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Rita Robert's translation of Knossos tablet KN 1540 O k 01 (xc) “so many swords” Click to ENLARGE: As is usual with Mrs. Roberts, she once again finesses another translation of the many military-related tablets in the Knossos armoury. She has chosen military affairs as her primary area of interest in her first year of university studies. She certainly has her hands full, as there are scores of tablets from Knossos focusing on this sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy. What intrigues me most is her marked ability to home in on the most significant details of the tablets in this particular series, as in fact she does with any tablets she translates, regardless of sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy. She notes for instance that: (a) The scribe is actually tallying the “total” number of swords. That is what the formulaic phrase “so many” boils down to on all Linear B tablets which give totals, regardless of provenance (Knossos, Pylos etc.) (b) Only the totals for the number of swords on each one of the tablets running in a straight series vary. The text does not. It is fossilized, i.e. formulaic to the extreme. (c) As Rita herself pointed out to my during one of our chats on Skype, the phrasing on every single one of these tablets is formulaic, down to the last word (totals only varying). This finding is extremely significant where it comes to the translation of tablets in Mycenaean Greek, regardless of time frame (i.e. ca. 1450 BCE at Knossos or ca. 1300-1200 BCE at Pylos, Mycenae etc.) (d) Extrapolating these findings to practically all tablets in Linear B, we discover, not to our surprise, that formulaic phrasing is the established scribal practice, regardless of the sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy with which they are concerned and regardless of provenance (Knossos, Pylos etc.) (e) This finding can hardly be surprising to us or anyone who stops to think about it, given that inventories, ancient and modern, are always standardized and always formulaic. As we document each of Rita's translations of the tablets in this series, we shall soon enough realize that the formulaic standards imposed by the scribal guilds are universal, once again regardless of economic sector or provenance. This is one of the most salient key characteristics of tablets in Linear B, and I strongly suspect of the tablets in Minoan Linear A before them... which leads me to my next observation, namely, that the formulaic practice also likely underlying all such tablets in Minoan Linear A as well may be a crack, however small, in the doorway opening up to at least a partial decipherment of the Minoan language. Richard
THIS you just have to read, my friends, mes amis!
A breakthrough in the decipherment of Minoan Linear A? Is puko the word for a tripod in Linear A? This is my latest published paper on academia .edu. If you wish to read it in its entirety, you may download it here: It is one of three (3) papers which I am having published this year, the other two being: 1. An Archaeologist’s translation of Pylos Tablet TA 641-1952 (Ventris), with an introduction to supersyllabograms in the vessels & pottery Sector in Mycenaean Linear B, shortly to appear in the peer-reviewed European archaeological journal, Archaeology and Science / Arheologija I Prirodne Nauke (Belgrade) ISSN 1452-7448 for which you can read submission guidelines and examples of articles in this PDF file: Click on the link below to read it Archaeology and Science guidelines & for which the following information is now available: ABSTRACT In partnership with The Association of Historical Studies, Koryvantes (Athens), our organization, Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae (WordPress), conducts ongoing research into Mycenaean archaeology and military affairs and the Mycenaean Greek dialect. This study centres on a fresh new decipherment of Pylos tablet TA 641-1952 (Ventris) by Mrs. Rita Roberts from Crete, who brings to bear the unique perspectives of an archaeologist on her translation, in all probability the most accurate realized to date. We then introduce the newly minted term in Mycenaean Linear B, the supersyllabogram, being the first syllabogram or first syllable of any word or entire phrase in Linear B. Supersyllabograms have been erroneously referred to as “adjuncts” in previous linguistic research into Mycenaean Linear B. This article demonstrates that their functionality significantly exceeds such limitations, and that the supersyllabogram must be fully accounted for as a unique and discrete phenomenon without which any approach to the interpretation of the Linear B syllabary is at best incomplete, and at worse, severely handicapped. Keywords: Mycenaean Linear B, syllabograms, logograms, ideograms, supersyllabograms, adjuncts, Linear B tablets, Pylos, Pylos TA 641-1952 (Ventris), decipherment, translation, pottery, vessels, tripods, cauldrons, amphorae, kylixes, cups, goblets & 2. The Rôle of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B Presentation by Richard Vallance Janke at the Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, Pultusk, Poland, July 1 2015, TBP (to be published) late 201r or early in 2016. Richard
2 Haiku in Mycenaean Linear B, archaic Greek, English & French on the Mycenaean invasion of Troy: Click to ENLARGE = 2 haïkou en linéaire B, en grec archaïque, en anglais et en français sur l’nvasion mycénienne de Troie: Cliquer pour ELARGIR The latinized Linear B texts of these haiku read as follows: soteria * aneu Akireyo mene Toroya Omero Toroyade peree * Note that the archaic dative termination -i- does not appear in Mycenaean Greek.
