Tag Archive: barley



Linear A tablet HT 18 (Haghia Triada) in Old Minoan fully deciphered:

Linear A ideogams for wheat and barley

Linear A tablet HT 18 Haghia Triada

Except for the word pase which introduces this tablet, and which is probably Mycenaean-derived, the entire tablet is in Old Minoan, i.e. the Minoan substratum. Since we know what all of the ideograms and supersyllabograms mean, the decipherment is straightforward. On the first line, we have the ideogram for wheat followed by the associative supersyllabogram QE, which stands for qeria, Old Minoan for “emmer roasted wheat”. Next we have the ideogram for “roasted einkorn”, which Prof. John G. Younger incorrectly identifies as the ideogram for “olives”. They are sometimes confused. In this context, it makes no sense whatsoever for this ideogram to signify “olives”, in view of the fact the rest of the tablet deals with wheat, except at the very end, where figs are introduced. The associative supersyllabogram KI with the ideogram for “roasted einkorn” may reference one of two things, either kiretana, which is apparently Old Minoan for “Cretan” or more likely than not kireta2 (kiretai), meaning “with barley”. In other words, the roasted einkorn is mixed with barley. Finally, we have the supersyllabogram NI for “figs”. In old Minoan, this word is either nire or nite in the plural. The assignment of “bushel-like units” to the wheat and barley on this tablet is merely an approximation, since we have no idea what the standard unit for the measurement of grains, wheat or barley was in Minoan or for that matter in Mycenaean Crete. But it gives us an approximation of the amounts we are dealing with on this tablet.


Common Linear A ideograms for livestock, crops, olives, barley and wheat:

Linear A ideograms 620

These are the most common Linear A ideograms for livestock, crops, olives, barley and wheat. Unlike Mycenaean Linear B, Linear draws a distinction between certain species of wheat, with the ideogram for “wheat” accompanied by the supersyllabogram DI meaning dideru = “roasted einkorn” and the same ideogram accompanied by QE , signifying qerie = “emmer wheat”, while at the same time using a slightly different ideogram for “barley”.  In addition, the word sara2 (sarai) = “sharia wheat”. All of these words are firmly established and confirmed in either the Old Minoan or the pre-Greek substratum. Most of the Linear A ideograms are either very similar or identical to their Linear B counterparts.

Here you see illustrations of emmer wheat and roasted einkorn:

roasted einkorn and emmer wheat

And here is sharia wheat:

sharia wheat


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.  


Proto-Greek or Mycenaean kiritai = barley on Minoan Linear A tablet HT 114 (Haghia Triada):

Like many other Linear A tablets, HT 114 (Haghia Triada) does not appear to be inscribed only in the Minoan language. The proto-Greek or, more accurately, the Mycenaean word, kirita2 (kiritai), which means barley and which is almost exactly equivalent to Linear B, kirita, meaning the very same thing, appears on the very first line of this tablet. The only difference is that the Linear A word, kiritai, is plural, whereas the Linear B, kirita, is singular, as we can see here:

Minoan Linear A tablet HT 114 Haghia Triade

While the rest of HT 114 is inscribed in Minoan, the appearance of this one Mycenaean word gives pause. Was Linear A the syllabary of proto-Greek or of Mycenaean Greek just before the advent of the new official syllabary, Linear B? The fact is that it was not. However, this does not mean that there was not proto-Greek or Mycenaean vocabulary on Linear A tablets. How can this be, when the language itself is not proto-Greek?

