REVISED: Co-op Storage of Olive Oil & Mass Production of Wheat in Linear B


REVISED: Co-op Storage of Olive Oil & Mass Production of Wheat in Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

a-kn-852-k-j-01-wheat-1k-olive-oil-a-for-amphora-ideogram

This tablet has been one of the most fruitful I have ever had the pleasure to translate. Not only did it yield up its contents (meaning) with little effort on my part, it also provided a brand new verb to add to the Mycenaean Greek Linear B lexicon (in the sense of vocabulary), with the prefix ama + the verb, epikere (3rd. person sing.) which, translated literally would mean, “cuts down all together”, or more appropriately “co-operates in cutting down” & in this context better still “co-operates in harvesting”, which in turn can be neatly rendered into English as “the co-operative of (the village of Dawos) harvests...”. I would like to extend my profound thanks to Ms. Gretchen Leonhardt, who has brought to my attention a critical error I made when I first translated this tablet. I had read ama & epikere as a single word, when a mere glance at this tablet clearly shows the words separated by the standard Linear B word divider, a vertical bar. Her vital correction serves to add more weight to my translation. It all makes perfect sense in this context, as it would indeed take an intensive co-operative effort on the part of the entire village of Dawos to harvest such a massive wheat crop. We note that the harvest is approx. 10,000 kilograms at the very least, and, considering the right truncation of this tablet, likely even more, from a minimum of 10K kilograms to 99.99K kilograms, though the upper limit figure is almost certainly way too high. So for the sake of expediency, let us assume the harvest runs to something in the range of 10K – 20K kilograms of wheat, still an enormous intake.

The second line of this tablet presents only one rather peculiar problem, the insertion of the number 1 inside the second ideogram for olive or olive oil, in this case, clearly olive oil, since people store olive oil rather than olives in pithoi or giant amphorae. I am not quite sure what that number 1 inside the second ideogram for olive oil refers to, but I assume it describes 1 type of amphora, as apposed to another, viz. the previous type mentioned on the same line with reference to 70 amphorae of olive oil. However, here again, we are confronted with the same difficulty we always encounter when trying to ascertain quantities in Mycenaean Linear B. The scribes knew perfectly well what an attributive number meant when assigned to an ideogram (here, for olive oil), but we do not and cannot 32 centuries later.

As for the rest of the line, going back to the first reference to olive oil, we find the syllabogram A inside the ideogram for olive oil. In this instance, it is an attributive supersyllabogram, and it clearly means A for aporewe, the Mycenaean Greek plural of amphora = amphorae, in this case the giant pithoi in which the Minoans at Knossos always stored their olive oil and wine.

Since the SSYL A is attributive and not associative (i.e. outside the ideogram), it must mean that the scribe is referring to olive oil which is always stored in pithoi or giant amphorae rather than consumed for immediate use (another attributive but separate value or characteristic for which there appears to be no known sypersyllabogram, since it is never referenced in any extant Linear B tablet). The distinction is subtle, but essential. When we say that a use of an item or commodity is typical, this means that it is an attributive characteristic or that item. The olive oil in this specific context can only be olive oil that is always stored in amphorae for later consumption... and when I say, amphorae, I mean the enormous pithoi or amphorae we encounter when we visit Knossos, as illustrated here: Click to ENLARGE

Giant amphorae or pithoi for sotring olive oil and wine at Knossos

Richard

         

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vallance22

Historical linguist, Linear B, Mycenaean Greek, Minoan Linear A, Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, ancient Greek, Homer, Iliad, only Blog ENTIRELY devoted to Linear B on Internet; bilingual English- French, read Latin fluently, read Italian & ancient Greek including Linear B well, Antikythera Mechanism

20 thoughts on “REVISED: Co-op Storage of Olive Oil & Mass Production of Wheat in Linear B”

  1. Reblogged this on Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae and commented:

    I have had to REVISE this extremely important post, as Ms. Gretchen Leonhardt has brought to my attention a clear oversight in my interpretation of ama + epikere as a SINGLE word, when in fact they are SEPARATE on the tablet. Her comment clears up any problem my oversight would have occasioned.

