Category: Vocabulary



Proto-Greek Decipherment of Minoan Linear A silver pin from Mavro Spelio (Middle Minoan III = MM III) in the Heraklion Museum, Greece:

epingle-argent-kn-zf-31 620

This decipherment of Minoan Linear A silver pin from Mavro Spelio (Middle Minoan III = MM III) in the Heraklion Museum, Greece relies rather heavily on the debatable notion that Minoan Linear A is by and large proto-Greek, a theory espoused by Urii Mosenkis, one of the world’s most highly qualified linguists specializing in diachronic historical linguistics, including, but not limited to Minoan Linear A. Accordingly, I have deliberately interpreted ample chunks of the Minoan Linear a vocabulary on this silver pin as being proto-Greek, even though such a decipherment is surely contentious, at least in (large) part.

While the first line of my decipherment makes sense by and large, the second is more dubious. It is apparent that the Minoan Linear A word dadu on the first line is almost certainly not proto-Greek, but the last two syllables of dadumine, ie. mine appear to be the dative singular for the (archaic) Greek word for month, i.e. meinei (Latinized), such that the decipherment of this word at least would appear to read  in the month of dadu. There is nothing really all that strange or peculiar about this interpretation, since we know the names of the months neither in Minoan Linear A nor in Mycenaean Linear B. However, a definite note of caution must be sounded with respect to the decipherment of this word, as well as of all of the other so-called proto-Greek words on this silver pin, since none of them can be verified with sufficient circumstantial evidence or on the contrary. Hence, all translations of putative proto-Greek words in Minoan Linear A must be taken with a grain of salt.

While the second line on this pin, if taken as proto-Greek, makes some sense, it is much less convincing than the first, especially in light of the trailing word at the end, tatheis (Greek Latinized, apparently for the aorist participle passive of the verb teino (Latinized) = to stretch/strain, which actually does not make a lot of sense in the context.

Nevertheless, it would appear that at least some of the Minoan Linear A words which I have interpreted  as being proto-Greek or proto-Mycenaean may in fact be that. I leave it up to you to decide which one(s) are and which are not, if any in fact are. Additionally, even if a few or some of them are proto-Greek, they may fall within the pre-Greek substratum. The most dubious of the so-called proto-Greek words on this pin probably are qami -, tasaza & tatei, since none of these are likely to have fallen within the pre-Greek substratum. 

But if the Minoan language itself is not proto-Greek, then what is it? I shall have ample occasion to address this apparently thorny question in upcoming posts and especially in my second article on the decipherment of Minoan Linear A, which I shall be submitting to Archaeology and Science by no later than April 17, 2017. 


Minoan Linear provides significant evidence of the presence of proto-Greek or even (proto) – Mycenaean in its vocabulary:

Minoan Linear provides significant evidence of the presence of proto-Greek or even (proto) – Mycenaean in its vocabulary, as attested by this Table (Table 2a & Table 2B), which I have had to divide into two parts because it is so long. So we have

Table 2a Minoan words of apparent proto-Greek origin… or are they in the pre-Greek substratum? A-M:

 

Minoan Linear A apparent proto-Greek Table 2 a 620

and Table 2b: N-W:

Table 2b minoan apparent proto-greek 620

It is readily apparent from this Table in two parts that all of the words listed in it may be interpreted as proto-Greek or possibly even (proto-) Mycenaean. But the operative word is may, not certainly. This is because (a) Minoan Linear A, like Mycenaean Linear B, makes no distinction between Greek short and long vowels and (b) like Mycenaean Linear B, the Linear A syllabary is deficient in representing a number of Greek consonants, which otherwise might have been the initial consonants of the successive syllabic series, e.g. da de di do du, ka ke ki ko ku, ta te ti to tu etc. The following Greek consonants, first illustrated in this table of the ancient Greek alphabet including the archaic digamma, which was in widespread use in Mycenaean Linear B, are tagged with an asterisk * :

 

ancient Greek alphabet with digamma

and here Latinized for accessibility to our visitors who cannot read Greek, i.e. b, g, eita (long i) , ksi, fi (pi), chi (as in Scottish loch), psi and omega. Because of these lacuna and the notable ambiguities which arise from it, it is not possible to verify that the so-called proto-Greek or (proto-) Mycenaean words listed in Tables 2a & 2b are in fact that. However, chances are good that they are proto-Greek. Additionally, it is not possible to verify whether or not a few, some or even all of the words in Tables 2a and 2b, which appear to be proto-Greek actually fall within the pre-Greek substratum. If the latter scenario is true, then it is more likely than not that a few, some or even all of these words are in fact Minoan. There is no way to verify this for certain. Nevertheless, numerous international researchers into Minoan Linear A, most notably, Urii Mosenkis, one of the world’s most highly qualified linguists specializing in diachronic historical linguistics, including, but not limited to Minoan Linear A, who stands in the top 0.1 % of 40 million users on academia.edu:

 

Urii Mosenkis academia.edu

have provided significant convincing circumstantial evidence that there are even hundreds of proto-Greek words in Minoan Linear A, which begs the question, is Minoan Linear A proto-Greek? But the answer to the question is not nearly so obvious as one might think, as I shall be demonstrating in my second article, Current prospects for the decipherment of Minoan Linear A”, which I will be submitting to the prestigious international annual journal, Archaeology and Science (Belgrade) by no later than April 17 2017, the deadline for submissions.

