Linear B tablet 04-39 N u 10 from the Knossos “Armoury” illustrating the SSYLS ZE & MO While the translation of this tablet is relatively straightforward, there are a few points worthwhile mentioning. The first is that the supersyllabogram MO, appearing for the first time on this tablet, is the first syllable of the Linear B word – mono - , meaning – one, single (i.e. spare). Secondly, since the tablet is right-truncated, we do not know how many spare wheels (MO) the scribe has inventoried, but my bet is that there is a spare wheel for each set of wheels on axle. Given that there are 3 sets of wheels on axle, that would mean that there would be 3 spare wheels. Lastly, and significantly, there is absolutely no mention of a chariot on this tablet (nor is there on well over a dozen other tablets), leading me to the all but inescapable conclusion that a considerable number of chariots were fully assembled without their wheels, the wheels being separately manufactured. But why? There are three discreet sets of tablets discussing the construction of chariots and their wheels (on axle): (a) The first set of tablets inventory fully assembled chariots with their wheels on axle and their spare wheel (if present); (b) The second is comprised of tablets for fully assembled chariots without their wheels on axle and; (c) The third details the construction of wheels on axle, usually along with spare wheels, with no mention of chariots. Now this third set of tablets raises the inescapable question: why do so many tablets refer to the construction of wheels (both wheels on axle and spares), with no mention whatsoever of the chariots for which they are destined? The most plausible explanation for these discrepancies is that the privileged functionary who has ordered his chariot does not want it delivered with its wheels already on axle [set (b) above], because he wishes to have the wheels separately manufactured according to his own specifications. We can be reasonably certain that VOPs such as the wanax (King) or the rawaketa (Commander-in-Chief) were the only supernumeraries who could possibly afford to have chariot wheels manufactured to their exacting specifications. Here you see a composite of four different styles of Mycenaean chariot wheels: Such highly placed aristocrats would probably have been terribly fussy about the style and decoration of the wheels they wanted mounted. So the wheels on axle would have been manufactured separately from the chariots, which neatly explains why numerous tablets speak of wheel construction alone, while others refer to chariots without their wheels attached destined for the same elite customers. In fact, these two types of tablets appear to run in tandem with each other, there being one tablet referring to the chariot fully assembled without wheels on axle and a corresponding one detailing the manufacture of the wheels on axle (and most of the time of the spare wheel), but with no mention of the chariot itself. The difficulty is which Knossos tablet dealing with a particular fully assembled chariot without wheels is to be paired with which corresponding tablet describing the manufacture of wheels on axle (and most often a spare wheel to boot)? That is a question we shall never know the answer to, but the plausibility of this method of dual (or paired) construction of chariots without wheels in tandem with the separate manufacture of wheels makes sense.
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Knossos tablet 04-38 from the Knossos “Armoury” Knossos tablet 04-38 from the Knossos “Armoury” illustrates the use of the supersyllabogram ZE = “zeukesi” = a pair of, in other words, when it comes to wheels, a set of wheels (on axle)... certainly not off axle! Since there are 15 sets of wheels made of willow inscribed on this tablet, it is clear that the tablet describes the construction of sets of chariot wheels only, and not of the chariots to which they are eventually to be attached. Except for a rather large patch of scratches on the top left side of the tablet, it is completely intact. This inventory of the construction of wheels alone, and not of the chariots to which they are to be affixed, strengthens my previous hypothesis that some chariots were fully assembled without their wheels already on axle. In other words, any such chariot would have been delivered to its buyer without its wheels on axle, most likely because he wanted the wheels custom made to his specifications, and then fitted afterwards to the chariot in question. Otherwise, why would there be several Linear B tablets from Knossos and Pylos describing wheel manufacturing only?