PART D: Cross-correlation of the surcharged syllabograms on Linear B tablet Pylos TA 641-1952 (Ventris) with those on Linear A tablets HT 31 and another in the Ay Nikolaus Museum, Greece: Given that the premise affirming it is possible and even feasible to cross-correlate the incidence of syllabograms incharged, surcharged or supercharged on ideograms for pottery and vessels in Mycenaean Linear B with the same phenomena in Minoan Linear A — and I believe it is — I see no reason why we cannot take this procedure a step further. Linear A tablet HT 31 supports words identifying vessels either (a) immediately to the left of and immediately adjacent to their ideograms or (b) supercharged or surcharged on the ideograms with which they are associated. On the other hand, the Linear A tablet in the Ay Nikolaus Museum, Greece, is inscribed only with ideograms for vessels incharged with supersyllabograms, with no accompanying explanatory text. It is not only possible but entirely feasible to cross-correlate the syllabograms and ideograms on these two, not just with those for vessels on Pylos TA 641-1952 (Ventris) but also with each other. The case for the second approach may well prove to be as convincing as that for the first. Boiling it all down to the essentials, we seriously need to ask ourselves the crucial question whether or not either of the elements (syllabograms and ideograms) on each and every one of the tablets we have under discussion (Pylos Tablet TA 641-1952 in Linear B & Linear A tablets HT 31 & the one with 5 incharged supersyllabograms) overlap with and any or even all of their counterparts on any of the others. First, let us take a closer look at the Linear A tablet from Ay Nikolaus Museum, Greece, since on it we observe 5 Linear A syllabograms clearly inscribed inside the ideograms they modify in a particular way: Click to ENLARGE We have been able to isolate one element and one only, which overlaps on these two Linear A tablets, as illustrated here in Table 1: Click to ENLARGE Observe the incidence of (a) the word supaira, a type of vessel (no. 5 on Linear A HT 31) and (b) the incharged supersyllabogram su tagged as item 1 in white font — if that is what it is — on the extract from Linear A tablet in colour we introduced in previous posts. Assuming that the incharged SSYL on the latter is in fact the Linear A syllabogram su, we now find ourselves face to face with what appears at the very least to be an amazing coincidence. Both designations,(a) the word supaira spelled out in full on HT 31 and (b) the single syllabogram (probably) su on the second tablet appear to delineate one and the same vessel type. But is this mere coincidence? I think not, for the following reasons: Names of vessel types adjacent on the left to their corresponding ideograms: (a) in Linear B: to the left but generally not immediately adjacent Earlier in this article, we posited the distinct possibility of the two syllabaries, Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B, largely sharing the practice of designating vessels types by name to the left of the ideograms which represent them. In the case of Mycenaean Linear B, the name of the vessel type, for instance, tiripo(de), qeto or dipa (anowe) appears the the left of inserted text denoting an associated process or of at least one of its attributes, and not immediately adjacent to the ideogram upon which it depends. For instance, as can be seen from Rita Roberts’ erudite decipherment of Pylos tablet TA 641-1952 (Ventris): Click to ENLARGE we have: tiripode Aikeu keresijo weke + the ideogram for tripod 2 = Aigeus is working on 2 tripods of the Cretan style, where tiripode is separated from its ideogram by the inserted 3 word phrase, Aikeu keresiyo weke. So tiripode is deliberately set not immediately adjacent to the left of its ideogram. This is an example of an active (verbal) associated process, since the subject, Aigeus, is working on the tripod. + dipa mewijo qetorowe + ideogram for (a very large) vase = a pithos 1 = 1 very large vase (pithos) with four handles, where dipa is separated from its ideogram by the inserted 2 word phrase, mewijo qetorowe. Once again, dipa is not immediately adjacent to the left its ideogram. This is an example of attribution, given that that the 4 handles are an attribute of both the word and the ideogram for dipa. These two incidences alone of Linear B words explicitly spelling out the vessel types in proximity with their ideograms, in conjunction with the phenomenon of supersyllabograms incharged in ideograms for pottery and vessels in Mycenaean Linear B, well serve to illustrate the extreme sophistication of the Linear B syllabary with its 100 + ideograms to massage inventoried items. (b) in Linear A: immediately adjacent if to the left -or- supercharged/surcharged on the ideogram to which it is bound: Turning our attention to Linear A tablet HT 31, we witness a variation of the same phenomenon. Here all of the vessels are accounted for by name ( and type?), and situated either (a) immediately adjacent and to the left of or (b) surcharged or (c) supercharged on top of their bound ideogram: Click to ENLARGE In line 1, puko, the Linear A word for tripod, is to the left of and immediately adjacent to the ideogram with which it is explicitly bound. In line 2, qapai is supercharged, i.e. affixed onto the top of its bound ideogram, while in lines 3 5 & 6, kadapai (if that is what the spelling is), supaira & pataqe are surcharged. The Linear A scribe is apparently experimenting with various methods of specifically identifying each type of vessel he is inventorying. In other words, the practice of naming items in inventories in Minoan Linear A is in flux. No standard has yet been established. At variance with Linear B, the only constant appears to be the utter absence of intervening associative or attributive text between the vessel type identified by name in Linear A and its ideogram, which on HT 31 appears either immediately adjacent to the left, or supercharged or surcharged on top of its ideogram. This does not necessarily imply that the Minoan Linear A scribes never resorted to the more complex formula in Linear B, viz: vessel type spelled out in the LB syllabary + intervening associative or attributive text + corresponding ideogram + the number of vessels, algebraically expressed as: vt + (as or at) = ideogram (vt) n – where n is the total no. of vessels itemized It merely means that