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Initial Confirmation for Strong Evidence of the Extremely Close Relationship Between the Mycenaean & Arcado-Cypriot Dialects and Their Vocabulary & the Profound Implications for Linear B Research and Translation.

Initial Confirmation for Strong Evidence of the Extremely Close Relationship Between the Mycenaean & Arcado-Cypriot Dialects and Their Vocabulary & the Profound Implications for Linear B Research and Translation – Click to ENLARGE:

6 Examples of the simliarities between Linear B & C

This chart of only six (6) words, the same in the Mycenaean & Arcado-Cypriot dialects, make it painfully obvious, with the possible exception of the word for “city”, which is nowhere attested in Linear B, and hence open to serious doubt, that their vocabulary is, in the vast majority of cases, almost virtually identical. Once I have mastered Linear C by early next year (2015), I shall be able to translate the famous Idalion Tablet, which you see here:

Idalion_tablet 640

This tablet, which is very long, and in splendid condition, being cast in bronze, is a legal decree composed in the fifth century BCE. Although its publication comes much later than the fall of Mycenae ca. 1200 BCE, it is well known that the Arcado-Cypriot dialect was written in Linear C as early as 1100 BCE, a mere 100 years later (!) than the sudden disappearance of Linear B, even though there are no extant documents from that time. The vital point here is that neither Mycenaean Greek nor Arcado-Cypriot underwent any significant changes at all during their primacy, the former between ca. 1600 & 1200 BCE, the latter between 1100 & 400 BCE. They remained almost virtually unchanged, the latter in spite of the Dorian invasions around 1200-1100 BCE, which had no visible effect whatsoever on either Arcado-Cypriot or its slightly older forbear and kissing cousin, Mycenaean Greek, both firmly encamped in the family of East Greek dialects. Dorian Greek was an entirely different kettle of fish, being strictly a West Greek dialect. Linguists, experts in ancient Greek dialects, have confirmed this over and over throughout the twentieth century into the twenty-first. In fact, the consensus is universal on the extremely close bond between these two East Greek, proto-Ionic dialects, because how on earth can it be otherwise?  An orange is an orange, and a tangerine is a tangerine. They are both in the same class. But Dorian, a West Greek dialect, is no more related to our East Greek cousins than an apple is to either an orange or a tangerine. Yes, they are both fruit, but that is where the similarity ends.

If you are in any doubt over the extreme similarities between Mycenaean & Arcado-Cypriot, I refer you to this post:

Linear B Previous Post

which you should read in its entirety. In it, two eminent linguists in ancient Greek, virtually agree on every single point, even though they are writing 60 years apart, the one, C.D. Buck, in 1955, and the other, E.J. Bakker, whose intensive study of the ancient Greek dialects was just released this year (2014). This is the consensus pretty much across the board. It is extremely difficult, if not downright impossible, to divorce these two dialects from one another. If anything, there is only annulment between West Greek Dorian, and East Greek Mycenaean and Arcado-Cypriot. The former, which only gained the ascendancy in its own sphere of influence, the Peloponnese, after the Dorian invasions ca. 1200 BCE, had virtually no effect at all on Mycenaean Greek, simply because that is impossible, Mycenaean Greek having predated Dorian Greek by at least 400 years! Besides, Mycenae fell either before the Dorians arrived on the scene, or because the Dorians themselves destroyed their civilization.

But even this latter scenario is highly improbable, for this sole reason if none other. Since all of the Mycenaean cities collapsed at the same time (give or take a few years), I have to seriously question how the Dorians could possibly have toppled all of them, when for instance, Thebes, in far-flung north-eastern Greece, was so far away from the Peloponnese that they, the Dorians, would have had to trek all across Greece just to get there. An improbability, if not an impossibility, considering the horrendously difficult conditions for long distance travel in those days, even – or should I say – except at a snail’s pace. 

