Friday, December 30, 2011
Fossicking about in old abandoned inscriptions (and many of them are located at and in old mines, and one from Sinai actually speaks of using a pickax to inscribe its words) I frequently strike gold. It has suddenly hit me that I seem to have discovered the earliest-known instance of the word "wine"; it occurs in a proto-alphabetic graffito from the Wadi el-Hol in the western desert of Egypt, near ancient Thebes. It is written simply with the letters WN (no vowels are supplied) but it would have been pronounced the same as English wine (wayn). The inscription dates from the 19th century BCE. It is on a rockface, and it indicates where the West Semitic goddess `Anat was worshiped with eating and drinking. The language is Canaanian (Proto-Hebrew) and eventually the W became Y in Hebrew (yayin); an example of it from later times is found in a riddle on an ostracon from Beth-Shemesh (Wine Whine, Carousing in the wine bar with a maid).