Query: History of Phoenician-Punic Epigraphy

Philip Schmitz writes:

I have been asked to prepare a chapter on the history of Phoenician-Punic epigraphy for a volume honoring an important contributor to the field. I would like to include details of human interest pertaining to significant scholars and discoveries. I have consulted Mark Smith’s wonderful survey of the Northwest Semitic field, and will incorporate relevant items from that work.

I am not much interested in personal foibles or idiosyncrasies of teachers and scholars except as such might have led to progress in the discovery, decipherment, critical edition, or interpretation of Phoenician and Punic inscriptions. More valuable would be instances of working method, the role of comprehensive cataloguing, notable cases of insight or intuition, and the like. Eyewitness accounts of text discoveries, personal or reported narratives about teaching and research methods, and reflection about how discoveries of texts have changed perceptions of ancient history and biblical studies are especially welcome.

The period I plan to cover begins with the seventeenth-century erudites and extends to the current generation. My focus will be on Phoenician and Punic, although that history is difficult to divide neatly from the rest of Northwest Semitic epigraphy or from Semitic studies at large. The earliest periods of the alphabet, significant as they are, are less germane to this study than the periods from Iron II to Roman. I am particularly concerned to identify critical moments and turning points in the field’s development. Hearing your perceptions of these would be immensely helpful as I review and revise my own understanding. I greatly appreciate any response you might wish to make to my request.


Philip C. Schmitz
Professor of History
Department of History and Philosophy
Eastern Michigan University
Ypsilanti, MI 48197

About Tom Elliott

Associate Director for Digital Programs and Senior Research Scholar, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University
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