Category: TEXTILES

Minoan Linear A words: 7 types of cloth on tablet HT 117 (Haghia Triada) compared with 7 types of cloth in Mycenaean Linear B:

kinds of cloth in Minoan Linear A

My, my, what a co-incidence? Or is it?  7 types of cloth are apparently tallied on tablet HT 117 (Haghia Triada), at least if I have translated the “correct” words corresponding to cloth types in Minoan Linear A (although I am fairly certain I have come close to the mark), and these can be compared with 7 types of cloth in Mycenaean Linear B,

kinds of cloth in Mycenaean Linear B

although in the latter case I may have missed 1 or 2 types of cloth. At any rate, no one knows what kinds of textiles/cloth even the words in Mycenaean Linear B refer to, so what does it matter if the 7 Minoan Linear terms for cloth/textiles do not align with their supposed Mycenaean Linear B counterparts? It does not matter one jot, since we will never know what the cloth/textile types are in either syllabary. So take your pick. One is as good as the next.

The main point is that we have apparently catalogued 7 major types of textiles/cloth in Minoan Linear A with a fairly high degree of certainty ( > 60 %).

This is a beautifully illustrated Mycenaean Linear B tablet on 5 carpenters who owe the tax collector:

KN 826 A c 11 and tax collection

The illustrations at the top are (left) several designs for Minoan houses (Knossos). Notice that many of them are 3 stories high, which is unusual for the ancient world, except for Rome, with its shabby multi-storied insulae (islands) or apartment buildings, which frequently collapsed. Such can scarcely be said of the Minoan houses, which were built to withstand earthquakes. You can see this for yourself from the top left picture, where the windows in the last 2 houses on the bottom display the heavy wooden beams, both vertical and horizontal, used to reinforce the windows. A cute clay model of a Minoan house at Knossos appears at the top right. The Minoans at Knossos were just as fussy about their typical beautifully fluted Minoan columns and sturdily reinforced doors, as can clearly be seen in these two photos I took when I was in Knossos on May 2, 2012:

Knossos, Third Palace, Late Minoan IIIb ca. 1450 BCE reinforced windows and doors

Knossos, Third Palace, Late Minoan IIIb ca. 1450 BCE fluted columns

I am particularly impressed by the text in Mycenaean Greek, which is easily rendered into Archaic Greek.

Linear B tablet KN 641 R j 02, textiles painted red:

Linear B tablet KN 641 R j 02 textiles

Linear B tablet KN 641 R j 02 repeatedly refers to textiles painted red (3 times) and apparently to textiles painted purple, once only. The word Oapapa appears to be a woman’s name (very likely Minoan), which suits the context quite well. The word kekareareiyo, in the genitive case, also appears to be a type of cloth,  given that it is (probably) followed by the word POpureya (right-truncated after the initial syllabogram PO), meaning that whatever type of cloth it is, it is not purple. The word papeya = farpeia on line 4 is also almost certainly a type of cloth, since it is painted red. The units of textiles referred to are most likely rolls or skeins. Several place names are mentioned, so the textile industry for dying cloth is apparently widespread. The peculiar thing is that the toponyms are all minor place names.

Mycenaean Woman in a red dress

Pylos tablet Eo 269, wool carding and the production of wheat:

Pylos tablet Eo 269 wheat crops

Pylos tablet Eo 269 deals with both wool carding and the production of wheat (wheat crops). The person responsible for wool carding is Aktaoios, who is the owner of a settled plot of land. Note the emphasis on “settled”. The family lives on the land and off it. Aktaoios would therefore appear to be a well off farmer-land owner. The first occupation mentioned is wool carding, which implies the presence of (a lot of) sheep, even though sheep are not specifically mentioned on this tablet. With reference to the wheat crop, while we do not know exactly how much wheat the “unit of measurement” refers to, for the sake of convenience, let us say it is something like 1 hectares or 1 acre or something along those lines. It clearly was something along those lines, but no actual “proof” of the size of measured land upon which wheat was grown in Mycenaean times survives, as is to be expected. So we make an approximation. In any case, it is a lot of wheat, and he and his family would have had to do a lot of seeding to bring in such a rich crop. The Minoans and Mycenaeans (here at Pylos) appear to have been real experts at growing wheat, as it is often mentioned in large quantities on Linear B tablets from both Knossos and Pylos.

