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Bid a Warm Welcome to Ourselves & Our Friends on Twitter & their Linear B Sites.

Bid a Warm Welcome to Ourselves & Our Friends on Twitter & their Linear B Sites

Here are a few links to our collegial sites, first for Rita Roberts and myself on Twitter. For each site you wish to visit, simply click on its banner:

Rita Roberts:

Rita Roberts

Richard Vallance Janke:


You may very well want to sign up with Rita and me on Twitter, because between us we are following at least 1,500 Twitter accounts, a great many them archaeological or on ancient linguistics, often relating specifically to Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, the ancient Cycladic, Cypriot, Cretan and Mycenaean civilizations, among others directly related to them, as well as other contemporaneous civilizations such as ancient Egypt, Syria etc. Although we follow well over 2,000 Twitter accounts between us, the overlap is certain to be considerable, which is why I have given an estimate of 1,500. If you are not already a member of Twitter, I really do advise you to do so, if not for these reasons: (a) you will automatically be able to pick up your own followers from the approximately 1,500 Rita and I already follow. (b) by so doing, you will help widen the Twitter community already focused on our very own concerns, as noted above (c) you will hopefully become an active member of the international Twitter community focused on the same issues as ourselves. And even though Linear A, B & C and related archaeological disciplines are esoteric, to say the least, Richard already has over 600 followers, and Rita over 300. Even with considerable overlap, our followers may very well exceed 700 in all. Note that, unlike Facebook, which I loathe, Twitter is not greedily invasive on personal privacy.

Also of great interest to our community are our shared Pinterest boards. which I strongly urge you to join. All the images posted on our blog, Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae are posted here:


where you will be able to view and download at your leisure any images, illustrations, charts etc. etc. directly related to early Cretan & Minoan hieroglyphics, Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, and any and all ancient scripts of possible interest to you as a researcher or translator. I, Richard, am by far the primary contributor to this board, which already has over 750 pins to date, but if you join, I will be delighted to invite you to post your own images directly related only to the ancient scripts mentioned here:
where you will find any and all images, photos and artwork of Knossos, Mycenae, the Minoan/Mycenaean civilizations, and plenty of other illustrations of related interest. Rita Roberts is the moderator by default of this amazing board, since she has posted the vast majority of images there (almost 900 pins to date). I leave it to her to take care of this board, as I simply do not have the time to do so.

Knossos & Mycenae Sister Civilizations

and Ancient Sea People, which Violet Shimmer Love just recently invited me to join. The overlap between Violet’s board and Knossos & Mycenae, Civilizations and with Mycenaean Linear B, Progressive Grammar & Vocabulary is not considerable, so I really do encourage you to subscribe to Ancient Sea Peoples as well.


We also have just invited aboard our newest member, Gretchen E. Leonhardt, here at Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae.  Here is her site:

Gretchen is a linguistic specialist of the highest order who has been studying, deciphering and translating Linear B for well over a decade. I for one know that I will often need to rely on her to clarify matters related to Linear B with which I am unfamiliar.  Although her approach to the decipherment and translation of Linear B is very much add odds with my own, this is of little consequence, as we all know that I encourage truly scholarly debate and differences in points of view and theoretical constructs, in the sure knowledge that everyone who is adept with Linear B has his or her own unique contribution to make, and that no one is in competition with anyone else.  Anyone who visits our blog can decide for him- or herself which translations of Linear B tablets and fragments he or she prefers, whether they be those of myself, Rita Roberts, Gretchen Leonhardt or of absolutely anyone else who becomes a new member in the future. Or if you are like me, you may prefer to entertain the merits of any and all translations of the same original tablet or fragment, or to cull from them those elements which you find most to your taste, should you yourself wish to post translations of the same originals. No translator of Linear B, no matter how competent or advanced, has a monopoly on the “best” translations of Linear B originals, since as we all know, Linear B texts can – and more often than not – are very ambiguous.

And of course, we must not forget about Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B, Dead Languages of the Mediterranean, one of the Internet’s most prestigious primary resources, here:

Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B Dead Languages of the Mediterranean

As new key sites related to Linear A B & C come to light, I shall of course add them to our list, so that you may decide for yourselves which ones you really wish to take an interest in.
On a final note, ours is an extremely busy Blog, having seen tens of thousands of visitors in only a year and a half, so I would greatly appreciate it if member contributors and authors would take this into account, as I can sometimes easily feel overwhelmed. I believe it is called burnout when it goes over the top. That is just the way I am. 


