Category: Orthography

Linear A tablet ZA 14 (Zakros) appears to be almost entirely inscribed in Mycenaean-derived Greek:

Linear A ZA 14 Zakros

minoan fashion linen dresses


Linear A tablet ZA 14 (Zakros) appears to be almost entirely inscribed in Mycenaean-derived Greek. The only exception is the word tumitizase, which from the context very likely means linen, one of the most highly prize cloths or textiles in Minoan/Mycenaean times. All of the other Mycenaean derived words have been adjusted to meet the exigencies of Minoan grammar. Comments: Megidi almost certainly is in a Minoan oblique case. Given that I have extrapolated 5 more words with the ultimate di: dimedi, medakidi, mekidi, sekadidi and sekidi, it appears that this case may be the genitive singular, probably masculine. Further research is required to substantiate this claim, if at all possible. Mycenaean-derived punikaso is such a striking match with Linear B poinikiyo that it almost certainly means Phoenician. With reference to textiles, this word signifies “crimson”. In addition, qatiju is a close match with ancient Greek, geitheo (here Latinized) = to delight in, which in Minoan grammar is rendered as qatiju, i.e. gatheiu. Also, we have kupi = xhoufi from xhous, “in liquid measure” and panuke = fanuthe from fanos, meaning “brightly washed” and finally jawi for iawi = in violet (Greek).

To summarize, the decipherment makes perfect sense if all the vocabulary is interpreted as being Mycenaean-derived, except for tumitizase, which context practically demands signifies “linen”, the Old Minoan word corresponding with Linear B rino.

This remarkable decipherment lends even further credence to the hypothesis that a Mycenaean-derived superstratum imposed itself on the Minoan substratum. I have already deciphered at least six Linear A tablets which are primarily inscribed in Mycenaean-derived Greek, along with more inscribed in an admixture of Old and New Minoan.

Rational partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A tablet HT 117 (Haghia Triada)  & the first real glimpse of Minoan grammar actualized:

LinearA tablet HT 117 Haghia Triada 620

This albeit partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A tablet HT 117 (Haghia Triada) incorporates an approximately equal admixture of Old Minoan, i.e. the original Minoan language, also known as the Minoan substratum (of which I am unable to decipher most of the words) and of New Minoan, i.e. the superstratum of words of probable Mycenaean provenance, most of which I have been able to decipher with relative ease. While some of the New Minoan translations obviously appear to break the grammatical rules of Mycenaean Greek, such as mitu for “mint”, which is after all mita (and feminine) in Mycenaean Greek or daminu for “in 1 village”, which is damo in the nominative in Linear B, these adjustments can be readily accounted for by the fact that Old Minoan grammar is not at all the same beast as Mycenaean grammar. Although we are not yet familiar with much of Old Minoan grammar, which is after all the grammar of Minoan, just the same as modernized Anglo-Saxon grammar is the grammar of English, in spite of the enormous superstratum of French, Latin and Greek words in the latter language, this tablet alone perhaps affords us a first glimpse into the mechanics of Minoan grammar. Thus, it would appear that mitu may be the Minoan accusative of mita, and daminu may be the locative of damo in Minoan. Although there is no scientific way for me to substantiate this claim, I believe I am onto something, and that I may be making the first cracks in the obdurate wall of the grammar of the Minoan language substratum.  If this is so, then I may be actually pointing the way to unravelling at least a subset of Old Minoan grammar.  To illustrate my point, let us take a look at these phrases in English, as adapted from their Norman  French superstrata.  In French, the phrases would read as follows: avec la menthe”& “ dans le village”, whereas in English they read as “with mint” & “in the village”. Take special note of the fact that, while the Norman French superstrata words in English, “mint” and “village” are (almost) identical to their Norman French counterparts, the grammar of the phrases is entirely at odds, because after the grammar of French, which is a Romance language, and of English, which is a Germanic, cannot possibly coincide.  But here again, I must emphatically stress that English grammar is an entirely different matter than English vocabulary, of which the latter is only 26 % Germanic, but 29 % French, 29 % Latin and 4 % Greek, the latter 3 languages, namely, the superstrata, accounting for fully 64 % of all English vocabulary! We must always make this clear distinction between English grammar, which is essentially Anglo-Saxon modernized, and English vocabulary, which is only minimally Germanic.