There is no positive, indisputable proof that there are any number of proto-Greek or proto-Greek words in Minoan Linear A, any more than there is any positive proof whatsoever that, as Gretchen Leonhardt would have us believe, that there are any number of proto-Altaic or proto-Japanese words, if any at all, in the Minoan language. As for her hypothesis, for which there not even any substantive circumstantial evidence whatsoever, it is my firm belief and contention that she is, to use the common expression, wasting her time and energy barking up the wrong tree.


3 more Minoan Linear A words of possible proto-Greek or proto-Mycenaean origin. But are they really?

minoan-linear-a-words-in-ma-of-possible-proto-greek-origin

One of them definitely is not of proto-Greek origin; nor is it pre-Greek. It is manna, which is (proto-) Hebrew. The Hebrew word manna lasted right on through classical Greek to New Testament Greek.  Mannafii may be instrumental plural, meaning “for (the storage of) grains”, but only if the Minoan instrumental plural (if there was one) was similar to the instrumental plural in archaic Greek, which is unfortunately doubtful. The word maru definitely means “wool” in Linear A, corresponding to Mycenaean Linear B mari. It appears that both the Minoan and Mycenaean words are in the pre-Greek substratum. Masi, which is Doric Greek, is probably not a Minoan word, unless the Doric Greek word is in the pre-Greek substratum, in which case it could have co-existed in both Minoan and proto-Doric Greek. But it is rather doubtful. 

6 Minoan Linear A words from KE to KO which might be proto-Greek or proto-Mycenaean:

Here is the table of Minoan Linear A words from KE to KO in Prof. John G. Younger’s Reverse Linear A Lexicon.

miinoan-linera-a-words-ki-ko-of-possible-proto-greek-origin

As is the usual case, there are inherent problems with the “Greekness” of almost all of the Minoan Linear A words I have tagged as possibly being proto-Greek or proto-Mycenaean. This should come as no surprise in view of the fact that I made myself crystal clear on this account in the previous post. The most convincing Minoan Linear A word by far of apparent proto-Greek origin is keite, which is highly likely to be the equivalent of archaic Greek keithen = “thence/from there”.  The least credible is [6] koiru, which is far enough off in its orthography from ancient Greek, kairos = “due measure” to cast sufficient doubt on it.

But in almost all cases, appearances can be, and often are, deceiving. I have said this already, and I repeat it for the sake of emphasis. We cannot be too overcautious.

This brings the total number of so-called proto-Greek or proto-Mycenaean words I have managed to isolate in Minoan Linear A to 22.

The 70 Minoan Linear A terms MAXIMUM I shall be featuring in my article on the partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A in Vol. 12 (2016) of Archaeology and Science: 

Here is a list of the 70 out of 106 Minoan Linear A terms I shall be zeroing in on in my article in Vol. 12 (2016), “Pylos tablet Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris), the ‘Rosetta Stone’ to Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada) vessels and pottery” of the prestigious international annual, Archaeology and Science ISSN 1452-7448 (release date spring 2018), to be submitted by Nov. 15, 2016.

In an article of this nature, which is to be the first of its kind in the world ever to deal with the partial (by no means definitive) decipherment of Minoan Linear A, I must of necessity focus on those Minoan Linear A words which offer the greatest insight into the vocabulary of the language. It is, of course, impossible to decipher the Minoan language, and anyone who dares claim he or she has done so is skating on very thin ice, actually, no ice whatsoever. All we can hope to do at the present juncture is to decipher some of the vocabulary, that and nothing else. This is possible because the syllabary has already been deciphered, though as far as I know, no researchers or decipherers to date have taken any note of this vital factor. It is precisely because the syllabary itself has been deciphered that we have any access at all to Minoan vocabulary. We must recall that for Michael Ventris, the decipherment of Mycenaean Linear B was far more difficult at the outset, because no-one in the world, including himself, knew what the Linear B syllabic signs signified. It took him two years or so to figure them out and he never actually got them until he realized that Linear B was a very early form of Greek, which we now know as Mycenaean Greek.

But the situation is far different with Minoan Linear A. We can read the syllabary. We can “read” the words, but we cannot understand what they mean... at least to date. I have taken upon myself to decipher, more or less accurately (probably more often less than more) as many Minoan Linear A words as I possibly can. Even after months of strenuous travail, I have only been able to extrapolate the potential meanings of 106 Minoan Linear A words from a lexicon of about 510 intact Linear A words in John G. Younger’s Lexicon. These terms I have managed to decipher more or less accurately thus amount to only 20 % of the complete lexicon. But 20 % is far more than anyone else has managed to decipher  to date.  

