Learning to write Early Aramaic on this page

In this lesson you will learn how to read and write the earliest form of the Aramaic alphabet. The epigraphic writing on ancient monuments and inscriptions is known as the Early Aramaic or Ancient Aramaic script.

You should already have a basic understanding of how to write Aramaic in either the cursive or square script (or both!). Take time to review that page to teach yourself the fundamentals.

Early Aramaic Alphabet & Writing

As I write the letters of the alphabet in the video, you can see a big difference between many of the letters and their later square & cursive forms. Copy the alphabet a few times before moving on.

Practice Exercise 1

Try to find the names bar Hadad bar `Atarhamek and Melqart and the word mlek in the inscription below. Bar means 'son' and mlek means 'king'. Rewrite the words carefully once you find them.

Early Aramaic inscription on a stele.
A copy of the inscription on the Melqart Stele (1)

Practice Exercise 2

Below you will find a transliteration of an inscription that reads shem zakir mlek ḥamat u la`ash 'name Zakir king (of) Hamat and La`ash'.

  1. Rewrite just the part that means 'Zakir'.
  2. Write only the section that translates to 'king'.
  3. Just write the words that mean 'Hamat and La`ash".
  4. The small vertical lines interspersed through the text aren't letters. What is their function?

Zakkur or Zakir inscription.
Rough transcription of a section of the Zakkur inscription

Practice Exercise 3

The inscription below isn't in Aramaic. It's written in a closely related language called Phoenecian. Carefully find and copy down the part of the inscription that reads anak kilamuwa bar ḥaya mlek. If anak is the pronoun 'I', and Kilamuwa & Haya are proper names, what does the sentence mean?

Kilamuwa inscription.
Royal inscription of Kilamuwa (2)

Extra Challenge

Take another look at the Aramaic words used in the introduction to Aramaic writing. Rewrite all of them in the early Aramaic script.

Image Sources & References

1. See image on Dr. Ralph Klein's Ancient Near East History Tables

2. Wikimedia Commons has a large image of the full stele