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An Easy Guide to Learning Arcado-Cypriot Linear C & I mean easy!: Click to ENLARGE If any of you out there have already mastered either Minoan Linear A or Mycenaean Linear B or both, Arcado-Cypriot Linear C is likely to come as a bit of a shock. Although the phonetic values of the syllabograms in Linear C are identical to their Linear B counterparts, with very few exceptions, the appearance of Linear C syllabograms is almost always completely at odds with their Linear B counterparts, again with very few exceptions. If this sounds confusing, allow me to elucidate. A: Appearance of Linear B & Linear C Syllabograms. Linear C syllabograms look like this. If you already know Linear B, you are probably saying to yourself, What a mess!, possibly even aloud. I can scarcely blame you. But courage, courage, all is not lost. Far from it. Click to ENLARGE: Only the following syllabograms look (almost) alike in both Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C [see (a) below]: NA PA TA * SE * LO * PO * * There is a slight difference between those syllabograms marked with an asterisk * DA in Linear B is identical to TA in Linear C because Linear C has no D + vowel series, but uses the T + vowel series instead. SE in Linear B has 3 vertical strokes, whereas in Linear C it has only 2. RO in Linear B is identical to LO in Linear C. While Linear C has both and R + vowel series, it uses the L + vowel series as the equivalent of the Linear B R series. PO stands vertically in Linear B, but is slanted about 30 degrees to the right in Linear C. All other syllabograms in these two syllabaries are completely dissimilar; so you might think you are on your own to learn the rest of them in Linear C. But in fact, you are not. I can help a lot. See below, after the section on the Phonetic Values of Linear B & Linear C Syllabograms. B: Phonetic Values of Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C Syllabograms: Here the reverse scenario applies. Once you have mastered all of the Linear C syllabograms by their appearance, you can rest pretty much assured that the phonetic values of almost all syllabograms in both syllabaries are identical, with very few exceptions. Even in those instances where their phonetic values appear not to be identical, they are in fact identical, for all intents and purposes. This is because the ancient Greek dialects were notorious for wide variations in pronunciation, ergo in orthography. Anyone at all familiar with ancient Greek dialects can tell you that the pronunciation and spelling of an identical document, were there ever any such beast, would vary markedly from, say, Arcado-Cypriot to Dorian to Attic alphabetic. I can hear some of you protest, “What do you mean, the Arcado-Cypriot alphabet? I thought the script for Arcado-Cypriot was the syllabary Linear C.” You would be only half right. In fact, the Arcadians and Cypriots wrote their documents either in Linear or in their version of the ancient Greek alphabet, or in both at the same time. This is the case with the famous Idalion decree, composed in the 5th. Century BCE: Click to ENLARGE The series of syllabograms beginning with the consonant R + any of the vowels A E I O & U is present in Mycenaean Linear B. However, the series of syllabograms beginning with the consonant L + any of the vowels A E I O & U is entirely absent from Mycenaean Linear B, while Arcado-Cypriot Linear C has a series of syllabograms for both of the semi-consonants L & R. It rather looks like the Arcadians & Cypriots had already made the clear distinction between the semi-vowels L & R, firmly established and in place with the advent of the earliest form of the ancient Greek alphabet, which sported separate semi-vowels for L & R. Likewise, the series of syllabograms beginning with the consonant Q + any of the vowels A E I & O is present in Mycenaean Linear B, but entirely absent from Arcado-Cypriot Linear C. Conversely, the series of syllabograms beginning with the consonant X + the vowels A or E (XA & XE) is entirely absent from in Mycenaean Linear B, but present in Arcado-Cypriot Linear C. For the extremely significant socio-cultural linguistic explanation for this apparent paradox (I say, apparent, because it is in fact unreal), we shall have to defer to the next post. WARNING! Always be on your guard never to confuse Linear B & Linear C syllabograms which look (almost exactly) alike – the sole exceptions being NA PA TA SE LO & PO, since you can be sure that their phonetic values are completely at odds. Various strategies you can resort to in order to master Linear C fast! (a) The Linear B & Linear C syllabograms NA PA TE SE LO & PO are virtually the same, both in appearance and in pronunciation.