Here then are the 70 terms (MAXIMUM) excerpted from my complete Glossary of Minoan Linear A:           
 
p-glossary

KEY:

Minoan Linear A words deciphered with certainty (90% - 100%) are in BOLD.
Minoan Linear A words deciphered with a reasonable degree of certainty (75% - 85%) are in italics.

All terms in Minoan Linear A and in Mycenaean Linear B have been Latinized for ease of access to persons not familiar with these syllabaries. 


Terms to which I shall assign special treatment are followed by an asterisk (*). 

adureza = unit of dry measurement (grain, wheat, barley, flour)
aka = wineskin (two syllabograms overlaid)
akii = garlic
darida = large vase *  
daropa = stirrup jar = Linear B karawere * 5
datara = grove of fig trees *
datu = olives See also qatidate = olive trees = Linear B erawa *
daweda = medium size amphora with two handles
dikise = a type of cloth = Linear B any number of types of cloth
ditamana = dittany (medicinal herb) 10
dureza = unit of measurement (unknown amount)*
kanaka = saffron = Linear B kanako
kapa = follower or (foot) solder = Linear B eqeta *
karopa3 (karopai) = kylix (with two handles & smaller than a pithos) *
kaudeta = to be distributed (fut. part. pass.) approx. = Linear B, epididato = having been distributed (aorist part. pass.)15 
keda = cedar
kidema*323na = type of vessel (truncated on HT 31) *
kidapa = (ash) wood, a type of wood. On Linear B tablet KN 894 N v 01 *
kireta2 (kiritai) = delivery = Linear B apudosis
kiretana = (having been) delivered (past participle passive) = Linear B amoiyeto 20
kireza = unit of measurement for figs, probably 1 basket *
kiro = owed = Linear B oporo = they owed
kuro = total             
kuruku = crocus
maru = wool (syllabograms superimposed) = Linear B mari/mare 25
mitu = a type of cloth 
nasi = a type of cloth
nere = larger amphora size *
nipa3 (nipai) or nira2 (nirai) = figs = Linear B suza *
orada = rose 30
pazeqe = small handle-less cups = Linear B dipa anowe, dipa anowoto *
puko = tripod = Linear B tiripode *
qapa3 = qapai = large handle-less vase or amphora *
qatidate = olive trees See also datu = olives = Linear B erawo *
qareto = Linear B onato = “lease field” * 35
quqani = medium size or smaller amphora *
ra*164ti = approx. 5 litres (of wine)
rairi = lily 
reza = 1 standard unit of measurement *
sajamana = with handles = Linear B owowe * 40
sara2 (sarai) = small unit of measurement: dry approx. 1 kg., liquid approx. 1 litre 
sata = a type of cloth
sedina = celery
supa3 (supai) = small cup = Linear B dipa mewiyo *
supu = very large amphora * 45
tarawita = terebinth tree
tejare = a type of cloth
teki = small unit of measurement for wine @ 27 1/2 per tereza *
tereza = larger unit of liquid measurement (olive oil, wine) *
tesi = small unit of measurement * 50
tisa = description of pot or pottery = Linear B amotewiya/yo
udimi = a type of cloth 
uminase = harbour (cf. French “Le Havre”), famous Atlantic port in France * 
usu = a type of cloth

Eponyms:

Sirumarita2 = Sirumaritai 55
Tateikezare
Tesudesekei
Turunuseme

Toponyms:

Almost all the toponyms do not require decipherment as they are either identical or almost identical in Mycenaean Linear B:

Akanu = Archanes (Crete)
Dikate = Mount Dikte 60
Idaa = Mount Ida
Idunesi
Kudoni = Kydonia
Meza (= Linear B Masa)
Paito = Phaistos ( =Linear B) * 65
Radu = Lato (= Linear B Rato)
Setoiya = Seteia (= Linear B) 
Sukirita/Sukiriteija = Sybrita
Uminase = Linear B Amnisos * 
Winadu = Linear B Inato 70

COMMENTARY:

This Glossary accounts for 20 % of all intact Minoan Linear A terms.

The principle of cross-correlative cohesion operates on the assumption that terms in Minoan Linear A vocabulary should reflect as closely and as faithfully as possible parallel terms in Mycenaean Greek vocabulary. In other words, the English translations of Minoan words in a Minoan Linear A Glossary such as this one should look as if they are English translations of Mycenaean Greek terms in a Linear B glossary. I have endeavoured to do my best to achieve this goal, but even the most rational and logical approach, such as I take, does not and cannot guarantee reciprocity between Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B terms. It is precisely for this reason that I have had to devise a scale of relative accuracy for terms in this Linear A Glossary, as outlined in KEY at the top of it.

The best and most reliable Linear B Lexicon is that by Chris Tselentis, Athens, Greece. If you wish to receive a  copy of his Lexicon, please leave a comment in Comments, with some way for me to get in touch with you.