    Richard

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    1. To which post are you referring, Gretchen? I have some 800 posts on this blog, and trying to ferret which post you are referring to can give me big headaches. Please ALWAYS give me the direct link to the post, or cite its title by name. Also, to what comment are you referring? I find it very difficult to follow your elliptical English.
      Apologies, Richard

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    2. What is your main comment and to what should I change it? I cannot read your mind. It is absolutely essential that you tell me exactly what wording you want from me. Otherwise, I am left totally confused. For instance, you could say something like,

      CHANGE Elephants are pnk TO Elephants are pink.

      Then I would get it.

      Thanks

      Richard

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    1. Again, which comment and which post? I really need to know exactly what you are referring to. Otherwise, I cannot correct the errors I have made, and that is of no use to you. Thank you. Richard

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    1. I finally figured out how to get back to the post. I see no such word anywhere in this post. I read it through 3 times, and I cannot even find a reference to your site. I must be blind. Sorry. Richard

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  2. First, it’s not clear why you adhere to Evan’s archaic designation, when the current designation, as reflected in DAMOS, is KN F 852+8071+9919+frr, which implies an additional join, one or more missing fragments, and a reclassification from K (vessels) to F (miscellaneous provisions). If one doesn’t wish to be bound by the classification, then KN 852+[etc.] is also appropriate.

    Second, the tablet clearly shows a word separator between a-ma and e-pi-ke-re. Nevertheless, a translation pertaining to cooperation appears to be in the ballpark if one considers ἅμᾰ “with” + ἐπιχειρέω (epikheireo) “to attempt, to put one’s hand to”.

    Third, as for da-wo, consider Δηώ (Deo) “Demeter”, which complements the ideogram. Cf. si-ta-ro , da-wo > σιτηρός Δηώ (sitaros Deo) with a suggested translation of “Demeter of the grain” [KN De 1138+]. However, note that Δημήτηρ (Demeter) is also a name for bread, so that da-wo / a-ma , e-pi-ke-re could pertain to “making bread with [the available grain]”.

    Fourth, I don’t know whether the use of “siton”, to designate the grain ideogram, is original or borrowed, but it’s an astute name since this ideogram appears identical to A *041 SI, which is obvious in hindsight: another piece of the puzzle solved! Nevertheless, the ideogram had changed form in LinB (see Younger’s Linear A & B Grids), so that siton’s basis for SI could be easily overlooked.

    This has been an interesting puzzle.

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    1. Sadly, Gretchen, I am unable to get to the new classification of the Knossos tablets, replacing that of Evans. That is the only reason why I have to resort to Evans. If you can possibly help me in this regard, I would be enormously grateful. Glad you told me about the word break between -ama – and the verb. That fixes that problem. Yes, I do think I am on the right track with this translation. Your suggestion for Demeter, if that is what -dawo- means, if intriguing. But you have done something which I NEVER do with Linear B words, and that is you have changed the vowel A to the long vowel EI (cannot reproduce Greek here). This is tantamount to completely changing the word. You did this in your translation of Pylos PY 641-1952 (Ventris), where you morphed the preposition APU to I have no idea what. Yes, I shall check out Younger’s Linear A & B grids, as you advise. Not to do so would be a violation of strict methodology, for which I am a real stickler.

      Thanks!

      Richard

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    2. What do you mdan by, siton’s basis for SI could be easily overlooked. ?? I do not understand at all what you mean. SI is a syllabogram, and so in my books, that wou8ld make it a supersyllabogram (which I have defined over and over on my blog), but I cannot figure out what you mean by this elliptical comment.

      I am sorry if I am not bright enough to get a lot of what you say, but that is just the way it is. I am often slow to learn, but once I do GET IT, I am then swift to learn from the experience, if you see what I mean.

