Historical letters dating to 1700
vowel rather than a syllable or a group of consonants and vowels.
As a result, the number of characters required can be held to a relative few.
Egyptian writing, cuneiform, Cretan, hieroglyphic Hittite, the Cypriot syllabary, and other scripts have all been called prototypes of the alphabet.
The Egyptian theory actually subdivides into three separate theories, according to whether the Egyptian hieroglyphic, the hieratic, or the demotic script is regarded as the true parent of alphabetic writing.
Similarly, the idea that cuneiform was the precursor of the alphabet may also be subdivided into those singling out Sumerian, Babylonian, or Assyrian cuneiform.
Among the various other theories concerning the alphabet are the hypotheses that the alphabet was taken by the Philistines from Crete to Palestine, that the various ancient scripts of the Mediterranean countries developed from prehistoric geometric symbols employed throughout the Mediterranean area from the earliest times, and that the proto-Sinaitic inscriptions (discovered since 1905 in the Sinai Peninsula) represent a stage of writing intermediate between the Egyptian hieroglyphics and the North Semitic alphabet.
Another hypothesis, the Ugaritic theory, evolved after an epoch-making discovery in 1929 (and the years following) at the site of the ancient Ugarit, on the Syrian coast opposite the most easterly cape of Cyprus.