Our Translations of Key Linear B Translations now on Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B, Dead Languages of the Mediterranean.

Our Translations of Key Linear B Translations now on Minoan Linear A  & Mycenaean Linear B, Dead Languages of the Mediterranean (Click the logo to reach them):

Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B Dead Languages of the Mediterranean

This is a significant, indeed pivotal step forward for us as a primary resource and international site into exhaustive research, decipherment and translation of Mycenaean Linear B tablets, regardless of provenance (Knossos, Pylos, Mycenae, Phaistos etc.) We are immensely proud to have been invited to play an active rôle in such a leading international resource as this.  Any and all researchers truly committed as proponents of the true linguistic import of Linear B should seriously consider playing a contributory rôle to this key resource into Mycenaean Greek.

Illustrative of our ongoing contributions in translation to Minoan Linear A  & Mycenaean Linear B is this comment, posted on our almost complete decipherment of Linear B tablet Mycenae MY Oe 106: 

Scroll to the bottom of the page for my comment.


Partial if Iffy Translation of a Tiny Linear B Fragment Thebes TH Of 37, Fraught with Difficulties.

Partial if Iffy Translation of a Tiny Linear B Fragment Thebes TH Of 37, Fraught with Difficulties

First, a bit of background on the Linear B Thebes tablets. This relatively small cache was unearthed at archaeological excavations in Thebes, Greece, according to the following timeline: the first 21 fragments were excavated in 1963–64; 19 more tablets & fragments were found in 1970 and 1972; but by far the largest find came from 1993 to 1995, when the archaeologist Vassilis L. Aravantinos discovered some 250 tablets, amounting roughly to 300 or 5% of the entire corpus of about 6,000 Linear B tablets and fragments. Of these, the first and by far the most substantial store, amounting to no fewer than 4,000 tablets and fragments, was unearthed by Sir Arthur Evans from 1900 to 1903 and again after the First World War, and followed by major digs from all other Mycenaean sites, Pylos being the next largest after Knossos, with over 1,000 tablets and fragments there alone.

The Theban tablets and fragments date to the Late Helladic IIIB period (ca. 1300-1200 BCE), contemporary with the finds at Pylos. Apparently, the Theban tablets date from roughly 1225 BCE, when the Kadmeion, the Mycenaean palace complex at Thebes, came to ruin.    

Prof. John Chadwick, Michael Ventris’ closest colleague and confidant in the initial decipherment of Linear B, who outlived Ventris by scores of decades, himself identified three recognizable Greek divinities, Hera, Hermes and Potnia "the mistress", among the recipients of wool, and made a case for ko-ma-we-te-ja, the name of a goddess, elsewhere attested at Pylos.

The Significance of Linear B Tablet TH Of 37, as well as of the other Linear B finds at Thebes:

Though relatively few in number (about 300), the tablets and fragments from Thebes are significant for a number of reasons, not the least of which are: (a) by ancient standards for travel time, Thebes was located at a great distance from both Knossos and Mycenae. (b) In spite of this vast distance, the syntactical structure, orthographic conventions and the standard use of the entire Linear B syllabary varied very little, if at all, from Linear B from all the other administrative sites scattered all over Greece and Crete, as well as the outlying Cycladic islands and settlements. (c) The real clincher in this scenario is that Mycenaean Greek, unlike later Greek dialects during the historical period (ca. 800–400 BCE), which varied widely, was remarkably consistent and standardized regardless of where it was used.

Mycenaean Greek, written in Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot in Linear C, were the two earliest West Greek pre-Ionic dialects. They are so remarkably similar that they are largely indistinguishable, except for their syllabaries, which bear almost no physical resemblance to one another, even though both are syllabaries with largely the same values attributed to their syllababograms and vocabulary, except that Linear C is simpler than Linear B, which in turn is a greatly simplified, honed down adaptation of the earlier Linear A syllabary, of which the language, Minoan, is still undeciphered. (d) Finally, I must take exception to the generally held perception that written Greek fell entirely by the wayside after the disappearance of Linear B ca. 1200 BCE until its re-emergence as early alphabetical Greek ca. 900-800 BCE, because nothing could be further from the truth. Historians, Greek scholars and linguists all too frequently simply ignore the plain fact that Linear C, the syllabary for Arcado-Cypriot, was in continuous, unbroken use from ca. 1100- 400 BCE (even 300 BCE by some accounts). This means that the historical gap between the earliest written Greek, Mycenaean in Linear B and the next script chronologically in line, was not 300-400 years, but only about one measly century (1200-1100 BCE)!

