BC. There is, however, no doubt that the Phoenician use of the North Semitic alphabet went further back. By being adopted and then adapted by the Greeks, the North Semitic, or Phoenician, alphabet became the direct ancestor of all Western alphabets. Only very few inscriptions have been found in Phoenicia proper. This rarity of indigenous documents is in contrast to the numbers of Phoenician inscriptions found elsewhere--on Cyprus, Malta, Sicily, and Sardinia, and in Greece, North Africa, Marseille, Spain, and other place.
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