Once I have mastered Linear C, which is going to be very soon (early 2015), I shall translate the entire Idalion tablet, and at least 3 other Linear C tablets into English, and even supply the alphabetical Cypriot text of the tablet. Oh, and by the way, if anyone questions the even tighter relationship between the northern Arcadian dialect on the Peloponnese, and its far-flung sister, Cypriot, on Cyprus, in the south-east Mediterranean, think again. With the exception of a few piddly differences, they are virtually identical, all the more astonishingly that their locales are so far apart (See travel in the ancient world above).  But it does not end there. Mycenaean Greek & Arcado-Cypriot, both East Greek dialects, are even more similar than Ionic & Attic Greek! That is one tough act to follow.

There is at least one modern researcher and translator of Linear B tablets who attempts to correlate Mycenaean with Doric Greek vocabulary, and at that, quite frequently. This is a dangerous path to pursue, fraught with hazards from which it would be difficult, even in the best of scenarios, to extricate oneself without becoming mired in blatant contradictions leading inexorably to a reductio ad absurdum. I have the greatest respect for this linguist, who has roundly criticized me and soundly corrected me on at least three of my more dubious, if not down-right silly translations of Linear B tablets, and for this I am truly grateful.

Yet to pursue a path that will lead nowhere but to an irresolvable impasse seems very much like Don Quixote’s tilting at windmills. While I applaud, though with some serious reservations, this person’s highly imaginative approach to deciphering Linear B, the methodology is bound to turn all Linear B research on its head, and to largely invalidate the corpus of Linear B translations to date almost in its entirety... let alone the astonishing achievements of Michael Ventris in the first place. I am certainly not advocating that any researcher-translator of Linear B cannot do precisely that, but if he or she does, that person will have a heck of a lot of explaining & justifications to advance, and above all, will have to provide proof-positive (no loopholes please!) that his or her hypotheses or, if you like, entire theory, flies or crashes. Not only that, such a translator would have to convince the vast majority of contemporary linguists expert in Linear B decipherment and translation that such a drastic shift in the tectonics of the translation of Linear B does in fact constitute a truly significant, meaningful revolution in our understanding of the script and of the East Greek dialect, Mycenaean Greek, which is its underpinning.

I sincerely believe that my own research, which goes in the exact opposite direction, directly correlating the (striking) similarities between a relatively large cross-section of Mycenaean vocabulary in Linear B and Arcado-Cypriot in Linear C (I expect at least 100-200 words), will serve to throw a huge wrench into any approach which attempts to correlate Mycenaean East Greek in any significant way with Dorian West Greek, and which is highly likely to invalidate said approach once and for all. Of course, my approach, my hypotheses, my theory and my methodology must also stand the test of sound critical appraisal from the international community of Linear B linguists. If my theory does not pass muster with the majority of Linear B experts, so be it. There it ends.

As an aside, allow me to point out that I shall be pursuing a very similar route starting in October, and continuing on through the end of this year and probably beyond, as I translate the entire Catalogue of Ships from Book II of the Iliad, the very section of that astonishing Epic in which Homer makes frequent use of the most archaic Greek in the entire Iliad. This translation will confirm (because all others have to date) that a strong correlation also exists between his archaic Greek, almost certainly harkening back to at least the ninth century BCE, if not beyond, and Mycenaean Greek, upon which it is firmly founded. That exercise, in and of itself, will serve just as well as the present on Mycenaean & Arcado-Cypriot, to confirm that Mycenaean Greek has strong bonds, not only with Arcado-Cypriot, but with the most archaic Greek in the Iliad. And it does not end there either. If confirmation is pending between the close affinity of Homer’s archaic Greek and Arcado-Cypriot, that circumstance alone will only serve to strengthen my hypotheses, and the theory underpinning them, as outlined above. I sincerely believe and confidently trust it will.

Rita Robert’s Translation of Knossos KN 739 Bj 01, the Famous “Interior Decorators” Tablet.

Rita Robert’s Translation of Knossos KN 739 Bj 01, the Famous  “Interior Decorators” Tablet

This is a famous Linear B tablet, one of the earliest to be deciphered by Michael Ventris and his colleague and close friend, Dr. John Chadwick, who outlived Ventris by over 40 years.

