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Type of script

The alphabets of the Libyco-Berber family belong to the group of scripts using normally only consonants. Initial vowels originally were ignored totally as well as vowels in medial position, for vowels in final position there was used the semi-consonant H. The influence of Punic and Latin script led to the sporadic usage of the semi-consonants Y(I) and W(U) in initial and medial positions.

Direction of writing

In ancient times inscriptions of the Libyco-Berber type were written in vertical lines from bottom to top with the exception of the monumental inscriptions of Thugga/Dougga, which were written in horizontal lines from right to left. In recent times Tifinagh script is written in several different directions.
For the present data-base we presume - till a proof or indication of the opposite - for the vertical inscriptions an arrangement from bottom to top and from left to right, for the horizontal inscriptions from right to left and from top to bottom.


The oldest Libyco-Berber inscription which could be dated (by a Punic bilingue) comes from the 10th year of government of King Micipsa (138 BC). Following Galand most of the North-African monumental and grave inscriptions date from the time between the 4th century BC till the end of the Roman government. Of course, the ancient rock inscriptions represent a totally different cultural era, but they can't be dated up till now. The most plausible time of the beginning of writing in the territory of Morocco and the Canary Islands is the 7th and 6th century BC. Concerning the Libyco-Berber inscriptions of the eastern Canary Islands it looks like if they originate from the time about Jesus Christ's birth. Many of them are associated with Latin-Canary inscriptions showing typical characteristics of the Latin cursive script used during the first century BC and the first century AD in peripheral areas of the Roman Empire.


The history of research concerning the origin of the Libyco-Berber script covers a time of more than 150 years, more than 50 scholars have devoted their attention to this topic. All these publications can be divided into four groups:

1. Really exotic theses without any scientific basis
2. S-Semitic origin (especially Himjaritic of "Thamudic")
3. N-Semitic origin (Phoenician or Punic)
4. Own invention

A new thesis says that the basic structure was brought to the Strait of Gibraltar by Phoenician settler. Ancestors of the today's Berber people adapted the script in a very creative way resulting in one of the most perfect systems of writing. The oldest Libyco-Berber inscriptions of this type can be found in the Moroccan High Atlas.

Cited from: Origin and Development of the Libyco-Berber Script