Wheat and word: astronomy and the origins of the alphabet

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Sino-Platonic Papers is pleased to announce the publication of its three-hundred-and-forty-first issue:

"On the Origins of the Alphabet: Orion/Osiris in Need of a Head/Seed, the Roots of Writing, the Neolithic Europe Word as Sun/Seed System (NEWS), and a Solution to the Tartaria and Gradeshnista Tablets," by Brian R. Pellar.



This paper offers new information supporting the thesis presented in "On the Origins of the Alphabet: The Cycle of Emmer Wheat and Seed/Word Selection within the Proto-Sinaitic/Phoenician/Hebrew Alphazodiac and the Chinese Lunar Zodiac" (Sino-Platonic Papers, no. 328). It offers fresh evidence to help prove that the twenty-two-letter Phoenician alphabet is based on the zodiac, which, in turn, is based on Egyptian celestial diagrams and the life-sustaining cycle of wheat-growing and harvesting. Even more importantly, this evidence could shed light on the invention of writing and the alphabet, illuminating its "mythical" (rather than actual) time and location, which appears to have been understood as located at the celestial opening/"gateway" between Gemini and Taurus, where the Milky Way joined and became one with the vernal equinox and the equator – the midway point of the sun's track between upper and lower, the north and the south. That midway gate was the sacred spot where the sun/seed/Word was believed to have been born, and it pre-dates writing itself, since the Gemini Gate goes back at least to the Neolithic village of Catalhoyuk, with the headless Orion symbolizing the "heading stage" and birth of the seed of Emmer wheat. Thus, the Gemini Gate, with its sacred symbolism associated with gates, pi, and the birth of the sun/seed/Word, sheds light on the reasons the inventors of the Phoenician alphabet highlighted it as the juncture between the two loops of the alphabet (the northern and southern). This paper also offers a solution to the Tartaria and Gradeshnitsa tablets, as well as showcases a classification system that explains the origin and use of "select" glyphs/graphemes in Neolithic Europe, i.e., the Neolithic Europe Word as Sun/Seed System – NEWS. This system, which reflects aspects of a true writing system – not proto-writing – is not only apparent within Neolithic China, but the complexity and unification of this system precludes the possibility that it arose independently in China. Furthermore, Appendix 1 will discuss a little known ancient zodiac called the Taghit Zodiac, which contains strong evidence linking it to both the Phoenician alphabet and the zodiac.

Pellar has explored related themes across other issues of Sino-Platonic Papers.

SPP 328:
On the Origins of the Alphabet: The Cycle of Emmer Wheat and Seed/Word Selection within the Proto-Sinaitic/Phoenician/Hebrew Alphazodiac and the Chinese Lunar Zodiac

SPP 296:
On the Origins of the Alphabet: The Rapallo Alphazodiac and the Birth of the Sun as the Seed/Word

SPP 263:
The Foundation of Myth: A Unified Theory of the Link Between Seasonal/Celestial Cycles, the Precession, Theology, and the Alphabet/Zodiac, Part II

SPP 246:
On the Origins of the Alphabet: New Evidence

SPP 219:
The Foundation of Myth: A Unified Theory on the Link Between Seasonal/Celestial Cycles, the Precession, Theology, and the Alphabet/Zodiac, Part I

SPP 196:
On the Origins of the Alphabet


These and all other issues of Sino-Platonic Papers are available in full for no charge.

To view our catalog, visit http://www.sino-platonic.org/

Selected readings

    1. The Ancient Eurasian World and the Celestial Pivot
    2. Representations and Identities of High Powers in Neolithic and Bronze China
    3. Terrestrial and Celestial Transformations in Zhou and Early-Imperial China



  1. Victor Mair said,

    March 15, 2024 @ 10:02 am

    In this comment, I would like to introduce two concepts from Indian thought that are relevant to our present inquiry:



    In Hinduism and Buddhism, the Sanskrit term Bīja (बीज) (Jp. 種子 shuji) (Chinese 種子 zhǒng zǐ), literally seed, is used as a metaphor for the origin or cause of things and cognate with bindu.

    Various schools of Buddhist thought held that karmic effects arose out of seeds that were latent in an individual's mindstream or psycho-physical continuum.

    In Vajrayana Buddhism and Hinduism, the term bīja is used for mystical "seed syllables" contained within mantras or standalone seed syllable mantras (bijamantra). These seeds do not have specific linguistic meaning nor are they name mantras, but they may stand for specific principles, deities, powers, or ideas.

    The best-known bīja syllable is Om, first found in the Hindu scriptures the Upanishads. In Buddhism, the most important seed syllable is the letter A bija.