If we carry this hypothesis to its logical outcome, we can readily surmise that the same phenomenon applies to the Linear A syllabary. Where grammar is concerned, the Linear A syllabary is Old Minoan, i.e. the original Minoan language or substrate. Where vocabulary is concerned, Linear A represents an admixture of Old Minoan vocabulary, such as uminase, kuramu, kupa3nu (kupainu), tejare and nadare (all of which I cannot decipher) and of New Minoan Mycenaean derived vocabulary, such as makarite, mitu, sata, kosaiti and daminu on this tablet alone. The orthography of the latter words is not actually consistent with Mycenaean grammar, because constitutionally it cannot be. Once again, the grammar is always Minoan, whereas the vocabulary often falls into the New Minoan (Mycenaean derived) superstratum.

In the case of makarite, it would appear that, if the word is dative in Minoan, the Minoan dative is similar to the Mycenaean, ending as it seems to in i. The ultimate te in makarite appears to be the Mycenaean or ancient Greek enclitic te (and). In the case of mitu, which is mita and feminine in Mycenaean Greek, it would appear that the Minoan word is either masculine or that in this case at least, it is instrumental, meaning “with mint”, in which case the Minoan feminine instrumental appears to terminate with u. The word kosaiti appears to follow the same lines. The first two syllables, kosai, apparently are Mycenaean, but the ultimate ti is Minoan, and once again, instrumental (plural). Again, daminu appears to repeat the same pattern. The word damo is masculine (or neuter) in Mycenaean. But the ultimate is inu here, which appears to be the Minoan locative, inu. To summarize, we must make a clear-cut distinction between any New Minoan vocabulary on any Linear A tablet, and its orthography, which must of necessity follow the orthographic conventions of the Minoan language, and not of the Mycenaean, from which any such words are derived. I intend to make this abundantly clear in subsequent posts.  

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.

10 Mycenaean Linear B & Minoan Linear A words for plants & spices (grand total = 27):

Linear B and Linear A plants and spices

This chart lists 10 Mycenaean Linear B & Minoan Linear A words for plants & spices, with the Linear B in the left column, its Minoan Linear A in the middle column, and the English translation in the right column. It should be noted that I had to come up with a few Mycenaean Linear B words for plants on my own, because they are nowhere attested on Linear B tablets, regardless of provenance. Nevertheless, the spellings I have attributed to these words are probably correct. See the chart above. While most Mycenaean Linear B words and their Minoan Linear A words are equivalent, some are quite unalike. For instance, we have serino for celery in Mycenaean Greek and sedina in Minoan, and kitano in Mycenaean Greek versus tarawita in Minoan. There is a critical distinction to be made between Minoan Linear A kuruku, which means crocus, from which saffron is derived, and kanako, its diminutive, referring to its derivative, saffron,  which is identical in form and meaning to its Mycenaean Linear B counterpart. The ultimate termination U in Minoan Linear A always refers to larger objects. Hence, kuruku must mean “crocus” while its diminutive, kanako, means “saffron”, just as in Mycenaean Greek. This latter discovery is my own.

I wish to emphasize as strongly as I can that I did not decipher these words in Minoan Linear A. Previous researchers were able to do so by the process of regressive extrapolation in most of the cases. Regressive extrapolation is the process whereby later words in a known language, in this case Mycenaean Greek, are regressively extrapolated to what philologists consider to have been their earlier equivalents in a more ancient language, in this case, the Minoan language, which is the best candidate which can be readily twinned with Mycenaean  Greek. The primary reason why all of these words can be matched up (relatively) closely in the Minoan language and in Mycenaean Greek is that they are all pre-Indo-European. In other words, Mycenaean Greek inherited most of the words you see in this chart from the Minoan language. It is understood that these words are not Greek words at all, not even in Mycenaean Greek. Almost all  of them survived into classical Greek, and are still in use in modern languages. For instance, in English, we have: cedar, celery, cypress, dittany, lily & olive oil, all of which can be traced back as far as the Minoan language (ca. 3,800 – 3,500 BCE), or some 5,800 years ago.

