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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 

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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.   


Trying to make sense of a seriously damaged Linear B tablet, KN 842 K j 01 SITO = wheat.

Trying to make sense of a seriously damaged Linear B tablet, KN 842 K j 01 SITO = wheat (Click to ENLARGE):

Knossos KN 842 K j 02 sitos

I have come across quite a few Linear B tablets which are so badly damaged that it is almost impossible to make any sense of them. This is the second such tablet I have valiantly attempted to decipher, at least in part, with some measure of “success”, however dubious... and it is dubious.  However, as I have so often stressed in our blog, I am not one to shy away from a challenge, especially one as daunting as this.

I wish to make clear from the outset that my decipherment, as far it goes (which is not very far) is entirely tautological, amounting to no more than wish fulfilment, but in this respect, it does not stray very far, if at all, from so many Linear B decipherments, which are partial reconstructions of text actually present, in whole or in part, on seriously compromised Linear B tablets, regardless of provenance. And since I am such a stickler for context, the chopped up context of this damaged tablet makes my decipherment all the more tentative, or if you will, fishy.

But as I said before, it is far better to have tried than never to have tried at all.

So, here goes nothing. As far as I can make out, with all the gaps indicated by... passim..., this tablet seems to be saying something like this:

Line 1: Messenger, sacrifice (imperative) to the god Zeus!
Line 2: Unintelligible, except for “2 units (bales?) of wheat”
This line also appears to contain two of my “pet” sypersyllabograms, ME and NA (if the second even is NA), but I haven’t the faintest idea what they mean, because I have never seen them before on any of the 3,000 or so Linear B tablets from Knossos I have closely examined. Anyway, the whole theory of supersyllabograms is wide open to debate and possible rejection by the Linear B research & translation community at large.
Line 3: The first word, PERIYOPU or PERIYOAI, possibly truncated on the left, and almost certainly on the right, is undecipherable. The word KIDARO may mean a “flute or harp player”, but that is highly conjectural and really disputable. MOPOMEYA appears to contain the Linear B word for “shepherd”, but even for me, that is quite a stretch. Nevertheless, you never know.

Whatever you do, please do not quote me on this highly tentative and probably even fanciful translation of the apparently legible portions of this otherwise badly damaged tablet. 


Rita Roberts’ Translation of Knossos Tablet KN 194 Bg 03, Girls & Boys.

Rita Roberts’ Translation of Knossos Tablet KN 634 Bn 03, People, More Girls & Boys.

Rita Roberts’ Translation of Knossos Tablet KN 634 Bn 03, People, More Girls & Boys (Click to ENLARGE):

Knossos Linear B KN 634 B n 03

And here is Rita’s translation of Knossos Tablet KN 634 Bn 03, which is trickier than the previous one, since it is right truncated, and it introduces the ideogram, people. Since this is only a fragment, it is impossible to determine what the giver is giving the boys and girls, as Rita so rightly asserts.


Rita Roberts’ Translation of Knossos Tablet KN 194 Bg 03, Girls & Boys (Click to ENLARGE):

Knossos Linear B KN 194 B g 03

Not too long ago, my most advanced Linear B student graduated to actually translating Linear B tablets from Scripta Minoa at Knossos. But I did not simply assign her ordinary tablets with syllabograms only on them. Instead, I tossed her headlong in the sea, expecting her to sink or swim, as the old saying goes. And she swam, and is swimming better and better with every translation she accomplishes. While this translation of one of scores of Linear B tablets at Knossos is relatively straightforward, the one in the next post is trickier, and she got them both bang on.

I also recently assigned several sheep, rams and ewes tablets to Rita, and she should be starting to post her translations of these relatively soon. In this endeavour, she will be assisting me greatly in the decipherment and translation of scores and scores of the most significant of some 700 Linear B tablets on sheep, rams and ewes from Knossos. These tablets comprise by far the largest portion of Linear B tablets at Knossos, accounting for fully 20% of the entire find of some 3,000 + tablets. There is no other category of Linear B tablets, whether economic (trade, crafts, carpentry, industry, household affairs, agricultural (livestock other than sheep, rams and ewes, crops, including the all-pervasive olive oil and other agricultural practices), and military, all of which come a very distant second to the hundreds of tablets on sheep.


The Linear B Ideogram for “wheat” = SITO. Ideograms are fun!.

The Linear B Ideogram for “wheat” = SITO. Ideograms are fun! (Click to ENLARGE):

KN 777a  K b 01 sitos wheat

I don’t know about you, but I think learning Linear B ideograms is fun. Since there are so many of them (at least 100!), it makes for easier translation of a lot of Linear B tablets. As is their usual practice, Linear B scribes writing Mycenaean Greek frequently resorted to ideograms, since they were a great way to save precious space on those small tablets they used. Once again, we see Linear B scribes resorting to what I prefer to call Linear B shorthand. Ideograms are only 1 way to achieve this goal. Logograms and supersyllabograms are another. Scribes also routinely did not even bother with nominal and adjectival declensions and verb conjugations, because what was the point when (yes, here we go again!) they could save valuable space on the tablets. These scribes were a clever bunch, who had the routine down pat, following strict standard universal guidelines which apply to tablets, no matter what their provenance (Knossos, Phaistos, Pylos etc.).

The use of a script, in this case, a syllabary as shorthand is a highly unusual trait for ancient writing systems, unless of course they are hieroglyphic, in which case they are automatically shorthand. We must nevertheless make a clear distinction between so-called hieroglyphic “shorthand”, since the Egyptian scribes almost certainly were not conscious that this is what hieroglyphics actually are.  Since the entire system of Egyptian writing was hieroglyphic, from top to bottom, it was simply writing to them, and nothing more. On the other hand, it is quite clear that the Minoan scribes writing Mycenaean Greek in Linear B almost certainly were conscious that they were using shorthand, because they deliberately mixed logograms, ideograms and supersyllabograms with regular text spelled out, a practice totally unheard of in Egyptian writing, or for that matter in cuneiform and other earlier scripts prior to Linear B. Whether Linear A shared this characteristic with Linear B is an open question, but if it did, this would give us yet another clue to the eventual decipherment of Linear A. We note also that when the Greek alphabet was finally adopted ca. 900 – 800 BCE, shorthand, as practised in Linear B, disappeared, because it was no longer needed, being impractical and redundant in the earliest alphabetic system.   

In fact, I am now quite confident to postulate that Linear B is in fact to a large extent a shorthand for Mycenaean Greek. Yes, the scribes did spell out words, but they just as often did not, resorting instead to the totally innovative, clever tricks I have mentioned above.

It also strikes me that the practice of cultivating grain and wheat right at the port of Knossos, Amnisos, was a truly intelligent economic practice. By so doing, the Minoans were able to expedite the international shipping of grain and wheat supplies, especially in the case of emergencies or famine abroad. This is yet another reminder that the Minoans were eminently practical businessmen, familiar at least with some of the fundamental principles of economics, as we understand that term nowadays.   

Incidentally, my translation “cultivation practices for grain” is entirely speculative, and probably wrong. But as is my usual practice, I would much rather take a shot at some sort of translation that at least makes contextual sense than not try at all.  After all, nobody’s going to shoot me for doing this... I hope!



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