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Secondary School Graduation Diploma in Mycenaean Linear B for Mrs. Rita Roberts, Crete: Click to ENLARGE.

Quotations from The Rôle of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B, Presentation at the Conference, Thinking Symbols, Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, Pultusk, Poland, June 30-July 2, 2015: Part A

Alan Turing

Alan Turing (1923-1954), a world-famous mathematical genius and cryptologist, was head of the team at Bletchley Park in England, which deciphered what was considered at the time to be the uncrackable Enigma Code that German Intelligence used throughout the Second World War for their secret military missions and operations, eventually all to no avail. It is he who said, “Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine.”
... let’s get straight to the point, and look at Slide A, which dramatically illustrates the universal rôle symbols play on physical signs, otherwise known as signage, in our hectic world today.

Slide omitted, to be displayed at the Conference only

Now you will notice that the international standard signage symbols we all my must rely on every day of our lives are of two kinds, (a) nominal (N), meaning symbols which replace the names of places, otherwise known as toponyms, which usually offer us static information & (b) verbal or kinetic (V), which replace actions we must take if we are to avoid unpleasant or disastrous consequences. Here on Slide A we see examples of both static and kinetic symbols or ideograms.

... we need to define in broad terms what a syllabary is, given that all of the signs on this tablet are syllabograms, so that we can interpret the Mycenaean city & settlement codes. This clears the way for a basic understanding of how syllabograms function. Like a script or signary based on ideograms, such as Egyptian hieroglyphics or Chinese ideograms, generally an earlier development than itself, a syllabary is a signary based on syllabograms, each of which consists of a single consonant + a single vowel up to a maximum of 5 vowels in a discrete series, as we see illustrated here in Slide J.

Slide omitted, to be displayed at the Conference only

Mycenaean Linear B, like its immediate predecessor, Minoan Linear A, has a D series, da, de, di, do & du; an N series, na, ne, ni, no & nu, and so on. Some syllabogram series are incomplete, for instance, the W series, wa, we, wi & wo, with four syllabograms & the Z series, za, ze & zo, consisting of three in Linear B. Minoan Linear A and the two archaic Greek pre-alphabetic syllabaries, Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C also have syllabograms for each of the 5 vowels. We can see now that a syllabary is generally considered to be the intermediate stage between even more ancient scripts such as Egyptian hieroglyphics on the one hand, and the later Greek alphabet on the other, in so far as it contains both consonant + vowel sequences and the minimal set of 5 vowels, just as all alphabets do right on up from the various avatars of the ancient Greek alphabet to the Cyrillic for many Slavic languages, such as Russian and Ukrainian to the Latin alphabet, from which almost all modern Occidental alphabets are derived. Click to ENLARGE 

hieroglyphics linear b alphabet

Secondary School Graduation Diploma in Mycenaean Linear B for Mrs. Rita Roberts, Crete: Click to ENLARGE

Secondary School Diploma Mycenaean Linear B Rita Roberts

It is my pleasure and honour to announce that Mrs. Rita Roberts, having satisfied all the scholarly requirements which qualify her for a Secondary School Graduation Diploma in Mycenaean Linear B, including mastery of:

1. the entire Linear B Syllabary, Homophones & Ideograms
2. translation of at least 25 Linear B tablets of intermediate to intermediate advanced level
3. her all-new, excellent translation of Pylos Tablet PY 1952 (Ventris)
4. mastery of all of the major supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B and with all the credits deemed necessary to proceed to the University Level of Mycenaean Linear B

is hereby granted her Secondary School Graduation Diploma with all its attendant rights and privileges.


Richard Vallance Janke,
H.B.A. 1968 (Sir Wilfred Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada)
M.L.S. 1975 (The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada)


This is a fantastic article, especially for the Association for Historical Studies, Koryvantes!

Originally posted on Delving into History _ Periklis Deligiannis:

By  Periklis    DeligiannisMycen weapons

A  museum  collection  of  Mycenaean  bronze  weapons.  It  includes  swords  (in  Linear  B:  qi-si-poξίφος),  some  of  them  called  ‘phasgana’  (pa-ka-na,  φάσγανα),  daggers,  spearheads,  arrowheads  etc.