It is to be noted, however, that I am the first philologist to have ever written out these words in both the Linear A and Linear B syllabaries.

This brings the total number of Minoan Linear A words we have deciphered to at least 27.

Gender in Minoan Linear A

Gender in Minoan Linear A:

This is a tentative list of words in Minoan Linear A by gender, in so far as I have been able to determine gender to this point. I am not sure whether I am correct, but I would rather take the chance than not, as per my usual. Note that I am of the opinion that in the Minoan language, as in modern Italian, (almost) all words ended in an ultimate vowel. My reason for this tentative conclusion is simple: in the Linear A syllabary all syllabograms end in a vowel. When Mycenaean Linear B largely inherited the Linear A syllabary, with quite a few necessary adjustments, all of its syllabograms still ended in vowels, which made the syllabary (Linear B) awfully clumsy for representing even archaic Mycenaean Greek, in which most words, just as in later ancient Greek, probably ended in consonants. 

Minoan vessels


datu (HT 123-124) + ideogram for “olive(s)”
supu = very large amphora
tetu = large amphora


adureza = basic standard unit of dry measurement (barley share?)
daweda = 2 handled cup its contents = wine 
reza = basic standard unit (for linear?) measurement
tereza = basic standard unit for liquid measurement (of wine)

Feminine Diminutive:

kiretai2 = kiretai
dapa3 = dapai
sara2 = sarai (frequent!) + with grain + man
supa3ra = supaira (See supu masc. above) = smaller cups

Neuter (and Masculine?):

kuro = total
puko = tripod

The second supersyllabogram in Linear B, KI = an owned & settled plot of land:

Knossos tablet KN 928 G c 301 supersyllabogram KI = kotona kitimena

The second supersyllabogram in Linear B, also a subset of land tenure is KI = “an owned & settled plot of land”. What is particularly remarkable about this second supersyllabogram in the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy is that it, KI, replaces not just one, but two Linear B words, viz. (a) kotona = “a plot of land” & (b) kitimena = “owned”, “settled” or more likely “owned and settled”. Concatenate the two Linear B words, kotona kitimena (in the natural Mycenaean Linear B and archaic Greek word order, noun + adjective) and we wind up with “an owned and settled plot of land.”  That sure is one long phrase in English covered by a single supersyllabogram, i.e. KI, and it even replaces two Linear B words, kotona kitimena. This unique supersyllabogram, KI is the one and only SSYL in all of Mycenaean Greek which replaces two Mycenaean Linear B words (though only in the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy). 

It was not quite so straightforward a matter to translate this intriguing Linear B tablet. Several issues jumped to the fore. In the first place, the word anano on the first line appears nowhere in any Greek Lexicon, and so I have to assume (and probably correctly) that it is a variant of anono, which means “not leased”. The reason why I believe this to be a variant spelling is that this is the sole Linear B tablet on which the supersyllabogram KI appears all alone, all by itself . On every other tablet I have found, the supersyllabograms KI & O appear in conjunction. And since O = onato = “a leased plot of land”, it stands to reason, in the absence of the SSYL O on this particular tablet, and in the presence of the word anano = anono = “not leased”, that this tablet is the only one with the supersyllabogram KI on it which deals with land which is not leased. On all the other tablets with the SSYL KI, the SSYL O = onato = “a leased field” also appears, in contraindication with this one.

Secondly, the word Rawoqonoyo also appears nowhere in any Linear B Lexicon, and so I really had to put my thinking cap on!   The first two syllables of this word are easy to decipher. They are the Mycenaean Linear B rawo = “the host”, “the army” or “the people.”  It is duly found in Chris Tselentis’ Linear B Lexicon. However, what are we to make of “qonoyo”? To begin with, it is immediately obvious that these last three syllabograms are in the genitive, ending as they do with “oyo”. That raises the question, what is the nominative? Nowhere to be found on any extant Linear B tablet other than this one, and nowhere in any Linear B Lexicon. Me, stumped? Of course not!  Checking the Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary, I discovered the Classical Greek word goneus (here Latinized), which means “parent” or “ancestor”, for which the Mycenaean genitive singular would have been gonoyo. Looks like a bingo, with the caveat, however, that this word actually existed in Mycenaean times. In my view, the chances are very high it did. So then this word is apparently a name, an eponym which roughly translates as “The Father of the People”, in other words the (shaman) overseer of the clan owning this flock of ewes.  Grandpa in the Spirit.  He does not even have to be alive. By virtue of being the revered worshipped ancestor of the folks who own these ewes, he merits his title, Most High Dude (so to speak). The translation makes sense, and so that is why I am sticking to my guns on this one. I simply have an intuitive feel for this one. In passing I should also like to explain why I opted for the free translation “owned by the Father of the Host”, which looks like it should be dative, whereas it is actually genitive, as we have seen. But if a plot of land is that of the Father of the Host, that implies he owns it. Simple as that. Besides, this construction (genitive standing in for dative for “by”) is common not only to Mycenaean and Homeric Greek, but to Classical Greek as well.