Click to ENLARGE this tablet:

Kowa Kowo a

For me this tablet brings to mind a picture of a girl and boy “maybe apprentices”  helping the women interior decorators. One can imagine the wonderful colours the Minoans were so famous for. We only need to see the glorious frescoes to imagine what these interior decorators were capable of. The inside of Knossos Palace must have been a delight to look upon.

Rita Roberts

A Series of Maps of the Minoan & Mycenaean Empires: Part B – 4 more maps & a Quiz!.

A Map of the Cycladic World, the Minoan Civilization & the Mycenaean Empire & a Quiz?.

A Map of the Mycenaean Empire & a Quiz?.

A Map of the Mycenaean Empire & a Quiz?

A Blank Map of the the Mycenaean Empire & a Quiz to Test your Memory Skills + a Prize of a Set of Beautiful Photos

Click to ENLARGE:

CBMycenaean world BLANK 

Whoever guesses the largest number correct names of the major Mycenaean cities and settlements on this map (those tagged with a RED SQUARE), and the name of least one of the cities they conquered (tagged with a BLACK SQUARE) will win a beautiful set of 50 photos I took of ruins at Ephesis, Pergamon, Knossos, Mycenae & Epidaurus on my fabulous vacation in the Mediterranean in May 2012.


A Map of the Cycladic World, the Minoan Civilization & the Mycenaean Empire & a Quiz?

Click to ENLARGE:

Map of Cycladic Minoan & Mycenaean Cultures

A Series of Maps of the Minoan & Mycenaean Empires: Part B – 4 more maps & a Quiz!

This is the second and last series of maps of the Mycenaean Empire. It is a bit of a misnomer to refer to a Minoan Empire, except in the sense of their extensive network of trade with Egypt, Syria, Cyprus, Sicily and beyond, Athens, Troy & the west coast of Asia, where the modern nation of Turkey now exists. These 2 first maps illustrate the wide extent of the Mycenaean Empire, which was no paltry thing, being pretty much as large as the Athenian Empire at its height in the sixth century BCE, some 600 years after the fall of Mycenae.

Click to ENLARGE:

AMycenaean World 2nd millennium BCE

Click to ENLARGE:

Map of Cycladic Minoan & Mycenaean Cultures

Ha, ha! You thought the Quiz was in this post. Nope. You will have to look at the maps in the next two posts to find the correct map.  


Partially Restored Translation of Knossos Tablet KN 536 R j 01, a Real “Patch Job” for Textiles!.

Partially Restored Translation of Knossos Tablet KN 536 R j 01, a Real “Patch Job” for Textiles! Click to ENLARGE:

Knossos tablet KN 536 R i 01

Any attempt at translating this messed up tablet is bound to be only a partial success or something of a partial failure, depending on whether or not you see the glass as half full or half empty. Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that my philosophy runs to for half full glasses. At any rate, this damn tablet posed plenty of little headaches for me, all of them annoying like mosquitoes, but none of them really challenging, except for the fact that no matter what any Linear B translator does to decipher this tablet, plenty is left in the doldrums.

The copious notes in our illustration of this tablet above are pretty much self-explanatory. About the only thing left for me to explain is the nature of ideograms which contain their supersyllabograms inside of them, as in the case of every last supersyllabogram in the context of textiles or cloth, versus supersyllabograms which either precede or follow the ideogram which they modify, as is the case with all of the SSYS related to sheep, rams, ewes, pigs, sows, bulls and cows, i.e. to all agricultural livestock. They are emphatically not the same.

