What are the current prospects for deciphering Minoan Linear A? Dismal but...

As historical research on Minoan Linear A has demonstrated over and over, every attempt by philologists and historical linguists specializing in Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B to decipher Linear A over the past 116 years has met with failure. Though some, like Sam Connolly, have claimed success

Breaking the Code

The Minoan language has remained a sealed mystery. 

Linear A Minoan Writing sealed

Though I have brought all my intellectual resources to bear on the painful struggle to decipher Minoan Linear A, I too have made little headway. But that is not to say I have not made any at all. Still, the only words I have been able to decipher with any accuracy at all are those which are directly linked with ideograms. These ideograms happen to turn up almost exclusively on Linear A tablets dealing with vessels and wine, with little else to show in the other sectors of the Minoan economy. Moreover, I have found myself having to face the unsatisfactory prospect of having to decipher many Minoan words much less accurately than I would have hoped to. This usually happens because there is only one word to be found on only one tablet in Linear A containing that word in conjunction with an ideogram. One of these terms is qareto on Linear B tablet HT 132 (Haghia Triada), the only Minoan word prepended to the syllabogram for sheep. Now, in Mycenaean Linear B, there exist a number of single syllabograms preceding the ideograms for sheep, rams or ewes. Each of these syllabograms, which I have definitively defined as supersyllabograms (2014-2016), is the first syllabogram or first syllable of a Mycenaean Greek word. Two of these supersyllabograms (SSYLs) predominate in the sheep sub-sector of the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy, outstripping all the others by a very considerable margin. These are the supersyllabograms O = onato = lease field and KI = kitimena = a plot of land”. There are scores and scores of Linear B tablets directly dealing with sheep, which contain either of these two supersyllabograms.

The problem is that there is only one word, qareto, on only one tablet in Minoan Linear A dealing with sheep, which does not leave us with much wiggle room at all. However, since the Mycenaean Greek words onato and kitimena appear with the ideograms for sheep, rams or ewes far more often than any other supersyllabogram, I have concluded that it is safe to assume that qareto in Minoan Linear A might be one or the other. But this state of affairs simply won’t do, since we can never know which one of the two it is, if indeed it is one of these two words for a specific type of field in Minoan Linear A. This confusion is compounded the fact that there are four other words naming specific types of fields in Mycenaean Linear B, arura or kama = unit of land (cf. metric, hectare), kekemina/no (adj.)  = referring to common land and koto(i)na/no = plot of land, a synonym of kikimena. This brings the total number of specific terms relating to fields to six, making it impossible to accurately define qareto in Minoan Linear B. But it is not all that hopeless. If we cannot define qareto at the level of specificity allowed for in Mycenaean Linear B, we can still decipher it at the generic level of field, of which all 6 of the aforementioned are subsets. We are hedging our bets. While we suspect qareto is possibly some specific kind of field, we can safely say that it definitely is a field at the generic level, since all 6 types of fields found in Mycenaean Greek are subsumed under the notion of field”. So qareto can be said to be pretty much synonymous with akoro. But that is as far as we can go. This is just one example of any number of Minoan Linear A words which allow for a more or less satisfactory decipherment, but which defy a truly accurate translation.

I have compiled a list of terms in the agricultural, religious and vessels (pottery) sectors of the Mycenaean Linear A followed by another in Minoan Linear A. Both are as exhaustive as I could make them. I culled all of the Mycenaean Linear B words from Chris Tselentis comprehensive Linear B Lexicon, and all of the Minoan Linear A words from all of the relevant Linear A tablets on Prof. John G. Youngers excellent site, Linear A Texts in phonetic transcription & Commentary (Click on the banner below to visit):


Linear A Texts in phonetic transcription

Of course, there is no way of knowing for sure that I have accounted for all possible terms relevant to the potential decipherment of Minoan Linear A. In addition, so many Minoan words on the Linear A tablets are either left- or right-truncated that I simply had to eliminate them, given that it is an exercise in futility to attempt to decipher these.

The number of Linear B terms I have compiled amounts to a total of 64, while that of Linear A words to 62. This means that if we take all possible permutations into account, we end up with the figure of 3,968, or let us us say, 4,000 give or take. The implications of this figure are staggering. It means that if we are going to be able ever to decipher Minoan Linear A, we have to take into account at least 4,000 possible variations in determining the exact meaning of almost all of the Minoan words in the Linear A list.

A hopeless endeavour? ... not quite. As I have pointed out above, the presence of ideograms directly associated with quite a few Minoan words makes the potentiality for deciphering those terms rather more promising. So where we have been able to decipher these terms more or less accurately, we can eliminate them from the list of Minoan Linear A words. But even so doing scarcely makes a dent in the number of permutations left in the remaining words, which is almost all of them. We are still left with the well nigh impossible task of aligning just slightly short of 64 Mycenaean Linear B terms with just slightly fewer than 62 Minoan words. The permutations still run to over 3,500. Given this depressing situation, the prospects for deciphering the remainder of the words in the Linear A list remain all but hopeless. The vast bulk of the Minoan language still remains a sealed tomb in a pyramid, from which I have managed to rob a few artifacts (i.e. the words I have managed to decipher, more or less).

Here are the two lists, Mycenaean Linear B (all translated) first, Minoan Linear A second.

The Mycenaean Linear B words I have successfully deciphered (more or less accurately) in Minoan Linear A are in bold in both lists. The Minoan Linear A words which I expect are susceptible to decipherment are in italics. After each of the Minoan Linear A words the total number of its occurrences on each of the Linear A tablets on which it appears is provided..