According to Tselentis, the village name is either Dawos or Dawon. Dawos makes more sense to me,  as toponyms are usually masculine in Mycenaean Greek: Knossos, Amnisos and Pylos, or feminine, Mycenae.

This was a lot of ground to cover, but then again, this supersyllabogram. KI = kotona kitimena = “an owned and settled” plot of land is not only the only SSYL which concatenates two Linear B words, kotona + kitimena, but is also one of the most heavily used SSYLs in Mycenaean Linear B, along with its cousin counterpart, O = onato = “lease field” .

Introduction to supersyllabograms in Linear B – what is a supersyllabogram?

In brief, a supersyllabogram is the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of any Linear B word (or phrase) used in conjunction with any one of scores of Linear B ideograms. In a sense, almost all supersyllabograms are dependent on the ideogram which they modify, hence they are called dependent supersyllabograms. However, it is not as simple as that. In actual fact, it is the supersyllabogram which modifies the meaning of the ideogram, sometimes drastically.

Additionally, in the field of agriculture, all supersyllabograms without exception are said to be associative, which is to say that they are associated by happenstance with the ideograms they modify as indicators of geographic location, land tenure, land disposition, sheep raising and husbandry, as dictated by each supersyllabogram. The tablet shown here clearly illustrates the disposition of an associative supersyllabogram, in this case O = Linear onaton = “a usufruct lease field” or more simply “a lease field”, which as you can see is an entire phrase in English, even though it is only one word in Mycenaean Linear B. Here is how the supersyllabogram O = onaton in particular functions. Where the ideograms alone (accompanied by no supersyllabogram) signifying rams and ewes appear on any Linear B tablet, as on the first line of KN 1371 E j 921, they simply mean what they are, rams and ewes, which is why the first line of this tablet simply translates as 80 rams and 8 ewes. Period. Nothing more, nothing less. Simple.

Linar B tablet KN 1371 E j 921 O supersyllabogram = onaton = lease field

The supersyllabogram O, the first of 36: 

The first supersyllabogam in Mycenaean Linear B = O = onaton = lease field

However, as soon as the scribe places a supersyllabogram, in this case O, which as we have just noted above is the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of a certain Linear B word, the meaning changes, often  dramatically. The problem is, what does O mean? Upon consulting Chris Tselentis’ excellent Linear B Lexicon, we discover (not much to our surprise) that there is one word and one word only which fits the context and that word is of course onato. Every other entry under the vowel syllabogram O in his Lexicon comes up cold. They are dead ends. This leaves us with only one alternative. The vowel syllabogram O must mean onato = “a lease field”, and absolutely nothing else. So the second line on this tablet can only mean one thing, “12 rams on a (usufruct) lease field”. Nothing else. Period.  However, take away the ideogram, in this case for “rams”, and leave the O all by itself on the tablet, it means absolutely nothing. It is just the vowel syllabogram O, and there is no Mycenaean Linear B word  with the single vowel “O”. This is precisely why the supersyllabogram O (and all other supersyllabograms in the agricultural sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy are tagged as associative (because they just so happen to be associated with the ideograms they modify) and dependent on the ideogram they modify (because once they are associated with a particular ideogram, they distinctly modify its meaning). This phenomenon takes some getting used to, because it does not exist in any other language or script, ancient or modern... which is astounding when you think of it.