    Bindu (Sanskrit: बिंदु) is a Sanskrit word meaning "point", "drop" or "dot".

    In Hindu metaphysics, Bindu is considered the point at which creation begins and may become unity. It is also described as "the sacred symbol of the cosmos in its unmanifested state". Bindu is the point around which the mandala is created, representing the Universe.

    Bindu is often merged with [seed] (or sperm) and ova.


  2. Pamela said,

    March 15, 2024 @ 10:48 am

    I love Pellar's work, and thank you Victor for supporting it. Archeoastronomers take great risks to live and think at the edge's of conventional notions (whether of astronomy, archeology, religious studies, or just the basic concepts of academic disciplines) and the rest of us reap the benefits of engagement and imagination.

  3. David Marjanović said,

    March 15, 2024 @ 5:18 pm

    the inventors of the Phoenician alphabet

    One problem I can see immediately is that the alphabet was neither invented from scratch nor developed specifically for Phoenician. And both of these facts have been known for decades.

  4. Victor Mair said,

    March 15, 2024 @ 7:10 pm

    @David Marjanović

    The author is keenly aware of both of those facts. By "inventors of the Phoenician alphabet", he includes its forerunners. See SPP 196, the author's first paper, which goes into this in depth

  5. Jonathan Smith said,

    March 16, 2024 @ 2:01 pm

    The core idea (Hugh Moran's? others'?) that the alphabet had concrete origins related to observational astronomy / time-keeping is in itself not a terrible one… and OK, "A"/Aleph/'ox'/Taurus; we can see it.

    Beyond that, well… re: Chinese systems, the 28-member lunar zodiac (Èrshíbā Xiù 二十八宿) for instance is explicitly described in pre-imperial texts and is archaeologically attested — so no, one can't just reassign Xiù to whichever elements of the Western zodiac one sees fit in order to realize one's pan-prehistoric-Eurasian vision. So it's fine, indeed advisable, for readers to stop here on p. 5 of the first paper linked above (SPP 196/2009).

    One of the thought problems on display in such works lies in finding the idea of a connection between early Semitic alphabets on the one hand and certain early Chinese 'chronographic' ordinal systems on the other to be compelling independent of the many attested particulars of the systems at issue — leading practitioners to feel entirely justified in juggling 'correspondences' around until they arrive at something deemed satisfactory. That's pseudo-science.

    Passing over Edwin Pulleyblank, who as of 1979 seems finally to have tired of such juggling, this trend began in earnest with Mair (1992, 1996), who reports having prepared — over late 1987 and early 1988 — a 300+ page manuscript demonstrating a "one-to-one correspondence between the Northwest Semitic and Sinitic consonantaries" (1992: 335), with "[t]he number of unquestionable, impeccable correspondences of symbols in the two sets sharing similar sounds and shapes [being] at least 15" (1996: 35). However, rather than specify what these perfect correspondences were and/or publish the manuscript, Mair chose from the beginning to profess an inability to advance the project ("[u]nfortunately, it may be years before I will have the opportunity to convert it into a publishable typescript" [1992: 335]; "[u]nfortunately, numerous other projects have intervened to prevent me from publishing the manuscript, so it molders in a safe-deposit box" [1996:34]), instead encouraging junior scholars to advance the idea in his stead ("at least the idea that such a possibility exists will be launched among the international community of scholars" [1992: 335]).

    Thus the seemingly endless variations on this theme appearing on LL/SPP. Which version is "right"? Are the manuscript / safe-deposit box real? May I advise not holding your breath for answers…

    Mair, Victor H. 1992. “West Eurasian and North African Influences on the Origins of Chinese Writing.” Contacts Between Cultures, vol. 3: Eastern Asia: Literature and Humanities, ed. Bernard Hung-Kay Luk & Barry D. Steben, pp. 335-338. Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen.

    Mair, Victor H. 1996. “Language and Script: Biology, Archaeology, and (Pre) History,”
    International Review of Chinese Linguistics, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 31–41.

    Pulleyblank, Edwin G. 1979. The Chinese Cyclical Signs as Phonograms. Journal of the American Oriental Society Vol. 99, No. 1, pp. 24-38

  6. Chris Button said,

    March 17, 2024 @ 12:16 pm

    @ Brian R. Pellar

    Thanks for sharing this. It looks like it merits a close read! In the meantime, I wonder if you can help me out with a related issue?

    I reconstruct the following 22 onsets for Old Chinese (OC):

    k, Ɂ, p, t, b, ɣ, ᵏl, s, n, q, ʦ, x, l, ʁ~ɢ, d, z~ʣ, ŋ, m, ɬ, r, χ, g

    They are reconstructed solely on the basis of how to account for the OC lexicon.