SSYS which appear either before or after the ideogram which they modify are invariably environmental, which is to say that they describe something about the land, pasturage or what have you surrounding the livestock, such as KI = KITIMENA, a plot of land, O = ONATO, a leased field, PE = PERIQORO, an enclosure or sheep pen, etc. On the other hand, SSYs which appear inside their ideograms, as is the case with all SSYs dealing with textiles or cloth, are invariably attributive, i.e. they describe an attribute or quality of the textiles or cloth to which they refer. So in the context of textiles or cloth, the supersyllabogram inside the ideogram modifies the meaning as follows: PA = “dyed cloth”, PU is a kind of cloth, TE = “well prepared” or possibly “well spun” cloth & WE is another kind of cloth. I have been unable to decipher the remaining 3 SSYs for textiles, KU, SA & ZO. It is clear from all of these examples that the SSYs all take on an adjectival value, modifying the noun PAWEA = textiles or cloth, in other words, they lend an attributive value to the ideogram, which is otherwise simply the noun, PAWEA if the ideogram is blank. This just so happens to be the default for the majority of the ideograms for textiles. They are just blank. However, the Linear B scribes would have to throw a monkey wrench into the ideogram by modifying it with at least one of the aforementioned supersyllabograms, and not so infrequently as you might think.


A Map of the Mycenaean Empire (ca. 1600-1200 BCE) with Mycenaean Settlements Named in Linear B, Latinized Linear B & English.

A Map of the Mycenaean Empire (ca.. 1600-1200 BCE), with Major Locales, Attested (A) & Derived (D) Named in Linear B for the First Time.

A Map of the Mycenaean Empire (ca.. 1600-1200 BCE), with Major Locales, Attested (A) & Derived (D) Named in Linear B for the First Time: Click to ENLARGE:

Map of Mycenaean Greece with Major Sites Named in Linear B

Whereas we find only attested (A) Minoan & Mycenaean city and settlement names on the map of the Mycenaean Empire in the previous post, the majority of the Mycenaean settlement names for which I managed to find room to translate on this map are derived (D). Attested (A) Linear B words and toponyms are those found on any extant Linear B tablet, regardless of provenance. Derived (D) Linear B words and place names are precisely that, derived, which is to say regressively extrapolated from their ancient Greek counterparts (if any) or where no alphabetical Greek toponym can be found, directly from their English names. This of course implies that a few of them may not be quite accurate, and where there was any real doubt in my mind, I assigned alternative spellings, just in case. At any rate, the orthography of most of the derived (D) toponyms on this map is probably pretty much on target, but only if you go along with Mycenaean orthographic conventions as I interpret them, as follows:

1. When the settlement name ends in “ria” in English, as in the case of Agios Ilias, I translate it into Linear B as Akio Iriya, not Akio Iria, since the latter is not what you would really expect in a Linear B toponym, whereas the termination YA is extremely common in Linear B vocabulary regardless.

2.  When the settlement name ends in “sios/sion” or “ios/ion” in English, here again I translate it as YO, since that termination is also extremely common in Linear B vocabulary regardless. Examples are (a) Korifasion which translates as Koriwasiyo in Linear B, the “f” being of course the digamma, otherwise known as “wau”, which was always rendered in Linear B words by the W+ vowel series of syllabograms, i.e. WA WE WI & WO & (b) Aigion, which translates as Aikiyo in Linear B. In fact, the syllabograms YA & YO are at the very highest frequency level of use among all the Linear B syllabograms, another extremely sound reason for preferring them as word terminations over the simple “ria” and “rio” endings, which just do not wash with me.

3. As illustrated by Korifasion = Koriwasiyo in Linear B, so also Linear B Epidawo for Epidauros. In other words, the cluster “auro” in the Greek equivalent of this site is regressively extrapolated to “awo” in Linear B, the intervocalic “r” disappearing altogether. This is standard Mycenaean orthography.

4. Likewise, standard Mycenaean orthography stipulates, in fact, demands that filler vowels be inserted in any Greek word, toponym or not, in which there are two or more consecutive consonants (called consonant clusters). Since Linear B is a syllabary, in which all the syllabogams are either pure vowels (a, e, i, o & u) or a consonant + any of these vowels (a, e, i, o & u), it is patently impossible (with only a couple of bizarre exceptions, such as the homophone PTE) for Linear B words to allow for clusters of two or more consonants. So, when confronted with a place name such as this, Kastri, we must somehow fill in the blank spaces, so to speak, or more properly speaking fill them out, by inserting vowels after both the interior “s” & “t”, thus: Kasatiri or Kasitiri.  In the case of this place name, I was uncertain which of these variants was likely to be more accurate, so I have given both versions. Linear B linguists of some note will soon enough straighten me out on this account, I am sure. Other simpler examples are Linear B Atene for Athens & Katarakiti for Greek Katarraktis (notice also that double consonants are also forbidden in Mycenaean, for the very same reason)

