Palaeography or paleography is the study of ancient and historical handwriting. The discipline is important for understanding, authenticating, and dating ancient texts, however, it cannot in general be used to pinpoint dates with high precision. Palaeography can be a skill for historians and philologists, as it tackles two main difficulties. First, since the style of an alphabet in each given language has evolved constantly. Second, scribes often used many abbreviations, usually so as to more quickly and sometimes to save space. Knowledge of individual letter-forms, ligatures, punctuation, and abbreviations enables the palaeographer to read, the palaeographer must know, first, the language of the text, and second, the historical usages of various styles of handwriting, common writing customs, and scribal or notarial abbreviations. Philological knowledge of the language, vocabulary, and grammar generally used at a time or place can help palaeographers identify ancient or more recent forgeries versus authentic documents. Knowledge of writing materials is essential to the study of handwriting. Palaeography can be used to provide information about the date at which a document was written, scholars also tend to oversimplify diachronic development, assuming models of simplicity rather than complexity. It spread from the Mediterranean coast to the borders of India, becoming popular and being adopted by many people. The Aramaic script was written in a form with a direction from right to left. One innovation in Aramaic is the matres lectionis system to indicate certain vowels, Early Phoenician-derived scripts did not have letters for vowels, and so most texts recorded just consonants. Most likely as a consequence of changes in North Semitic languages. The letter aleph was employed to write /ā/, he for /ō/, yod for /ī/, Aramaic writing and language supplanted Babylonian cuneiform and Akkadian language, even in their homeland in Mesopotamia. The wide diffusion of Aramaic letters led to its writing being used not only in monumental inscriptions, Aramaic papyri have been found in large numbers in Egypt, especially at Elephantine – among them are official and private documents of the Jewish military settlement in 5 BC. In the Aramaic papyri and potsherds, words are separated usually by a small gap, at the turn of the 3rd to 2nd centuries BC, the heretofore uniform Aramaic letters developed new forms, as a result of dialectal and political fragmentation in several subgroups. The most important of these is the so-called square Hebrew block script, followed by Palmyrene, Nabataean, Aramaic is usually divided into three main parts, Old Aramaic Middle Aramaic, and Modern Aramaic of the present day. Old Aramaic appeared in the 11th century BC as the language of the first Aramaean states
Image: Shakespeare Testament
Table showing the Mandaic alphabet (Abagada) with some of the mysteries represented by the letters
Detail of the Berlin papyrus 9875 showing the 5th column of Timotheus' Persae, with a coronis symbol to mark the end.
The Derveni Papyrus, a Greek Macedonian philosophical text dating around 340 BC, considered Europe's oldest manuscript