Prehistoric dates redefined

The Bronze and Iron Ages are being redefined by archaeologists due to data from solar cycles and studies of tree rings. These studies led British and German researchers to date artefacts from Eastern Europe some decades before they were formerly supposed to originate from.

The same research led the scientists to believe that the first alphabet appeared around 740 BC, but not in Phoenicia, as was the previous theory.

The findings have been published in Thursday’s edition of “Science”, by two teams from Cornell University in the USA, the University of Reading in the United Kingdom and the Ruprecht-Karls-Universitat of Heidelberg in Germany.

Cornell Professor Peter Kuniholm gave the example of findings from a tomb in Turkey. “To establish this chronology means that the objects – metals, equipment, cloth and an inscription found in a tomb in Central Turkey were 22 years older than had previously been thought”.

Professor Kuniholm was referring to a finding in Gordion, the capital of the former nation of Frigia, in the tomb of King Midas, in which a bronze ball was found with Phoenician lettering on wax, a precursor of the most ancient findings of documents with the Greek alphabet. The ball with the wax lettering has been dated at 740 BC, making it as old as the oldest known documents in Ancient Greek.

This means that the Phoenician alphabet was widely spread throughout the Eastern Mediterranean both by sea and on land, and this took place “more quickly than it was thought”, according to the American professor. It is believed that the alphabet, as opposed to syllabic scripts, became more and more common among traders as a form of “lingua franca” between them.

The oldest example of Phoenician script was found in Biblos, Lebanon. It was in the epitaph of Ahiram, dating from the 21st Century BC.

One word of warning: the growing carbon pollution in the Earth’s atmosphere is rendering the science of dendrochronology (studying tree rings) difficult, because carbon dating has to be based upon pristine environments.


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