New History of the Alphabet

Syllabic cuneiform writing was invented by the Sumerians which was then adopted by the Akkadian speakers of Mesopotamia and Levant during the early Bronze Age. The pressures of trade caused the Akkadian speaking Minoans to simply it into to a phonetic form with new signs (Phaistos Disk, Linear A). Finally, the late Bronze Age / Early Iron Age Akkadian speaking traders of Phoenicia, Aegean Islands, and Israel took Linear A and further simplified it into the alphabet.

The "Celtic" written language is now known to be Akkadian. The "Celtic" language spoken by most people would have been various mixtures Akkadian and Indo-European which in time became the various national languages.
Etymology is the study of word origin and transmission through time. It is not to be confused with Entomology which is the study of insects. Those who do not know the difference bug me (old joke!).
Image (2014) from Les Murry at:

Akkadian Words Found in English

(Feb 4, 2022) Many English words come from Akkadian as does the grammatical structures of "ongoing" or "continuous" tense and the  "do support" (Akkadian Y letter start) sentence constructions. (For a description of the problem see the section entitled "Supposed Celtic Syntax in English" at

The earliest English words came from both Latin and Old Norse/German. Latin speakers acquired their Akkadian words from their northern Akkadian speaking neighbors, the Etruscans. Many Old Norse words also derive from Etruscan whose writing spread north and ended up as the Elder Futhark Runes. This writing only ceased around by 500 CE. Significantly, Akkadian has never been considered as a word source in European etymological studies until now because no one imagined such a connection existed.  These Akkadian source words  include:

Spread of Akkadian by Neolithic Farmers

Matrilineal genetic closeness (green) of Neolithic farmers to a 5000 BCE Neolithic reference sample from central Anatolia

Left image shows the matrilineal genetic closeness (green) of Neolithic farmers to a 5000 BCE Neolithic reference sample from central Anatolia. Right image shows the genetic closeness of modern populations to that sample.  This and other studies show that northern Mesopotamian genetics spread along with the farming culture and that means their native Akkadian language spread with them. This is further supported by survivals of their Akkadian writing on archaeological texts found in Europe. The Minoans were the first European Akkadian writers as evidenced by their 1800 BCE Phaistos Disk. (Map from Haak and all 2010)

Haak, Wolfgang and all (2010) Ancient DNA from European Early Neolithic Farmers Reveals Their Near Eastern Affinities. Online at:
Spread of farming as determined by archaeology from Mesopotamia and Levant through Anatolia and into Europe.

Image shows the spread of farming as determined by archaeology from Mesopotamia and Levant through Anatolia and into Europe. These farmers started to migrate starting around 8500 BCE and the southern group reached Britain through Minoan Crete, Etruscan Italy, and Brittany around 4100 BCE. Akkadian is the native language of northern Mesopotamia so that language traveled with the farmers. (Map from Gronenborn and Horejs 2021) 

Gronenborn, Detlef and Barbara Barbara (2021) Expansion of farming in western Eurasia, 9600 - 4000 cal BC (update vers. 2021.2. Online at:

Development of Writing

Etruscan fluted bowl trade range
These 800-700 BCE fluted bowls seem to have been made in Etruscan lands in Italy and traded to wherever Akkadian was still spoken (or at least written).

Writing Development was Motivated by Trade Initially Controlled by Temple Palaces

(July 4, 2022) Akkadian became the world’s first empire language for use in temple, trade and government when the world’s first empire was established in Mesopotamia by Sargon of Akkad (2334-2279 BCE). The Akkadians adopted the writing idea from the Sumerian temple estates of southern Mesopotamia and used it to organize their economy and rule. The distant spatial control made possible by writing allowed empires to exist for the first time in history. Writing, trade, and empire go hand in hand.

This first writing scheme was syllabic with each syllable represented by a cuneiform sign. The wedge patterns of cuneiform was a natural way write on clay which was abundant in Mesopotamia. The writing was syllabic (dab, da, d) because that is the most accurate way to represent sound patterns of a language. Yet this made for a complex writing system only usable by well-educated specialists (scribes). 

(Continue Reading)

By 2000 BCE Akkadian cuneiform writing had spread to distant Anatolia where Akkadian speaking traders from the early Assyrian Empire had established distant trading outposts to ensure their own bronze supply. This is evidenced by their thousands of cuneiform trade tablets found in Anatolia dating to between 2000 and 1800 BCE (Bryce 1998).

This demand for bronze was soon felt along the Anatolian coast and its nearby Islands. By 1900 BCE these regions had copied Assyrian trading methods including cuneiform writing. Yet they soon dropped cuneiform in favor of simpler phonetic only signs (da, d).

The earliest translated example of this new Mediterranean writing is from Crete and is the Minoan Phaistos Disk. It dates to 1800 BCE. Stamps were used to impress the signs upon the unfired clay disk before it was fired. The disk is a philosophical/religious debate about the cause of a drought (Olmsted June 2020). As in Sumeria and Egypt, temples were the main economic centers of the Minoans and they quickly adopted writing for religious purposes.

Some of the signs on the Phaistos Disk are the direct ancestor of the signs used in our alphabet and that allowed for its translation. The transition to phonetic writing allowed the immediate use of letters because they are simply wildcard phonemes in which their following vowel sound can by anything. The Phaistos Disk is a mix of letters and phonemes as shown in the chart below. 

The next stage of the alphabet was the elimination of sign stamps and the beginning use of scratching to form signs and letters. This next stage is represented by Minoan Linear A texts and the texts at Wadi el-Hol which appeared after 1700 BCE which had their signs scratched onto clay tablets which were then dried in the sun. This "writing" was also likely soon applied to wood but those have not survived in the archaeological record.

The demands of trade continued to simplify the script such by the time of the writing at Serabit el-Khadim from 1600 to 1180 BCE most of the writing was done using all letters.

Alphabetic Akkadian writing continued at Serabit el-Khadim until shortly after the collapse of the Bronze Age in 1180 BCE. At that time some graffiti was placed on two temple statuettes representing Hathor after the mine had been abandoned. (Olmsted Aug 13, 2020).  


Bryce, Trevor (1998) The Kingdom of the Hittites. Oxford University Press
Olmsted, D. D. (August 13, 2020) Alphabetic Akkadian Texts at Serabit el-Khadim Reference Drought and Magic Crafters (1170- 1140 BCE). Humanities Commons Permanent URL: Online at:
Bronze Age letter chart showing their Akkadian origin page 1
Bronze Age letter chart showing their Akkadian origin page 2