According to some historical linguists in ancient Greek studies, the Linear C scribes were in fact conversant with the Linear B syllabary, the syllabic values of which they pretty much took over lock-stock-and-barrel (with a few very minor variations due to different pronunciation), while at the same time inventing an entirely new syllabic script, geometrically simpler than even Linear B. I have spoken about the geometric economy of the Linear B syllabary versus the far more baroque Linear A. But the geometric economy of Linear C for Arcado-Cypriot is significantly simpler than Linear B. So the evolution from Linear A to Linear C seems to have followed an almost logical process. I have laid particular stress on the all too remarkable similarities between Mycenaean and Arcado Cypriot Greek, because this state of affairs was completely at odds with the helter-skelter variety of the much later alphabetic Greek dialects. The primary reason for this seems simply to have been that Arcado-Cypriot, the younger cousin of Mycenaean Greek, did not have anywhere near the time to diverge from its immediate predecessor, with only one measly century elapsing between them.

To summarize, is it any wonder that there was such a remarkable consistency and standardization in the written conventions of both Linear B and Linear C, regardless of the geographical distance, sometimes very large (by ancient standards) between locales where these scripts were in use. I find this widespread conformity scarcely short of amazing, attesting to an apparent unity of both civilizations, Mycenaean and Arcado-Cypriot, which the constantly scrabbling later Greek states were to through right out the window. I will have a lot more to say about this in the near future.

Meanwhile, as “proof” positive of the cross-the-board structural linguistic uniformity of Linear B, regardless of where it was in use (Knossos, Mycenae, Pylos, Phaistos, etc. etc.) all we need to do is simply glance at Theban fragment TH Of 37 (let alone read it), to realize that in fact the consistency is overwhelming, right down to the precise disposition of syllabograms, logograms and ideograms on the tablets, which were also by and large of the same shape as well! And here it is (Click to ENLARGE):

Thebes Tablet 37 0f

On a final note, may I stress emphatically that I do not lend any more credence to my own half-baked translations (pardon the obvious pun!), even when I come up with more than one alternative translation, and often as many as three, than to anyone else’s equally scholarly – and valiant, if not fanciful – attempts at translation. I am a doubting Thomas down to my core. I sincerely do not believe in any single over-riding theory of the “best of all possible worlds” when it comes to deciphering any Linear B tablet, except perhaps the most voluminous in which ample context tends to lay to rest all sorts of doubts about almost every word in the integral text.  I say, “tends to...”, because even with the longest Linear B tablets, nagging doubts remain about not a few phonemes. All we have to do is compare the decipherments of even as few as three Mycenaean Greek linguists specializing in Linear B to witness these variations, however minor or (sometimes) significant. 

And where context is minimal, as in this tablet, the decipherment becomes all the more problematic. Allow me to flag some of the more recalcitrant textual ambiguities on this particular tablet alone.

1. As my heavily annotated illustration of this tablet (above) makes painfully obvious, different researchers cannot even agree on the syllabic values of the syllabograms and homophones on the tablet. For some bizarre reason, which entirely escapes me, Melena and Olivier (1991) assigned the value QA to the first syllabogram on the first line. I for one have never even heard of such a syllabogram, unless of course I am missing out on some state secret. What that first syllabogram on the first line looks like to me is DO squashed up against the second, PA2. But who am I to say better than anyone else?  As translators, we all go with our instincts, our gut feelings, far more than relying on logic, which does not apply to living languages anyway. And Mycenaean Greek was a living language when the Linear B script was in use. Secondly, they interpret the syllabogram immediately following the first “i” in the third word on line 1 as ZE, when it looks a lot more like RA to my mind. To each his or her own.

In a real, almost scary sense, all translations of Linear B, for all its inherent ambiguities, are tautological by nature, or plagued with circular reason. There is simply no way out of this impasse. But this is precisely the reason why any and all truly competent decipherments of Linear B tablets vie with one another for attention, and why the whole process of translating Linear B is such an exciting undertaking for us all in the first place. So much the better for all ongoing research ventures in the translation of Linear B, since the more versions of the same tablet (any tablet or fragment) we have, the more likely are we to hone in at least a relatively stable translation with minor, if real, variations.