there are no instances on extant Minoan Linear A tablets of the more complex approach to inventorying vessels so frequently instanced in Mycenaean Linear B. It is conceivable that a few Linear A tablets may be unearthed in the future confirming this hypothesis, but because the Linear A practice for words identifying vessels is itself in such flux, I am very much inclined to doubt it. Such is far from being the vase with Mycenaean Linear B, in which the practice of identifying each type of vessel on numerous inventories is standardized, formulaic and fossilized. It seems quite clear that the Mycenaean Linear B scribes inherited the practice from their Minoan forbears, sticking with what they considered to be the best practices for enumerating vessel types, and tossing the rest overboard. (c) Cross-correlation of supercharged and surcharged syllabograms on Linear B tablet HT 31 with the incharged supersyllabograms on Linear A tablet from the Ay Nikolaus Museum, Greece: With reference to Table 1 above, things get downright intriguing. If we cross-correlate the Minoan Linear A word for the vessel type, supa3ra or supaira, on tablet HT 31 with the (presumed) incharged syllabogram a.k.a. supersyllabogram su on the second Linear A tablet illustrated above, we discover that they apparently refer to one and the same vessel type. Recall however the conundrum we are faced with on HT 31. There are 3 separate words in Minoan Linear A, all of which appear to refer to vessel types for which there is only one equivalent in Mycenaean Linear B, that being, dipa, a cup or kylix with handles or dipa anowe, a cup without handles, sup*56 or supaira being one of them, and qapa3 or qapai? + pataqe the other two. But, as I said before, Minoan, unlike Mycenaean Greek, might very well have differentiated among at least 3 types of cups with or without handles. All that aside, I am left with the distinct impression that the Minoan scribe who adroitly resorts to inscribing the (super)syllabogram su incharged in the ideogram to which it is explicitly bound has in effect devised a clever shortcut for the same description in full text used by the scribe who identifies supaira as a cup with handles on Linear A tablet HT 31, it too apparently equivalent to dipa anowe in Mycenaean Linear B. If this premise is sound, then what we have here is a finding nothing short of astounding concerning scribal scribal practices in both Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B. If so, we should be able draw the following conclusions: Hypothesis: First, Minoan Scribes writing in Linear A and later, Mycenaean scribes writing in Linear B appear to have both made use, not only of: (a) words spelled out identifying pottery and vessel types either (nearly) adjacent to the left side or supercharged or surcharged onto the ideograms with which they are associated on some tablets, but (b) also of syllabograms a.k.a. supersyllabograms bound (incharged) inside the same or very similar ideograms on others, both in their own syllabary and the other (Minoan Linear and Mycenaean Linear B). The scribes have identified the selfsame vessel types — either way — six of one, half a dozen of the other. Take your choice. They did. In either case, the end result is the same. In Minoan Linear A, the vessel type under consideration is identified, while in Mycenaean Linear B it is further delineated by class (tripods and cauldrons versus vases, cups etc.) and size through the medium of the text intervening between the vessel type named and its corresponding ideogram. Since in Mycenaean Linear B the identification of the vessel type is clear cut even on those tablets where an incharged syllabogram (supersyllabogram) identifies it in the complete absence of descriptive text, as we see here in Table 3: Click to ENLARGE we may infer that this practice runs in parallel with the same two, albeit less sophisticated, practices of denominating vessel types in Minoan Linear A. If that is the case, then the Mycenaean Linear B scribes ostensibly inherited both practices from their Minoan forbears. Not only that, by flinging out the non-essential fluctuating Minoan scribal practices, they greatly streamlined and fully standardized these procedures. What was experimental in Minoan Linear A has become fossilized in Mycenaean Linear B. We are faced here with nothing so much as two primary standard, universal & formulaic accounting practices for inventories in Mycenaean Linear B which were applied across the board, regardless of the sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy with which they were concerned or the provenance of Linear B tablets, Knossos, Pylos, Phaistos etc. You can count on it. And the Mycenaean scribes owed it all to their Minoan ancestors. The implications of this finding, should corroborative evidence from other Linear A tablets, extant or yet to be discovered in the future, prove its potential validity, are nothing short of profound for the eventual decipherment of at least a portion of Linear A, however minimal. Moreover, I believe we already have at our disposal the linguistic skills and tools to enable to us to take this ball farther still. More on this in a future installment. Post-script: These four posts are shortly to be published as a full research paper, replete with references and notes + bibliography, on my academia.edu account. Richard
This is an excellent post about the use of lenses in the ancient world! Yes, they had them! The ancients were amazing. So many things we thought were discovered so much later in history date to ancient times! Amazing! Richard
Originally posted on Ritaroberts's Blog:
The ancient Linear B tablets which I have been working on are so very small, that I often wondered how the Minoan scribes were able to see to write them, let alone read each others scripts, until I came across this wonderful article about Ancient Lenses.:
To date, the earliest lenses identified in context are from the IV/V Dynasties of Egypt, dating back to about 4,500 years ago (e.g; the superb ‘Le Scribe Accroupi’ and ‘ the Kai ‘ in the Louvre; added fine examples are located in the Cairo Museum) Latter examples have been found in Knossos (Minoan Heraklion Museum); ca 3,500 years ago). Another, possibly 5th century BC, lens was found in a sacred cave on Mount Ida Crete. It was more powerful and of better quality than the Nimrud lens which is the oldest lens in the world now in the British Museum.