The  archaeological  evidence  and  the  descriptions  of  the  Homeric  Epics  (ignoring  the  symbolic  divine  interventions  and  some  obvious  Later  Geometric  elements)  are  the  main  sources  regarding  the  Mycenaean  warfare.  In  the  Greco-Roman  world,  the  Homeric  epics  were  considered  fundamental  writings  on  the  study  of  the  art  of  war.  Especially  the  Mycenaean/Achaean  palatial  tablets  from  Pylos,  Knossos  and  Mycenae,  provide  valuable  information  about  the  military  hierarchy,  organization  and  equipment.  These  tablets  contain  public  records  compiled  by  the  “bureaucrats”  of  each  palace,  and  reveal  that  the  military  organization  and  the  maintenance  of  the  heavier  military  equipment  were  controlled  by  the  state.  The  Mycenaean/Achaean  nobles  were  obliged  to  provide  military  equipment  and  services.  The …

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Although this post is about early Arab Muslim warfare, their armour is very similar to Mycenaean armour. Richard

Originally posted on Delving into History _ Periklis Deligiannis:


The war council of the Muslims before the battle of Badr (624) in a Persian picture of 1314. The Arabs are correctly depicted as nomadic light cavalry, armed with spears, swords and almost no armor.


islam expansionMain battles and raids during Islam’s expansion under Muhammad (copyright: Blue Marble maps LLC).
By Periklis Deligiannis



The subjugation of powerful Mecca to the Muslim state impressed the northern Arab tribes, and thereby many of them embraced Islam. Those tribes who did not accept the new faith marched against Muhammad, who confronted them in the battle of Hunayn (630). Although a part of his army was defeated and dissolved, he and his veterans managed to repel their opponents, eventually reversing the situation in favor of the Muslim army and finally defeating the enemy. The Muslim state was extended to Yemen and the shores of the Persian…

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THE EARLY MUSLIM ARABS (Part II): Origins, Unification and Warfare.

Associative versus Attributed Supersyllabograms Illustrated in Mycenaean Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

Illustration of Associative versus Attributive Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B

This is Slide H of my lecture, “The Rôle of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B ” I shall be giving at the Conference, “Thinking Symbols” at the Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, associated with the University of Warsaw, Poland, between June 30 & July 2, 2015. It clearly illustrates the marked difference between an associative (as) and an attributive supersyllabogram (at).

Associative Supersyllabograms:

Associative SSYLs relate to physical objects or items, places, specific locations & geographic identifiers which are independent of the ideograms they are associated with, and which do not define them in any way, except as additional information relative to the latter. A sheep is still a sheep, a horse is still a horse & an ox is still an ox, even when it has no associative supersyllabogram modifying it. However, associative SSYLS are extremely informative, since they always circumscribe the circumstances in which the ideograms, almost always animate and animal, find themselves placed. As such, associative SSYLS (as) replace whole words and even entire phrases, which offer us a great deal more insight into the ideogram involved than would have been supplied by the ideogram alone. There is a huge difference between the ideogram for “sheep” or “ram” all on its own, and the same ideograms accompanied by an associative supersyllabogram. For instance, in this illustration, the SSYL (as) KI informs us that “the ram is on a plot of land”.  That is an entire sentence in English symbolized by the SSYL (as) KI + the ideogram for “ram” (only two characters!). The SSYL (as) O + “sheep” is even more informative, telling us that “the sheep is on a lease field.” and even “the sheep is on a usufruct lease field.” Not only that, the scribes frequently combined two or more SSYLs (as), such as KI & O with an ideogram, usually for “ram”, “ewe” or “sheep”, replacing a very long sentence in both Mycenaean Linear B and in English (or any other target language into which the source – Mycenaean Greek – is translated). Thus, the SSYLs (as) KI + O + the ideogram for “ewe + the number 114 mean no less than,114 ewes on a plot of land which is a usufruct lease field”.