Unfortunately, not all supersyllabograms are that easy to crack. In fact, the majority of them are not. But we can leave that prickly problem to later, much later. In case you are wondering , out of 61 syllabograms + 1 homophone (AI) in Mycenaean Linear B, no fewer than 36 (!) or  59 % are supersyllabograms. That is a huge investment on the part of Mycenaean Linear B scribes. But why, I hear you asking, would they even bother doing this? The answer stares us in the face... to save precious space on what are after all tiny tablets. Linear B tablets are rarely more than 15 cm. wide,  with only a few being 30 cm. So rather than spell out onato in full, in this case onato = a lease field, they simply placed the supersyllabogram O in front of the ideogram for any of sheep or rams or ewes, and left it at that. And what goes for the supersyllabogram O goes for every last one of the 36 supersyllabograms.

This phenomenon may seem a little weird to you all at first sight. But you will rapidly become accustomed to it as I post more and more supersyllabograms (a.k.a. SSYLs) pursuant to this post.

Note that until I myself deciphered all 36 supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B between 2014 & 2016, no one in the field of linguistic research into Linear B had ever deciphered any more than a scattered few or them, let alone isolated, identified and classified all 36. In fact, no researcher to date has ever even understood what the phenomenon of the supersyllabogram is. Not until I cracked them wide open.

This is the most significant breakthrough in the decipherment of Mycenaean Linear B in the 64 years since its initial decipherment by Michael Ventris in 1952. In 2017, I will be publishing the definitive article on The Theory and Application of Supersyllabograms in Linear B, but in which publication and precisely when remains a closely guarded secret never to be whispered until it meets the light of day.

Linear B tablet KN 791 G c 101, ewes and rams & what it signifies:

Knossos tablet KN 791 G c 101 ewes and rams

Linear B tablet KN 791 G c 101, as with most Linear B tablets dealing with sheep, takes stock of ewes and rams. There are literally 100s of such tablets, far more than all the tablets put together in every other sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy (military, textiles & vessels or pottery). This goes to show the critical importance of sheep raising and sheep husbandry in the Minoan/Mycenaean economy. It is by far and away the most important sector of their economy. I first translated this tablet back in 2014, when I was just familiarizing myself with supersyllabograms. I made a fundamental error in my then translation, by conflating KI with pakoso, giving pakososi, which is meaningless. In actual fact, the separate syllabogram KI is the supersyllabogram for kitimena = a plot of land.

On another point. Those of you who visit our site may find it odd that the nouns on Linear B tablets are almost always in the nominative, even when one modifies another, such as onato kitimena which literally means “a lease field, a plot of land”, but freely and accurately translated means “on a leased plot of land”,  where onato becomes attributive. The difficulty here is that these are both associative supersyllabograms, both of which must be nominative regardless of context. Why so? Since the Linear B tablets are inventories, the scribes could not be bothered with inflected cases, unless it was absolutely unavoidable.  As far as they were concerned each “item” on the inventory stood on its own, as a nominative, in other words, as a naming marker.  Although this seems very peculiar to us, that does not matter one jot, because here we are in the twenty-first century and there they were in the thirteenth or fourteenth century BCE, and never the twain shall meet. After all, they, the scribes, wrote the tablets, so whatever we may think about their “style” (which is also irrelevant because they could have cared less about that too), we have to put up with their formulaic conventions, because that is what these phenomena and others similar to them amount to. Take it or leave it. But if you leave it does not make a hill of beans worth of difference.

New feature on Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae: famous quotes from Greek & Latin authors in Linear B:

We begin this new “column” with our first 6 translations of quotes from Latin authors, because it is much easier to transform Latin into Linear B, given that Latin words primarily contain a lot of consonants immediately followed by vowels, which is a prime characteristic of a syllabary such as Mycenaean Linear B. The only caveat is that Linear B words always end in a vowel, whereas Latin vocabulary, which is declined, often ends with consonants. But the oblique cases in Latin very often end with vowels, which makes it much easier to translate Latin quotations than Greek into Linear B. The only real problem other than the complete absence of terminal consonants in Linear B is that there is no L series of syllabograms (la, le, li, lo, lu) but only an R series (ra, re, ri, ro, ru), which must make do for all words in Greek or Latin which contain syllables beginning with the consonant L. Examples of quotations as illustrated here make this quite clear:

Greek and Latin quotations in Linear B Part A

The translations of each of the Latin quotes are as follows:

de rerum natura = on the nature of things
Senatus populusque Romanus = the Senate and the People of Rome
aura popularis = a popular breeze (gossip)
Causa causarum miserere mei. = May the causes of causes have mercy on me.
Cicero pro domo sua. = Cicero prefers his own home.
The Linear B translations are a pretty good match with the Latin quotations, nest-ce pas?