The Nimrud Lens The oldest Lens in the world.
View original 485 more words
Part C: an actual decipherment of the words for a few types of vessels in Minoan Linear A on tablet HT 31? Judge for yourselves. Now that we have dispensed with the most common ideograms and supersyllabograms in Linear B in the pottery and vessels sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy, we can at last move on to considering whether or not the ideograms on the two Minoan Linear A tablets we illustrated in the previous two posts are susceptible of decipherment, if at all. Let us first turn our attention to Linear A tablet HT 31 from Haghia Triada. The first thing we notice about this tablet is that it contains ideograms for vessels along with the Minoan words in the Linear A syllabary, almost all of which are plainly surcharged on their respective ideograms. With this evidence in hand, I see no reason why we cannot or should not attempt a feasible translation of at least one, if not more, of the words found immediately to the left of their respective ideograms. Let us examine this tablet much more closely. Here is what we find: Click to ENLARGE: With this evidence in hand, we can now take a stab at cross-correlating the words associated with each of the ideograms on this tablet with identical or similar ideograms on Pylos Linear B tablet TA 641-1952 (Ventris) and several others besides: Click to ENLARGE To our amazement and relief, we discover that the word puko on Linear A tablet HT 31 appears to correspond exactly with the Linear B word tiripo on Pylos Linear B tablet TA 641-1952! Is this mere coincidence or have we stumbled on something really big? The most astonishing thing about the parallel we can draw between puko on Linear A tablet HT 31 and tiripo(de) on Linear B tablet TA 641-1952 is that, if indeed puko is the Minoan Linear A word for “tripod”, then the very first word ever deciphered on a Minoan Linear A tablet coincides to a T with the very first word ever deciphered on Pylos tablet TA 641-1952. This coincidence is so unexpected it boggles the mind... or does it? It surely goes almost without saying that tripods predominate on so many Mycenaean Linear B tablets from Pylos alone. There is therefore no reason to assume the contrary for tablets in Minoan Linear A. It is for this reason, among others, that I feel quite confident in my assertion that puko is indeed the word for “tripod” in Minoan Linear A. Unfortunately, as you are about to see for yourselves, it is the only Minoan word for a vessel which I can decipher with confidence either on tablet HT 31 or on the other Linear A tablet which we have given consideration to in the previous 2 posts. I can hazard a guess at the meanings of the other Linear A words for vessels on HT 31, but that is all it is ‒ however crafty my decipherments may appear. Now the decipherment for 3. karo*56 (karopai?), also appears to be self-evident. It apparently corresponds to the word for a two-handled kylix, qeto, on Pylos tablet TA 641-1952. At least it looks like it has two handles, but I cannot really be sure of that. The biggest problem confronting us in any attempt to decipher the other words for vessels appearing on tablet HT 31 is this: there are four (4) entirely different words, 2. qapa3 or qapai? + supu & 4. su*56ra or supraira? & pataqe , all of which appear to represent a cup without handles, equivalent to dipa anowe in Linear B, which in turn the Mycenaean predecessor of the Homeric depa. That is a more than just a bit of stickler in and of itself. However, it is conceivable that the Minoan language, unlike Mycenaean Greek, did differentiate among at least 4 types of cups, with or without handles. We shall never really know, but the possibility is still worth considering. But there is another rather more vexing difficulty confronting us on Linear A tablet HT 31. Why do the words which apparently signify different types of vessels appear immediately to the left or surcharged on top of the ideograms which represent them, when we know that such is not the case in Mycenaean Linear B, at least on tablet TA 641-1952 from Pylos. On that tablet, the words identifying each type of vessel appear further to the left of the words qualifying them by size and type. It is of course quite possible that the Minoan scribes writing in Linear A followed a different, simpler practice by placing the words for various types of vessels immediately to the left and adjacent to, or surcharged right on top of the ideograms representing them. This practice is all the more tenable, in so far as the words for various sorts of pottery and vessels are never surcharged in this fashion in Mycenaean Linear B. But there are also instances of supersyllabograms, i.e. syllabograms incharged in their own ideograms in Mycenaean Linear B, a more simplified and streamlined approach to the identification of pottery and vessel types in that language, just as we have seen in the previous post. This scribal practice, which until now I assumed was unique to Mycenaean Linear B is at any rate neither more or less sensible than the Minoan practice we have just flagged. But there is even more to all of this than we can see in the example of Linear A tablet HT 31. It just so happens that the other Linear A tablet we have already referenced, Click to ENLARGE also makes use of incharged supersyllabograms (if that is what they are), giving rise to the obvious question, did the Mycenaean scribes who resorted to the same stratagem on tablets in Linear B inherit this practice from their Minoan forbears? This certainly seems to be the case, given that no fewer than six (6) incharged supersyllabograms appear on the Linear A tablet illustrated above. We shall turn our attention to our findings for that tablet in the next post. They will prove to be even more revelatory than the words for pottery and vessels on Linear A HT 31, and will if anything lend even further credence to the proposition we have posited that it is indeed possible, and even feasible, to extract meanings for at least a few items of pottery and vessels found on Minoan Linear A tablets merely from observing their ideograms in conjunction with the words or surcharged/ incharged supersyllabograms they represent. If it holds any water, this tenet alone constitutes a real breakthrough in the decipherment of at least a few, albeit a very few words signifying vessels in Minoan Linear A. And we will have come to our definitions in spite of the fact that we, like all previous researchers in the field of linguistics struggling to decipher Linear A, haven’t the faintest idea what the Minoan language is, let alone to which family of ancient languages it may belong, if any. Richard