In fact, I think I would probably have to check myself into a lunatic asylum if I were to make the absurd claim that my translation, however competent or even brilliant, of any Linear B tablet or fragment, were better than another highly qualified translator’s, for the obvious reason that there is no way to check which version is “right” — whatever the blazes that is supposed to mean - unless the doctor is right at hand and on call. And here the doctor is the scribe who actually wrote the tablet in question, and only he can tell us what it really means. But he isn’t available for comment, being sadly dead for some 32 centuries. So we just have to put up with our bandage solutions, even when they do “heal” the text we have in front of us well enough. For this very reason, I never contest the translations my co-researcher, Rita Roberts, posts on our blog, because I was not the author of them, and so I do not and cannot know why she, in her sound judgement, opted for the choices she made. All I can do is come up with an alternative translation, if one is called for. More often than not, it is not. But if it is, that way we both stay clear of our respective asylums. What is good for the goose (Rita) is good for the gander (me), or for that matter any goose or gander.    

2. When there is no evidence for an existing word to be found anywhere on any extant Linear B medium, I am more than willing to search elsewhere, by which I mean in alphabetical Greek texts, the earlier the better, the best being The Catalogue of Ships in Book II of the Iliad, which is written in the most archaic so-called Epic Greek, sharing as it does a number of grammatical features and even some vocabulary in common with Mycenaean Greek. One of the most outstanding is the archaic genitive in “oio” in the Iliad, which is, for all intents and purposes, the exact equivalent of the Linear B genitive in “ojo” or “oyo”, if you like. And I like “oyo” a lot better for the simple reason that I sincerely believe that the harsher j pronunciation such as we have in English was swiftly on its way out, already morphing into something like the much softer French j as in “je” (I). It is not far from from the soft “je” to outright “i”. 

A similar phenomenon was manifested in Middle and Renaissance English, when the rough pronunciation of “r”, which still persists in practically every other Occidental Indo-European language, simply vanished in the Great Vowel Shift between 1350 and 1700 in England, when not only the English vowels ended up greatly softened, but also the labials “l” & “r” underwent the very same process, becoming semi-consonants or more accurately semi-vowels. This is the same process which shifted the Mycenaean pronunciation towards something like French j as in “je”, not the much stronger English “j” at all! And this is precisely why I, like a few other Linear B scholars, much prefer “ya ye yo” over the more commonly accepted “je je jo”, for the simple but obvious reason that scholars speaking in English will almost certainly get the pronunciation wrong. Since English is after all by far the most common language used for research articles, both in print and online, regardless of scientific, linguistic, historical or literary discipline, we are far more likely to fall into this trap, even if we are not English speaking, as that is the way “j” is pronounced in English. You just cannot get around it, try as you might... unless of course you are French, and cannot pronounce “j” as the English do, but pronounce it as the French do... which just so happens to agree much more closely with the latter pronunciation, at least in my opinion. Otherwise, how can we explain the relatively swift transition from “ojo” to “oyo” to “oio” in Homeric Greek? I leave it entirely to you to decide for yourselves.

3. When early alphabetical texts are not available, the next best resource is the Liddell & Scott Greek-English Lexicon (1986), which after all includes many dialectical variants on the same word(s), quite a few of them (quasi)-archaic. And even in those instances where only latter-day Ionic and Attic orthography is to be found, we can still make a brave attempt (as I always do), to retrospectively re-construct much earlier versions of the word in question.

This is exactly what I have done on this tablet, where I merge two Ionic-Attic words into one so-called “Mycenaean” word, areizewei (areirawewei). Whether this word ever existed is open to hefty debate, but it might have, which is good enough for me. I have done this on several Linear B tablets, including the very last one in the post immediately before this one, in which I translated the famous Linear B tablet, Mycenae MY Oe 106.  It is no mere accident that the clay figure of a boy appears in tandem with this tablet... because that is precisely what the Linear B scribe intended. We need to pay a lot more attention to everything that appears on any and all Linear B tablets and fragments, including attendant pieces such as this, because they must be there for a very good reason. If you read my previous post, all of this will come into sharp focus. On that tablet, I came up with a derivative [D] word (not attested [A]) for “a young boy”, transliterated here into Latin script = koroton, which in turn just happens to be an exact match with the Linear B KOROTO on this tablet. This phenomenon is identical to the Classical Attic paidion (a youngster). Since the word KOROTO is right in front of our noses on this tablet, then it does exist, and it does mean “a young boy”. What the blazes else can it mean, especially when that huge sketch of a boy is staring us right in the face? In fact, what the scribe who wrote tablet truly seems to be saying is that the boy is the primary subject of the entire tablet, which is precisely what I take it to mean.