Linear B tablets K 04.30 and 04.33 from the Knossos “Armoury” illustrating the use of the supersyllabogram ZE K04.33, being a mere fragment, can be translated in the blink of an eye as “one set of wheels on axle”, although we can be certain that the lost part of this fragment dealt with chariot construction and design. What on earth else? As far as K 04.30 is concerned, we have to wonder why the scribe set the word “newa” = “new” so far to the right of the phrase “Komoda opa”. I believe there is tenable explanation for this. We notice that the word “newa” is closer to the ideogram for a set of wheels on axle = ideogram for wheel + ZE. So this may indicate that the scribe probably wishes to draw our attention more to the fact that this set of wheels is “new” than to the other parts of the chariot. But that still begs the question, why? Scribes often separate single syllabograms or words from phrases to the right or left of the phase each is related to. As I have often said before, on this blog and in my published papers, no scribe or writer uses any linguistic device in any language whatsoever, unless that linguistic device plays a specific mandatory role in context, the function of which cannot be substituted by any other textual approach. This is the case here. The scribe is surely stressing that this set of wheels on axle is not just new but brand new. But again, why on earth would anyone do that, when it is apparent to the reader that the entire chariot is new? Or is it? Appearances can be deceiving. The emphasis on the newness of the set of wheels on axle leads me to believe that this chariot is to some extent constructed with spare or used parts. Consequently, we may assume that many other chariots inventoried on tablets are also partially constructed from spare or used parts. If that is the case, then the fact that the set of wheels is brand new takes precedence over the condition of the other parts in the construction of this chariot in particular makes perfect sense, at least to me. This explanation is sound. Given that the same ploy pops up on a considerable number of tablets, and not just in the military sector of the economy, we have to ask ourselves why the scribe has resorted to this approach in each and every case where similar dispositions of syllabograms are separated from the text they appear in on tablets, regardless of economic sector. In other words, the praxis of the separation of (a single) syllabogram (s) from the rest of the text on the same line is never effected as a recurring linguistic practice without good reason. We shall discover that this is so over and over in the discussion of supersyllabograms in Linear B, again regardless of economic sector. Richard
Linear B tablet K 04-22 N b 05 from the Knossos “Armoury” This is one of the most significant tablets from Knossos dealing with chariots. At least two really perplexing words plague any reasonable translation of this tablet. The first of these is – peqato – on the first line, which according to Chris Tselentis in his Linear B Lexicon just might mean – a foot-board -. But this is speculative. L.R. Palmer is unable to offer any plausible translation at all for this word. At the end of the second line we find the truly bizarre concoction – posieesi – which is utterly alien to ancient Greek and quite unlike any combination of vowels I have ever encountered in Mycenaean Greek. It is the juxtaposition of – iee – i.e. three vowels in a row which really throws us off. I have never seen anything like it in Mycenaean Greek. It just might possibly be instrumental plural, but that is a real stretch. So is my translation. I would take it with a hefty grain of salt. But everyone who knows me is perfectly aware that I will dive right in where others shy away. As long as the words just might make sense both in the textual and the actual construction context of Mycenaean chariots, then there is no harm trying on a translation. If the shoe fits, wear it. Here is the original tablet from the Ashmolean Museum (approximate actual size).
Linear B tablet K 04.03 from the Knossos “Armoury” Tablet: The text of this tablet is longer than on most tablets on chariot construction. This makes for more chances for error(s) in the original text, depending on the scribe’s hand (which in this case is sloppy) in the final literal and free translations. The notes on the tablet above make it quite clear where the scribe’s writing leaves something to be desired. So the translator is left to his or her own devices to come up with the best possible interpretation under the circumstances. For instance, the word – opa – apparently is archaic Mycenaean. It had fallen out of use by the time of Homer. It is a bit difficult to determine exactly what it means, but Chris Tselentis has it as – workshop –, which makes sense in the context. Once again, by context, I mean not only textual context but the most likely translation for the real world context of the Mycenaean vocabulary describing chariot construction. I am convinced that in this case Tselentis has ventured the best possible translation, which by exception I accept without question. My normal practice is to call into doubt any word on any tablet which has no equivalent in later ancient Greek, Homeric or Classical. But sometimes we have to throw in the towel when faced with no other reasonable alternative for the translation of archaic Mycenaean Greek or possibly even Minoan words. There is nothing unusual at all in the phenomenon of cross-linguistic transfer of certain words from a former, more archaic, language (in this case Minoan Linear A). Lord knows, English is full of such words, the vast majority inherited from Latin, Greek and medieval and early Renaissance French. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. The scribe, whose hand is admittedly quite sloppy, appears to have inscribed – araromo-pa-mena – for – araromo-te-mena –, by omitting one of the horizontal bars on the syllabogram. Translators of Linear B must always be on the ball and on the lookout for scribal errors in orthography on any tablet whatsoever, regardless of provenance – Knossos, Pylos, Mycenae etc. After all, people make spelling mistakes often enough today, just as they always have throughout history. No surprise there. Finally, there is the sticky question, why would a scribe inventory a fully assembled chariot without wheels on axle, when – fully assembled – implies that the damn thing has to have its wheels on axle. Compare this with the manufacture of cars nowadays. No one in their right mind would call a car fully assembled, unless it had its wheels on axle. However, it is conceivable that Linear B scribes inventorying fully assembled chariots might sometimes be obliged to list the chariot(s) in question – here there are 3 of them – as still not having their wheels on axle, because they are inventorying them at the very end of the current fiscal year. On the other hand, chariots might sometimes have been delivered without the wheels on axle, if the new owner wished to design and construct his own wheels, only attaching them after delivery has been received. There is no reason why this might not have been the case in some instances. But we shall never know, because we were not there when the scribes tallied chariots without wheels on axle. There must have been some method in their madness after all.
