Ideal Demands for ZERO-TOLERANCE in Accounting & Inventories from Mycenaean Greece, to Classical Athens, Imperial Rome, the House of Medici and beyond – References to Wikipedia Articles & Several Illustrations
Inventorial Accounting Demand for ZERO-TOLERANCE Applied to the Translation of the Tricky Linear B Tablet KN 1507 E d 231 by Rita Roberts: Click to ENLARGE
Our working hypothesis for Rita carefully considered translation of Knossos tablet KN 1507 E d 231.
Before proceeding to the genesis of our hypothesis for a realistic and practical translation of this very tricky Linear B tablet, allow me to inform you all that Rita is now being confronted with mind-bending challenges in the decipherment of really difficult Linear B tablets. Had I known this when I initially assigned Rita this tablet and the next one to be posted, I would have surely left them for her first year of her university level curriculum. However, as it turns out, the fact that she had to force herself to stretch her logical powers of observation to the extreme means that she is more than ready to rise to the even more daunting challenges facing her in the next month or so, when she finally embarks on her first year of university level studies. The fact that she was eventually able to translate this tough tablet, the two of using working together, speaks to her mastery of Linear B, which is already very considerable.
Since Linear B is first and foremost an accounting language for Mycenaean Greek, in other words, a subset of this archaic Greek dialect, we should expect that all accounting and inventorial records would have to be completely accurate, both with respect with line items and with total, zero-tolerance in arithmetical calculation in any Linear B tablet in this sphere, and that means something like 90-95 % of all tablets in Linear B, regardless of provenance. While there are quite a few tablets dealing with religious matters, meaning that in that case Linear B cannot be considered as an accounting subset of Mycenaean Greek, but must be construed as a religious affairs subset of the dialect, we leave this aside for future consideration.
Meanwhile, there are critical problems with not only this tablet, but plenty of others in the sphere of inventorial accounting, which simply must be addressed, and if possible, resolved. Based on the criteria our hypothesis for accounting and inventories demands in any society in any historical era, we should take into consideration several eras in succession, from the most ancient Babylonian through Egyptian, Mycenaean, the Athenian Treasury at Delphi: 507-470 BCE (Wikipedia) - a reasonably efficient financial system
and Roman Imperial Finances, the aerarium or state treasury under Augustus Caesar (62-14 BCE) and beyond (an exceedingly inefficient and corrupt financial system):
Roman Finance: Wikipedia (Click on the cameo of Augustus Caesar):
to those of the Middle Ages, and above all else, the much more efficient accounting and banking procedures established by the Medici family in Florence in the 14th. And 15th. Centuries AD. ALL THIS IS NOT TO SAY THAT ACCOUNTING SYSTEMS WERE IN UNIVERSAL CONFORMITY IN EVERY HISTORICAL ERA, because they were not. This is especially true of the late Medieval era and the early Renaissance, when the sloppy Medieval accounting procedures in most European nations other than Italy seriously clashed with the extremely efficient banking system of the Medici in Florence.
The House of Medici (Wikipedia): Click on their Coat of Arms - ZERO-TOLERANCE Banking System
In fact, it was the Medici who invented the modern system of banking. Further developments and refinements ran through to the establishment of the Exchequer in Renaissance England: Click on the image of Thomas Cromwell - corrupt financial system
Thomas Cromwell (1485-1540) Chancellor of
the Exchequer under Henry VIII (1533-1540)
and Ministries of Finance in the Renaissance and the 17th.
Superintendent of Finances
(France: 1561-1661) - reasonably accurate
and 18th. centuries
Comptroller General of Finances
(France: 1681-1791) - extremely corrupt
on to the rigorous banking system of the late nineteenth and early 20th. Centuries to the most modern stock market software systems, it is patently obvious that they all should ideally demand the following basic criteria:
(a) line items in accounts and inventories must be completely accurate, and precisely named, down to the most specific details;
(b) line and summary calculations cannot and must not contain any errors whatsoever. Zero tolerance;
(c) accounting and inventorial procedures must be completely standardized across the board, from one site to another, from one city to another and one nation to another, regardless of historical period. Otherwise, the accounting system in place in that historical era collapses for lack of complete conformity. And all too many did! See above. We know that Mycenaean Linear B was consistent across the board, regardless of the site were the scribes used it, whether Knossos, Phaistos, Pylos, Thebes, Mycenae or elsewhere.
(d) Accounting systems, if they are be at all effective and rendered zero-tolerance, must be subject to audit, regardless of the historical era in which they are in use. Rita Roberts and I are convinced that such an auditing system was securely in place in Minoan/Mycenaean society in which Linear B was the standard language of accounting and inventory.