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.

Example of a Linear B tablet on vessels without supersyllabograms:

Knossos table KN 434 M r 01 vessels

Here you see an example of a Linear B tablet without supersyllabograms from Knossos. The text on the tablet is piecemeal and so much of it defies decipherment. So I did not bother even trying to decipher what was beyond me. For instance, the two words wapi kononipi appear nowhere in any Linear B glossary or lexicon, nor in ancient Greek. So they are probably archaic Mycenaean, and lost to us forever. Still, enough of the original text remains intact for us to make a sensible translation of it.

Rams for ritual slaughter: KN 386 A 87 & KN 387 X c 57 joins:

KN 386 & KN 387 tablet joins sacrificial rams

Here I am really digging deep into unknown waters in the decipherment of Linear B, deeper than I ever have.

These two fragments were originally one tablet. The central part is missing. This has got to be one of the most fascinating challenges I have ever encountered in the decipherment of Linear B text, since, as with all Linear B joins, it requires the decipherer to attempt to fill in the blanks, so to speak, i.e. the missing part of the original tablet, which as you can see is in an inverted V shape. If at all possible, as much the text that originally was located within that V has to be restored. Since as everyone knows who visits our blog that I am never one to skip a challenge, no matter how tough, I took it upon myself to make a serious attempt at a plausible reconstruction of at least part of the missing text, and to my satisfaction, I believe I succeeded, in the sense that I have recovered what might plausibly have been some of the original text, at least conjecturally. Any other interpretation might suffice, provided that (a) it made sense in the context of the text preserved on the two adjacent sides & (b) that the missing vocabulary was consistent with the ritual of religious sacrifice of sheep, a common practice in many civilizations of the ancient world.

Let us walk through my decipherment of the so-called missing text step by step. First of all, we have the left truncated syllabograms ... NO heading the first line of the right hand side of the original tablet (KN 387 X c 57). It is no easy matter to even make a stab at what the rest of this word could possibly have meant, or for that matter, how many syllabograms, in other words, syllables, it contained. So I had to take the only recourse available to me, and that was to ransack Chris Tselentis’ excellent Linear B Lexicon of at least 2,500 Linear B words for any word ending in NO which might possibly suit the context, keeping firmly in mind that this is the scene of a religious ceremony involving the ritual sacrifice of a ram or rams. I finally found the term which ideally suited the context, and it is temeno, which means a religious shrine or temple. It fits the context like a glove. So the likelihood that this was indeed the missing word ending with left-truncated NO is reasonably assured. On the second line of the same fragment (the right side), we have repa, the last two syllabograms or syllables of another missing word. The term which immediately leaped to mind was arepa = “cream” or “ointment”, and if that is a putative “correct” translation, it can be interpreted as meaning an  “anointing cream”. Fits the bill. The third word on the third line of the right hand side of the fragment, ending in the single syllabogram WE, was much harder to divine. It could be one of a dozen things, but I finally settled on duwowe, meaning  “a two handled vessel or urn”.  This again suits the context, but it is only one of scores of possible interpretations, all of which would have equally suited the context.  I was working on the assumption that the person making the sacrifice, presumably a priest, would have cremated the ashes of the ram(s) after the sacrifice. But this is definitely going out on a limb, since in most ancient societies, sacrificial slaughter of  sheep or rams involved killing them and then roasting them on a spit for subsequent consumption in a religious feast honouring the god” or if Hebrew, God. On the other hand, the Minoans and Mycenaeans may have (also) cremated the ashes of the sacrificed ram. If there is any researcher or archaeologist out there who visits this blog and can refute the notion of post-sacrificial cremation among the Minoans and Mycenaeans, please have at it and I shall revise my decipherment accordingly. 