(b) Taking advantage of the real or fortuitous resemblance of several syllabograms to one another & (c) Geometric Clustering: Click to ENLARGE What is really astonishing is that the similarities between the syllabograms on the second line & their geometric clustering on the third are identical! So no matter which approach you adopt (b) or (c) or both for at least these syllabograms, you are a winner. Failing these approaches, try (d) Mnemonics: For instance, we could imagine that RO is a ROpe, PE = Don’t PEster me!, SA = SAve $, TO is TOFu etc. or we could even resort to (e) Imagery! For instance, we could imagine that A E & I are a series of stars, RI NI & KE all look like variations on the letter E, that LE is the symbol for infinity, WE is an iron bar etc. For Mnemonics & Imagery, I am not suggesting that you follow my own arbitrary interpretations, except perhaps for LE, which is transparent. Take your imagination where it leads you. Finally (f) the really great news is that the Linear C syllabary abandoned homophones, logograms and ideograms, doing away with them lock-stock-and-barrel. This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B syllabaries. The first had so many syllabograms, homophones, logograms and ideograms that it can be a real pain in the butt to learn Linear A. Mycenaean Linear B greatly simplified the entire mess, reducing the number and complexity of syllabograms & homophones, but unfortunately retaining well over a hundred logograms and ideograms, which are equally a pain in the you know what. In other words, the process of greater and greater simplication was evolutionary. This phenomenon is extremely common across the spectrum of world languages. What the Linear C scribes agreed upon, the complete elimination of anything but syllabograms, was the last & greatest evolutionary phase in the development of the Minoan-Greek syllabaries before the Greeks finally reduced even Linear C to its own variable alphabet of some 24-27 letters, depending on the dialect. But even the 3 syllabaries, Linear A, B & C, all had the 5 vowels, A E I O & U, which already gave them an enormous advantage over almost all other ancient scripts, none of which had vowels, with the sole exception of Sanskrit, as far as I know. That alone was quite an achievement. If you have not yet mastered the Linear B syllabary, it goes without saying that all of these techniques can be applied to it. The same goes for the Minoan Linear A syllabary, though perhaps to a lesser extent. The Real Potential for Extrapolation of these Principles to Learning any Script: Moreover, at the most general level for learning linguistic scripts, ancient or modern, whether they be based on pictographs, ideograms alone (as with some Oriental languages, such as Chinese, Japanese & Korean, at least when they resorted to the Kanji script), or any combination of ideograms, logograms & syllabograms (all three not necessarily being present) or even alphabetic, they will almost certainly stand the test of the practical validity of any or all of these approaches for learning any such script. I have to wonder whether or not most linguists have ever considered the practical implications of the combined application of all of these principles, at least theoretically. Allow me to conclude with this telling observation. Children especially, even from the age of 2 & a half to 3 years old, would be especially receptive to all of these techniques, which would ensure a rapid assimilation of any script, even something as simple as an alphabet of anywhere from 24 letters (Italian) to Russian Cyrillic (33 letters), as I shall clearly demonstrate with both the modern Greek & Latin alphabet a little later this month. PS. If any of you are wondering, as I am sure many of you who are familiar with our blog must be, I have an extremely associative, cross-correlative mind, a rather commonplace phenomenon among polyglot linguists, such as myself. In fact, my thinking can run in several directions, by which I mean I frequently process one set of cross-correlative associations, only to consider another and another, each in quite different directions from the previous. If that sounds like something Michael Ventris did, it is because that is precisely what he did to decipher almost all of Mycenaean Linear B - almost all, but not quite. As for the remaining 10 % or so which has so far defied decipherment, I promise you you are in for a great surprise very soon, perhaps as early as the spring of 2015, when my research colleague, Rita Roberts, and I shall be publishing an in-depth research paper in PDF on the Internet - a study which is to announce a major breakthrough in the further decipherment of Linear B. Those of you who frequent this blog on a regular basis already know what we are up to. As for those of you who are not regular visitors, if you read all the posts under the rubric, Supersyllabograms (at the top of this page), you are going to find out anyway. Richard
NEWS RELEASE! Just a few of the KEY Twitter Accounts following us: Click our banner to view our Twitter account: Note that the number of Twitter accounts following us has grown from about 500 at the beginning of 2014 to just short of 800 now, growing at a rate of 10-20 new followers per month. As of December 2014, we have the honour and privilege of being followed by some of the more significant, indeed some of the most important Twitter accounts. Of these, perhaps the most impressive is none other than The British Museum, with 428,000 followers: Click on its banner to visit their Twitter (also Click on all of the other Twitter accounts below to do the same): Click here: You will perhaps have noticed that The British Museum follows fewer than 10 % of the Twitter accounts who follow them; so it is particularly telling that they decided to follow us. Here are some more Twitter accounts of direct relevance to ours, starting with linguistics: Once again, Babel follows just over 10 % of those who follow them. They stood up and noticed us. And here we have just of few of the scores of Twitter accounts relevant to ours following us: who by the way lives in Mycenae. And here are just two of the most popular MEDIA and Promotional accounts on Twitter now following us (some of them with 100s of thousands of followers): Richard