      Thanks

      Richard

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  3. Hi, I think I have a picture of those very pithoi! I like your translation. An alternative might have been to take ama to mean harvest – a back formation from the Greek verb amao – to reap but that would mean two “reaps” in one sentence. My only quibble would be that ama – meaning together – should be a separate word rather than attached to epikeirei.

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    1. I KNEW you would say that! While this is strictly true, the word appears with AMA attached in Linear B, and so I just reproduced it Latinized that way. There is no wya of knowing whether or not the Mycenaeans (usually) attached prefixes to their verbs like this, but this was a normal practice in later ancient Greek, even if the prefixes attached were not necessarily of the same class. Since the Mycenaean verb appears like this (a rose is a rose is a rose…), I simply accepted it. After all, neither you nor I nor anyone else in later classical Greece, let alone today, was around when the scribe wrote this tablet. So we have no way of knowing. But since the verb makes perfect sense, I am strongly inclined to accept the way the scribe wrote it as is. Additionally, there is no other plausible translation, and so I really feel I have to adhere to the text as it stands. If you have any alternatives for the verb, or if you think it is NOT a verb, but something else, please let me know ASAP.

      Anyway, let me check your -harvest- idea. It may work as an alternative. Thanks for this!

      Mycenaean Greek has all sorts of quirks which disappeared even by the time of the appearance of Arcado-Cypriot, its kissing cousin, a mere 100 years after Linear B disappeared. These must ALWAYS be taken strictly into account when translating from Linear B into archaic ancient Greek. You will have of course noticed by now that my parallel archaic Greek texts are VERY archaic, even pre-Homeric in many cases. This makes perfect sense. My familiarity with Linear C as well dictates that I render my archaic Greek as far back as I can possibly extrapolate it… which is tough.

      I hope this helps. Thanks for your kudos on my translation. I kind of like it myself.

      Richard

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      1. I suppose one of the problems of any translation of Linear B is that we only have later Greek as a guide and in particular Homeric Greek where Homer was talking a world that wasn’t quite the same as the world of that of Linear B and the words used weren’t exactly the same.

        Nevertheless I will appeal to Homer for my next point. There is a simile in The Iliad where two men quarrel over a boundary stone (book 12 line 421). The comment in my edition of the Iliad (Leaf and Bayfield) has this to say on it which sort of backs up your point on land being held in common by a cooperative.

        “This interesting simile seems to give clear evidence of the ancient common-field system of agriculture. The arable land of a township was held in common and apportioned out for cultivation from time to time among the members of the community. In order to make the apportionment the fairer, the land was commonly cut up into small strips, of which each man had several in different places so as to share all the different qualities of soil. It is easy to see how such a system would lead to perpetual disputes……. ”

        Not all land was held in common. A king or a favoured individual might have a ‘temenos” which was his alone. The fact that these allotments of private land are specifically mentioned would indicate that other land was held in common.

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        1. Wow, this is great, mon ami ! I am about to post a MAJOR contribution to this discussion you and I have started up, because I have found other instances of words FUSED together in Mycenaean Greek, which in later (archaic or classical) Greek were always separate. And your comment here is HIGHLY relevant to what I have to say. I am very impressed with your frequent feedback. Do keep it up! Richard

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      2. Gretchen Leonhardt has just corrected my error here. The word -ama- IS separated from the verb on this tablet, and so there is no problem at all. Silly me.

        Richard

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  4. Great post Richard. !! Yes, these Pithoi are indeed enourmous John and I have pieced many fragments together but there is nearly always some missing. Its rare that all the fragments are in situ when excavated on site. We find this most frustrating. However on conservation the missing pieces are usually filled in which you no doubt noticed when visiting the Museum. The conservationists do a fabulous job.

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    1. Thank you so much, Rita. I figured I was on the right track, and it is most gratifying to learn that an archaeologist such as yourself should substantially agree with my findings. I was hoping that this would be the case. Yes, I certainly did notice the giant pithoi at Knossos, and good God, did they ever impress me! I took several photos of them, and they all turned out magnificently. The conservationists have indeed done an impressive job!

      Richard

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