Linear B tablets KN 235 N j 41 & KN 236 N j 42 on chariots from the Knossos “Armoury” These two tablets were perhaps the easiest I have had to translate. No further comments are necessary. Since there is so little text on these tablets, I did not bother translating the Linear B into archaic Greek.
Translation of Linear B tablet 04-42 N u 17 from the Knossos “Armoury” This tablet poses only one problem of any consequence. It is almost certain that the scribe misspelled – opero – on the first line, where he has inscribed it as – opeda - . There is nothing particularly unusual about such an error, given that the syllabogram – da – looks almost like that for – ro -, except that it is missing the left side of the horizontal bar. Any interpretation other than – opero – makes no sense in this context.
Translation of tablets K 04.40 N u 03 & K 04.41 from the Knossos “Armoury” While the translation of these two tablets is quite straightforward, there is a little problem with the second one, since it is unsure whether or not the chariot body or the chariot wheels are made of willow. However, I prefer the first translation over the second, given that on almost all other Linear B tablets from the Knossos “Armoury” are made of elm. On the same tablet (04.41), it is obvious to the observant translator that we may be dealing with anywhere from 50 to 59 sets of wheels on axle, ergo, 50 to 59 chariots.
POST 1,000! Linear B tablets K 04-31 N u 07 & 04-37 N u 04 in the Knossos “Armoury” Yes, we have finally hit 1,000 posts on Linear B, Knossos and Mycenae, in its slightly less than three years of existence. While the translation of both of these tablets is relatively straightforward, I do have a few comments to make. In the first place, it is becoming more than obvious by this point (after seeing several Linear B tablets on the design and construction of chariots already posted here) that not only is the vocabulary for chariots completely standardized, i.e. formulaic in the extreme, but that words referencing the parts of the chariot almost always appear in a minimally variable order on the tablets. It is to be noted that the generic words for the largest parts always appear first, followed by (characteristics of) their smaller components. Thus: 1 EITHER if it is mentioned, – amota – (with wheels) or – anamota – (without wheels) almost always appears in the first position. If the reference to wheels is the first on the tablet, it is apparent that the scribe is squarely placing emphasis on the (construction of the) wheels over all other parts of the chariot. OR if it is mentioned, – iqiyo – (for a single dual chariot for two people and NOT for the dual, 2 chariots!) or – iqiya – (for a chariot or chariots) almost always appears in the first position. If the reference to the chariot is the first on the tablet, it is apparent that the scribe is squarely placing emphasis on the construction of the chariot over all other concerns. This is routinely followed either: 2 (a) by the kind of wood the scribe is referring to, usually either – pterewa – = elm or – erika – = willow, then by the designation – temidweta – referring to the rims of the wheel(s), (b) inversely, by the designation – temidweta – referring to the rims of the wheel(s) and then usually either – pterewa – = elm or – erika – = willow, for the kind of wood the rims are made of; 3 followed by – odatuweta – referring to the grooves in the rims (it makes perfect sense to refer to the rims first and then to the grooves on the rims, rather than the other way around, which would violate common sense) then with a reference to the use of – kako – = bronze or any variations of it (although this word can sometimes appear in the first position but only if either of the words – amota – (with wheels) or – anamota – (without wheels) do not appear on that line; 4 then by the ideogram for wheel + the supersyllabogram ZE = – zeugesi – = a pair of wheels, or more properly speaking, (a set of) wheels on axle + the number of sets of wheels (if present) , with the understanding that if more than 1 set of wheels is listed, then more than one chariot is referenced. Thus, if the supersyllabogram (SSYL) ZE is followed by the number 22, the scribe is referring to 22 chariots; and (if present) by the ideogram for wheel, either preceded or followed by the supersyllabogram MO = – mono – = a single wheel, or more properly = a spare wheel or spare wheels, if a number > 1 appears after MO; 5 and finally (if present) by the ideogram for chariot with wheels or chariot without wheels. Of course, the word order is not set in stone (nothing ever is), but you get the picture. In short, the vocabulary appearing on military tablets dealing with chariots is both formulaic and routinely predictable. This is a prime characteristic of all inventories, ancient or modern.