Associative supersyllabograms proliferate in the agricultural sector of the Mycenaean economy, and are also characteristic of the military sector. Associative SSYLS are not symbiotic.

Talk about a shortcut! Of course, many of us already know by now that the Mycenaean scribes frequently resorted to this clever stratagem to save plenty of space on what are, after all, very small tablets, rarely more than 30 cm. wide by 15 cm. deep, and usually much smaller.

Attributive Supersyllabograms:  

On the other hand, attributive SSYLs (at) always modify the the sense of ideograms on which they simultaneously depend as the ideograms themselves depend on them through the attributive qualities they assign to the latter. In other words, the relationship between the attributive supersyllabogram and the ideogram which it modifies is both symbiotic and auto-determinative. The plain ideogram for “cloth” has nothing inside it. But when the ideogram for “cloth” is assigned an attribute (usually defined as an adjectival modifier) that ideogram contains inside itself the supersyllabogram which unequivocally modifies its meaning. Thus, the ideogram for “cloth” with the SSYL NE inside it can mean one thing and one thing only, “new cloth”. Likewise, the SYL PU inside the ideogram for “cloth” can only mean “purple cloth”, and nothing else. Similarly, the SSYL TE inside the same ideogram has the specific meaning, “well-prepared cloth” or “finished cloth prepared for market or sale”. Thus, all attributive supersyllabograms modify the unqualified meaning of the simple syllabogram for “cloth” in the textile sector, while similar SSYLS in other sectors, especially the vessels, pottery & vases sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy operate in the exact same fashion. Associative supersyllabograms proliferate in these two sectors. 



Review of the Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary for General Users & for Researchers in Mycenaean Linear B.

Review of the Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary for General Users & for Researchers in Mycenaean Linear B: Click cover to order


Morwood, James & Taylor, John, eds. Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary. Oxford, New York etc.: Oxford University Press, © 2002. xii, 449 pp. ISBN 13:978-0-19-860512-6

I just bought the Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary yesterday, and I can tell you I am fairly pleased with it. It has its drawbacks. The most notable of these is found in the paucity of vocabulary in the English-Greek section, pp. 357-431, which contains only about 5,000 words. Such a lexicon is probably more than adequate for beginners in ancient Greek, at whom this dictionary appears to be mainly aimed, though I cannot say that for sure. On the other hand, the English-Greek section is prefaced with a glossary of proper names, pp. 357-365, which is quite useful to Graecophiles, whether they be beginners or not. The pronunciation guide for the ancient Greek alphabet, pp. ix-xii, is the one of the best I have ever encountered, as it takes into consideration not only Classical Attic, but also early Homeric pronunciation. This feature has real implications for theoretical considerations, as well as practical applications of pronunciation, for not only the Mycenaean Linear B syllabary, but the Arcado-Cypriot syllabary as well, as you shall soon discover for yourselves on upcoming posts on our blog relevant to Mycenaean Linear B and Arcado-Cypriot orthography, considerations that have to date been largely overlooked by linguists, translators and researchers in the field of the archaic Greek dialects, Mycenaean and Arcado-Cypriot. 

The dictionary also features an appendix of Numerals (pp. 433-435), although it is very basic, as well as appendix of the elementary conjugational paradigms for the “Top 101 irregular verbs ” (pp. 436-447), as arbitrary yet as eminently useful as any other so-called basic table of the top ancient Greek verbs. While persons at the intermediate or advanced level in ancient Greek will find this table inadequate, it is more than adequate for beginners. The dictionary also has a generic map of ancient Greece on pp. 448 & 449, which once again serves its purpose well enough for beginners, but is less than adequate for persons more familiar with ancient Greek. This, however, is understandable for an introductory dictionary for ancient Greek, which we can be sure is all it claims to be, especially in light of the fact that Oxford University Press has had the prescience to co-publish both An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon and an Abridged Greek-English Lexicon, the latter presumably aimed at scholars proficient in ancient Greek. I look forward to reviewing the latter two dictionaries later on, once I have come up with the resources to purchase them.