Moving over to the left hand side of the join (KN 386 A 87), which contains considerably less text, we have on the second line the syllabogram QE, which by itself means “and”, but which in this case might possibly be the last syllabogram, i.e. last syllable of a Linear B word... except that scarcely any Linear B words end in QE,  and any way the syllabogram QE in this context is written huge. So I am left with no other alternative than to interpret it as I have done = “and”.  But “and” what? There you have me. I am stumped. On the next line, the third one down, we have the ideogram for “man” or “person” followed by the number 1, for “one person”, this in turn followed by the supersyllabogram SA, and then by the ideogram for “ram” and the number 1. The SSYL SA I have previously established on another tablet posted on this blog as most likely meaning sapaketeriya = “for ritual slaughter” or “for ritual sacrifice”. This too suits the context very well.  You can see the downwards pointing arrow from the ideogram for “man” to the word Towaune = “Towaunes”, presumably the name of the man, on the fourth line. His name in turn is followed by a Linear B word, which, if complete, is doke, a variation on odoke, the aorist (simple past) of the verb didomi (in Linear B), which means “to give” or “to offer”, and in this context “to offer up” (for ritual sacrifice). So now the sense is complete, except for all those single syllabograms (qe wa & po) on the left side of the join, which I can make no sense of at all. And that is a pitfall. However, within these restraints, I have been able to come up with one possible, even plausible interpretation (among God knows how many others), which you can see in translation at the bottom of the figure above.

The famous “Bulls Head” sacrificial Rhyton, Ashmolean Museum, translated:

KN 872 M o 01 libation cup and Nestor

This is one of the most well-known of all Linear B tablets. It was unearthed by Sir Arthur Evans from the debris at Knossos in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, so much of the text is missing or badly mutilated (left truncated) that it is difficult to translate it. In addition, the words “neqasapi” and “qasapi”, which are variants of one another, are to be found nowhere in Tselentis or any other Mycenaean Greek lexicon, including the most comprehensive of them all, that of L.R. Palmer in The Interpretation of Mycenaean Greek Texts (1963). However, I was able to make sense of the right side of the tablet, which fortunately is largely intact. The Bulls Head is not just a bulls head, it is a sacrificial Bulls Head rhyton, as you can see from my archaic Greek text, here transliterated into Latin characters, “rrhuton kefaleiia tauroio” = “a rhyton of the head of a bull”. There are also 3 kylixes or cups with handles, presumably made of gold. So I was able to extricate enough text to make reasonable sense of this fine tablet.

Linear B tablet KN 755 A e 01, The 14 Temple Door Guards: 
Linear B tablet KN 755 A c 01 the doorkeeper

The Mycenaean Linear B word turateu is very similar to the ancient Greek word. It is clear (at least to me) that such door guards, in this case 14 of them, would have been responsible for guarding the doors of sacred temples, such as the Hall of the Double Axes, Knossos (if it was one). I have added the genitive, temenoio, which means “of a temple” to indicate that these 14 are temple guards. Notice the double doors to the Hall of the Double Axes (double doors, double axes, probably intentional). These are the kinds of door that would have been  guarded at major ceremonies, such as for the King (wanaka) and the Queen (wanakasa).

hall of the double axes

Archaeology and Science (illustrations) No, 10 (2014) Post 2 of 2

This is the annual serial, Archaeology and Science No, 10 (2014), in which my article, “An Archaeologist’s Translation of Pylos Tablet TA 641-1952”, with translations by both Michael Ventris (1952) and Rita Roberts (2015) appear. This is the most beautiful periodical I have ever seen in my life.

I feel truly privileged to have been published in it. Look out for my second article , Archaeology and Science No, 11 (2015)




Archaeology and Science (illustrations) No, 10 (2014) Post 1 of 2

This is the annual serial, Archaeology and Science No, 10 (2014), in which my article, “An Archaeologist’s Translation of Pylos Tablet TA 641-1952”, with translations by both Michael Ventris (1952) and Rita Roberts (2015) appear. This is the most beautiful periodical I have ever seen in my life. It is 274 pp. Long. It is in hard cover, and is worth about $80. The pages are on glossy paper and illustrated in full colour. As an author, I received a complimentary copy.