    I had always been skeptical of Pulleyblank's suggestion, which I don't believe he ever relinquished, that the 22 Chinese calendrical signs were used to represent the onsets of OC. However, when I applied my OC reconstruction to the calendrical signs (often different from Pulleyblank's but re-using much of his methodology), I found to my surprise a one-to-one correspondence:

    甲 k, 乙 Ɂ, 丙 p, 丁 t, 戊 b, 己 ɣ, 庚 ᵏl, 辛 s, 壬 n, 癸 q, 子 ʦ, 丑 x, 寅 l, 卯 ʁ~ɢ, 辰 d, 巳 z~ʣ, 午 ŋ, 未 m, 申 ɬ, 酉 r, 戌 χ, 亥 g

    If my reconstruction of OC is correct, then that is quite a coincidence! As such, I am convinced that Pulleyblank's hunch is correct.

    However, what I cannot account for is why these particular graphic forms are being used to represent the OC onsets when there are other OC graphic forms with these same onsets that could have worked equally well. That's where I think your work might be able to help (noting your comment on p.95 about the heavenly stems)!

    One idea (suggested and later abandoned–at least in print–by Pulleyblank) is that the graphic forms were somehow influenced by Phoenician. But unlike the correlation of the calendrical signs with the OC onsets (which was "accidentally" uncovered without any attempt to connect them), I can't independently prove or disprove the hypothesis.

    I can very speculatively try to line them up based on the closest combination of phonological and graphic associations. Here's the best arrangement I can come up with for now:

    甲 k (qop), 乙 Ɂ (yod), 丙 p (bet), 丁 t (dalet), 戊 b (pe), 己 ɣ ('ayin), 庚 ᵏl (kap), 辛 s (samek), 壬 n (nun), 癸 q ('alep), 子 ʦ (ṭet), 丑 x (he), 寅 l (lamed), 卯 ʁ~ɢ (res), 辰 d (taw), 巳 z~ʣ (zayin), 午 ŋ (ḥet), 未 m (mem), 申 ɬ (šin), 酉 r (waw), 戌 χ (ṣade), 亥 g (giml)

    But without any other evidence, it remains utter speculation. And as such, I can only state with conviction that the calendrical signs were used to represent the onsets of OC.

    As to proving or disproving whether their graphic forms were influenced by Phoenician, perhaps your evidence can provide the independent support or rejection that is needed?

  7. Brian R. Pellar said,

    March 19, 2024 @ 1:36 pm

    In regard to Jonathan Smith's comment, I think it's important to mention that Figures 2 and 3 in SPP 196 have been revised. Based on new evidence, I published a new chart of the correlation between the Phoenician alphabet and the Chinese Lunar Zodiac (see SPP 328, Figure 45, and my new paper, SPP 341, Figure 7). This new chart not only shows a strong correlation between the Phoenician/Chinese shapes (i.e., the shapes of a bovine/Taurus, scorpion/Scorpio, and a virgin/Virgo on her back, etc.) and meaning (such as “Ox”/“Bull” and “Woman and House"/"Woman and House", etc.), but also, and more importantly, its sequential ordering — which my revised chart now accounts for the four extra mansions that are contained within the Chinese Lunar Zodiac (they are the four colures — the fall and spring equinoxes and the summer and winter solstices). Thus, there has been no juggling to make things match. The fact that the Phoenician and Chinese appear to both line up in shape, meaning, and order (with the four colures lining up perfectly to match their respective constellations during the Age of Aries when the Lunar Zodiac was created), appears to rule out pure coincidence.

  8. Brian R. Pellar said,

    March 19, 2024 @ 3:20 pm

    Correction: the 4 colures matching the start of the Age of Taurus, with the Gemini Gate in the Milky Way being highlighted at the Vernal Equinox (as discussed in SPP 328 and my new paper SPP 341).

  9. Chris Button said,

    March 20, 2024 @ 10:16 am

    @ Brian R. Pellar

    Have you read David Pankenier's proposal for 丁 in this article: "Getting 'right' with heaven and the Origins of writing in China" (2011). It's quite interesting and compelling. I was quite excited to discover that his 2013 book "Astrology and cosmology in early China" has a chapter on "Astral revelation and the origins of writing". Unfortunately though he doesn't seem to have been able to do anything with the other 21 ganzhi outside of 丁, which makes it all rather less interesting and compelling!

    Looking at your work a little more closely, I'm not clear what exactly you are doing with the ganzhi in terms of their graphic forms. There are some vague references here and there, but the focus seems to be primarily elsewhere. I'm not quite understanding what 90-degree rotations of their modern graphic forms have to do with anything.

