Biblical Archaeology Review 5:1, January/February 1979

Phoenicians in Brazil?

Distinguished linguist examines controversial inscription supposedly written by ancient voyagers to the New World.

By Frank Moore Cross

Of the recurring, often bizarre attempts to find ancient Semitic inscriptions in the western hemisphere, the most prominent and frequently cited concerns the so-called Paraiba inscription from Brazil.

The Paraiba inscription is said to be a Phoenician inscription carved in stone and found in northeastern Brazil in 1872.

After raising a minor stir in the 1870’s, the Paraiba inscription was almost forgotten—until another copy of the inscription was publicized in the 1960’s by Professor Cyrus Gordon, then of Brandeis University and now at New York University. Based on this newly found copy, Gordon, in 1968, published an article declaring the inscription to be authentic. In a three-column headline, the New York Times declared “Phoenicia Linked to America.”

The contents of the inscription are remarkable—although a skeptic might suggest that it is precisely what we should expect from a Phoenician inscription found in Brazil!

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