Archaeology and Science 2014 Vol. 10 front cover


Archaeology and Science 2014 Vol. 10 back cover

Archaeology and Science 2014 Vol. 10 Ventris 140 full

Archaeology and Science 2014 Vol. 14 Rita Roberts pg. 141 full

Archaeology and Science 2014 Vol. 10 Rita Roberts pg 141 close


The homophone supersyllabogram AI = goat:

Kn 913 D k 01 AI Aiza

The supersyllabogram AI is the only homophone (not a regular syllabogram) which qualifies as a supersyllabogram. But it presents an unusual special case. As you can see from the Linear B text, the scribe uses the supersyllabogram for “goat” actually “billy goat” and then, strangely enough (as it would first appear, the ideogram for the same, “billy” goat, followed by the number 1. Then on the second line he uses the ideogram for “she goat”, again followed by the number 1 and by the syllabogram PA right truncated.

If all this seems a mystery to you, it is not to me. The syllabogram PA right truncated on the second line almost certainly means pasi teoi = to all the gods, which in turn implies sapaketeriya = sacrificial rites. That is precisely the reason why the scribe repeats “billy goat”, first as a supersyllabogram and then as an ideogram on line 1. This is no ordinary billy goat. And she is no ordinary she goat. This is a “sacrificial billy goat to all the gods”. The reason why the scribe does not even bother to repeat the supersyllabogram AI for “goat” on the second line is that the SSYL for “goat” on the first line includes both the billy goat and the she goat, his partner. No Linear B scribe in his right mind would ever repeat the same supersyllabogram, in this case AI, twice on the same tablet, for the simple reason that the scribes routinely omitted text (and in this case the SSYL AI on the second line) to save precious space on the tiny Linear B tablets, which rarely (like this one) exceeded 15 cm. (6 inches) in width.

This is the only possible decipherment. I am so sure of it that I would bet my life on it... well, not literally.

Translation of Pylos tablet TN 996, the famous “bathtub” tablet:

Pylos TN 996 linear-b-showing-numbers-of-bath-tubs-and-other-vessels

This was a rather difficult tablet to translate, for several reasons:
1. It is difficult to ascertain whether or not the first word on the first line is a personal name, but it certainly appears to be so.
2. Two of the words on this tablet appear to refer to some type of vessel or pottery, but they appear in no Linear B lexicon (not even Tselentis). The first is pinera in line 2 & the second pokatama in line 4.
3. Some of the words are definitely archaic Mycenaean Greek, but most of these are translatable. For instance, Linear B rewotereyo = (archaic) Greek “leuterios” in line 1 begins with an abbreviated form of the Greek word “leukos”, which means “white”  or “bright” or “light”. So I take this word to mean “a lamp-lighter”, which makes eminent sense in the context.
4. The ideogram is for “bathtub” = asamito in line 1, while the one on line 2 appears to be a variant on the same, but it may mean a “large watering can” to pour warm or hot water into the bathtub.
5. See the comment on po? in the illustration above. The translation “octopi”, meaning “decorated with octopi”, appears solid enough, especially in line 3 where it is paired with the word for “jug”. The translation is less tenable in line 4, where it is paired with “an oil lamp”.

Linear B tablet Kn 535 R x 41 tosa tarasia = so much copper:


This tablet presents certain difficulties in decipherment. The most notable of these is that we cannot be certain whether or not Neirimia or Sarimia (depending on whether the damaged first syllabogram of this word is NI or SA) is actually a presumed name. There is no other way I can imagine translating it, given that this word (either way) appears in no Linear B Lexicon, which cannot come as any surprise. Moreover, this is a feminine name (either way). That being the case, I am not quite sure that a woman would be in possession of so much copper in Mycenaean times. However, we must always bear in mind that their society was matriarchal; hence, there is no reason why a woman should not have had possession of plenty of copper. On another vial note, tarasia can never be translated as “talent”, that huge denomination of money in Classical Athens, firstly because there was no coinage (no money) in Mycenaean Greece, and secondly because it is apparent that the term talent as a huge sum of money only much later emerged (probably ca. 700-600 BCE) from its archaic Mycenaean sense of  “a unit of copper”.

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. - Apollo's Raven - Apollo's Raven

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