Part B: a breakthrough in the decipherment of Minoan Linear A? An introduction to supersyllabograms in the pottery and vessels sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy and the implications of their application to Linear A tablets for the earlier Minoan economy. Introduction: Any attempt at deciphering Minoan Linear A is fraught with enormous difficulties which seem all but insurmountable. Obstructions such as the small number of extant tablets, the most vocabulary which of necessity follows, and the impossibility of cross-correlation with any other ancient language make it all but futile practically to make any headway its decipherment, however partial or sporadic. Yet there is another approach which a researcher in South Africa has adopted: Click to visit SITE Taking G.J.K. Campbell-Dunn’s method one step further, I propose that we attempt to decipher bits and pieces of Minoan Linear A by relying not only on its ideograms exclusively, but on syllabograms adjacent to or affixed to them forming entire words, but above all where single syllabograms are incharged in their ideograms, which in fact is the case with at least one extant tablet in Minoan Linear A sporting no fewer than 5 of them, as we have already noted in the previous post. This approach dispenses entirely with the irksome necessity of making any effort to divine what class of languages Minoan linear A belongs to, if any. Almost all researchers have until now focused on asking just this question. Is Minoan linear A Indo-European? Does it belong to the Finnic language family, which falls completely outside the Indo-European orbit? Is it in any way related to Luvian, an ancient language of the Anatolian branch of Indo-European languages, as Sir Arthur Evans surmised it might be? This is what he has to say in Scripta Minoa, with reference to both Minoan Linear A and Linear B: It would seem, therefore, unlikely that the language of the Cretan scripts was any kind of Greek, and probable that it was related to the early language or languages of Western Anatolia – associated, that is, with the archaeological 'cultures’ of Alaja Hüyük I ( 'proto-hattic’) and of Hissarlik II and Yortan ( 'Luvian’)... ” , and a little further, “Though many of the sign-groups are compounded from distinct elements, usually of two syllables each, there is little trace of an organized system of grammatical suffixes, as in Greek. At most, a few signs are notably frequent as terminals... (italics mine)... Some have surmised that the Minoan language may conceivably be an ancient “rogue” language, but I for one find that assumption a little hard to swallow. Of course, in 1952-1953 Michael Ventris finally proved Evans wrong about Linear B. But in retrospect, who can blame Evans for that, in view of the understandable utter lack of evidence to the contrary in his day and age. Anyway, there were (and still are) no extant tablets in either Minoan Linear A or Mycenaean Linear B with parallel text in another known ancient language, as had conveniently been the case with the Rosetta Stone, to come to the rescue towards convincing decipherment of the latter script, if not the former. In spite of this untoward situation, the latter, Linear B, was effectively deciphered by the genius Michael Ventris (1922-1956) in July 1952. Moving on then, any word which either precedes immediately or is nearly adjacent to any particular ideogram in Minoan Linear A may in fact be the actual word corresponding to that ideogram, just as Michael Ventris firmly demonstrated it is in his translation of Pylos tablet 641-1952 (Ventris) in Mycenaean Linear B. So it stands to reason that the translation for a similarly situated word in Minoan Linear A which is (nearly) adjacent to its ideogram is, in fact, the very word the closely situated ideogram pictorially represents. If this notion seems far-fetched, let us stop for a moment to consider whether or not there is any relationship between such a phenomenon, should it exist, in Minoan Linear A and the actual one corresponding to it in Mycenaean Linear B. It just so happens that not only does a strikingly similar construct exist in Linear B, but that it is found on not scores, but hundreds of extant Linear B tablets (in the range of 725 all told from Knossos and Pylos, of which 700 are from Knossos alone). Now what I am proposing is a cross-correlation between the unknown meanings of at least a few Minoan words paired with the ideograms with which they are associated and the indisputably known values (meanings) of several Mycenaean words paired with strikingly similar if not identical ideograms in Linear B. In other words, we may very well have at hand an independent variable in a deciphered ancient language against which we can compare at least a very few Minoan words, and that language is Mycenaean Linear B. Let us say that the latter acts as a sort of Rosetta Stone, in which deciphered words adjacent to ideograms act as a litmus test for (apparently) equivalent lexemes in Minoan Linear A. It just so happens that there are two Minoan Linear A tablets which ideally serve our purpose. These are tablet HT 31 from Haghia Triada, as illustrated here: Click to ENLARGE and the Linear A tablet we introduced in the previous post: Click to ENLARGE which bears an uncanny resemblance to Pylos tablet TA 641-1952 (Ventris), the very first tablet of any length translated successfully by Michael Ventris in 1952-1953, here: Click to ENLARGE itself re-deciphered in a more refined translation by Mrs. Rita Roberts, a retired archaeologist who resides not far from Heraklion and Knossos, Crete, as we see illustrated here: Click to ENLARGE Her much more recent translation (2015) is so accurate from a strictly archaeological perspective that it serves an an ideal benchmark for the partial decipherment of at least a few of