Is that 11 or 7 New Supersyllabograms (5 SSYs Deciphered) for the Textile Industry in Ancient Knossos? As with sheep raising and husbandry, the area of the Minoan agri-economy at Knossos to which the Linear B scribes devoted far and away their greatest attention (some 700 or 20 % + of the 3,000 or so tablets I closely examined from Scripta Minoa), supersyllabograms were also frequently used on tablets concerned with the textile industry and cloth. First of all, a bit of a review for those of you who do not know what a supersyllabogram is. A supersyllabogram, which is a term I recently coined to describe this very common phenomenon on so many Linear B tablets, is simply the first syllabogram, in other words, the first syllable of the Linear B word it represents. Linear B scribes resorted to this practice so often that there can be no doubt that they did so to effect shortcuts to save precious space on the clay tablets, which were after all (very) small. This practice, in addition to that of the frequent use of ideograms to stand in for entire Linear B words makes it quite clear (at least to me) that a good deal of Linear B is in fact shorthand, and the earliest occurrence of it in human history, not to be outdone until the invention of modern shorthand under various guises from 1588 onwards, until the arrival of the ultimate system invented by Pitman in 1837. So once again, the Minoan civilization was far ahead of its time, as I have so often pointed out in other respects on this blog. As it stands now, my research colleague, Rita Roberts, and I have discovered 14 supersyllabograms, as follows: 1. 7 in the area of sheep husbandry, of which 5 are deciphered with a moderate to high degree of certainty (O, KI, PE, ZA & NE), one for which the putative meaning is tentative at best (PA) and one undeciphered (SE). Click this banner to see all 7 supersyllabograms in the area of sheep raising: 2. For military matters, 1 deciphered supersyllabogram (ZE) 3. For religious matters, 1 deciphered sypersyllabogram (DI), with a fair to moderate degree of certainty & 4. 11 (or just 7?) supersyllabograms in the area of the textile industry (or cloth production), of which 5 are deciphered with a moderate to high degree of certainty (NE, PA, PU, TE & WE), and 1 of which the meaning is very uncertain because the supersyllabogram itself looks almost, but not quite, like the syllabogram SA. The 5 remaining supersyllabograms, of which 4 are variations on WE, and the last is ZO, are all presently unintelligible. If we consider WE & its 4 variations as actually only 1 plain supersyllabogram (WE) with 4 variations, this reduces the number of SSYs for cloth and textiles to 7, which to my mind is more reasonable than 11. Here are the supersyllabograms for the textile and cloth industry (Click to ENLARGE): I have decided to decipher all those that I could before posting tablets illustrating each deciphered SSY in the area of textiles and cloth production in the Minoan economy at Knossos, so that when I do post the tablets, it will be a lot easier for you to cross-reference to the chart above & find the exact meaning for whichever of the 5 deciphered SSYs I post tablets. For the time being, here are two tablets, one with the blank ideogram for cloth or textiles, which means precisely that and no more, and one with the SSY TE inside the ideogram for cloth or textiles. The syllabogram TE notably modifies the meaning of the ideogram for cloth or textiles. Here we see two Linear B Tablets on the textile industry, the one on the left with the blank ideogram for cloth, period, the one one the right with the syllabogram TE inside it: Click to ENLARGE: I recently posted another more complete Linear B tablet using the SSY TE for cloth or textiles, here (Click to see the post): Taken all together, the supersyllabograms in each category would add up to a total of 16, except that NE & PA are common to sheep raising and the textile industry, but — and I must lay particular emphasis on this — an entirely different meaning obtains for the SSY PA for sheep husbandry and its equivalent for textiles. NE means the same thing for both areas of the Mycenaean agri-economy (sheep raising and textiles). Since NE & PA appear twice in two categories, this reduces the number of supersyllabograms we have discovered to date to 14, of which we have managed to decipher 10 with a moderate to high degree of certainty, the rest either being highly uncertain or simply unintelligible (for the time being). The 14 supersyllabograms we have so far discovered are then, in alphabetical order: DI KI NA NE O PA PE PU SA TE WE ZA ZE ZO. This is an astonishing turnout, given that there are only about 55 syllabograms all told (give or take, depending on whose charts you consult), not counting the homophones. The fact that we have already confirmed that fully 14 or over 25 % of 55 syllabograms are supersyllabograms speaks volumes to the commonplace use the Linear B scribes made of them as shorthand. Taken in conjunction with well over 100 ideograms, the 14 supersyllabograms appear to lend a good deal of credence to my hypothesis that Linear B was a shorthand to a significant extent. This characteristic Linear B shares with virtually no other ancient script, except perhaps Linear A, but since the latter is undeciphered, we have no way of knowing. But believe it or not, we still have not accounted for all of the supersyllabograms discovered to date. Thomas G. Palaima actually found and easily deciphered 5 supersyllabograms for the names of Mycenaean settlements and cities on Linear B tablet Heidelburg HE FL 1994. These SSYs are KO for KONOSO or Knossos, ZA for ZAKORO or Zakros, PA for Palaikastro (or Phaistos), PU for PURO or Pylos & MU for MUKENE or Mycenae. This bumps our total back up to 16, in alphabetical order: DI KI KO MU NA NE O PA PE PU SA TE WE ZA ZE ZO, accounting for fully 29 % of all Linear B syllabograms. We cannot blame Prof. Thomas G. Palaima for not recognizing his 5 syllabograms as such as supersyllabograms, since after all there were only 5, so there was no need to isolate them as a phenomenon in and of itself. Yet with the discovery of a further 11 of these little beasties, the situation has entirely changed. They simply have to be isolated, defined and classified, unless we wish to be bogged down in a hopeless quagmire of meaningless syllabograms. And that simply will not do.
Rest assured that there are more supersyllabograms to come, as we have not yet surveyed all the tablets in other areas of the Minoan/ Mycenaean civilization in all its aspects from the cross-section of about 3,000 we minutely examined from Scripta Minoa. Once we have closely examined all 3,000 or so tablets for every possible occurrence of supersyllabograms, we shall compile a complete chart of them. We should be able to complete this task before the end of this year, all things being equal. Once we have accomplished our goal, we shall then post (a) a complete chart of all the supersyllabograms in each category, with duplication or triplication whenever the same SSY is used (with different meanings!) in two or three categories & (b) a revised table of the Basic Values of the Mycenaean Syllabary widely available on the Internet with all of the supersyllabograms in BOLD. Such a revised table of the basic Linear B syllabograms in Mycenaean Greek is bound to make waves in the Linear B research community. Whether or not my theory of supersyllabograms as a phenomenon in Linear B is, if you like, correct, partially correct, or just wishful thinking and a bunch of hogwash is entirely up to the international Linear B research community at large to decide for themselves over the next few years. Yet I remain quite confident that there is more to this little mystery than meets the eyes. I shall have more to say on the marked difference between supersyllabograms which appear either before or after the ideograms to which they refer (as with all the SSYs for sheep raising) versus those which are invariably inscribed inside the ideograms which they modify. These two classes of supersyllabograms are not the same, as we shall soon see. Richard