Translation of Linear B tablet K 04-28 from the Knossos “Armoury” The translation of this tablet is relatively straightforward. The first line speaks for itself. On the second line we have “opoqo kerayapi opiiyapi”, which could mean either “with horse blinkers of horn with parts of the reins” or “with horse blinkers with horn parts of the reins”, since the Mycenaean Greek does not make it clear which part of the phrase – kerayapi – = “horn” modifies, the first or the second. Nevertheless, the second makes considerably more sense, since the poor horses might suffer injury if their blinkers were made of horn and they happened to shatter. Certainly, the reins could be at least partly made of horn. So there you have it. Finally, we are confronted with the perfect participle passive – metakekumena – . Chis Tselentis takes a wild guess that it means “dismantled?” , though it is quite obvious that he is very unsure of himself, given that his translation is followed by a question mark (?). Besides, when we consider the context of the physical attributes of the chariot in which this word is set, it does not make much sense that anyone would want to dismantle a chariot which has been painted crimson by someone else, as that would simply undo the work of the painter. Not a pretty scene. The scribe would have had one angry painter on his hands. On the other hand, the translation “(fully) refurbished”, which is practically identical with L.R. Palmer’s, makes a lot more sense. In said case, the scribe and the painter would have gotten along fine with one another. I am not saying that Tselentis’ translation is outright wrong. But the problem is that there exists no ancient Greek verb which fits the orthographic conditions of the perfect participle passive – metakekumena – . On the other hand, the ancient Greek verb – komizo – is a pretty close match, even though its own perfect participle passive does not match. But – komizo – is Classical Greek, while – metakekumena – is far more archaic Mycenaean Greek. So there really is no way to tell for sure. But since the translation matches up so well with the context of the actual physical appearance of the chariot, I am much more inclined to favour it over that of Chris Tselentis.
This Minoan object preceded the heralded Antikythera Mechanism by 1,400 years, and was the first analog and portable computer in history Researcher Minas Tsikritsis who hails from Crete -- where the Bronze Age Minoan civilization flourished from approximately 2700 BC to 1500 century BC -- maintains that the Minoan Age object discovered in 1898 in Paleokastro site, in the Sitia district of western Crete, preceded the heralded "Antikythera Mechanism" by 1,400 years, and was the first analog and "portable computer" in history. "While searching in the Archaeological Museum of Iraklion for Minoan Age findings with astronomical images on them we came across a stone-made matrix unearthed in the region of Paleokastro, Sitia. In the past, archaeologists had expressed the view that the carved symbols on its surface are related with the Sun and the Moon," Tsikritsis said. The Cretan researcher and university professor told ANA-MPA that after the relief image of a spoked disc on the right side of the matrix was analysed it was established that it served as a cast to build a mechanism that functioned as an analog computer to calculate solar and lunar eclipses. The mechanism was also used as sundial and as an instrument calculating the geographical latitude. Source: Athens News Agency [April 06, 2011] Text © from original below. Click the BANNER below to visit: This Minoan object preceded the heralded Antikythera Mechanism by 1,400 years, and was the first analog and portable computer in history. A stone-made matrix has carved symbols on its surface are related with the Sun and the Moon serving as a cast to build a mechanism that functioned as an analog computer to calculate solar and lunar eclipses. The mechanism was also used as sundial and as an instrument calculating the geographical latitude. Previous paragraph by Rita Roberts
Linear B tablet K 04.5 from the Knossos Armoury: the redoubtable challenges for translation Linear B tablet K 04.5 from the Knossos Armoury: the redoubtable challenges for translation While some of the military tablets from the Knossos Armoury dealing with the construction and design of chariots pose a few problems in the translation of certain words which yield at least two or possibly even three different possible meanings, others are much more of a challenge to the translator. Some vocabulary in the more challenging tablets proves to be much more fractious. There are several reasons for this phenomenon when we are dealing with Mycenaean Greek vocabulary, let alone that of any truly archaic ancient language, such as Babylonian and Assyrian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphics. These are: 1 Some words in Mycenaean Greek may closely or somewhat resemble their later counterparts in Homeric Greek or Classical Greek, conveying the same or a similar meaning. Such is the case with – wanax – = “king” in Mycenaean Greek. 2 Some of the words in Mycenaean Greek may closely or somewhat resemble their later counterparts in Homeric Greek, and yet not convey precisely the same meaning or might even mean something more remotely associated, such as – qasireu – , which does not mean the same thing as “basileus” = “king” in Homeric Greek. A – qasireu – in Mycenaean Greek is merely a local leader of a town, citadel, redoubt or similar small centre and nothing more. A king in Mycenaean Greek is a – wanax – , for which there is an almost exact match in Homer’s Iliad. 