The poster boys of antiquity's "capitalism" shunning money? The spread of the alphabet in the Mediterranean as a function of a credit-based, maritime trade
Revista do Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia
Advances into the origins of monetisation in the Mediterranean have shown that even with state-controlled currency circulating, (coinage-less) credit economies existed in parallel, using written documents for transactions, well into the Roman period. The current paper documents that a credit economy facilitated the Phoenician commercial expansion in the Mediterranean (9th-7thc. BCE), becoming the vehicle by which the west Semitic abjad, the Phoenician 'alphabet', was rapidly adopted and adapted
... into various phonetic and syllabic scripts in the Mediterranean. This led to the rapid spread of literacy in societies that had been fully illiterate by then, as the Greeks, or that had never developed literacy. In contrast with previous explanations that saw the spread of literacy in the Mediterranean as a corollary to international trade, the present study postulates that literacy played a functional role within the credit economies that grew with international commerce, thereby providing the impetus for the spread of literacy, providing documentation that substantiates this hypothesis. The study links the rapid spread of literacy to the institutional role of the script within the context of monetised commercial transactions, utilizing archaeological evidence from both ends of the Mediterranean, and interpreting it within its historical context.