Are there any words in Mycenaean Greek of putative Minoan origin? It should surely not strike us as so surprising that there are. After all,  

kidapa = ash? (Linear B tablet KN 894 N v 01)

Several Minoan Linear A words very likely survived into Mycenaean Linear B. The problem is, if they did, we do not know which ones did.... except perhaps kidapa, which has a distinctly Minoan feel to it. Cf. kidata = to be accepted (for delivery to) = Linear B dekesato


Rita Roberts has finished her first year of university with a great mark of 83 % = A!

mycenaean warrior vase

Rita Roberts has finished her first year of university with a great mark of 83 % = A! Her first year was devoted entirely to the military sector of the Mycenaean economy. She had to translate scores and scores of Linear B military tablets, and thoroughly master all the supersyllabograms in the military sector.

military supersyllabograms

Rita has already started her second year of three, and she is focusing on the agricultural sector of the Mycenaean economy. In this sector, she will have, not scores, but hundreds of Linear B tablets to translate. 

Congratulations, Rita.


Mycenaean Linear B tablet KN 791 G c 101 & the co-dependent supersyllabograms O & KI:

KN 791 G c 101 & supersyllabograms O & KI

On Mycenaean Linear B tablet KN 791 G c 101, we find the co-dependent supersyllabograms O & KI. In Mycenaean Greek, the SSYL (supersyllabogram) O = onato = a lease field & the SSYL KI = kitimena = a plot of land. When these two SSYLS are combined, they become co-dependent, each one delimiting the other. Hence, on the second line of this tablet, O KI + the ideogram for “rams” or “ewes” (we are unsure which, since the ideogram is right-truncated)  means “an unknown number (right-truncated) of sheep -or- rams -or- ewes on a settled plot of land in a lease field.” When two or more co-dependent supersyllabograms are used with the ideograms for “sheep”, “rams” or “ewes”, both must be nouns. Adjectives are never used for associative co-dependent supersyllabograms, which is precisely what O + KI are on the second line. Associative SSYLS never define the ideogram(s) with which they are linked, since the ideograms themselves already mean exactly what they mean, in this case, “sheep”, “rams” or “ewes”. What associative SSYLS do is modify the ideograms with which they are associated.

NOTE that all supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B were handed down from Minoan Linear A, which invented them. 


Boolean chart of The 5 Principles of Cross-correlative Retrogressive Extrapolation from Mycenaean Linear B to Minoan Linear A:

cross-correlation

Here we see a Boolean chart of The 5 Principles of Cross-correlative Retrogressive Extrapolation from Mycenaean Linear B to Minoan Linear A.  Before explaining the Boolean chart, it is highly advisable for us to review the 5 Principles of Cross-correlative Retrogressive Extrapolation from Mycenaean Linear B to Minoan Linear A, which you can read in full here:

The 5 principles applicable to the rational partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A:

5 Principles of decipherment of Minoan Linear A


for without a thorough understanding of these 5 principles, you will be unable to follow the novel methodology I have devised for the partial, not total, decipherment of Minoan Linear A à partir de (extrapolated from) Mycenaean Linear B.

Once you have carefully read over these 5 principles, the Boolean chart above should become pretty much transparent. For instance, the Minoan Linear A word puko is a perfect match for the Mycenaean Linear B word tiripode (= 100%). Likewise, the Minoan Linear A term sedina is a perfect match with Linear B selinon = celery. That is why the overlap between the two terms is illustrated as a circle within a circle (since displaying only 1 circle would not get the idea across clearly). Since Minoan Linear A qareto is very likely to correspond to Mycenaean Linear B onato = lease field, the overlap is > 75 %, and is mapped out as Sets A B & C completely overlapping in the Boolean chart. Likewise, saru = small olives in Minoan Linear A > 60 % and is again charted as Sets A B & C overlapping. On the other hand, tisa in Minoan Linear A, which apparently = amotewiya = description of pottery? in Mycenaean Linear B (though we can never be certain of this), comes in at a scalar value of < 50 %, mapped out in the Boolean chart as Sets A & B or A & C only.

In our Minoan Linear  A Glossary of 110 terms,

36 terms clock in a scalar value of > 75 %
58 clock in with a scalar value of > 60 %
16 clock in with a scalar value of < 50 %
TOTAL = 110

Thus, 84 or 76 % of all the terms in the Glossary of Minoan Linear A are either extremely reliable ( > 75 %) or reasonably reliable ( > 60 %).


What is the Minoan Linear A word for “figs”? It only appears as a logogram on Linear A tablets, so we do not know how it might be spelled. However, informed speculation leads me...