Severely damaged tablet on textiles, KN 1530 R t 01:

KN 1530 R t 01 textiles damaged

Because Knossos tablet KN 1530 R t 01 on textiles is so severely damaged, it is impossible to make any sense at all out of lines 1 & 2, while only the right side of line 3 makes any sense, in so far as it clearly sets down 11 units of textiles and (apparently) a liability, if that is what the supersyllabogram O means in this context, i.e. O = opero = liability. Line 4 is muddled on the left side. It is difficult to establish whether or not the word on the left side, which is partially missing, is a person’s name, but if it is, and we insert “i” as the missing letter, then we have Waisio in Linear B or Waisios in Archaic Greek. The middle part of this line is garbled. The word kitano means “a terebinth tree” and seems out of place in this context, unless the pistachio from this tree is used to create a pale green dye for the cloth. The right side of line 4 makes sense, in so far as it clearly sets down 11 units of textiles and (apparently) a liability, if that is what the supersyllabogram O means in this context, i.e. O = opero = liability.

Linear B tablet Knossos KN 683 Sh 01 dealing with textiles and onyx:

KN 683 S h 01 textiles

Linear B tablet Knossos KN 683 Sh 01 deals primarily with textiles, but it covers a lot more ground than just that. The textiles mentioned are (a) wehano, a Linear B word for “a type of textile”, but since this word is archaic Mycenaean Greek, we do not know exactly what kind of textile it refers to. We do know that it is a kind of cloth, but that is as far as it goes. (b) The next type of cloth mentioned is mare (in Linear B = “wool”. Next comes the really surprising mention of onyx = onuke in Mycenaean Linear B! Female interior decorators are not only working on both types of cloth, but on the onyx too! Wow! The question is, what are they decorating that requires both two kinds of cloth (one wool) and onyx as well? That is a mystery to me. And they are using an awful lot of wool (9 rolls at 2 units of weight each, probably something along the line of kilograms), in other words something like 18 kilograms or so.  And it is hardly surprising that, with the use of 2 types of cloth and of onyx, this interior decorating, whatever it is, is going to be expensive to the potential buyer, which is why the ladies in question wish to make it perfectly clear that there is a question of debts to be paid. No payment, no decorations. Nada. Nothing surprising there. Ancient capitalism at its best.

I actually found this tablet not only quite a challenge, but a real beauty at that. There is a great deal more information to be found on it than on most Linear B tablets. That is what makes it so intriguing. 

Linear B tablets dealing with gold cloth (supersyllabogram KU incharged):

Linear B tablets dealing with gold cloth KN 514 to KN 516

The 3 Linear B tablets above all deal with gold cloth. The supersyllabogram KI incharged in the ideogram for pawea = textiles indicates that the cloth is made of gold = kuruso in Linear B. The translations are completely transparent. The only problem is with the right-truncated syllabogram A on the first fragment. This could be the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of at least 5 Mycenaean Greek words as illustrated above. Take your choice. My favourite is “decorated”, although I also particularly like “silver”, since cloth woven with silver and gold would be extremely precious. The following picture illustrates two Minoan women wearing dresses with gold weaving.

Minoan women in gold cloth

The beautiful “Prince of Lilies” Fresco, Knossos, showing his belt = ZONE:

KN 433 R w 11 ZO

The Prince of Lilies Knossos with his belt

This stunning fresco from the Late Minoan IIIb Palace at Knossos (ca. 1450 BCE) shows us the famous so-called “Prince of Lilies” wearing his beautiful azure belt.  Note that the supersyllabogram, the single syllabogram ZO, is the first syllable of the Linear B word zone, which is equivalent to its ancient Greek counterpart as illustrated on the tablet and on the fresco. This is the one and only tablet in the entire Linear B repertoire on which this SSYL appears, but I am quite convinced that it means what I take it to mean, i.e. a belt.

