Cyprian Writing System

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Cyprian Writing System


a linear syllabary used from the sixth to second centuries B.C. on Cyprus. It was deciphered in the late 19th century by the English scholar G. Smith and the German scholars J. Brandis and M. Schmidt, owing to the fact that most of the inscriptions preserved (approximately 185) were in Greek.

The Cyprian syllabic system consists of 55 symbols, each of which represents an open syllable or a separate vowel (see Table 1); a symbol for an open syllable may also be used for a consonant alone (with a zero vowel in syllable-final position). The writing usually read from right to left, but it was sometimes changed or alternated from line to line (boustrophedon). The

oldest extant inscription in the Cyprian system—on a pitcher handle—dates from approximately 2400–2100 B.C. and was most likely done in the language of the native population of Cyprus before the Mycenaean invasion and the introduction of the Cypro-Mycenaean writing system. The inscriptions found in the Cypro-Mycenaean, or Cypro-Minoan, writing system, which was used from the 14th to 11th centuries B.C. (most of them from 1275 to 1200 B.C.), have not yet been deciphered.


Friedrich, J. Deshifrovka zabytykh pis’mennostei i iazykov. Moscow, 1961. (Translated from German.)
Doblhofer, E. Znaki i chudesa. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from English.)
Diringer, D. Alfavit. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from English.)
Istrin, V. A. Vozniknovenie i razvitie pis’ma. Moscow, 1965.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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