PS in case you are wondering (which you probably are not), it took me 12 hours (!) to construct the illustration and to compile the text of this post, the longest time ever I have had to devote to any post. But for most significant explanatory posts I still spend between 4 and 8 hours. So I sincerely hope folks who read my posts really do appreciate all the bloody hard work I pour into them, and even, dare I suggest, flag all such posts with “Like”. And why not comment on them too? It won’t kill you, and certainly won’t kill me. Healthy debate, as I have intimated above, is the very sustenance of true research.   


The First Ever Almost Complete Translation of the Famous Linear B Tablet MY Oe 106 (Mycenae).

The First Ever Almost Complete Translation of the Famous Linear B Tablet MY Oe 106 (Mycenae) Click to ENLARGE:

Linear B tablet Mycenae MY Oe 106

My translation of this famous Linear B was a hard slog, to say the very least. I had to rummage through Chris Tselentis’ fine Linear B Lexicon and through scores of entries in Liddell & Scott, 1986, to be able to come within sight of a translation which would make complete sense in context, and after hours of meticulous searching, I finally came up with the translation you see here. I think it not only rings true, but that it flies. 

There are several critical comments I must make on my translation. In case anyone is wondering why I translated KOROTO as “young boy”, you needn’t look very far. This is why that picture of a boy appears to the right of the tablet. The scribe must have deliberately put it there to make damn certain that his fellow scribes and literate Mycenaeans knew perfectly well what the main thrust of this tablet is, namely, that we should put the emphasis squarely on the “young boy” as subject. He is the driving force behind all this wool business going on here. This is precisely why I am quite convinced that KOROTO is in fact an archaic Mycenaean neuter word for young boy. Of course, the daughter mentioned here cannot be his daughter! She is someone’s daughter, and I would bet my bottom dollars that she is their mother. 

Moving on, we run smack dab up against the single syllabogram RE. We must not be deceived. It is not untranslatable. In fact, the direct opposite is true. Why on earth Linear B translators have not seen this phenomenon in the past 60 years is quite beyond me. I know perfectly well that single syllabograms are all over the place on Linear B tablets, because in the 3,000 odd Linear B tablets I have meticulously examined in Scripta Minoa, there are hundreds of tablets and fragments sporting single syllabograms. Two questions immediately leap to mind. First of all, why on earth would the Linear B scribes at Knossos, Mycenae, Pylos and elsewhere resort to inscribing single syllabograms on so many tablets (100s is a heck of lot of tablets!) unless they meant to. I think it goes quite without saying that that is precisely what they meant to do. Secondly, what on earth are these single syllabograms? Believe it or not, we have practically beaten this subject to death on our blog, and if you are really itching to know what they are (and if you are a Linear B translator, scholar or researcher, may I suggest you should be), then you ought to visit our blog and read the scores of posts which not only define what they are, viz. supersyllabograms, but provide scores of examples of Linear B tablets from Knossos which sport them, especially tablets referring to sheep, rams and ewes. Tablets on sheep constitute fully 20% and then some of all 3,000 Linear B tablets I closely examined from Knossos, far surpassing Linear B tablets on any other area of Minoan civilization (economic, agricultural, industrial, military, you name it). This of course raises another inescapable question. Why, why such an overwhelming number of Linear B tablets on sheep alone – even far surpassing all other livestock, crops etc. etc. - ? This is one critical question, and it demands answers. I have provided some myself, but it is up to the research community at large to fully investigate this phenomenon and in depth, so that within a few years we can really account for supersyllabograms... because they will not simply go away.

Now, as for that very long name, Toteweyasewe (and I truly believe it is a name, the name of the young boy), I would be willing to bet it is a Minoan, and not Mycenaean name. Have you ever noticed how many Linear A words are very long, many of them in excess of 5 syllables? I have. There is something going on there too, a factor which we must clearly take strictly into account if we are ever to even approach even a partial decipherment of Linear A. Another peculiarity I have noticed about Linear A tablets versus Linear B ones is that the majority of the former are vertical rectangular in shape, while the majority of the latter are horizontal and usually only 1-4 lines long. The longer Linear B tablets, of course, have to be rectangular as well, as if...