What is the Minoan Linear A word for figs

What is the Minoan Linear A word for “figs”? As it only appears as a logogram on Linear A tablets and is never spelled out, we do not know its orthography. Or so it appears. However, informed speculation leads me to infer the following from what we already know about the syllabogram-cum-logogram for “figs” in Mycenaean Linear B, which just so happens to be exactly the same syllabogram/logogram as that for “figs” in Minoan Linear A. All this in spite of the fact that the Mycenaean Greek word for “figs” is suza, which is the same word as in many other ancient Greek dialects. So what is going on here? There is no doubt but that Mycenaean Linear B inherited the logogram for “figs” from Minoan Linear A. They simply lifted it lock-stock-and-barrel from the earlier syllabary. But why? Why didn’t they turn to their own word for “figs”, suza, and use its first syllabogram, SU, as the syllabogram/logogram for “figs”? It seems passingly strange. But is it?

Turning to our Glossary of 95 Minoan Linear words, we set our sights on examining Minoan Linear A words which are typically diminutives. This we do because after all, figs are very small; hence, we can infer that the word referencing them, beginning with the syllabogram NI, should display orthographic characteristics reminiscent of other Minoan Linear A diminutives. Let us examine the latter in turn. In the Glossary, we find:

dumitatira2 (dumitatirai) = right or inner spindle wheel on one side of the distaff
karopa3 (karopai) = kylix (with two handles & much smaller than a pithos)
kireta2 (kiritai) = delivery = Linear B apudosis
kita2 (kitai) = scented olive oil? 
pimitatira2 (pimitatirai) = left or outer spindle wheel on one side of the distaff
sara2 (sarai) = small unit of measurement: dry approx. 1 kg., liquid approx. 1 litre
supa3 (supai) = small cup = Linear B dipa mewiyo

All of the terms above refer to small, i.e. diminutive, items. Hence, it is reasonable to assume that the Minoan Linear A word for “figs” may quite possibly be similar to any of the above. There are  3 diminutive ultimates in Minoan Linear A, pa3 (pai) and ra2 (rai) and ta2 (tai). Thus, the Minoan Linear A word for “figs” is likely to be one of these alternatives:

nipai3 (nipai)
-or- 
nira2 (nirai)
-or-
nita2 (nitai)

However, the last alternative (nita2/nitai) seems to be the least likely candidate. This is because one of the terms ending in ta2 (tai),  kireta2 (kiritai) = delivery = Linear B apudosis is abstract, while the other, kita2 (kitai) = scented olive oil? , apparently describes a something to which size cannot be directly attributed. One can have a little bit, a moderate amount, or a great deal of scented olive oil. The amount cannot be pinned down. This attribute is semi-abstract in and of itself, at least is kita2 (kitai) = scented olive oil. I cannot be sure of this meaning.

So it appears we are now down to two alternatives for the orthography of  “figs” in Minoan Linear A, i.e.

nipai3 (nipai)
-or- 
nira2 (nirai)
  
Of course, we can never be certain which of these 3 alternatives might hit the proverbial target. We still can never really know what the Minoan term for “figs” is. But there are times when speculation leads us to a leap of faith which just might be grounded somewhere in the realm of reality.

As for the rationale behind the Mycenaean Linear B scribes
 to retain the syllabogram/logogram NI from Minoan Linear A, we shall never know why they chose to do that. It may have been a matter of expediency, or it may have been that the Minoans at Knossos had used the word for “figs” beginning with NI so intensively that the Mycenaean scribes could see no point changing the syllabogram/logogram NI, or it may have been for some other less obvious, possibly esoteric, reason. Yet, we must keep firmly in mind that the Mycenaean word for figs was suza, regardless of their decision to keep on relying on the independent supersyllabogram NI to represent “figs”, as seen in this Linear B tablet:  

K 841 NI independent



The first ever complete translation of a Linear A tablet in toto, HT 31 (Haghia Triada), vessels & pottery:

Linear A tablet HT 31 vessels

Here you see the first ever full translation of a Linear A tablet, HT 31 (Haghia Triada), vessels & pottery. Today I was finally able to break through the last barriers to the complete translation of this tablet, one of the most complete in Linear A, and the only one with so many ideograms, in this case, all of them standing for various types of vessels. The tablet explicitly names the type of each vessel by superimposing the Linear A name of it over its ideogram. What a windfall!

It just so happens that HT 31 exhibits so many parallels with Mycenaean Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) that it almost defies credulity... so much so that we can even consider the latter to be the long overdue “Rosetta Stone” for the former. Not only are they written in two syllabaries which are almost the same, Minoan Linear A for HT 31, and its successor, Mycenaean Linear A for Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris), but even the contents (the text) of each of these tablets closely mirrors that of the other. That is one truly amazing co-incidence. And it is precisely because the similarity between these two tablets is so striking that I have been able to decipher the integral text of Minoan Linear A HT 31 (Haghia Triada) in toto, with the exception of a few signs (syllabograms, ideograms and numerals) which are pretty much illegible. This is the first time in history that anyone has managed to decipher a Minoan Linear A tablet in its entirety.