Of course, this dictionary also has its strengths, which the editors were careful to make the most of. These are:

(1) The Greek-English section, the first in the dictionary, is much more comprehensive than the English-Greek, containing far in excess of 5,000 words and phrases. The editors have even taken into account early Homeric Greek vocabulary to complement the Classical Attic. While the entries in the Greek-English section are not as heavily annotated as they otherwise are in an advanced ancient Greek dictionary such as the Greek-English Lexicon, by Liddell & Scott (1986), I would argue that too much lexical, grammatical and etymological information would amount to nothing less than overkill in a basic ancient Greek dictionary such as this one. Aficionados with advanced knowledge of ancient Greek, being perfectly aware of this, always have recourse to more sophisticated tools for translation and research, including Liddell and Scott, as well as the numerous online lexical resources available at the Perseus Catalog, here:

perseus catalog
(2a) The font is quite large and eminently readable. This is an extremely important consideration in the compilation of any Greek dictionary, ancient or modern, given that Greek accents (acute, grave & circumflex) and especially the initial breathings, soft or unaspirated () and aspirated (), as well as the numerous compound accents, are so annoyingly difficult to see in small font. The editors of this dictionary are to be congratulated for having the foresight to realize this. If there is anything I cannot stand, it is the use of fonts which are too small to adequately display (ancient) Greek accents. Sadly, most editors of ancient Greek dictionaries and lexicons blithely ignore this most paramount of considerations in the format and presentation of entries. Even the eminently renowned Greek-English Lexicon (1986) by Liddell and Scott, the very last Greek dictionary which should be guilty of this practice, makes use of a font far too small for readers to easily read accents, even those with good reading vision. To my mind, this falls just short of being unforgivable, unless the editors of any such dictionary or lexicon passed over the issue of adequate font size by sheer oversight – something I find quite difficult to swallow. So a word to the wise. If the editors of an inexpensive paperback dictionary could make a real effort to make certain the entries would be readable off the top, why wouldn’t – or shall we say, shouldn’t – the editors of top-end hard-cover dictionaries and lexicons take the same trouble? This is even more obvious when the publisher of the inexpensive editions is the same one as the one for the expensive, hard-bound ones – by which I mean Oxford University Press, in this particular instance.

(2b) In the Greek-English section, the Greek entries are in bold, set in Greek 486 Polytonic, while in the English-Greek section the English entries are in Monotype Arial bold, so that they stand out very clearly on the page. Once again, kudos to the editors.

(3) Likewise, the layout of the entries, at 1.5 line spacing, in both the Greek-English and the English-Greek sections is very attractive. 

(4) Throughout the dictionary, the alphabetical entries are flagged with gray tags running vertically down the page, from left to right from alpha to omega in the Greek-English section, and from a to z in the English-Greek. Once again, a big plus.

To summarize, this Greek-English, English-Greek dictionary of ancient Greek, in its physical layout and format, including all font formatting, is very pleasing to the eyes, hence, much easier to consult than practically any other ancient Greek dictionary I have ever encountered in print. The English-Greek section is woefully inadequate for anything but the most basic of ancient Greek vocabulary, so that even beginners are bound to outstrip its usefulness very quickly.

On the other hand, the Greek-English section is more than sufficient for the needs of beginners, and adequate for those scholars at the intermediate level in ancient Greek studies and literature. Given its reasonable price, $17.95 USD, I would recommend it for students who are also beginners in Mycenaean Linear B or Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, given the very restricted lexical base of both these archaic Greek dialects. On the other hand, it is readily apparent that this dictionary alone cannot possibly serve as the sole resource for researchers in Mycenaean and Arcado-Cypriot Greek. It must be complemented by other resources, such as:
1. Chris Tselentis’ thorough Lexicon of Linear B, available free online in PDF.
2. Chadwick, John. The Decipherment of Linear B (second edition). Cambridge University Press, © 1970 x, 164 pp.
3. Palmer, R.L. & Chadwick, John, eds. The Proceedings of the Cambridge Colloquium on Mycenaean Studies. Cambridge University Press, © 1966. 309 (310) pp. First paperback edition, © 2011. ISBN 978-1-107-40246-1 (pbk.)
4. A Companion to Linear B: Mycenaean Greek Texts and their World. Volume 3. Peeters: Louvain-La-Neuve: Bibliothèque des cahiers de l’institut de linguistique de Louvain. © 2014. 292+ pp. ISBN 978-2-7584-0192-6 (France)   

I leave aside any comparison with online dictionaries and lexicons in the same class, preferring not to compare apples with oranges.