Rita Roberts’ Translation of the famous “Ivory” Tablet, Knossos Tablet KN 684 U h 11: Click to ENLARGE: Once Rita and I had finally managed to establish our connection with Skype, due in no small part to her patience in assisting me to get it up and running on my computer, I began to teach her interactively. Her lessons have run to about one hour each, which is what I would have expected. Rita emphatically told me that she found this tablet, the famous “Ivory” one, to be the most difficult one by a long shot that she has had to translate so far. And she was right. I had deliberately assigned her this tablet with the express intention that she had to move on to more complex Linear B tablets; so this one came as a shock to her. During the classroom session, in which we tackled this difficult tablet, we spent some time comparing her translation to my own, and as a result of our conversation, I have come to the conclusion that I prefer Rita’s to my own, if only for the fact that her approach is less academic than mine, hence more realistic. Whereas I have translated the notion of loss as “8 accounts written off”, where “written off” is meant to be the equivalent of “lost”, Rita takes this as meaning a single transaction or sale which the Minoan palace administration has lost. This translation makes more sense than mine. I now believe she is more than ready and willing to tackle more and more Linear B tablets at this advanced level, a task which she will find herself confronted with more and more often as she progresses towards her matriculation at the secondary school level either in December 2014 or in January 2015. She is already fully aware that in order to graduate to the university level she will be obliged to translate the very first Linear B tablet which Michael Ventris himself deciphered in 1952, Pylos Tablet PY 641-1952 (Ventris): Click to ENLARGE Meanwhile, compare Rita’s translation of KN 684 U h 11 to my own and to the faulty one by Gretchen Leonhardt (with the demerits of the latter discussed at some length here: Richard
Rita Roberts’ Translation of Knossos Tablet K 1186: Click to ENLARGE: In her translation of Knossos Tablet K 1886, Rita Roberts mentions the toponym “Lato”, which she has transcribed into the correct English name for the Linear B “RATO”. Other than that, this tablet is relatively straightforward to translate. Richard
This is really neat! I am going to post Happy New Year in Mycenaean Linerar B on our blog to complement this. Richard
Originally posted on Sententiae Antiquae:
This is our first post from an airplane. And it is a re-post. It is my wife’s birthday. Thanks to the insanity of this site, I can now wish her happy birthday in Ancient Greek.
After tweeting in desperation last night, I awoke with a mission: to learn more about birthdays in ancient Greek (whether they observed them, how and what, if anything, they said). I sent some emails and then started in two logical places: a Greek phrase book and the Oxford Classical Dictionary.
H. W. Auden’s Greek Phrase Book provides a phrase for observing birthday sacrifices: τὰ γενέθλια ἑστιᾶν (1963, 44)
Oxford Classical Dictionary. 3rd Edition (s.v. Birthday): γενέθλιος ἡμέρα: The ancient Greeks celebrated the birthdays of some of the Olympian…
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This is quite an update! Rita is advancing very rapidly in her understanding and knowledge of Linear B, and she is translating at least 4 tablets a month. Richard
Originally posted on Ritaroberts's Blog:
For those who have been following my interest in the Linear B Ancient Script writings, here is an update which includes my visit to The Heraklion Archaeological Museum in Crete. Here I was fortunate enough to see a wonderful display of some of the Linear B clay tablets which Sir Arthur Evans had discovered at Knossos Palace. I could not believe my eyes when I saw how small these tablets were, and stood in amazement trying to imagine how the scribes managed to convey all the meanings of which they wrote on these tablets, which incidentally, were not fired when they were initially made, just placed out in the sun to dry. Many of the tablets when found had evidence of being burned which has helped preserve them giving us an insight into a lost civilization. This for me was the attraction of learning the Minoan Scripts. It is from these Linear B writings we learn…
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This is a fantastic post! Just look at the lovely Minoan lady & the exquisite gaming board. A MUST read for anyone really fascinated by the Minoan civilization. Richard
Originally posted on Ritaroberts's Blog:
Apart from their magnificent artwork, their religion and the many crafts they produced the Minoans spent some of their leisure time taking part in sports activities such as, boxing, wrestling and bull leaping.
The bull leaping is believed to be in connection with bull worship. In one type the leaper approaches the bull from the front, grabs the horns and somersaults backwards. This is a highly dangerous sport. It is possible the bull was sacrificed afterwards as part of a religious ritual.
The Bull leaping Fresco Knossos
Minoan Woman Weaving.