Compare the translation of HT 31 with the text of Mycenaean tablet  Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) on which I have overlaid the equivalent cross-correlated Linear A vocabulary, and it instantly becomes clear that the two tablets deal with almost exactly the same range of vessels:

Pylos Tablet 641-1952 Ventris with Minoan Linear A term superimposed

The methodology followed in the comparative analysis of any Linear A tablet which appears similar to any Linear B counterpart is called cross-correlated retrogressive extrapolation of a Linear A tablet (A) with an equivalent Linear B tablet (B), where:

CCRE (cross-correlated retrogressive extrapolation) stipulates that A = B (closely or approximately), in this case closely. 

I welcome any and all comments on this hard-fought and hard-won breakthrough in the decipherment of Minoan Linear A. Please also tag this post with 4 to 5 stars if you like it (hopefully 5!) 


The path towards a partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A: a rational approach: PART A

Before May 2016, I would never have even imagined or dared to make the slightest effort to try to decipher Minoan Linear A, even partially. After all, no one in the past 116 years since Sir Arthur Evans began excavating the site of Knossos, unearthing thousands of Mycenaean Linear A tablets and fragments, and a couple of hundred Minoan Linear A tablets and fragments (mostly the latter), no one has even come close to deciphering Minoan Linear, in spite of the fact that quite a few people have valiantly tried, without any real success. Among those who have claimed to have successfully deciphered Linear A, we may count:

Sam Connolly, with his book:

Sam Connolly Beaking the Code Linear A

Where he claims, “Has the lost ancient language behind Linear A finally been identified? Read this book and judge for yourself”. 

Stuart L. Harris, who has just published his book (2016):

Sam Harris Linear A decipherment

basing his decipherment on the notion that Minoan Linear A is somehow related to Finnish, an idea which I myself once entertained, but swiftly dismissed,, having scanned through at least 25 Finnish words which should have matched up with at least 150 Minoan Linear A words. Not a single one did. So much for Finnish. I was finished with it.

and Gretchen Leonhardt

Konosos


who bases her decipherments of Minoan Linear A tablets on the ludicrous notion that Minoan Linear A is closely related to Japanese! That is a real stretch of the imagination, in light of the fact that the two languages could not be more distant or remote in any manner of speaking. But this is hardly surprising, given that her notions or, to put it bluntly, her hypothesis underlying her attempted decipherments of Mycenaean Linear B tablets is equally bizarre.

I wind up with this apropos observation drawn from Ms. Leonhardt’s site:    If a Minoan version of a Rosetta Stone pops up . . , watch public interest rise tenfold. ‘Minoa-mania’ anyone?”. Glen Gordon, February 2007 Journey to Ancient Civilizations.

Which begs the question, who am I to dare claim that I have actually been able to decipher no fewer than 90 Minoan Linear A words

Minoan Linear A Glossary


since I first ventured out on the perilous task of attempting such a risky undertaking. Before taking even a single step further, I wish to emphatically stress that I do not claim to be deciphering Minoan Linear A. Such a claim is exceedingly rash. What I claim is that I seem to be on track to a partial decipherment of the language, based on 5 principles of rational decipherment which will be enumerated in Part B. Still, how on earth did I manage to break through the apparently impenetrable firewall of Minoan Linear A?  Here is how.

In early May 2016, as I was closely examining Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada),

KURO = total HT 31 Haghia Triada

which dealt exclusively with vessels and pottery, I was suddenly struck by a lightning flash. The tablet was cluttered with several ideograms of vessels, amphorae, kylixes and cups on which were superimposed with the actual Minoan Linear A words for the same. What a windfall! My next step - and this is critical - was to make the not so far-fetched assumption that this highly detailed tablet (actually the most intact of all extant Minoan Linear A tablets) was the magic key to opening the heavily reinforced door of Minoan Linear, previously locked as solid as a drum. But was there a way, however remote, for me to “prove”, by circumstantial evidence alone, that most, if not all, of the words this tablet actually were the correct terms for the vessels they purported to describe? There was, after all, no magical Rosetta Stone to rely on in order to break into the jail of Minoan Linear A. Or was there?

As every historical linguist specializing in ancient languages with any claim to expertise knows, the real Rosetta Stone was the magical key to the brilliant decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics in 1822 by the French philologist, François Champellion

Francois Champellion Rosetta Stone Schiller Institute
        
It is truly worth your while to read the aforementioned article in its entirety. It is a brilliant exposé of Monsieur Champellion’s dexterous decipherment.