3 Some words in Mycenaean Greek may look like variants of later Homeric or Classic Greek words, although they are spelled in a fashion alien to the latter, never appearing in them. 4 Some of the words in Mycenaean Greek may closely or somewhat resemble their later counterparts in Classical Ionic or Attic Greek, and yet convey an entirely different meaning. 5 Some vocabulary in Mycenaean Greek may be archaic Greek which later fell entirely out of use even prior to Homeric Greek, in which case it may be next to impossible to confirm that such words are even archaic Greek at all. 6 Some vocabulary in Mycenaean Greek may possibly be proto-Greek or even more ancient proto Indo-European, but we can never be certain of this at all. 7 Some vocabulary in Mycenaean Greek may possibly or even likely be Minoan or of Minoan origin. Such is the case with the word – kidapa – on tablet KN 894 N v 01, the very first tablet I translated in this series of tablets on chariots. L.R. Palmer assumes this word refers to a kind of wood, and I agree. This assumption is based on the fact that two other kinds of wood are referenced on the same tablet, i.e. elm and willow. With this evidence in hand, I have gone even further than L. R. Palmer and have taken the calculated risk to identify this word as meaning “ash (wood)”, a wood which Homer uses for weapons. 8 Just as is the case with Classical Greek, in which a few thousand words are not of Indo-European origin, Mycenaean Greek contains a fair proportion of such vocabulary. Words such as – sasama – (sesame) & – serino – (celery) come to mind. This is the scenario which confronts us in the translation of at least two of the words on this tablet, namely, – piriniyo – and – mano –, both of which are certainly open to more than one possible interpretation. The first word - piriniyo – meets the criteria outlined in 1 & 3 above. It probably means “an ivory worker”, but we cannot be sure of this. Since the latter – mano – may not have any relation to later Homeric or Classical Greek at all, it is a crap shoot to try and translate it. This word meets the criteria in 1,2 and 4 above. But I took the chance (as I always do), on the assumption, however fanciful, that – mano – may be related to the Classical Greek word – manos – , meaning “thin”, as defined in Liddell & Scott. And what applies to Mycenaean vocabulary on this and all other tablets dealing with chariots, whether or not they originate from Knossos, equally applies to all of the vocabulary on each and every tablet in the military sector of the Mycenaean economy. By extension, this principle must also apply to all of the vocabulary on Linear B tablets, regardless of provenance (Knossos, Pylos, Mycenae, Thebes etc.) and regardless of the sector of the Mycenaean economy with which they are concerned. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. In short, the 8 criteria outlined above must be applied on an equal footing, through the procedure of cross-comparative extrapolation, to all of the vocabulary of Mycenaean Greek. We shall return to this phenomenon in our article on chariot construction and design, which is to appear on my
Linear B tablet K 04-16 N b 01 from the Knossos “Armoury” There are a couple of oddities in the Linear B on this tablet, as illustrated by the Notes in the illustration of it above. Since Chris Tselentis lists “reins” as – aniyapi – one would expect the instrumental plural to be – aniyapisi - . But I am not the scribe, and I was not there when he inscribed the tablet. So who knows? On the other hand, his spelling of – araromotemena – is definitely wrong. He has it as – araromotomena – and that spelling turns up neither in L.R. Palmer, The Interpretation of Mycenaean Texts (1963) nor in Chris Tselentis’ excellent Linear B Lexicon. Other than that, everything’s cool. So there you have it.
Two more chariot tablets from the Knossos “Armoury”, K 05-35 N u 12 & K 04-39 N u 10 Here we see two more tablets from the Knossos “Armoury”. Once again, the translations are relatively straightforward, except that in the first tablet, the words -ore- and -e- are truncated on the right. The only plausible translation I could come up with for the word beginning with -ore- is the name Orestas, which I found in Chris Tselentis’ Linear B Lexicon and not in L.R. Palmer’s, The Interpretation of Mycenaean Greek Texts (1963), in spite of the fact that Palmer’s glossary of Mycenaean Linear B vocabulary is far the most complete to be found anywhere. The translation of the truncated word beginning with -e- on the second line of the first tablet (K 05-35 N u 12) below is obvious. The word is -erika- in Linear B, i.e. willow. The second tablet (K 04-39 N u 10) poses only one problem, and that is the question of how to translate -amota- which in Classical Greek would clearly mean “chariot”, except that the spelling is different (Latinized Greek = harmata) in the latter. The Mycenaean word could have meant “chariot”, except for the fact that on all Linear B tablets dealing with chariots, the word “chariot” is never spelled out. Instead, the ideograms for “a chariot with wheels” and “a chariot without wheels” are always used. Note that the ideograms for chariot appear on neither of these tablets, which seem concerned only with the construction and the total number of wheels on axle + the spare wheel.