    On a separate note, some of the artwork on your website is amazing!

  10. Brian R. Pellar said,

    March 20, 2024 @ 2:38 pm

    @ Chris Button

    Thanks for the comments. I would suggest that you look at my previous paper, SPP 328, p.6, where I discuss that there is no need to rotate any of the letters. This also ties into your first question, as not only do the shapes of the Phoenician alphabet (and the Chinese Lunar Zodiac) match the constellations of the zodiac, but, more importantly, they correlate to the sequential ordering and, in many places, to meaning (see Figures 9 and 19 and discussion in SPP 328). Thus, I think that though sound is an important and interesting element, the fact that there is also a sequential order and meaning correlation between the Phoenician/Chinese and the zodiac leads me to believe that the zodiac is the most likely, natural, and practical underlying factor/blueprint to them (as discussed in SPP 196, Moran also thought this to be true as well). And thanks for your comment regarding my artwork — writing these papers and inserting many drawings has allowed me to keep in practice!

  11. Chris Button said,

    March 20, 2024 @ 9:06 pm

    Right, so the areas not pertaining to the shapes of the ganzhi themselves seem to my (completely novice layman) eyes very interesting indeed. That seems to be the bulk of your work, and it seems like you might well be onto something. However, I am in no position to judge.

    The ganzhi discussions (I just saw p.77 to 92 of SPP 328) respectfully look like they could do with more work (by the way, I see you note Didier there who talks about the shape of 丁 too). I'm also sure you're aware that the ganzhi are used in the oracle-bones as calendrical signs without dedicated meanings, so going in with a semantic analysis is a shaky proposition to begin with and is bound to be highly subjective.

    I'm not saying this with any agenda since you don't address the Old Chinese pronunciations of the ganzhi, and so I don't think any of your work contradicts or supports the notion that the ganzhi were used to represent the onsets of Old Chinese. When I finally publish my dictionary with my OC reconstructions, the case for that should speak for itself. I am even arranging the dictionary according to the ganzhi in 22 sections–one for each onset.

    As for the idea that the forms of the ganzhi might have any connection to Phoenician, I think i will just have to wait until you or Victor Mair or anyone else (even perhaps me) can produce some compelling evidence.

  12. Brian R. Pellar said,

    March 21, 2024 @ 2:46 pm

    @ Chris Button

    Thanks again for your interest — I’m not a phonologist, and I’ll leave the correlations of sound to the experts such as yourself, Professor Mair, and others. But in regard to the 22 ganzhi and their connection to the zodiac and, thus, to the 22 Phoenician letters, I’m not sure if you had the chance to look at some of the evidence I presented in SPP 196? (see pp. 14-18, p. 25, and p. 33. Also, I discuss these correlations in more depth in SPP 328 in Section 3.2). What’s of particular interest is the Chinese Zi (which starts the ganzhi and whose counterpart is Aries, the start of the Western zodiac). It means “child, son” and “a grain, seed” and is closely associated with Zi, “a letter, word” — all of which ties into my paper (SPP 341, as well as SPP 328) and the links between the seed, son, and Word and Aries as the heading phase of wheat during the Age of Aries when the ganzhi was created (the shape of Zi , which conveniently sits next to the “ox” — the Western Taurus — also closely matches the shape of Aries and the shape of the Phoenician Aries couplet “gimmel/daleth,” as well as the shape of the Chinese Lunar Zodiac mansion couplet 11 & 12). In SPP 328, p. 157, I also discuss an interesting link between the creation of the ganhzi, via a “race,” and the western zodiac and the cycle of wheat (with the “river” that is crossed being the Milky Way). Thus, I have tried to show that there are indeed many interesting links between the 22 ganhzi (and Chinese lunar zodiac) and the zodiac/22 Phoenician letters, with, once again, a strong correlation between shape, order, and meaning that appears to rule out mere coincidence.

  13. Chris Button said,

    March 21, 2024 @ 8:32 pm

    @ Brian Pellar

    It's not just phonology but palaeography too. So, for example, the oracle-bone form for 巳 (onset z~ʣ in my reconstruction) is actually the predecessor of the character 子 (onset ʦ in my reconstruction), which is a separate ganzhi and had a different form originally.

  14. Yves Rehbein said,

    April 2, 2024 @ 7:19 pm

    > [This is a guest post by Chris Button]


    The Oracle Bone Script drawings are different for 巳 and 子 respectively. The lollipop with arms does resemble 子 and it is the figure shown under this sign by Wiktionary. It's mildly confusing.

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