5. Since Mycenaean words never end in consonants, even though they are Greek, all consonant terminations in place names must be dropped, as in Linear B Puro for Pylos, Orokomeno for Orchomenos & Aikio Tepano for Agios Stephanos. Note also that the initial “S” in Stephanos must be dropped, again for the same reason, namely, that Mycenaean Greek forbids two consecutive consonants. So where there are two of them, the vocally weaker of them must be eliminated, in this case, the weaker sibilant “s” yielding to the stronger plosive “t”.

I know, I know. Practically all of you who are well versed in ancient Greek are going to (loudly) protest, “But so many ancient Greek words end in a consonant!” True enough. But you will just have to swallow your pride, and accept the fact that, even if Mycenaean Greek words were pronounced with consonant endings (which is highly likely to have been the case), the Linear B syllabary is utterly and hopelessly incapable of accounting for them. So you will have to do the same thing as the (rest of us) Linear B specialists, get over it and get used to it, frustrating as it is. Even after two years of reading 3,000 + Linear B tablets, I myself am often still unable to wrap my poor skull around this phenomenon, let alone around several other apparent vagaries of Linear B spelling.

But there are plenty of reasons why Linear B orthography is the way it is, not the least of which is that the Linear B syllabary is the child or direct spinoff of Linear A, a syllabary which was never meant to be used to spell Greek in the first place. And please do not protest again. The Mycenaeans had to use Linear A or some sort of syllabary, because the blasted (Greek) alphabet hadn’t been invented yet! So give the poor blokes a break. They did a pretty bang-up job of it, if you ask me, considering the insane odds they were up against just trying to make Linear A square syllabograms fit into round holes in Mycenaean Greek. I would like to see you try to do that. Good luck. Fat chance.            
So there you have it, a neat little lesson in the apparent vagaries of Mycenaean orthography. I say apparent, because in fact they are not. But I can tell you one thing. They sure cause a lot of headaches to translators who wish to regressively extrapolate ancient alphabetical Greek words to their Mycenaean forbears.

Remember! The derived Mycenaean toponyms on this map are precisely that, and nothing more. While their Linear B equivalents are my own, they are not even close to mere guesses. Given the Mycenaean orthographic conventions I have outlined above (at least as I see them), these spellings are perfectly sound... except of course in those instances where some Linear B experts might take exception to some of the conventions as I have outlined them above, which some of them are bound to do. If anyone does take exception to any of the derivative (D) place names I have assigned, for heaven’s sake, let me know! 

Nothing is cast in stone (or even clay, for that matter) where it comes to translating into or from Linear B. Trust me on that one. Never believe any Linear B translator, myself included, of course, or should I say, especially myself, has a monopoly on translating any Greek word from certain ancient Greek dialects (but not all of them, by a long shot) into Mycenaean Greek in Linear B, or vice versa. Anyone who does make such a claim is leaving him- or herself wide open as a target for being roundly, and dare I say, soundly criticized.

And the more I am criticized, the better. I have always been the doubting Thomas, anyway. 

A Map of the Mycenaean Empire (ca. 1600-1200 BCE) with Mycenaean Settlements Named in Linear B, Latinized Linear B & English (Click to ENLARGE):

Map of Mycenaean and Minoan Greece

A few notes on this map. The capital cities, Knossos in Crete & Mycenae on the mainland Peloponnese, are flagged with a red star. The purple star beside Mycenae is also found beside the name of Troy, to indicate that the Mycenaeans conquered Troy, although quite when is uncertain (ca. 1300-1250 BCE?). Even if the conquest were as early as 1300 BCE, that would have left only another century before the collapse of Mycenae itself. In fact, what remained of the great Bronze Age Greek cities, Knossos (which had fallen into disrepair and eventually into ruins long before 1200 BCE – almost certainly no later than 1425-1400 BCE), then Mycenae itself, along with its satellite Mycenaean cities and settlements (Pylos, Tiryns, Thebes and Athens) all collapsed right around 1200 BCE. It is doubtful that they all fell on account of the Dorian invasion, since it is highly unlikely the Dorians ever got anywhere near Thebes or Athens. So this leaves the whole question of how and why the Mycenaean Empire fell so suddenly wide open to speculation. Note that all of the Minoan & Mycenaean locales tagged on this map are attested (A) on Linear B tablets from Knossos, Phaistos, Zakros, Mycenae, Pylos or Thebes.



