The Phoenicians were great traders, using their huge fleet of sailing ships to travel around the Mediterranean and beyond from their city-states of Byblos, Sidon and Tyre.

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Their frequent travels exposed them to various forms of script, including the earliest known alphabetic writing which is today called Proto-Sinaitic and Proto-Canaanite, dating to the period 17th – 16th centuries BC; the Phoenician alphabet is much later (around 11th century BC) but they must have been aware of such writing systems elsewhere.

The Phoencian alphabet is very well understood today – it has only 22 consonants, no vowels, as in many early writing systems, and the letters had the same names as the later Hebrew script (aleph, beth, gimel, daleth, he, waw, zayin, heth, teth, yod, kaph, lamed, mem, nun, samekh, ayin, pe, sade, qoph, resh, shin, taw).

From the Phoenician alphabet developed the Arabic, Greek, Latin and Hebrew alphabets.

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