I understand that that in the ancient Levant, two main writing system patterns were used by the different peoples of the region: Phoenician and Ancient North Arabian.

I further understand that both these writing system patterns came out of the Proto-Canaanite (Canaanitic) writing system pattern → which by itself came out of the Proto-Semite (Sinaitic) writing system pattern.

1. Phoenician

A writing system pattern which patterned the writing systems of the following polities (from north to south and east to west):

Kingdom of Ugarit

Kingdom of Tyre   | Kingdom of Aram-Damascus
Kingdom of Israel | Kingdom of Ammon
Kingdom of Judah  | Kingdom of Moab
Kingdom of Edom   | Nabataean polities

Other Canaanite polities

I grasp the writing system of Ugarit-Tyre (Phoenician) as a prototype of all of these almost identical kingdom writing systems because as far as I know, it is the one of which original texts where most commonly found by archaeologists in comparison to the very few texts found in Paleo Hebrew alphabet used in the kindgdoms of Israel and Judah, Ammonite letters, Moabite letters etc and Edomite is considered at least by one researcher as a dialect of Israeli-Judean Hebrew.

2. Ancient north Arabian

A writing system pattern which patterned the writing systems of the trans-Nabataean nomads moving between south Syria to north Arabian peninsula and patterned the following writing systems:



I grasp Safaitic as a prototype because if I am not wrong it is almost identical to Hismaic and Thamudic and the most commonly found on petroglyphs, especially when comparing these to Dadantic which seems to me quite different.

My questions

How similar are the prototype writing systems of Ugarit-Tyre (Phoenician) and Safaitic, or at least, how similar are Proto-Canaanite (Canaanitic) and Safaitic?

2 Answers 2


I suppose you mean Ugarit (not Ugrait). The main divide is between Alphabetic writing and Cuneiform writing. On the whole, it is now admitted that the Alphabet comes from a simplification of the Egyptian Hieroglyphs, modified for writing Semitic languages instead of Egyptian. Alphabets are more or less rich according to the language(s) written with them. They are also more or less schematized or pictographic. The main divide between alphabets is linked to the order of the letters, there's a North Semitic order reflected in Greek and Phoenician, and a Southern order. Besides, Ugaritic is peculiar for being written in an alphabet that looks like Cuneiform.

  • 1
    Ugaritic script is alphabetic and cuneiform. The same is true of Old Persian script.
    – fdb
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 17:13
  • But the OP is clearly not referring to the cuneiform script we call Ugaritic, but to some form of Phoenician.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 19:01
  • @ColinFine. I realise that. I am reacting only to the "main divide" bit.
    – fdb
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 19:10

I don't know quite how to answer your question of "how similar". "Epigraphic Semitic Scripts" by M. O'Connor (in The World's Writing Systems, Bright & Daniels, Oxford 1996) discusses these briefly, and gives tables of the many scripts.

It does say

From early in the first millennium BCE (perhaps ca. 900) there are texts in several varieties of Arabic (or North Arabic) and corresponding scripts, including a dialect more or less identical to Classical Arabic, as well as in Dedanite, Lihyanite, Safaitic, and Thamudic; the interrelations among these languages/dialects and their writing systems remain under study.

Looking at the tables, I do not see much obvious similarity between the corresponding signs in the Proto-Canaanite abjad (Table 5.1, Col I) and the Safaitic (Table 5.6, Col XXVI). Some of the forms of 'l', perhaps, and 'ayin'. 'N' in Dedanite, late Lihyanite, and some forms of Thamudic is more obviously close to the Phoenician than is the Safaitic in the table.

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