But is there any Rosetta Stone to assist in the decipherment of Haghia Triada tablet HT 31. Believe it or not, there is. Startling as it may seem, that Rosetta Stone is none other than the very first Mycenaean Linear B tablet deciphered by Michael Ventris in 1952, Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952.  If you wish to be informed and enlightened on the remarkable decipherment of Pylos Py TA 641-1952, you can read all about it for yourself in my article, published in Vol. 10 (2014) of Archaeology and Science (Belgrade) ISSN 1452-7448 

Archaeology and Science, Vol. 10 (2014), An Archaeologist's Translation of Pylos Tablet 641-1952. pp. 133-161, here: 

Archaeology and Sciene Belgrade

It is precisely this article which opened the floodgates to my first steps towards the partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A. The question is, how? In this very article I introduced the General Theory of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear A (pp. 148-156). It is this very phenomenon, the supersyllabogram, which has come to be the ultimate key to unlocking the terminology of vessels and pottery in Minoan Linear A. Actually, I first introduced in great detail the General Theory of Supersyllabograms at the Third International Conference on Symbolism at The Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, on July 1 2015:

Koryvantes Association of Historical Studies Athens

Role of SSYLs in Mycenaean Linear B

This ground-breaking talk, re-published by Koryvantes, is capped off with a comprehensive bibliography of 147 items serving as the prelude to my discovery of supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B from 2013-2015.

How Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) serves as the Rosetta Stone to Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada):

Believe it or not, the running text of Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada) is strikingly alike that of Mycenaean Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris). So much so that the textual content of the former runs very close to being parallel with its Mycenaean Linear B counterpart. How can this be? A few preliminary observations are in order. First and foremost, Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) cannot be construed in any way as being equivalent to the Rosetta Stone. That is an absurd proposition. On the other hand, while the Rosetta stone displayed the same text in three different languages and in three different scripts (Demotic, Hieroglyphics and ancient Greek), the syllabary of Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada) is almost identical to that of Mycenaean Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris). And that is what gives us the opportunity to jam our foot in the door of Minoan Linear A. There is not point fussing over whether or not the text of HT 31 is exactly parallel to that of Pylos Py TA 641, because ostensibly it is not! But, I repeat, the parallelisms running through both of these tablets are remarkable.

Allow me to illustrate the cross-correlative cohesion between the two tablets right from the outset, the very first line. At the very top of HT 31 we observe this word, puko, immediately to the left of the ideogram for “tripod”, which just happens to be identical in Minoan Linear A and in Mycenaean Linear B. Now the very first on Mycenaean Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) is tiripode, which means “tripod”. After a bit of intervening text, which reads as follows in translation, “Aigeus works on tripods of the Cretan style”, the ideogram for “tripod”, identical to the one on Haghia Triada, leaps to the for. The only difference between the disposition of the term for “tripod” on HT 31 and Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) is that there is no intervening text between the word for tripod, i.e. puko, on the former, whereas there is on the latter. But that is scarcely an impediment to the realization, indeed the revelation, that on HT 31 puko must mean exactly the same thing as tiripode on Pylos Py TA 641-1952. And it most certainly does. But, I hear you protesting, and with good reason, how can I be sure that this is the case? It just so happens that there is another Linear B tablet with the same word followed by the same ideogram, in exactly the same order as on HT 31, here: 

Linear A 19 confirmation that puko means tripod

The matter is clinched in the bud. The word puko in Minoan Linear A is indisputably the term for “tripod”, exactly parallel to its counterpart in Mycenaean Linear B, tiripode.

I had just knocked out the first brick from the Berlin Wall of Minoan Linear A. More was to come. Far more.

Continued in Part B.

                 

Russet Minoan Linear A tablet on amphorae with the new word tesi = a small unit of measurement:

russet Minoan Linear A tablet

While I have already deciphered, more or less accurately, the following words on this russet Minoan Linear A tablet on amphorae, daweda = medium size amphora, pa3ni or paini = amphora for the storage of grain, daru = scales?, Kudoni = Kydonia & reza = standard unit of measurement, there is one new word on it, tesi = a small unit of measurement (as is attested by its small number = 3.5).

This brings the total number of Linear A words I have deciphered, more or less accurately, to 90.


Minoan Linear A tablet GO Wc 1 (Gournia) asasumaise = “cattle-driver”:

Even at first glance, from Minoan Linear A tablet GO Wc 1 (Gournia), sporting the word asasumaise, it appears very much like this word means “cattle-driver” or “shepherd (of cattle)”.  Of course, it is also possible that this is just the cattle-driver’s name. So I have to account for both possibilities. Nevertheless, I am inclined to lean strongly on “cattle-driver” or “shepherd (of cattle), if only for the reason that it is a rather long word, just as are its equivalents in Mycenaean Linear B, qoukoro & qoukota, as illustrated here:

Linear A table GO wc 1 cows

This is the eighty-ninth (89) Minoan Linear A term I have deciphered, more or less accurately.


Linear B Lexicon R-Z by Chris Tselentis as a guide to deciphering Minoan Linear A:

As our final installment on the Linear B Lexicon by Chris Tselentis as a guide to deciphering Minoan Linear A, here is section R-Z.


Linear B Lexicon R-Z Chris Tselentis as a guide to the decipherment of Minoan Linear A
The terms I have extracted from his Lexicon are the most likely candidates for decipherment of new vocabulary I encounter in Minoan Linear A.
 