Linear B olives & olive oil, wheat and barley, toponyms, vases & wine versus Linear A:

Linear B: 

Grain/wheat/barley:

akoro = field
akotono = without plot of land
apudosi = delivery
arura = unit of land (cf. metric, hectare)
kama = unit of land
kapo = fruit
kekemina/no (adj.)  = referring to common land
kirita = barley
kitimena = plot of land
koria2dana koriyadana = coriander
koto(i)na/no = plot of land
kanako = saffron, crocus
kuparo = cyperus
meno = month
mereuro = flour
onato = lease field
ono (pl.) = payment, debt
pasi/pasa (masc./fem.) = all 
rino = linen, flax
sasama = sesame
serino = celery
sito = wheat 
weto = this year/this year’s crop?
zawete = this year(’s)

Olive oil:

erawa = olive tree
erawo = essential (olive) oil
kapo = fruit
meno = month
pasi/pasa (masc./fem.) = all 
weto = this year/this year’s crop?
zawete = this year(’s)

Religious:

anemoiyerea = Priestess of the Winds
diwiyo =dedicated to Zeus
diuya/diwiya = priestess of Zeus
diuyayo = sanctuary
diwiyo = sanctuary dedicated to Zeus
dosomo (pl.) = offerings
iyereu = priest
iyeria (iyerea) = priestess
iyero = sacred
pasi/pasa (masc./fem.) = all 
pasiteoi = to all the gods
qeteo = debt to the gods
sapaketeriya/yo = for ritual slaughter
teo = god 
wanakatero temeno = palace shrine

Sheep:

akoro

Toponyms:

Aminiso = Amnisos
Kerasiyo/Kerasiya = Cretan
Paito = Phaistos

Vases:

anowe/anowoto = without handles (vase, cup)
aporewe = amphora
apudosi = delivery
dipa = cup
ipono = (cooking) pot
kakiya/yo = made of copper
kako = copper
karawere = stirrup jar
kuruso = gold
kurusupa3 = tripod amphora
newo = new
pasi/pasa (masc./fem.) = all 
pia2ra/piyera3 = a kind of pot
qetorowe = with four handles (pot)
rewotereyo = cauldron
soro = funereal urn (for ashes)
tiripo = tripod = Linear A: puko
udoro = water flask

Wine:

apudosi = delivery
kapo = fruit
meri = honey
mita = mint
newo = new
parayo = old, vintage/wine
wono = wine

Linear A:

Grain/wheat/barley:

47nuraya (grain/wheat)
adaro (grain/wheat) 40
apu2nadu (grain/wheat) 5 + (olive oil) 3
arudara (grain/wheat) 5
ase + PA (grain/wheat)
dadumata  (grain/wheat)
dame (grain/wheat) x 2 20 & 74
dau49 (grain/wheat) + PA 20
ika (grain/wheat) x 2
kiritana (grain/wheat) 60
kirita3 = kiritai +QE DI (grain/wheat)
iqa118 (grain/wheat) 
kitai (grain/wheat)
kunisu (grain/wheat) 20
kupaya  (grain/wheat) 16 + 40
pa3ni = paini + PA (grain/wheat) 33
pa3nina = painina + RE + SE (grain/wheat) 12
pase + QE (grain/wheat) 20
pitakase + TE (grain/wheat) 161
pura2 = purai  (grain/wheat) 5
qaqaru + PA (grain/wheat) 5
sara2 (alone)
sara2 = sarai (grain/wheat) x 6 @ 10 1 20 20 26 41 976! 10 2 tereza?
simita (grain/wheat) 5  
sirumarita2 = sirumaritai (grain/wheat) 1 = Linear B: qeteo = debt to the gods
sise (grain/wheat) 16
turunuseme (grain/wheat) 10  = Linear B: pasiteoi
u34si (grain/wheat)
watumare +KU (grain/wheat) 12+
yaki + QE (grain/wheat) 5 (wine) 6	30
zu22di + QE (grain/wheat) 40

Olive Oil:

datu (olive oil) 15
itaya +DI (olive oil) 10
kitai (olive oil) 1
kupa3 = kupai + U  (olive oil)
kirita2 = kiritai + (olive oil) + QE + DI 10 & alone
pi34te (olive oil)  5
sara2 + DI (olive oil) tereza?
saro (olive oil)
saru (olive oil) 16				40
sise + KI (olive oil) 1 + sise + MI (olive oil) 6 + sise + TU (olive tree) 3?
teri + MI  (olive oil) x 2 5 + 
widina + DI (olive oil) 3
yedi + KI (olive oil) 1

Sheep:

qareto (sheep) = field (akoro,kama etc.) 

Toponyms:

Dikate = Mount Dikte
Idaa = Mount Ida
Kireta2 (Kiretai)
Kudoni = Kydonia
Meza (=Linear B Masa)
Paito = Phaistos (=Linear B)
Qeka
Radu = Lato (=Linear B Rato)) 
Setoiya = Seteia (=Linear B) 
Sukirita = Sybrita
Winadu = Inatos (Linear B Winato)

Vases:

darida (vase) 2 (LARGE!) 
daropa (vase) = Linear B karaeriyou (gen.) stirrup jar?

Wine:

kura (wine) 5 (large amount) = Linear B: woinos?
RA164aTI (wine) 38 (medium amount)
sukini
yaki + QE (grain/wheat) 5 (wine) 6 (medium amount)
of Linear B: woinos

no. of permutations and combinations = 64 x 62 = 3968