Linear B tablet KN 594 R p 11, textiles (military):

KN 594 R p 11 textiles KI armour

Decipherment of textile-related tablets in the military sector presents a few irritating problems. The first of these is that we are crossing sectors, from the military to the textiles, or if you like the converse. It all amounts to the same thing. The problem here is that supersyllabograms, such as KI on this tablet, do not necessarily mean the same thing from one sector to the next. However, this fortunately does not apply to textiles related to military dress, since the supersyllabograms in both sectors mean the same thing. For instance, in this case, KI means kito or “chiton”, is a common Greek tunic in both sectors. The word “rita” on the first line must be very archaic Mycenaean, as I cannot find it anywhere in any Mycenaean Greek lexicon. So it is untranslatable. Likewise for nitewea or satewea. However, whatever this word is supposed to mean, it conveniently ends with “wea”, which leads me to strongly suspect it is a type of cloth, since almost all known words relating to a type of cloth in Mycenaean Greek end in “wea”. And so I have translated it thus.

Translation of Linear B fragment KN 757 R w 31 & textiles:

KN 757 R w 31 wehano

Nothing much to say here. The tablet speaks for itself.

Translation of Linear B tablet KN 579 R b 05 & textiles:

KN 579 R b 05 textiles

This tablet presents a few difficulties. First off, what word is the syllabogram O the first syllable of? It is very hard to determine, but it could possibly be opa, which means “workshop, which makes sense in the context. Take it or leave it. Next, we have pokironuka, which according to Chris Tslentis, means “a kind of decoration with various points”. Points? What can that possibly mean in the context of textiles? I have done my best to provide a more specific translation, and I came up with “sparkles”, as on a woman’s dress. A but of a stretch, but you never know.


Translation of Linear B tablet KN 542 R x 04 & textiles:

KN 542 R x 04 weavers

Nothing much to say about this one. Pretty straightforward.

Translation of Linear B tablet 530 R l 23, textiles:

KN 530 R l 23 textiles

The translation of this tablet is pretty much self-evident. The only problem is, what does ekesia mean? Is it a person's name or a place name, Ekisia? No one will ever know.

Translation of Linear B textiles tablet, KN 527 R l 51:

KN 527 R l 51 textiles

Apart form being extremely repetitive (and I cannot grasp why the linear B scribe felt so inclined to repeat the same phrase, tetukuwoa = a kind of cloth 3 times!), the decipherment is straightforward. I do not know what Ekisia is supposed to mean. I believe it is either a personal name or a toponym (place name).  

Translation of Linear B textiles tablet, KN 474 R q 21:

KN 474 R q 21 textiles

This tablet does not present any unexpected problems. The only issue is that we do not know what kind of cloth the supersyllabogram PU refers to. It is called pukateriya in Mycenaean Greek, but since the word is archaic, having fallen out of use with the collapse of the Mycenaean Empire ca. 1200 BCE, there is no way we can recover its precise meaning, i.e. to establish exactly what kind of cloth it refers to.  But we do know that the cloth is popureya = purple.

Happy Third Anniversary to Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae!

Happy Third Anniversary to Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae!

Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae was founded in March 2013, and since then it has grown to become the premier Linear B blog on the entire Internet. Our blog covers every conceivable aspect of research into Mycenaean Linear B, including, but not exclusively, decipherment of hundreds of tablets from every single sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy (agriculture, military, textiles, spices & condiments, vessels and pottery and the religious sector); the translation of the introduction to Book II of the Iliad, plus the entire Catalogue of Ships in Book II, with particular emphasis on the extensive influence of Mycenaean Linear B and of he Mycenaean world on the Catalogue of Ships; extensive vocabulary, lexicons and glossaries of Linear B; lessons in Linear B; progressive grammar of Linear B; extensive research into the 3,500 Scripta Minoa tablets from Knossos; and above all other considerations, the isolation, classification and decipherment of all 35+ supersyllabograms in every sector of the Minoan/Mycenaen economy (see above). Supersyllabograms were previously and erroneously referred to as “adjuncts” in Mycenaean Linear B. The decipherment of supersyllabograms is the major development of the further decipherment of Linear B since the genius, Michael Ventris, first deciphered it in 1952.