Overall Rating: 3.75/5

Richard Vallance Janke
April 2015

A Lovely Ode to the Archangel Michael in Mycenaean Linear B: Click to ENLARGE.

Ode to the Archangel Michael = Ode à l’Archange Michel (translated from Mycenaean Linear B = traduit du grec mycénien ).

Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, near Warsaw, Poland.

Mycenaean Greece & Linear B, our NEW Circle on Google +.

Mycenaean Greece & Linear B, our NEW Circle on Google + Click to VISIT & Join:

Mycenaean Greece & Linear B Google +

Welcome to Mycenaean Greece & Linear B, our new Circle on Google +, and the only one of its kind. We shall be posting a great many Linear B tablets, photos, illustrations, tables, charts, graphics, etc. here so you will not want to miss our great new Google + Circle, and I suspect that many of you will certainly want to join. We shall also be posting information, photos and the like on Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, The Catalogue of Ships in Book II of the Iliad by Homer, ancient East Greek dialects (Mycenaean, Arcado-Cypriot, Aeolic, Ionic & Attic), and any other information we deem  relevant.

So if you are at all interested in these areas of interest and research into ancient Greek studies, linguistic or otherwise, and ancient Greece itself, you will probably want to join our circle.




Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, near Warsaw, Poland.

Ode to the Archangel Michael = Ode à l’Archange Michel: Click to ENLARGE = Cliquer pour ÉLARGIR :

Ode to the Archangel Michael a l-archange Michel

As far as I am concerned, the French version of the original Ode in Mycenaean Greek is more successful and more convincing than the English.

Franchement et à mon avis, la traduction du texte intégral de l’Ode en grec mycénien est plus réussi, donc plus convaincant que celle en anglais.     


A Lovely Ode to the Archangel Michael in Mycenaean Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

Ode to the Archangel Michael Akero Mikero in Mycenaean Linear B

NOTE that the English & French translations of my Ode to the Archangel Michael appear in the next post. Have you ever wondered what Mycenaean Linear B poetry would have sounded like? I know I have, many times over. I invite you to simply read aloud the Latinized version of the Ode in Mycenaean Linear B, even if you do not understand it. The point is to enjoy the music of the poetry, not to worry about your pronunciation or your accent. Nobody really knows how any ancient Greek dialect sounded anyway.

Here a few hints on how to bring out the music in the Mycenaean Greek.

1. Whenever you see the ending, oyo (genitive singular), pronounce it like “oiyo”, but in a single breath. It will sing that way.
2. If you put a little stress on the second-last syllable (penultimate) of words such as “peDIra ”“euZOno” “doSOmo” & “paraDEso”, this will also assist the melody of the poem.
3. Be sure to pronounce all “u”s & “eu”s (euzono) as you would “u” in French, if you can.
4. The disposition of the phrase “para paradeso para meso”  is very peculiar for Greek poetry... “meso ” should be on the same line as the previous words. But I did this deliberately, again for melodic reason. If you read this phrase like this, “PAra paraDEso PAra MEso”, it should sound very nice.
5. The word “mana” (“manna” in English) is obviously not Mycenaean, and not even Greek. It is Hebrew. But I could take liberties introducing this word into a Christian poem. So I did.
6. Recite “pamako atanatoyo” (medicine of the immortal...) like this “PAmako aTAnaTOyo”...