the words and the so-called incharged supersyllabograms representative of 5 of them on the Linear A tablet from the Ay Nikolaus Museum, Greece. Yet before we can tackle a fragmentary decipherment of these vessel types in Linear A, we first need to address (a) the pairing of translated words for 5 types of vessels on Pylos tablet TA 641-1952 (Ventris) as specifically and accurately identified by Rita Roberts, and (b) the even more significant phenomenon of what I refer to as supersyllabograms paired with ideograms on this and other extant tablets in the pottery and vessels sector of the Mycenaean economy, if we are to make any headway at all. We must take particular note of the extremely precise translations she makes of all of the types of vessels found on Pylos TA 641-1952. These are, respectively, tripod (the most significant of them all, as we shall soon enough discover when we come to Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31, 2 and 3 handled kylixes , the 24 and 32 handled pithoi for the storage of olive oil or wine, and dipae (anowe) , small drinking cups, with (or without) handles. We need to to bear all of these vessel types firmly in mind, as they are going to make a cameo appearance in our attempt at the decipherment of at least a few types of vessels in Minoan Linear A infra (the next post). The implications of supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B for a feasible translation of at least a few words for vessels in Minoan Linear A: To recap a topic which I have addressed over and over on our blog, Linear B, Knossos and Mycenae, I advance the following definition of the phenomenon known as the supersyllabogram in Mycenaean Linear B. By default and without exception, supersyllabograms are the first syllabogram, in other words, the first syllable of one Mycenaean Linear B word or phrase in particular and no other, which is always solely dependent on the specific context of the economic sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy in which it appears. Change the context of the economic sector, for instance from the agricultural to the military or the vessels sector, and you automatically change the significance of the supersyllabogram, with very few exceptions, the most notable being the syllabogram ne , invariably meaning newo (masc.), newa (fem.) or “new” in all sectors. This clear-cut definition makes so much sense there is little or no reason to contest it. Moreover, all such single syllabograms, a.k.a. supersyllabograms, without exception, appear either (a) adjacent to or (b) inside the ideogram they qualify, and (c) they are repeated over and over, like clockwork, on hundreds of tablets in almost every major sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy, by which I mean, the agricultural and its sub-sectors (livestock of all sorts and primary crops), the military, the household, the vessels and pottery and the religious sectors. Supersyllabograms appearing adjacent to their ideograms are invariably associative , while those bound inside their ideograms are invariably attributive. Associative supersyllabograms, which are found in droves in the agricultural sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy, are either surcharged , adjacent to the top right or occasionally to the top left, or supercharged , situated right on top of the ideogram they qualify. Unfortunately, the scope of our present investigation does not leave us any room to focus on the equally significant phenomenon of associative supersyllabograms which are found on some 700 of 3,500 or fully 20 % of extant tablets from Knossos alone! This we must leave until later on, since they too call for in-depth analysis of them in all sectors of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy, but most notably in the agricultural sub-sector livestock, especially where sheep (rams & ewes) are concerned, to which they apply on 90 % of all tablets in that sector. Attributive supersyllabograms are invariably incharged , bound inside the ideogram they qualify. It is these we are concerned with here, as they are eminently characteristic of the pottery and vessels sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy, the very sector with which we are dealing, as we address their critical rôle in Mycenaean Linear B and Minoan Linear A, in which they apparently also appear, taking the tablet we addressed in the last post as our example. Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B and the profound implications they may very well have on at least a minimal decipherment of a few (super) syllabograms in Linear A in the pottery and vessels sector in the Minoan economy: In 2014, extrapolating my findings to the vessels sector alone of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy, I was quick to isolate and classify the supersyllabograms-cum-ideograms in the vessels sector alone of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy. There are 10 all told, and they are: Click to ENLARGE Here, two supersyllabograms in particular call for clarification. The fist of these is ka , to which I have assigned four (4) possible variants. The most obvious of these is the first, kako or kakeyapi = copper. This SSYL (supersyllabogram) ka might also possibly refer to kapo = fruit, hence, to a fruit jar, or to a stirrup jar, sometimes referred to as kararewe in Linear B or even to kati, a kind of (water) vessel or flask. Since the last under consideration here obviously overlaps with the incharged SSYL u, which clearly designates a water jug, flask or flagon, I have no choice but to dispense with that meaning. While the vessel could be of copper, it is just as likely that the scribes were referring to the stirrup jar. Of the latter two explanations, the last strikes me as the most convincing. Next we have the SSYL po , which could refer to any of the following: posedao(ne) -or- (ni) = Posedaon i.e. Poseidon (god’s name) or to posidaewe, related to a cult apparently associated with Poseidon, potiniyaweya (adjectival/attributive), referring to the priestess or follower of the Minoan-Mycenaean/Homeric goddess, Potnia, to porenaya, attendants in sacrificial ceremonies, to porupode, an octopus, generally on a vase or amphora, to ponike, decorated with a griffin or