But that is not all. Our blog also zeroes in on Minoan Linear A, with at least one successful attempt at deciphering at least one word on a major Linear A tablet, and that is the Linear A word for “tripod”, a truly serendipitous development, given that the same word was the first word ever translated in Mycenaean Linear B. Our blog also focuses on Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, with a few translations of tablets in that script. In short, no other blog on the Internet deals as extensively with all three of these scripts, Linear A, Linear B and Linear C together.

It is also remarkable that we have had in excess of 80,000 visitors since our blog’s inception in March 2013. While this figure may seem rather smallish to many visitors, may I remind you that Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B and Arcado-Cypriot Linear C are extremely esoteric in the field of ancient linguistics. To put it another way, how many people in the entire world do you imagine can read Mycenaean Linear B, and even fewer who can read Arcado-Cypriot Linear C? Scarcely more than a very few thousand out of a population of 7+ billion. So I believe that we have made great strides in the past three years, and I fully expect that we shall top 100,000 visitors by the end of this year, 2016.

Linear B tablet Knossos KN 797 T e 01 & the supersyllabogram WE = leather undertunic or chiton + vase & WI:

In our previous post, I stated that I had never seen any occurrence of the supersyllabogram WI incharged in the ideogram for “hide”. Immediately after, I discovered not one, but two, examples of this supersyllabogram (WI), one on tablet Knossos KN 797 T e 01

Linear B Knossos tablet KN 797 T e 01 leather hide or undertunic

& the second on a multi-image illustration,


with the text on one Linear B tablet from Knossos (top), which we have previously translated, the second (left) on a Linear B fragment, the third (bottom left) with the Linear B word, “apudosi” = delivery on a fragment, and the fourth (right), being a vase with Linear B on it. Since the Linear B syllabograms -tawa– are left-truncated, we cannot guess at what the word is for which they are the last two syllabograms or syllables. The second word on this vase is clearly the name of the artisan who manufactured it: Kethereous.

The last two military supersyllabograms KO & WI with (animal) hide:

Military supersyllabogram KO & WI with hide

The military supersyllabograms KO kowo = “fleece” & WI = (kito) wirineo = “leather (chiton)” with (animal) hide are the last two we can account for in the military sector. Although I have not been able to find either of them on any extant Linear B. Tablet, they are attested according to John Chadwick.

Knossos tablet KN 227 N l 21 & the supersyllabogram QE = qeqinomeno = “woven”:

Knossos tablet KN 227 N l 21 & supersyllabogram QE = woven undertunic or chiton

As with the previous post, the supersyllabogram QE on this tablet clearly refers to qeqinomeno, a “woven undergarment” or “woven undergarment”. The rest is self-explanatory.

Linear B tablet K 224 and the new military supersyllabogram QE = woven undertunic & the supersyllabogram IQO ZE = a team of horses:

Knossos tablet K 224 and the new military supersyllabogram QE

Here we encounter the all-new supersyllabogram QE inside (incharged) in the ideogram for linen (under)tunic. It is crucial to understand that this supersyllabogram QE is completely unlike the previous one, QE inside a shield = “a wicker shield”. This new supersyllabogram QE, qeqinomeno, literally means “woven”, hence it refers to “a woven undertunic” or to be more precise, “a woven linen undertunic”, which once again the Mycenaean warriors wore under their toraka = ancient Greek thoraxes, i.e. Their breastplates. These two supersyllabograms are entirely different and must never be confused. This is the one and only instance in Mycenaean Linear B in which the same supersyllabogram appears inside two different ideograms, the first for “a shield” and the second for “an undertunic”. These two supersyllabograms QE + shield and QE + undertunic appear in the military sector only, and in no other sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy.

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