Authored by: Josef Tropper , Juan-Pablo Vita

The Semitic Languages

Print publication date:  March  2019
Online publication date:  March  2019

Print ISBN: 9780415731959
eBook ISBN: 9780429025563
Adobe ISBN:


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Ugarit is the name of an ancient city located on the north Syrian coast of the Mediterranean Sea, about 10 km north of the modern port-city of Latakia, and less than 1 km from the coast itself (see Map 19.1). The modern name of the tell is Ras Shamra (‘Cape Fennel’). Ras Shamra-Ugarit has been excavated almost yearly from 1929 until recently by French and Syrian-French archeological teams. 2 In the course of the excavations, archeologists came across several archives, some in the royal palace, others in private houses. Already in 1929 inscribed tablets were discovered, most of which were written in a new, previously unknown alphabet cuneiform script, which was deciphered in less than a year by Charles Virolleaud, Édouard Dhorme, Hans Bauer and Marcel Cohen. It became clear that this script was an alphabet of 30 signs and that it was used primarily for the indigenous Semitic language of Ugarit, which came to be called Ugaritic. Altogether the archives contained some 2,000 clay tablets in the cuneiform alphabetic script (most in the Ugaritic language) and more than 2,500 tablets in Mesopotamian syllabic cuneiform (most in Akkadian; see Chapter 5).

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