ponikeya, crimson, and finally, to popureya, purple. Since we are confronted yet again with the conundrum, what did the scribes themselves intend the SSYL po to signify, I felt obliged to account for all of these variants. Yet in light of the research literature on religious and sacrificial rites in the Minoan and Mycenaean societies, it strikes me that the most tenable translation or the SSYL po is the adjectival attribute potiniyaweya, referring to a priestess or follower of the Minoan-Mycenaean/Homeric goddess, Potnia, since only only was their religion eminently matriarchal, but also this goddess in particular is frequently mentioned on extant tablets. Now because we were not there when the scribes so often resorted to employing these supersyllabograms, we cannot ever really know what the SSYL po or others like it resistant to interpretation meant to them. They certainly knew, and as a guild, they invariably assigned one meaning and one only to each supersyllabogram they deployed on the Linear B tablets. The supersyllabograms are therefore all standardized and all formulaic . No variations were countenanced. Not that they ever cared one jot whether or not any one would understand their meaning in the future, since after all they were accountants, and accounts are by definition ephemeral. The extant inventory tablets from Knossos, Pylos and elsewhere only survive due to massive conflagration or other preservative factors at each archaeological site. But we still owe it to ourselves to make every effort to reconstitute a few variants on putative meanings assigned to each supersyllabogram which remains ambiguous, otherwise we learn nothing new of further value in the field of archaeological linguistics in either Mycenaean Linear B or Minoan Linear A. Supersyllabograms (SSYLS) in Mycenaean Linear B are so information rich that they call for further clarification. 1. Previous researchers, most of them linguists specializing in Mycenaean Linear B, have, without exception, referred to supersyllabograms as “adjuncts” to the ideograms they qualify. But many of these are in fact far more than merely that. Close examination of a small cross-section of extant Linear B tablets concerned with pottery and vessels from Knossos, as illustrated in the chart above, clearly demonstrates that this is the case. Here are just a few tablets in the pottery and vessels sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy illustrative of what I mean: Click to ENLARGE each illustration 2. My translations of even these few tablets alone reveals this astonishing finding: supersyllabograms replace not only single words but often entire phrases in Mycenaean Linear B. Effectively, they telescope what would have otherwise been discursive and space-wasting text on what are ostensibly small tablets in Linear B (ranging from 15 cm. wide to a maximum of 60 cm. by 60 cm deep), into a single discrete element, namely, themselves. 3. This reveals another prime characteristic of Linear B tablets deploying supersyllabograms as replacements or stand-in markers, i.e. subject headings, for Mycenaean words or phrases. Supersyllabograms in the pottery and vessels sector alone (as in every other sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy) boil down to being shorthand . This discovery sets back the time frame for the first known use of shorthand some 3,300 years from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when it was previously assumed shorthand originated. In this respect alone Mycenaean Linear B attains a high degree of versatility and sophistication virtually unknown to any other contemporaneous script, hieroglyphic or syllabogrammatic, inclusive of Linear C, which abandoned ideograms altogether as the very last step in the evolution from the pre-alphabetic syllabaries (Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B and Arado-Cypriot Linear C) into the earliest known forms of the ancient Greek alphabet. 4. Above all other considerations, the majority of supersyllabograms in Linear B in the pottery and vessels sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy are attributive, dependent on the ideograms they qualify. Attributive dependent supersyllabograms are never adjacent to the ideogram they qualify, but are always bound inside it. Without exception, they describe an actual attribute of the ideogram. For instance, as we can see from the table of the 10 supersyllabograms in the pottery and vessels sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy, the syllabogram a inside the ideogram for a vessel with 2 handles is the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of the Mycenaean word apiporewe, clearly identifying the vessel as an amphora. But why even bother tagging vessel as an amphora, when it is obvious that the ideogram in question looks so remarkably like an amphora in the first place? Recall that the Mycenaean scribes never used any linguistic device without a reason. In this case, the reason, I believe, is that the scribe deliberately inserts the syllabogram a inside the ideogram for what is probably an amphora anyway to call our attention to the fact that this vessel in particular is an extremely valuable, more than likely ornate specialty amphora intended for the Minoan or Mycenaean nobility in any one of the major palace complexes. I can see no other reason why any Mycenaean scribe would resort to such a tactic other than to identify it as a precious commodity. Likewise, the simplified, streamlined syllabogram sa (stripped of its small arms at 90 degrees to its Y arm) incharged in the ideogram for a vessel is almost certainly the supersyllabogram for an unknown pre-Greek, probable Minoan word beginning with the syllabogram sa (a distinct clue in and of itself) for raw flax, the agricultural crop the Mycenaeans Greeks called rino = flax (as an unrefined agricultural crop) or the refined product, linen cloth. Both of these supersyllabograms are incharged, in other words, attributive, as can clearly be deduced from their significance noted here. Although we can readily cite further examples from the table illustrative of the 10 supersyllabograms in the pottery and vessels sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy, I must leave that analysis for another