Who Invented the First Alphabet?
The sixth ruler of Egypt, who ruled from 1860 BC to 1814 BC, III. Amenemhat is one of the pharaohs that many people have not heard of. Although the Dahshur and Hawara pyramids were built in his name, they are not as well known as the Giza pyramids. Organizing many successful military campaigns and expanding the borders of his empire are not among his most important achievements. A technology that emerged and spread under his direction goes beyond anything else. This is the first alphabet. The alphabet is a revolutionary way of recording information. Although today we use different alphabets to write in many languages, from Russian to Arabic, they all share a single common ancestor.
Humans began communicating by speaking about 50,000 years ago. But writing has been included in our story over the last 5,000 years. Thousands of years ago, humans lived in Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and Mesoamerica (near what we now call Central America). These different groups all independently invented their own type of writing. But before the alphabet was invented, early writing systems relied on pictographic symbols known as hieroglyphs, or cuneiform writing made by pressing a pen into soft clay. The writing was quite complex, as these methods required a large number of symbols to describe each word. Therefore, its writing and understanding was limited to only a small group of educated writers.
As civilizations and communication progressed, people began to discover that it was possible to use combinations of much smaller symbols to represent all the words in a spoken language. As a solution, a group of Semitic speakers created a subset of Egyptian hieroglyphs to represent the sounds of their language. It is considered to be the first alphabet in which these symbols were used to represent consonants. Some letters in this alphabet were taken from hieroglyphs. The process continued until every sound in the language they spoke could be represented in written form.