What does the sypersyllabogram RE mean? It was almost ridiculously easy for me to find that out. Consulting Tselentis once again, I discovered that the one and only Mycenaean Greek word beginning with the syllabogram RE that could possibly fit this context, i.e. that of wool, is REPOTO, which means “fine or thin”, and it fits the context beautifully. Given that the repertoire of Mycenaean vocabulary on extant tablets and fragments in Linear B is quite thin, amounting to no more than 3,000 words at the very most, I think we can pretty much rely on this translation of the supersyllabogram RE, because nothing else fits the context, period.

And, in case you are wondering how I discovered supersyllabograms in the first place, you need only to refer to the very first post in which I discuss the two Linear B tablets from Knossos, one of which gave the whole show away. The scribe actually spelled out the entire word on one of the tablets, and then used only the supersyllabogram on the other, thank you very much. To keep you all on tenterhooks, I am not going to tell you here which tablets these were, but point you to the ground-breaking post which goes right to the core of the matter. That post is titled, A Major Milestone in the Further Decipherment of Linear B – the Supersyllabogram Defined, here:

One thing I will tell you is this. The supersyllabogram O means ONATO, a leased field & KI means KITIMENA, a plot of land. These two are plastered all over tablets on sheep. There are plenty more. We have deciphered at least 8 of them, but the rest elude us... for the time being.


Linear B Keyboard Layout: to date the best on the Internet!.

Linear B Keyboard Layout: to date the best on the Internet!(Click to ENLARGE):

Linear B Keyboard

The first thing I would like to point out is that it took me no less than 4 hours (!) of meticulous work to produce this fine chart of the Latin to Linear B Keyboard, just as it takes me between 1 g and 5 (!) hours to produce all the high quality Linear B tablet & fragment translations, illustrations etc. I work very hard on our blog to make sure that all illustrations for all posts are as clear and informative as possible. Most of the illustrations of Linear B tablets and fragments, and most of the rest of Linear B varia on the Internet are frequently of poor or fair quality at best, although plenty of them are of at least good quality, or even excellent. But good is never enough for me, because I want to make certain that any and all students, translators and researchers in Linear B have access to the highest possible quality illustrations for Mycenaean Greek & Linear B. That is why I scanned well over 3,000 Linear B tablets and fragments in Scripta Minoa, sharpened them, converted them to clear B&W and blew them up so that the Linear B characters would be very easy to read. I do sincerely hope people really appreciate the work I put into illustrations and indeed the explanatory text in our posts, which often goes to great lengths to make sure that folks who visit us have the clearest possible idea of whatever topic we are dealing with.

Suggestion: Feel free to download this chart, which is in .jpg format. You can then print it out and, to be sure it does not get all messy if you happen to pour coffee, tea or worse on it, laminate it and post it on the wall right behind your computer. This will expedite the learning process for the Linear B font.

In order to use the Linear B Font, you must of course first download it. By far the best site to download SPIonic, the standard for ancient (Attic) Greek, be sure to visit Dr. Shirley’s site, Greek fonts, here:

Dr Shirleys Font List Greek

RThe next page features a complete explanation by Dr. Curtis Clark himself on how he came to create this fine font.


Dunno much about γεωγραφία…

Dunno much about γεωγραφία….


Here is a fascinating post I found on geography in the ancient world, and the city of Carthage. Richard

Originally posted on Lugubelinus:

CarthagoNOvaNovaBehold! A map of the city and harbour of Cartagena, in southern Spain, for your delectation. And it may make things easier later on if you note carefully the position of the island of Escombrera or Escombreras, right at the bottom.

To the Romans Cartagena was known as Carthago Nova, New Carthage, and it was celebrated as one of the very finest natural harbours they knew. It’s easy enough to see why: in the sixteenth century the Genoese admiral Andrea Doria was in the habit of saying that the three most secure anchorages in the Mediterranean were “Cartagena and June and July.” Under the settled conditions of the Roman Empire Carthago Nova was best known for its production of the highest quality garum, fermented fish sauce, an evil-smelling staple of Roman cuisine. That island Escombrera was in antiquity Scombraria, named after the scombri or mackerel from which this garum 

View original 2,039 more words

Knossos Tablet KN 952 G a 01 & the Ideogram for “Wool”.

Knossos Tablet KN 952 G a 01 & the Ideogram for “Wool” (Click to ENLARGE):

Knossos Tablert 952 G a 01 Ideogram for Wool

This Tablet is pretty much self-explanatory. Just remember that, since this tablet consists of ideograms only, reconstructing the syntax of such a tablet is quite another matter. In the case of this tablet in particular, the precise meaning of the two (2) sentences on this tablet (if indeed there are two, one on each line) somewhat eludes us. On the other hand, whatever translation we assign to a tablet such as this one, that translation is more than likely to reflect the original sense of the tablet (as its scribe understood it) fairly accurately.


