A Linear B Tablet listing 50 swords (CLICK to enlarge):
This small Linear B tablet clearly illustrates the accounting system adopted for Linear B. Once again, we see an Ideogram, which is tagged with an asterisk (*). It may seem rather odd that on this particular tablet the scribe actually supplemented the word for sword, “pakana” with its ideogram, which sounds counter-intuitive, given what I just said in the last post, that the whole idea of the Linear B accounting system was to save space on the tablets, not waste it. But in fact, such is not the case. The explanation is simple: in this particular case, the scribe is making certain that no one mistakes what he is counting, by not only writing out the word but also inscribing its ideogram right beside it. It’s almost as if he were self-auditing. This makes the Linear B accounting system even more coherent and consistent than it might otherwise have been. We will see that this practice of writing the word for the total number of items accounted for + its ideogram recurs frequently in Linear B tablets. However, the downside of this is that some Linear B scribes were apparently either lazy or in a rush or simply felt that the ideogram alone more than sufficed in tabulating accounting lists. Thus, on some (but far from all) Linear B tablets, accounting lists give only the ideograms for the items in the list(s), which means that unfortunately for us, we have to learn all the major ideograms if we are to be in a position to decipher all the accounting records. We cannot count on finding both the words and the ideograms for each item being listed in all Linear B tablets.