For Immediate Release

Visible Language Series Lecture: The Alphabet: Its Origins and History

(November 4, 2010 Cambridge) The alphabet we use today had its origins in Near Eastern antiquity. It's the only writing system originating from the ancient Near East to spread so powerfully, becoming one of the dominant means of communication in the world.

On Thursday, December 2, 2010, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology presents the lecture "The Alphabet: Its Origins and History" at Harvard's Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford St., Cambridge at 5:30 PM. A public reception follows at the Peabody Museum, 11 Divinity Ave., Cambridge. The lecture is the fifth in the Museum's year-long Visible Language series.

This illustrated talk traces the alphabet's origins in Near Eastern antiquity, to the later Near East, to the Greek and then Roman worlds, and beyond. The talk will explore abundant new evidence on alphabetic origins and new theories about literacy and its historical impact.

The speaker is Peter Machinist, Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages, Divinity School, Harvard University.

About the Peabody Museum
The Peabody Museum is among the oldest archaeological and ethnographic museums in the world with one of the finest collections of human cultural history found anywhere. It is home to superb materials from Africa, ancient Europe, North America, Mesoamerica, Oceania, and South America in particular. In addition to its archaeological and ethnographic holdings, the Museum’s photographic archives, one of the largest of its kind, hold more than 500,000 historical photographs, dating from the mid-nineteenth century to the present and chronicling anthropology, archaeology, and world culture.

Hours and location: 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., seven days a week. The Museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. The Peabody Museum is located at 11 Divinity Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Museum is a short walk from the Harvard Square MBTA station. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for students and seniors, $6 for children, 3–18. Free with Harvard ID or Museum membership. The Museum is free to Massachusetts residents Sundays, 9 A.M. to noon, year round, and Wednesdays from 3 P.M. to 5 P.M. (September to May). Admission includes admission to the Harvard Museum of Natural History. For more information call 617-496-1027 or go online to:

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Media Contact:

Faith Sutter
Communications Coordinator
Peabody Museum
Tel: 617-495-3397

Metal pectoral with Hebrew inscription. PM 971-37-60/13250

High resolution image available on request.

Thursday, December 2: "Art as Writing: The Magic of Egyptian Hieroglyphs"

5:30 PM Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford St., Cambridge, followed by a public reception at the Peabody Museum, 11 Divinity Ave., Cambridge

Information: 617-496-1027 or Lecture: The Alphabet: Its Origins and History

See more about the Visible Language series.