Knossos Tablet KN 935 G d 02 & the Ideogram for “Wool”.

Knossos Tablet KN 935 G d 02 & the Ideogram for “Wool” (Click to ENLARGE):

Knossos Tablet KN 935 G d 02

As we come to master Linear B, we soon discover, to our great relief, that it is actually quite easy to translate the substance at least of a great many Linear B tablets, for the simple reason that these tablets use ideograms only, and no syllabograms. Of course, it should come as no surprise to anyone relatively adept at translating Linear B tablets, regardless of provenance (Knossos, Pylos, Phaistos etc.) that the Linear B scribes were so keen on using ideograms to replace syllabograms as often as they possibly could, to save valuable space on the small tablets they had to inscribe their texts, inventories, statistics and varia on. So if anything, this tablet in particular is nothing short of a breeze to translate. 

However, whenever we are confronted with any Linear B tablet using ideograms alone, reconstructing the syntax of such a tablet is quite another matter. In the case of this tablet in particular, the precise meaning of the two (2) sentences on this tablet (if indeed there are two, one on each line) somewhat eludes us. On the other hand, whatever translation we assign to a tablet such as this one, that translation is more than likely to reflect the original sense of the tablet (as its scribe understood it) fairly accurately.

On a final note, observe that the Linear B words for “ram” KIRIO or KIRIYO and “ewe” POROQETO do not appear on any extant Linear B tablet, but are in fact derivative constructs I have derived from their alphabetical ancient Greek descendants. As such, they may not be technically “correct”, but as far as I am concerned, that is neither here nor there. As I always say, better to take a stab at it than do nothing.

In this light, we shall eventually be compiling a topical English to Mycenaean Linear B Lexicon, which is to include not only the vast majority of Linear B vocabulary on extant tablets, but a significant number of derived [D] words, such as the two I have provided here. Our ground-breaking lexicon is due to be published in PDF format sometime in 2015 or early 2016. Rita Roberts, my Linear B co-researcher and I shall be working as a team to produce this magnificent Lexicon, which we sincerely hope will leave the shoddily edited Mycenaean (Linear B) – English Glossary in the dust, where it belongs, and will equal or even surpass Chris Tselentis’ well conceived, highly comprehensive Linear B Lexicon.  


Hey, Honey, the Linear B Ideogram MA+RE for MALI = wool.

Hey, Honey, the Linear B Ideogram MA+RE for MALI = wool (Click to ENLARGE):
Linear B Tablets KN 937 & 951 mare MARI wool

While the ideogram for the Mycenaean Greek word for “wool” in Linear B is quite straightforward, being as you can see the syllabogram RE superimposed on the syllabogram MA, there is one thing about it which stumped me for quite a long time. Why on earth would the Linear B scribes at Knossos and elsewhere substitute the syllabogram RE for RI to superimpose on MA, when obviously the word is spelled MARI in Linear B? On the surface, there does not seem to be any good reason for them to have done this, except that if we recall that the Linear B scribes were real sticklers for practicality, amongst other things, it really does not come as much of a suprise to me now that they substituted RE for RI, given that it is, to put it plainly, a simpler syllabogram to superimpose on MA than RI is. I have no idea whether or not that was their reasoning when they assigned this logogram, or ideogram, if you like, to symbolize the Linear B word for wool (MARI) other than the explanation I have just given here, which is consistent with the scriptural economy the Linear B scribes were so fond of.

I of course welcome any and all conjectures as to why they would have done this. One thing is clear: it was not a decision based on boring old reason, but rather on practical application, a factor which was always uppermost in the minds of the Linear B scribes, a clever gang if I ever saw one.

There is another quite cogent reason why the Linear B scribes went for MARE instead of MARI for wool, and that was, quite simply, to clearly contradistinguish it from the extremely similar logogram for honey, MERI, as illustrated here so that you can immediately see the difference for yourself (Click to ENLARGE):
Linear B MARE wool and MERI honey
This second explanation makes even more sense than the first.

The text of these two tablets, consisting as it does of logograms and ideograms alone, is quite clear, and warrants no comment.   


SITO = “wheat” again, this time on a contextually considerably clearer fragment.

