The Tower's ancient alphabets

The Tower's ancient alphabets

When then-Harvard University Professor John Huehnergard and his wife and colleague Jo Ann Hackett first visited The University of Texas at Austin last spring, they couldn't help but notice the ancient Phoenician and Hebrew letters that adorn the Tower. After all, Hackett, a Hebrew scholar, and Huehnergard, who teaches Semitic linguistics and writing systems, have a natural curiosity for language.

Upon closer inspection, they discovered what generations of students have seen: five different gold-leafed alphabets -- Egyptian hieroglyphics (although technically not considered an alphabet), Phoenician, Hebrew, Greek and Latin -- totaling 113 letters on the 73-year-old building.

When the couple joined The University of Texas at Austin's Department of Middle Eastern Studies in fall 2009, Huehnergard began to think about the letters again.

In this photo slideshow, Professor Huehnergard describes the letters that appear on the university's Tower.