Part C: an actual decipherment of the words for a few types of vessels in Minoan Linear A on tablet HT 31? Judge for yourselves.

Now that we have dispensed with the most common ideograms and supersyllabograms in Linear B in the pottery and vessels sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy, we can at last move on to considering whether or not the ideograms on the two Minoan Linear A tablets we illustrated in the previous two posts are susceptible of decipherment, if at all.

Let us first turn our attention to Linear A tablet HT 31 from Haghia Triada. The first thing we notice about this tablet is that it contains ideograms for vessels along with the Minoan words in the Linear A syllabary, almost all of which are plainly surcharged on their respective ideograms. With this evidence in hand, I see no reason why we cannot or should not attempt a feasible translation of at least one, if not more, of the words found immediately to the left of their respective ideograms. Let us examine this tablet much more closely. Here is what we find: Click to ENLARGE:

Linear A HT 31 disposition of vessels
With this evidence in hand, we can now take a stab at cross-correlating the words associated with each of the ideograms on this tablet with identical or similar ideograms on Pylos Linear B tablet TA 641-1952 (Ventris) and several others besides: Click to ENLARGE

Linear A Tablet HT 31 PUKO tiripode etcTo our amazement and relief, we discover that the word puko  on Linear A tablet HT 31 appears to correspond exactly with the Linear B word tiripo  on Pylos Linear B tablet TA 641-1952! Is this mere coincidence or have we stumbled on something really big? The most astonishing thing about the parallel we can draw between puko  on Linear A tablet HT 31 and tiripo(de)  on Linear B tablet TA 641-1952 is that, if indeed puko  is the Minoan Linear A word for “tripod”, then the very first word ever deciphered on a Minoan Linear A tablet coincides to a T with the very first word ever deciphered on Pylos tablet TA 641-1952. This coincidence is so unexpected it boggles the mind... or does it? It surely goes almost without saying that tripods predominate on so many Mycenaean Linear B tablets from Pylos alone. There is therefore no reason to assume the contrary for tablets in Minoan Linear A. It is for this reason, among others, that I feel quite confident in my assertion that puko is indeed the word for “tripod” in Minoan Linear A. Unfortunately, as you are about to see for yourselves, it is the only Minoan word for a vessel which I can decipher with confidence either on tablet HT 31 or on the other Linear A tablet which we have given consideration to in the previous 2 posts. I can hazard a guess at the meanings of the other Linear A words for vessels on HT 31, but that is all it is   however crafty my decipherments may appear.

Now the decipherment for 3. karo*56 (karopai?), also appears to be self-evident. It apparently corresponds to the word for a two-handled kylix, qeto, on Pylos tablet TA 641-1952. At least it looks like it has two handles, but I cannot really be sure of that.  

The biggest problem confronting us in any attempt to decipher the other words for vessels appearing on tablet HT 31 is this: there are four (4) entirely different words, 2. qapa3 or qapai? + supu & 4. su*56ra or supraira? & pataqe , all of which appear to represent a cup without handles, equivalent to dipa anowe in Linear B, which in turn the Mycenaean predecessor of the Homeric depa. That is a more than just a bit of stickler in and of itself. However, it is conceivable that the Minoan language, unlike Mycenaean Greek, did differentiate among at least 4 types of cups, with or without handles. We shall never really know, but the possibility is still worth considering.

But there is another rather more vexing difficulty confronting us on Linear A tablet HT 31. Why do the words which apparently signify different types of vessels appear immediately to the left or surcharged on top of the ideograms which represent them, when we know that such is not the case in Mycenaean Linear B, at least on tablet TA 641-1952 from Pylos. On that tablet, the words identifying each type of vessel appear further to the left of the words qualifying them by size and type. It is of course quite possible that the Minoan scribes writing in Linear A followed a different, simpler practice by placing the words for various types of vessels immediately to the left and adjacent to, or surcharged right on top of the ideograms representing them. This practice is all the more tenable, in so far as the words for various sorts of pottery and vessels are never surcharged in this fashion in Mycenaean Linear B. But there are also instances of supersyllabograms, i.e. syllabograms incharged in their own ideograms in Mycenaean Linear B, a more simplified and streamlined approach to the identification of pottery and vessel types in that language, just as we have seen in the previous post. This scribal practice, which until now I assumed was unique to Mycenaean Linear B is at any rate neither more or less sensible than the Minoan practice we have just flagged. But there is even more to all of this than we can see in the example of Linear A tablet HT 31. It just so happens that the other Linear A tablet we have already referenced, Click to ENLARGE

Linear A Ay. Nikolaos Mus

also makes use of incharged supersyllabograms (if that is what they are), giving rise to the obvious question, did the Mycenaean scribes who resorted to the same stratagem on tablets in Linear B inherit this practice from their Minoan forbears? This certainly seems to be the case, given that no fewer than six (6) incharged supersyllabograms appear on the Linear A tablet illustrated above. We shall turn our attention to our findings for that tablet in the next post. They will prove to be even more revelatory than the words for pottery and vessels on Linear A HT 31, and will if anything lend even further credence to the proposition we have posited that it is indeed possible, and even feasible, to extract meanings for at least a few items of pottery and vessels found on Minoan Linear A tablets merely from observing their ideograms in conjunction with the words or surcharged/ incharged supersyllabograms they represent. If it holds any water, this tenet alone constitutes a real breakthrough in the decipherment of at least a few, albeit a very few words signifying vessels in Minoan Linear A. And we will have come to our definitions in spite of the fact that we, like all previous researchers in the field of linguistics struggling to decipher Linear A, havent the faintest idea what the Minoan language is, let alone to which family of ancient languages it may belong, if any.

Richard