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.   


Richard