So long as you are consistent and satisfied with how it sounds to you, that is all you need. Yes, and do read it aloud. Otherwise, you will not benefit from hearing the music and the harmony of the Mycenaean Greek, which is after all the earliest of the ancient East Greek dialects, the great-great-grandfather of dialects such as the Ionic & Attic. Besides, you can always allow yourself the pleasure of admiring the pretty Linear B script, however weird it may look to you at first. Just give it a chance.

Being a poet of sorts myself, I decided to write this lyric ode, somewhat along the lines of Sappho (although I cannot even remotely claim a foothold on her astonishing lyrical powers!) It is by no means inconceivable that poetry may very well have been composed in the Mycenaean era, ca. 1450 – 1200 BCE. Simply because we do not have any evidence at all of such activity does not mean that the Minoan/Mycenaean scribes never wrote any poetry at all. The problem lies not with the non-survival of any Mycenaean poetry, but with the impossibility of conserving anything written on papyrus in a humid environment, such as that of Minoan Crete and of Mycenae.

It is indeed fortunate, fortuitous and a great asset to us today that so many Egyptian papyri have been preserved intact since a distant period equal to that of the Mycenaean civilization at its apogee. Call it what you like, the extremely arid sand of Egypt was far far more favourable to the survival of ancient papyrus than the moist climate of Mycenaean Crete and the Mycenaean mainland. That is the real reason why we have no extant literature from their great civilization. But given the astonishing levels their civilization reached in so many areas, in art, architecture, fresco painting, the textile industry, crafts of all kinds, international commerce and even science, it strikes me as passingly strange that no literature of any kind survives, apart from the thousands of Linear B inventory, accounting and ritual tablets, which can hardly be called literature in any sense of the word.

There are those who contend that in fact the Catalogue of Ships in Book II of the Iliad was derived from an earlier Mycenaean epic poem, no doubt in a much simpler and more earthy guise, stripped of much of the telling Homeric metaphorical language which is his hallmark even in the Catalogue of Ships. You can count me among these. For this reason, it strikes me as a distinct possibility that, if the Mycenaeans were able to tackle even a mini-epic poem, even if it were a much shorter, stripped down version of its descendant (if ever there was) of the Catalogue of Ships in the Iliad, they surely would have been up to the task of composing considerably shorter poems along the lines of this one you see posted here. Of course, they would never have written about angels and archangels. But that is beside the point. Simply by successfully composing this lyric poem, I believe I have demonstrated that such poetry was, at least conceivably, within the grasp of soi-disant Mycenaean bards. We shall never know, but it is well worth the speculation.

A comment on the phrase epi pedira euzona. As a preposition, epi should take the dative. But here I have used the accusative plural. My reason is this: in archaic Greek, prepositions were less common than adverbs, and in many cases, what we would recognize as a preposition in classical, say, Attic Greek, could very well have been an adverb in Mycenaean Greek. This is how it should be read in this context... pedira euzona is thus to be seen as accusative of aspect or aspectual accusative, reading literally something like this:

with his feet on them...    

I welcome comments on any aspect, as suggested above or otherwise, of my stab at composing a lyric poem in Mycenaean Linear B, Christian though it be.

English and French versions to follow in the next post.


Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, near Warsaw, Poland: Click to ENLARGE

Pultusk Academy and logo
This is the venue where I shall be giving my lecture on The Rôle of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B between June 30 & July 2 2015. I am ready and raring to go!


Our Google + Page for Mycenaean Linear B is finally up to date: Click here to VISIT

Google + Linear B

I have finally managed to update and revise my Google + page to reflect the current status of my research into Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C. I shall be posting a great many new pictures, photos etc. on Linear B & C, including translations of several Linear B tablets from Knossos, Pylos, Thebes (Greece) and elsewhere, posts on the application of the theory of Regressive-Progressive Linear B grammar and the reconstruction of Mycenaean Greek grammar from this base, posts on Minoan and Mycenaean society and civilization & finally, posts on my Theory of Supersyllabograms and their practical application in Mycenaean Linear B.