This is the administrative palatial accounting and inventorial system which Rita and I believe was operative in the Minoan/Mycenaean era when Linear B was the standard accounting language. Regardless of site, Knossos, Phaistos, Pylos, Thebes, Mycenae or elsewhere, it would appear that the administrative palatial accounting and inventorial offices were configured as follows:
The Efficient Audited ZERO-TOLERANCE Minoan + Mycenaean Palatial Office of Inventories and Accounting:
There was a large administrative palatial accounting and inventorial office (or room, if you must insist), especially at the metropolis of Knossos (pop. ca. 55,000), in which a relatively large number of scribes (possibly 10-40) ranged themselves for their daily work along a very long table or tables, all of them on the same side of each table, for the simple reason that each of the scribes must have had each of his tablets audited, either by the scribe to his left or right, or by both, to ensure zero-tolerance for line itemization and mathematical accuracy. If scribes had been seated on opposite sides of their table or tables, it would have been much more difficult to audit one another’s inventorial tablets, as they would have had to pass their work across the table(s), thereby adding to the risk of error, when zero-tolerance is demanded. That would have been an unacceptable scenario. Think of it this way: would anyone in their right mind nowadays allow for any deviance from the standardized international online stock market system? Never! Likewise, the Mycenaean system must have been based on the same general principles, and the pretty much the same specific accounting criteria put into practice. Otherwise, the system would have collapsed. Such a system makes perfect sense, especially for Mycenae an Greeks who were, after all, Greek. The ancient Greeks were notorious for their insistence on accuracy and logic, right from the outset, all the way through to the rise of their astonishingly consistent philosophical systems in the age of Plato and Aristotle, and far beyond.
Zero-Tolerance on any Linear B Inventorial Accounting tablet based on the template of Knossos Linear B Tablet KN 1507 E d 231:
Given the strict criteria for Mycenaean accounting procedures we have proposed above, Knossos Linear B Tablet KN 1507 E d 231 must stand up to scrutiny down to the very last detail. But there are problems with it which immediately leap to the fore. The scribe has scratched out, i.e. erased all the text to the left of the and below the number 2 (if it is the number 2). What does this tell us? If we assume our hypothesis is correct, and we are pretty much convinced it is, it tells us a great deal. First, it tells us that he was aware he had made a gaffe, and a big one at that. But how did he become aware of this? He was audited by another scribe or scribes, and according to the standard office procedure we have outlined above, by the scribe to his left or right, or by both of them. Take your pick. But the principle of zero-tolerance must apply. Perhaps he fell asleep at the switch after a long day slogging through numerous accounts, and writing down inventories on at least 5 tablets. Very demanding and exhausting work. Any accountant, past or present, can tell you that. However, if the standard practice was for fellow scribes to audit every single tablet they inscribed, zero-tolerance would prevail.
So the next step in our decipherment of this extremely tricky tablet (one among countless hundreds or thousands in any given fiscal year or “weto” in Mycenaean Greek) is to make a supreme effort to put ourselves in the same place as any Linear B scribe having to make a full inventory of anything anywhere in the Mycenaean Empire, and not only that, to assume one of our fellow accounts has caught us out and put us squarely on spot. Let us imagine the conversation:
Scribe A (the fellow who inscribed this tablet, KN 1507 E d 231) to Scribe B:
Well, I am done with this tablet. It is the end of a long day, and I am getting very tired. I may have made a mistake. Audit it.
Hmmm. Let’s see. (reads the original figures on the tablet). Good gods, you wrote the same number for both the rams and the ewes! 38! That seems a remote possibility. Yes, you do look tired, and I can hardly blame you. What is the number of ewes? We have to get it right.
Oh my gods, it is just 2 ewes! How could I have missed that!
So he scratches out all the Linear B numeric strokes for tens, i.e. 3 horizontal strokes & 6 for units (vertical strokes), leaving the number 2 (2 vertical strokes). Voilà. The calculation is completely accurate. We have zero-tolerance.
Good! It is fine now. Maybe we should go for a beer or two as soon as work is over, which is pretty soon.
To all our VISITORS: it took me 6 HOURS to compile this complex post. Please show your appreciation by tagging it with LIKE, assigning the number of STARS it deserves, or even re-blogging it!
2 thoughts on “Ideal Demands for ZERO-TOLERANCE in Accounting & Inventories from Mycenaean Greece, to Classical Athens, Imperial Rome, the House of Medici and beyond – References to Wikipedia Articles & Several Illustrations”
WOW ! Many thanks Richard for publishing. I would have made it 38 ewes but the two strokes for 2 just threw me.
Comments are closed.