The Minoans also loved music. These musical instruments were found in a cave burial on the Lasithi Plateau Crete.
This is the famous Knossos Board Game. It is the ancient board game discovered by Sir Arthur Evans in the Palace of Knossos and goes back to 1600 BC It is a ‘ race game ‘, but at the same time something more. It portrays an ancient…
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Rita Roberts’ Translation of Knossos Tablet KN 933 G d 01: Click to ENLARGE: In her translation of Knossos Tablet KN 933 G d 01, Rita Roberts, now an advanced student of Linear B, refers to the SSYLs O & KI, which are the Linear B Supersyllabograms “a lease field” and “a plot of land” respectively. We have discussed our all-new Theory of Supersyllabograms several times on this blog, but just to refresh your memory, a supersyllabogram is defined as the first syllabogram, in other words, the first syllable of a Linear B word. The meaning of any supersyllabogram in Linear B never changes in the context for which it is intended, but can & often does change its meaning when it appears in a different context. For instance, the supersyllabogram O means one thing & one thing only in the context of livestock, in this case, sheep (rams), namely, “a lease field”, while the SSYL KI can only mean “a plot of land” in the same context. Specific supersyllabograms sometimes appear in only one category of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy, and in no others. On the other hand, they often appear in two or more sectors of the economy and social + religious life of the Minoans & Mycenaeans. Early in 2015, we shall compile a complete table of all 31 supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B, to be posted on this blog as the first step towards the publication of our research article positing the Theory of Supersyllabograms sometime in the spring of 2015. Richard
Ripley’s Believe it or not! The telling contribution of the Minoans & of the great metropolis of Knossos to the Trojan War according to Homer. Iliad II, “The Catalogue of Ships” - lines 615-652: Click to ENLARGE With reference to the great Minoan civilization, to Knossos, a metropolis of some 55,000 citizens (the size of Classical Athens), Phaestos & some 100 (!) Minoan cities in prominence in these few lines of the Iliad (according to Homer), this is far and away the most significant passage in the entire “The Catalogue of Ships” as far as we as researchers into Mycenaean Greek and its civilization, should truly be concerned with. Click to ENLARGE: There are several points of note we feel we must raise here: (a) It is hugely surprising that Homer should take so much trouble to refer to so many Minoan cities and settlements under the Mycenaean aegis, at least as far as the Trojan War is concerned. This is because Knossos at the acme of its power was supposed to have fallen no later than 1400 BCE, but the Trojan War took place at least 200 years later! (ca. 1200 BCE). So what is going on with Homer? Is he off his rocker? I sincerely doubt that, when it comes to perhaps the greatest Epic poet of all time. Either Homer is truly confused with his “historical facts” or Knossos did not fall around 1400 BCE, but hung on as a major Minoan/Mycenaean centre of economic and maritime naval power for at least another 200 years, or... or what? What on earth can we make of this bizarre scenario? – bizarre to us, that is. I find it positively intriguing that Homer should be so insistent on mentioning by name several Minoan cities and outposts, and that he should then go on to inform us that there were at least 100 of them overall. This is simply astonishing! (b) The memory of the great Minoan civilization on the island of Crete appears not to have faded one jot by Homer’s era, another point of contention in our modern historical understanding of the time lines for the height of the magnificent Minoan maritime empire and for the Mycenaean Empire. Homer’s emphatic references to the major contribution of the Minoan Cretans to the expedition against Troy flies straight in the face of all modern archaeological evidence to the contrary. So who has got their “historical facts” right or wrong, Homer or we ourselves today? Or perhaps no-one has got it “right”, neither Homer nor we ourselves. This is just one exasperating instance of the innumerable glaring discrepancies between Homer’s interpretation of the so-called “historical facts” and our own, where the toponyms, the disposition of the geographical and cartographic features of the expedition and a great many other finicky details of the Trojan War are concerned, and refuse to go away. (c) The question is – as it always has been – can we reconcile these perplexing paradoxes? The answer is bluntly, NO. I for one suspect that Homer (or whoever “wrote” the Iliad, whether or not this was one author or multiple authors) must have known a good deal more about the recent Trojan War, from his perspective a mere 400 years or so after it, than we credit him for. It would be risky at best, and pure folly at worst to dismiss his observations out of hand. The primary reason for my asserting this is simply that he gives us so much detail, not only about the Minoan participants in the Trojan War, but about the participation of all of the other Argives or Achaeans in it. Just because he mentions so many place names that no longer exist does not mean they never existed. And even if he has got his geography all wrong, can we blame him for that? I hardly think so. After all, were there any competent cartographers anywhere in the ancient world at the time Homer lived, whenever that was – somewhere between 800 & 700 BCE? When I say, were there any good map