If you are following this blog, but not yet following me on Google +, I hope you will consider doing so (see link above). I personally find Google + to be a clumsy framework for posting information, but it is better than nothing, and far better than anything so ghastly as Facebook. That being said, I continue to rely primarily on my Twitter account, given that it is growing rapidly, with 885 followers as of today (that is 25 more than 10 days ago!). If you are not yet following me on Twitter, you probably should, as I have over 13K posts already on Twitter. To follow me, click here:

Twitter 27032015


Thinking Symbols”, Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, University of Warsaw (June 30-July 2 2015):

Thinking Symbols Koryvantes 640

Table of All 32 Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B for my Presentation at the Conference: Click to ENLARGE

Table of SSYLS in Mycenaean Linear B

As of spring 2015, I have discovered, isolated and classified a total of 32 supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B, having found no new ones since autumn 2014. Let us review supersyllabograms, what they are, the 2 different types & how they are classified & sub-classified.

What Supersyllabograms are:

In Mycenaean Linear B, a supersyllabogram is almost always the first syllabogram only, in other words, the first syllable only of a Mycenaean Greek word or phrase. There are only three (3) exceptions to this operative principle. The 32 supersyllabograms account for more than 50 % of all syllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B. That this is a very significant subset of this discrete set of syllabograms goes without saying.  

The 2 types of Supersyllabograms:

There are only two types of supersyllabograms:

(1) Independent supersyllabograms (i):

An independent supersyllabogram is one which stands alone, all by itself, on any Linear B tablet. There is just the one syllabogram, with nothing preceding or following it, except whenever several of them appear in a series, as on Linear B tablet Heidelburg HE Fl 1994. And even then, strictly speaking, they still stand alone, each one being a discrete entity naming only one thing, a city or settlement name. 

Most independent supersyllabograms were deciphered,

(a) first by Prof. John Chadwick, who deciphered the syllabograms NI = suko (figs) & SA = rino (flax), and the homophone RAI = kanako (crocus or saffron) in his ground-breaking book, The Decipherment of Linear B (1959,1970), in which he divulged to the world the arduous road over several years to the decipherment of Linear B in 1952 by the brilliant cryptographer, Michael Ventris.

It is essential to realize that these three independent supersyllabograms alone are the only ones for which the single syllabogram symbolizing the Mycenaean Greek word they each replace is not the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of that word, as we can clearly see with NI, SA & RAI. This being the case, the remaining 29 supersyllabograms of a total of 32 are, by default, the first syllabogram of the Mycenaean word or phrase each of them represents.

(b) The second person to identify independent supersyllabograms was Prof. Thomas G. Palaima, in his superb translation of Heidelburg tablet HE Fl 1994, here:

Heidelburg HE Fl 1994 800

In this case, all 5 of the independent supersyllabograms, KO, ZA, PA, PU & MU are the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of a Minoan or Mycenaean city or settlement name. While these 5 independent SSYLS appear in sequence, each one should and must be interpreted as standing alone in its own right.

There are thus a total of 3 + 5 = 8 independent supersyllabograms (i). However, it is absolutely essential to understand that some of these 8 SSYLS are also dependent (d).

I am obliged to point out that neither John Chadwick nor Thomas G. Palaima recognized or identified these 8 supersyllabograms as such, since after all, one of them (Chadwick) discovered only 3 syllabograms which fit this description, while the other (Palaima) hit upon only 5 more. In retrospect, we have to be honest with ourselves and admit that it would be unrealistic, if not downright disingenuous, to expect them to have isolated supersyllabograms in the first place, given that they only just happened to stumble upon these 8, all of which are independent SSYLS, and none of which fit into the default paradigm of the rest of the supersyllabograms, all of which are dependent (d). In a word, neither of them could conceivably have even identified a phenomenon one could call the supersyllabogram, because they did not find any others. And it was the others, of which there are so many, that were, as we say, the real McCoy.

(2) Dependent supersyllabograms(d):

A dependent supersyllabogram (d) is one which always appears as a single syllabogram, but which is also always immediately adjacent to (da) or inside (di) an ideogram. It is the dependent supersyllabogram I discovered early 2014, and which has given true meaning to the term as I have come to define it. The basic formula for the layout of the dependent supersyllabogram on any Linear B tablet is:

SSYLa (left) + ideogram (right) -or-
ideogram (left)+ SSYLb (right) -or-
SSYLc on top of an ideogram -or-
SSYLd under an ideogram -or-
SSYLe inside an ideogram.