time and place. However, it is worthwhile noting that I have discovered, isolated and classified some twenty-five (25) attributive supersyllabograms alone (exclusive of associative) in all sectors of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy to date. That is a very great deal from a syllabary consisting of 61 syllabograms all told. The phenomenon of ambiguity in the meaning of certain syllabograms incharged or surcharged to their ideograms in Mycenaean Linear B is a really nasty stickler in the interpretation of incharged supersyllabograms (if that is what they actually are) on extant tablets in Linear A in the Minoan language, which has stubbornly resisted all attempts at decipherment to date. Any attempt to decipher incharged supersyllabograms in Minoan Linear A amounts to a daring plunge into an unknown sea. But I for one love to dive, and I swim well enough to take the plunge. Now it just so happens that everything we have just noted about supersyllabograms in the pottery and vessels sector in Mycenaean Linear B may indeed apply just as well to the same sector in the earlier Minoan economy. This we shall demonstrate in the next post. Richard
Are there “adjuncts” a.k.a. Supersyllabograms in Minoan Linear A? Apparently so... at least in the pottery and vessels sector of the Minoan economy. But what do they mean? Part A: Preamble I recently searched Google for as many Minoan Linear A tablets as I could find which might conceivably support the phenomenon I refer to as supersyllabograms, a.k.a as “adjuncts” in the research literature on Mycenaean Linear B, and to my utter surprise and astonishment I discovered one rather long intact Linear A tablet fitting the bill. There are on it what appear to be several “incharged adjuncts”, which is a contradiction in terms when you stop to think about it, since an adjunct, an element adjacent to an ideogram in either Mycenaean Linear B or (possibly) Minoan Linear A cannot be bound inside said ideogram, because if it were so, it would no longer be an adjunct, i.e. adjacent. Among other reasons, this is why I have chosen to refer to so-called “adjuncts” in Linear B as supersyllabograms. I have defined this term over and over on our blog, and if you wish to learn what a supersyllabogram is, I urge you to go to the section, Supersyllabograms, flagged here at the top of our blog. Just click on the word to jump to that section: Click to ENLARGE Now if we turn our attention to supersyllabograms in the pottery and vessels sector alone in Mycenaean Linear B, here is what we find: Click to ENLARGE Without our delving nto details re. the specific meaning of each and every one of these 10 supersyllabograms out of a total of 35 which I have discovered to date in all sectors of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy, we can still see that each one clearly delimits the actual type of vessel with which the incharged supersyllabogram is concerned. For instance, the syllabogram di incharged in the ideogram for a two-handled kylix indicates that this is a libation vessel either to Poseidon or Potnia, two major Minoan/Mycenaean gods, whole so incharged in its vessel would in all probability indicates that this is a funerary urn. Now when turn to we examine the Minoan Linear A you see illustrated here: Click to ENLARGE: from the site: Study Questions: Biers, Chapter 1: "Archaeology in Greece" and Biers, Chapter 2: "The Minoans" , which you can visit here: we at once see that it too contains a total of 6 syllabograms, all of which are incharged in the ideograms for pottery or vessels which they represent. By “incharged” I mean that the supersyllabogram is bound inside the ideogram with which it is associated. In Mycenaean Linear B at least, all incharged supersyllabograms without exception are attributive, that is to say, they describe an actual (adjectival) attribute of the ideogram within which they are found. The question is, what do they mean? In other words, (a) how does each of these incharged syllabograms delimit the vessel they are attributes of to one and one only specific type of vessel? This leads us directly to the next obvious question, (b) what can each of these incharged supersyllabograms mean? Can we glean from each of them the actual meaning, i.e. the type of vessel with which they are concerned? — because if there is even a chance that we can, then we shall have discovered for the first time ever the actual meanings of a possible maximum of 6 Minoan words, and that would constitute a breakthrough, however minimal, in the decipherment of the Minoan language, which has to date resisted all attempts whatsoever at decipherment. Two of the characters, 2 and 5 on this tablet may not be Linear A syllabograms. I am unable to identify them as such. 1 appears to be the syllabogram su, but I cannot be sure. 3 is definitely the syllabogram for the vowel u, while 4 appears to be that for po. 6 is definitely the syllabogram for the vowel a. Even though this syllabogram clearly signifies an amphora in Mycenaean Linear B, no such conclusion can be safely drawn for Minoan Linear A, since the language is not Greek — unless the word for amphora is pre-Greek, which is highly unlikely. But the question remains, what kinds of vessels do the Minoan syllabograms su & po (which are tentative on this tablet), and u and a, which are certain, signify? With reference to the so-called certainty of the syllabograms a in u in Minoan Linear A, we of course have to rely on the premise that all or at least the vast majority of syllabograms in Minoan Linear A are either identical or nearly identical to their Mycenaean Linear B counterparts. But unfortunately even that is not so certain, although most linguists and researchers into Minoan Linear A believe this to be the case. For the sake of uniformity and consistence with the prevailing views on the actual phonemic value of each Minoan Linear A syllabogram, let us assume this is the case. If this scenario is indeed tenable, I propose in the next 3 posts to unravel the putative meanings of a maximum of 4 types of vessels as found on the Minoan Linear A tablet illustrated above, down to a minimum of one, the word for “tripod” in Linear A, perhaps the only one for which the definition would appear to be sound. Richard