makers at the time, I mean precisely that. How do we know? How can we know, in the patent absence of evidence to the contrary? I am quite serious when I say this, since only about 10 % of all ancient Greek literature alone – never mind that of other great ancient civilizations – survives to this day. That is a pitiable resource-base of primary documentation we have to reply on. When I speak of primary documentation, I mean in any form whatsoever, whether or not this be engravings on signets, tablets such as those in Mycenaean Linear B or Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, monuments or burial stones and the like, on buildings or edifices, on shards or pottery, in actual writings by the ancient Greek authors, etc. etc. Frankly, we really do not have much to go on. (d) Archaeological data, while accurate where it has been decisively confirmed, is never the same as written records, and cannot be relied upon to convey the same core of what we nowadays call “information”, however reliable that information may or may not be. This includes historical information, and, if anything, primary historical information is itself subject to all sorts of contradictions, anomalies and paradoxes which cannot ultimately be resolved, no matter how much of it we have at our disposal. Quantity can never replace reliability or the presumed lack of it of primary sources. Yet Homer is, let’s face it, a primary, if not the primary, literary source for the Mycenaean War against the Trojans. What then? I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions. Yet I for one dare not draw any, for fear of trapping myself in a quandary of conflicting “evidence” between confirmed reliable archaeological findings and the much more unstable and inconsistent historical written records we are nevertheless fortunate enough to still have on hand. Still, the astonishing detail Homer provides us in this single brief passage alone from “The Catalogue of Ships” in Book II of the Iliad begs the question. How did he come to be consciously aware of all these historical details, however “right” or “wrong” the majority of researchers take them to be. Perhaps it might be better for us all if we just dropped the notion of “right” or “wrong” where the ancient authors in general are concerned, and above all else, in the case of Homer, who really does seem to know what he is talking about. In other words, I believe that we should take what he has to say with much more than a grain of salt. Rather, we should be taking much of what he says quite seriously. But in what regards and in what applications to modern interpretations of the Trojan War and the deep, dark recesses of Mycenaean history I cannot, I dare not say. For all of this, somehow, somehow deep down inside, I instinctively, intuitively suspect he knew a lot more than we possibly can ourselves, if for the sole reason that he lived only a mere 4 centuries from the actual events in the Mycenaean War, while we live at the historical remote in the time line of events exceeding 3,200 years! (e) Finally, and especially in light of that huge gap between ourselves and the Mycenaean era, we are in no position to understand with anywhere near the insight Homer must have had what the Mycenaean Trojan War was all about anyway. After all, Homer was Greek in the so-called “dark ages” of archaic Greece (another misnomer, if ever there was one); so he, being Greek, and living at that time, must have been immersed, not only in the mythology of the Trojan War – if indeed it ever was mythology to him, which I sincerely doubt – but in the historical facts as probably most of the Greeks of his era then understood them. Sadly, we shall never know how much they still knew about the Mycenaean War against the Trojans, nor how accurate their knowledge of it was. But the fact remains, they did indeed know about it, and if the Iliad is any indicator of their knowledge of it, they were consciously aware of a hell of a lot more about that great event in human history than we can ever hope to understand today. How the ancient Greeks understood and related to the world they lived in is beyond our ken. But we still must endeavour to understand their world on their own terms, in so far as this is humanly possible. This is a basic tenet of modern historical research. Do not judge ancient civilizations – or for that matter, much more recent ones – on our terms, but try to understand them on theirs. A huge bill to fill? You bet. But we must do the best we can; otherwise, we learn nothing of any real value even to ourselves in our modern society, with all its technological and scientific marvels. Science and technology cannot unearth the past, any more than we can in good conscience dig up the graves of the dead without desecrating them. Am I giving up the search for understanding the far-flung past? Far from it. I am merely saying that we have to watch ourselves at every turn, no matter how sophisticated the scientific and technological tools, marvels as they are, at our command. To summarize, it takes real human empathy to actually try to relate to civilizations long-since dead and gone. I myself always try to imagine what a life I would have been living, were I Minoan or Mycenaean. To my mind, that sounds like a good place to start.... indeed the right place. Richard
Why anachronistic translations of Homer's Iliad scare people off, Versus my modern translation of the Iliad, Book II, “The Catalogue of Ships”, lines 581-604 Here is my translation: Click to ENLARGE: & here is the 1924 translation, which is even worse than the one of the previous post (lines 546-580). I have underlined the grossest anachronisms. Click to ENLARGE: Richard