If there is only one (1) dependent supersyllabogram (d) adjacent to only one (1) ideogram, that ideogram, upon which that SSYL depends, determines the exact meaning of the SSYL. Change the ideogram, change the meaning. In other words, the meanings of all dependent supersyllabograms (d) are determined by the specific ideogram to which they are adjacent. The meaning of any adjacent dependent SSYL must therefore be strictly contextual (dc).     

More than one dependent supersyllabogram can be adjacent to one or more ideograms, and in any order. However, the order in which the SSYLS & the ideograms appear together is never random. It is always structurally contextual. Change the order, change the meaning.

Sub-classification of Dependent Supersyllabograms:

Dependent supersyllabograms are sub-classified as either associative (as) or attributive (at).

(1) Associative dependent supersyllabograms (as) are those which are immediately adjacent to the ideograms upon which they depend. An associative SSYL is one which informs of us of some external element, for instance, the factor of land tenure relating to the ideogram itself, or one which circumscribes its environment, especially in the livestock raising sub-sector of the agricultural sector. For instance, in the Table of All 32 Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B above, the supersyllabogram O adjacent to the ideogram for sheep + the number of sheep accounted for in the inventory of any particular tablet, informs us that the sheep are being raised on a lease(d) field, more specifically a usufruct lease field (i.e. a lease field which a farmer tenant cultivates for the use of his own family and village neighbours, with a taxation imposed by the overseer). In other words, the supersyllabogram O = onato (lease field) is associated with the raising of x no. of sheep.

(2) Attributive dependent supersyllabograms (at) always appear inside the ideogram which they qualify, never adjacent to it. They always describe an actual attribute (usually known as an adjectival function) of the ideogram. For instance, the syllabogram PO inside the ideogram for “cloth” is the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of the Mycenaean word ponikiya = “purple”, hence the phrase = “purple cloth”.  Likewise the syllabogram TE, when it appears inside the ideogram for “cloth” is the supersyllabogram for the Mycenaean word tetukuwoa, which means “well prepared” or if you like, “well spun”. Hence, the syllabogram TE inside the ideogram for cloth must mean one thing and one thing only, “well-prepared cloth”. I have discovered, identified & classified well over a dozen examples of associative supersyllabograms.

The first person to identify and correctly translate two of the most frequently occurring supersyllabograms was Chris Tselentis, who deciphered the two SSYLS ZE & MO on Knossos Tablet KN So 4439, in the appendix TEXTS of Linear B tablets of his excellent Linear B Lexicon. On this tablet, which is strictly military, these syllabograms each appear immediately adjacent to the ideogram for chariot wheel, ZE appearing after the ideogram, and MO before it. It was obvious to Chris Tselentis that, in the military context of this tablet, the syllabogram ZE could mean one thing and one thing only, “a pair of (wheels)”, while MO could only mean “a single wheel”. And he was bang on. Unfortunately, he had his hands full just compiling his comprehensive Lexicon, and so he never got around to a thorough examination of a large enough statistically significant cross-section of Linear B tablets, to ascertain whether there were any more like this one.

But there were – plenty more, in fact some 700 of 3,000 Linear B tablets I meticulously poured through from the corpus at Knossos. If it weren’t for Chris Tselentis in particular, or for John Chadwick and Thomas G. Palaima before him, I would never have followed my intuition to ferret out more examples of the same phenomena, only to be so richly rewarded for taking this decisive step in the first place in the winter of 2014. There was no guarantee that anything concrete would come out of my year-long investigations. But it did, to say the very least. The ultimate result of my painstaking search through 3,000 tablets from Knossos, and the meticulous research which ensued were to pay off in droves. The Table you see above is the true fulfillment of a hard-won struggle.     

To read a detailed account of the function of dependent supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B, please refer to this post:

Associative Versus Attributive



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