Bronze arrowhead of Ada

Phoenician, 11th century BC

An arrow with its owner's name

This bronze arrowhead bears an inscription of a common type giving its owner's name. It reads, in the Phoenician language, 'arrowhead of 'Ada', son of Ba 'l'a''. The form of writing, where one sign is used for a single sound, has its origins as early as about 2000 BC in the Levant. It was a much simpler system than the cuneiform of Mesopotamia, which used a mixture of ideograms (signs that give meaning) and syllabic (sound value) signs. Some of the earliest evidence for the forerunner to the alphabet comes from the coastal site of Byblos, but it is clear that a variety of scripts had been developed to record the local Canaanite languages. By the first millennium BC the fully alphabetic script had emerged. This was adopted by the Greeks and ultimately the script you are reading here derived from it.

The Canaanites living along the coast of the Levant in the first millennium BC grew rich by supplying luxury materials to Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Iran. They produced superb quality metalwork, ivory carvings, jewellery and glass. They used a dye extracted from the murex shell to produce valuable purple fabrics. It is from the Greek word for this colour, phoinix, that the Canaanites of this period have become known as Phoenicians.

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More information


T.C. Mitchell, The Bible in the British Museu (London, The British Museum Press, 1988)

J.N. Tubb, Canaanites (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)


Length: 9.150 cm
Width: 1.650 cm

Museum number

ME 136753



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