A Series of Maps of the Minoan & Mycenaean Empires, Some with New Toponyms Seen for the First Time.

Two maps of Mycenaean Greece, the Second Illustrating the Mycenaean Empire’s Extensive Trade Routes.

Two maps of Mycenaean Greece, the Second Illustrating the Mycenaean Empire’s Extensive Trade Routes

Map of Mycenaean Greece and the Orient ca 1450 BCE

Click to ENLARGE this map of the Mycenaean Empire’s Trade Routes:

Map of Mycenaean Greece ca 1250 BCE

It is perfectly clear from this map that the extent of the Mycenaean Empire was as vast as that of the great Athenian Empire some 700-800 years after the fall of Mycenae ca. 1200 BCE. While the actual epicentres of these two great Greek empires, that of Mycenae, the earliest of them all, and that of Athens, were not the same (which goes without saying), amazingly their network of trade routes extended to virtually the same places, some very far away, especially in light of the great difficulties encountered by ancient Bronze and Iron age mariners in their little ships on the high seas. The very fact that they, the Mycenaeans,the Egyptians, the Athenians, the Romans and everyone else in the ancent world had to do all of their international trading in the spring, summer and early autumn, when the Mediterranean Sea was relatively calm speaks volumes to the wide extent and the robust economic strength of their trade routes.  We see here that the Mycenaean trade routes did in fact reach as far as and apparently even beyond Sicily, astonishing as that seems, as well as all the way to Egypt. The Minoan Empire had previously carried on a hefty trade relationship with Egypt before them.


A Series of Maps of the Minoan & Mycenaean Empires, Some with New Toponyms Seen for the First Time

Our first map is of the principal Minoan cities and settlements, with the locations of the major palaces in the Late Minoan Era (LM Ia – LMII, ca. 1550 -1450 BCE) Click to ENLARGE:

Map of Minoan settlements Minoan Empire

It was over the last half of the sixteenth & the first half of the fifteenth century that the Minoan civilization made the swift switchover from using the as yet undeciphered Linear A syllabary to writing Mycenaean Greek in Linear B. Whether or not Knossos itself was conquered by the Mycenaeans around 1500 BCE is a question entirely open to conjecture. Many historians are quite convinced it was, but I personally am not so convinced. However, you should take my opinion with a large grain of salt, as I am a linguist and not a historian!

The largest Minoan palaces after that of Knossos, the capital city of the Minoan Empire, with a population estimated to have been somewhere around 55,000 (a huge city for the Bronze age!) were those at Phaistos & Zakros. All of the palaces illustrated on this map have been thoroughly excavated, and they have yielded inestimable treasures of Linear A & B tablets, magnificent Minoan frescoes and art, bronze ware of all sorts (weaponry, utensils etc.), pottery and so on. If you have already had the opportunity to visit any of these magnificent sites (as I have, seeing Knossos in May 2012), you will know to what heights the Minoan Empire and their highly cultured civilization aspired. They (the Minoans) were so cultivated and refined that they virtually outclassed and outshone all other contemporary Bronze Age empires, and that includes, to my mind at least, Egypt! In fact, the Mycenaeans, shortly after arrival at Knossos, imitated lock-stock-and-barrel, the brilliant architecture and the entire repertoire of military expertise, the arts and crafts and every other area of the prosperous Minoan agri-economy. Their tribute to the Minoans could not have been more profound than that of the Romans to the Greeks some 1,000 years or more later on.  It was that kind of phenomenon, nothing less.

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