Linear B Lexicon O-Q by Chris Tselentis as a guide to deciphering Minoan Linear A:

Continuing with our instalments on the Linear B Lexicon by Chris Tselentis as a guide to deciphering Minoan Linear A, here is section O-Q.

Linear B Leixcon Chris Tselentis O-Q as a guide to decipherment of Minoan Linear A

The terms I have extracted from his Lexicon are the most likely candidates for decipherment of new vocabulary I encounter in Minoan Linear A.
 

Linear B Lexicon K-N by Chris Tselentis as a guide to deciphering Minoan Linear A:

Continuing with our instalments on the Linear B Lexicon by Chris Tselentis as a guide to deciphering Minoan Linear A, here is section K-N.

Linear B Lexicon K-N as a guide to deciphering Minoan Linear A

The terms I have extracted from his Lexicon are the most likely candidates for decipherment of new vocabulary I encounter in Minoan Linear A.
 

Minoan Linear A tablet HT 88 (Haghia Triada), ripe figs & fig gatherers in pay/hired: the next decisive step in the partial decipherment of Linear A


HT 88 facsimile

Minoan Linear A tablet HT 88 (Haghia Triada), which was quite out of my reach just a week ago, has now become accessible to decipherment. This is a direct result of the fact that I had already deciphered these words on this tablet, namely, reza (standard unit of measurement), kiro (owed) & datare (fig overseer). This outcome has for the first time facilitated the task of deciphering Linear A tablets in and of themselves which do not contain enough clues or indicators to trigger a plausible decipherment. Thus, I was able to extrapolate 2 news terms from this tablet alone.

kikina ostensibly means “purple” or, more accurately, “ripe” = Linear B popureyo.
pajare = “in pay” or “hired”  = Linear B emito.

This development may prove to be decisive, triggering a cascading domino effect, opening up preciously inaccessible vocabulary as a direct result of the 88 terms I have already managed to decipher, more or less accurately.

Here is an abbreviated version of Prof. John G. Younger’s version of HT 88:

HT 88 Figs

							

Linear A tablet HT 123+124, kitai = scented olive oil? + saru = large olives + datu = small olives:

HT 123-124 KITAI SARU DATU KURO OLIVES!!! ADPDOSI 31

I have had to give a great deal of thought to the decipherment of this tablet, the contents of which have frustrated and eluded me for weeks. Finally, the light came on. Eureka! I figured it out. Well, almost... The first word I struggled to decipher on this tablet was kitai, which was and remains a stickler.  I have settled for “scented olive oil”, which seems to make sense in the context, although I really have no choice but to assign it a scalar value of < 50%. On the other hand, the next two words, saru & datu, seem much clearer. It makes a lot of sense to list different sizes of olive oil on a tablet, and it makes  just as much sense to list the large(r) ones before the small(er) ones. Hence, to my mind, saru = large olives and datu = small olives. These two terms can be assigned a scalar value of 60-75% (a reasonable degree of accuracy). The word kuro was one of the very first words I deciphered, and it has a perfect scalar value of 100%. It means what it says and says what it means.

Here is Andras Zeke’s restored version of HT 123+124 on the Minoan Language Blog:

Haghia Triada HT 123-124 a according to Andras Zeke

These three (3) new terms constitute items 82-84 in my Glossary of Minoan Linear A words.


Kunisu, another Minoan Linear A word which might mean “bushel” or alternatively “emmer wheat/farro”:

kunisu grains wheat yield

Kunisu is yet another Minoan Linear A word which might mean “bushel” or alternatively “emmer wheat/farro”. I am uncertain whether this is the suitable term for “bushel” in Minoan Linear A or whether ase is. The former (kunisu) is masculine, indicating a large amount, and can be either singular or plural. The latter, ase, is probably feminine plural. Because kunisu denotes something large, as apparently all words ending with ultimate U in Minoan Linear A do, it may be the better candidate for “bushel”. But I am leaving my options open. One thing is certain. As Prof. John G. Younger points out in his Linear A Texts in phonetic transcription, kunisu does not mean the same thing as Konoso in Mycenaean Linear B. Take a good look at the two words in their original syllabaries side by side at the bottom of the figure above. They do not even look alike. I am full agreement with Younger on this point.

This brings the total number of Minoan Linear A words we have deciphered more or less accurately to eighty-one (81).


Minoan Linear A ase = bushels? & qaqaru = crop yield?

HT 93 Haghia Triada pa3nina ase qaqaru

Does the Minoan Linear A word ase = bushels & qaqaru = crop yield? While I have tentatively deciphered them this way, I am remain in some doubt about the decipherments. The primary reason for my doubts rests on the fact that only 26 ase or “bushels” are mentioned in the context a total crop yield of 5 qaqaru. Both figures are on the low side. A crop yield that low would not go very far. But for the time being, I will go with these translations.

These 2 decipherments, which appear to be less rather than more accurate, bring our putative total to seventy-nine (79).  The reliability of these 2 decipherments is <50%. 

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