CATEGORY: culture; language
DEFINITION: A name applied to the speakers of a set of related languages who inhabited portions of southwestern Asia since the time of the first cities.The Semites are first recorded on the steppe margins of the Arabian desert, encroaching upon the Sumerians to form the kingdom of Akkad c 2400 BC. The Amorites appear c 2000 in the same area and in Syria-Palestine, where they settled to become the Canaanites.
The Khabiru (Hebrews) appear in the same context. In the 12th century BC, the Amorites were followed by the Aramaeans, particularly in inland Syria.The Phoenicians from the 9th century BC carried their Semitic language over much of the Mediterranean.
Arabic and Hebrew are the most important surviving Semitic languages.Most, probably all, alphabetic scripts derive from the Semitic alphabet, created sometime in the 2nd millennium BC.The Semitic script was invented by speakers of some Semitic language, possibly Phoenician, who lived in the northern part of the Fertile Crescent.
(from Archaeology Wordsmith online)