SITO = “wheat” again, this time on a contextually considerably clearer fragment (Click to ENLARGE):

Knossos Fragment KN 849 K j 72 SITO wheat

Unlike the previous Linear B tablet sporting the ideogram for wheat = SITO in Linear B (transliterated into Latin script), which was a pure headache for me from beginning to end, I dare say I found this particular Linear BC fragment from Knossos much easier to decipher, or more to the point, to unravel. As it turns out, even the missing portions of the text were practically handed to me on a silver platter, well, at least almost.

Even in the first line of this fragment, the presence of the feminine singular adjective for “planted or cultivated” pretty much gave the show away. The one noun which fits this adjective like a glove is the Linear B word, KOTONA = “a plot of land”, the very word Chris Tselentis pairs with this adjective in his Linear B Lexicon, where he has this to say of PU2TERIYA, “planted, cultivated (of ‘ ktoina’ = plots”). And who am I to argue with him? Sometimes, translations of even missing words, in this case, the noun KOTONA, also feminine singular, seem just to leap up and bite you. I have almost no doubt whatsoever that this is indeed the word missing to the left of the alternate spelling PUTARIYA for PU2TERIYA.

The truncated word beginning with PERI was a considerably tougher challenge, but as I have so often said on this blog, who am I to refuse a good challenge? So I never do. Basing myself on the various possible spellings of Linear B PERI in alphabetical ancient Greek, meticulous consultation of Liddell & Scott, 1986, yielded no less than nine (9) distinct possibilities for Greek words beginning with the alternatives you see in the illustration above. I have included them all, even though some of them seem more far-fetched than others. What really struck me was that five (5) of these words were all in the same range of meanings, and so I naturally opted for any one of these variants... take your pick, while eliminating the others. Of course, there is no real justification for tossing all of the others out, especially “by the sea”, except that Chris Tselentis himself has an entry in his excellent and comprehensive Linear B Lexicon, which is almost perfectly matched with all five of the alternative meanings I have opted for. Given that this entry, “the further provinces” is the one and only entry beginning with PERA in any available online Linear B glossary or lexicon, there is absolutely no reason to doubt that this may indeed be the very word that originally appeared intact at this position on the tablet. But there is no way to know.

The rest of the notes on the illustration of this fragment from Knossos are self-explanatory. The translation of the second line is completely unambiguous.

Now, on to the alternative translations... take your choice. These are:

A: a cultivated (plot of land) close by, with wheat amounting to a total of 130+ units (bales)... where “amounting to a total of” is a free translation of  “so much wheat 130+”
B: a cultivated (plot of land) just beyond, with wheat amounting to a total of 130+ units (bales)...
C: a cultivated (plot of land) on the other side of (... the island or peninsula or whatever...), with wheat amounting to a total of 130+ units (bales)...
D: a cultivated (plot of land) on the opposite side of (... the island or peninsula or whatever...), with wheat amounting to a total of 130+ units (bales)...
E: a cultivated (plot of land) in a distant province, with wheat amounting to a total of 130+ units (bales)...

and even possibly:

F: a cultivated (plot of land) by the sea, with wheat amounting to a total of 130+ units (bales)...

Again, I say, take your pick. All of these translations are perfectly sound, and since the context of this fragment is no longer fully intact, any one of them could very well have been the original integral text. I would much rather entertain all the probabilities for this context, partial as it is. If it is possible to cross-correlate the context of this fragment with that of a more complete tablet using almost exactly the same text as this one, then we may be able to confirm the best translation(s) from the seven (7) alternatives above, possibly even rounding them down to two. I am a real stickler for context. Where a very similar or almost identical context does exist on another Linear B tablet, regardless of its provenance, we simply must not fail to take its entire text into strict account, in order to flesh out the missing text on the tablet we have in front of ourselves. Of course, where no cross-correlated context is to be found on any extant Linear B tablets or fragments, we have to make do without it. 

At this moment in time, I can think of no other Linear B tablet or fragment from among the 3,000+ I have closely examined, the content of which cross-correlates with that of this tablet. Given the fact, however, that even the missing text of this tablet appears not to be so mysterious after all, we can, I think, rest assured that we are on the right track.

On a final note, even where context is sufficient to establish meaning with a fair degree of certainty, as in this instance, it is not everything. We must prepare ourselves for all possible contingencies, which is precisely what I have done here, and what I attempt to do to the best of my ability with any Linear B tablet or fragment I must struggle with to decipher it... in the exact same scenario which faces any and all Linear B translators.   



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