Linear B – KN Dd1171, article by Peter J. Keyse on

Linear B - KN Dd1171, article by Peter J. Keyse on 

Click on this graphic to view Keyse’s article:

Linear B - KN Dd1171

Peter J. Keyse provides a thorough analysis of Linear B tablet  KN Dd 1171 in this fascinating article, which is well worth reading for anyone who is familiar with the Linear B syllabary, and certainly for anyone who is studying Linear B in depth. His article is not without errors. For instance, he deciphers PoRo as the name of someone in what he calls the PoMe “worker class” = a shepherd,

Linear B - KN Dd1171 PORO

but his interpretation of of PORO is clearly incorrect, as this word  has 3 distinct meanings, one of which is the Linear B word for “a foal”, as demonstrated by Chris Tselentis in his Linear B Lexicon, here:

Tselentis PORO

(The other 2 meanings of POME offered by Tselentis do not fit the context)

while POME is quite obviously Mycenaean Greek for “shepherd”:

Tselentis POME

Keyse also notes that Michael Ventris identified 3 major styles for incisions - those at Knossos, Pylos and Mycenae. In his own words: The vertical lines are quite faint scratches and not easily seen. The cuts in the clay are ‘under-cut’ i.e. pushed in at an angle . This preoccupation with Linear B scribal hands recurs in a great many articles on Linear B. Keyse also covers the what he ascertains to be the phonetic sounds of the numerics on this tablet. He also emphasizes the nature and particulars characteristics of the scribal hand on this tablet.

But it his conclusion which is most fascinating. He says,

In conclusion: 

What would Dd1171 sound like if read aloud? Po-Ro. 20 OVISm, 72 OVISf. Pa-I-To. Pa 8 OVISm. While it reasonable to say that Linear B was no more the spoken language of its day than ‘double-entry bookkeeping’ speak is for accounting clerks today it is also true to say that accountants do on occasions talk in journals and double-entry (and not only when at dinner parties and down the pub) and they certainly call over inventories to each other. It is clear that Linear B had a sound but perhaps it is unlikely that we can fairly reproduce it today. Considering the importance of numbers within the Linear B archive I find it surprising that no phonic system has been devised to represent them or if devised is not clearly documented in the literature. 

COMMENT by Richard Vallance Janke on the sound, i.e. the general pronunciation of Linear B. In actuality, we probably do have some idea of how Mycenaean Greek was pronounced. Its closest cousin was Arcado-Cypriot, represented both by its own syllabary, Linear C, and by its own archaic alphabet. The Mycenaean and Arcado-Cypriot dialects were much closer phonetically than even Ionic and Attic Greek. Phonological details of the archaic Arcado-Cypriot dialect appear in C.D. Buck, The Greek Dialects, © 1955, 1998. ISBN 1-85399-566-8, on pg. 144. He provides even more information on Arcado-Cypriot on pp. 7-8, and classifies it as an East Greek dialect, pg. 9. This is highly significant, because if Arcado-Cypriot is East Greek, ergo Mycenaean Greek also is. This places both of the archaic East-Greek dialects, Mycenaean and Arcado-Cypriot, firmly in the camp of all East Greek dialects, including Arcadian, Aeolic, Lesbian, Cyprian, Pamphylian, Thessalian, Boeotian, and the much later Ionic and Attic dialects. So it is probably fair to say that we may have at least an idea, even if somewhat inaccurate, of how Mycenaean Greek was pronounced. And this has huge implications for the further study of Mycenaean Greek phonology.


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7 thoughts on “Linear B – KN Dd1171, article by Peter J. Keyse on”

  1. Hello Peter, You are quite right when you say that Richard is a leading light in bringing Linear B to a wider audience. Richard is currently teaching me Linear B, you have probably seen some of my work on his blog. This person has crippled Richards confidence and it will take him time to recover .However, Richard can take criticism when its given politely but not when its delivered so harshly as from Theo Nash.

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    1. Hi, Rita. How right you you are about harsh criticism. I am starting to get over the blow, but you are right. It will take time.
      Thanks so much

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Thank you, Richard, for taking the time to review my 2014 analysis of Dd1171 and I cheerfully accept your greater knowledge of the subject as I have no pretensions to expertise. I suspect in 2014 I didn’t understand what a syllabary meant nor fully appreciate that Linear B is Greek.

    As it happens I had occasion during the Linear B course at the 2018 UCL Summer School in Homer to revisit the artefact in the BM and have considered revising the paper in light of my current understanding. But I have another project on the burner. I am currently working toward a Catalogue of Ships in Linear B, a subject, I note, is also close to your heart.

    More a bookkeeper than a linguist I was bought up in the tradition that a bookkeeper goes to work today to correct the mistakes made yesterday, inevitably makes more so that tomorrow there is something to do. I can’t imagine Mycenaean clerks so very different.

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    1. Hi Peter. Well, I am a librarian by profession, retired, and only an amateur linguist at best. I do not have greater knowledge than you, I just do my best. The very recent post on Bad Scholarship in Linear B has upset me to no end. I am very depressive by nature, and a lot of the time I just feel like giving up, especially when someone thinks I am such a rotten scholar. So I would not put too much faith in what I have to say. Sorry to have shared this with you, but I do not know what else to do. I am in tears tonight.



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      1. Please try, Richard, not to take Theodore Nash’s criticism of your work too harshly and all credit to you for publicising it. We all make mistakes and of course we learn from them. Some years ago a senior lecturer at UCL’s Institute of Archaeology branded my tendency to playfulness with alternative chronologies as intellectual anarchy. I took it far too seriously and ended up dropping out of my degree course. It took me a decade to recover although the time lost was not misspent.

        You are a leading light in bringing Linear B to a wider audience and I’m sure your many supporters will agree that professional jealousy may be at work here. Nash could have contacted you directly with his observations and that would have been kinder and more professional. I suspect those of us who work in these difficult fields simply because they’re interesting inevitably tend to mild insecurity. I like your work it is both adventurous and honest. Keep it up.

        I do hope Nash doesn’t review anything I might publish as I fully intend to innovate, possibly aggravate and certainly test some boundaries. Happily I’m not a scholar – I do it for fun and I always remember not to take myself too seriously.

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        1. Thank you so much, Peter. I shall look you up on now, and if I am not yet following you, I shall do so now. I shall also download the article you have listed here, and any others which are relevant.

          I too am only an amateur, like Michael Ventris before me, but I do consider myself a scholar, and I hope you can think of yourself in the same way. I too always innovate and test boundaries. Unfortunately Theo Nash does not like what I did.



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