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by Archaeology Newsroom

The Dipylos wine-jug

The Dipylos wine-jug (750-735 BC) has brought to us the most ancient example of alphabetical writing and it took its name from the workshop of the “Dipylos craftsman” belonging to the late geometric period. The workshop’s chief craftsman specialized in memorial,funeral urns which were put as markings on graves at the Kerameikos cemetery.The wine jug’s rounded surface is decorated with horizontal bands of script and on the jug’s neck there is a picture of a slender deer, grazing.On the dark zone of the jug’s shoulder the inscription starts to appear, incised and not written, and it reads from right to left. 47 letters taken from the north Semitic language form words that cannot be separated from each other.The letterX which does not exist in the Phoenician alphabet, here makes its first appearance.The first of the two sentences is easily read. “Whoever out of all the dancers now dances with more grace”.The main part of the sentence that follows is almost illegible.It seems to be a reasonable assumption that the vessel was a prize for the best dancer, later to be put on his grave as a funerary gift.The inscription echoes Homeric verse not only because of its epic vocabulary but also because of the verse it is in. The line in.the first sentence is in the dactylic exametre while the second sentence is in the adonian metre.The variation in verse is similar to that found in the second most ancient inscription in existence, carved on a cup belonging to the late geometric period coming from Pithei kouses (Ischia, Southern Italy) dating from around 720 BC.Freed of any sacred character writing spread like wildfire with the dawn of the 7th century BC.