The phenomenon of the superimposition of a superstratum of vocabulary from a source language (Mycenaean in the case of Linear A) onto a target language (Minoan), is historically not unique to the Minoan language. A strikingly similar event occurred in English with the conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066 AD. Before that date, the only English was Anglo-Saxon. This is what is called Old English. But after conquest of England in 1066 AD, over 10,000 Norman French words streamed into the language between 1100 and 1450 AD, altering the landscape of English vocabulary almost beyond recognition. In fact, believe it or not, only 26 % of English vocabulary is Germanic versus 29 % is French, 29 % Latin and 6 % Greek. So the latter 3 languages, amounting to 64 % of the entire English lexicon, have completely overshadowed the Old English (Anglo-Saxon) Germanic vocabulary, as illustrated in this Figure:

origins of English vocabulary

This phenomenon is unique to English alone among all of the Germanic languages. While the grammar and syntax of English is Germanic, the great majority of its vocabulary is not. A strikingly similar event appears to have occurred when the Mycenaeans conquered Knossos, is dependencies and Crete ca. 1500 – 1450 BCE. Just as the Norman French superstratum has imposed itself on Old English, giving rise to Middle and Modern English, Mycenaean Greek operated in much the same fashion when it superimposed itself on Old Minoan, leading to New Minoan vocabulary, which is proto-Greek or Mycenaean. I have already isolated no fewer than 150 proto-Greek or Mycenaean words out of 510 intact words (by my own arbitrary count) in the Linear A lexicon. Again, while the Minoan language itself is not proto-Greek in its grammar and syntax, but is of another, to date still unknown, origin, a large portion of its vocabulary is not Old Minoan, but instead proto-Greek or Mycenaean, as I shall demonstrate in no uncertain terms in my decipherments of numerous Linear A tablets to follow this one. One striking feature of New Minoan is this: the percentage of proto-Greek or Mycenaean vocabulary in Linear B comes to 29 %, precisely the same level as Norman French in English. Although this is sheer co-incidence, it is quite intriguing.


Illustrations of 5 Minoan Linear A tablets (Figures) in Archaeology and Science (2016):

a-figure-1-linear-a-ht-31-pavel-serafimov-anton-perdih

b-figure-2-linear-a-ht-13-translation-by-richard-vallance-janke

figure-3-linear-a-tablet-19-puko-tripod

linear-a-ht-12-qatidate-olive-tree

ht-117-lineara-epigraphic-harvest-festival-ideogram-vessel-daro

Above are 5 illustrations of some (not all) of the Minoan Linear A tablets, reduced to 620 pixels, as they will appear as Figures (with the Figure nos. assigned only to Figures 1 & 2, other Figure nos. not yet assigned) in my upcoming article, “Pylos Tablet Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris), the ‘Rosetta Stone’ for Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada) vessels and pottery” in the prestigious international annual Archaeology and Science, Vol. 12 (2016) ISSN 1452-7448. This is to be the third major article in a row which I will see published in Archaeology and Science.

This paper represents the first genuine breakthrough in the decipherment of Minoan Linear A vocabulary (not the language!) in the 116 years since the first Linear A tablets were unearthed by Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos in 1900.


Table of the distribution of 24 Supersyllabograms in Minoan Linear A by economic sector & sub-sector:

Following is the Table of the 24 Supersyllabograms in Minoan Linear A by economic sector & sub-sector. It is clear from this table that the majority of supersyllabograms (12) in Minoan Linear A fall in the olive trees, olives and olive oil sub-sector of the agricultural sector of the Minoan economy, primarily in Haghia Triada, but also in Khania (Chania). The next most common sector is grains (barley & wheat) with 7, the third are vases and pottery and also wine with 5, the fourth is figs with 2 and the fifth are military (men as attendants to the king) and textiles with 1 SSYL each.

table-of-24-supersyllabograms-in-minoan-linear-a-640

The distribution of supersyllabograms in both Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B by economic sector is of the utmost importance. I shall need to cross-correlate the key economic sector-by-sector distribution of supersyllabograms in both syllabaries to verify whether or not the distribution of SSYLs in the one syllabary (Linear A) and the other (Linear B) is closely aligned or not. The alignment of supersyllabograms in each syllabary relative to the other will determine with greater accuracy which economic sectors are the most and which the least important in each language, Minoan and Mycenaean. This way, we can get a much better idea of how the key economic sectors are distributed, from most to least important, in each of the two societies, Minoan and post-Minoan Mycenaean. It is of the utmost important to understand that all of the supersyllabograms in both of these syllabaries must refer only to major economic terms in each sector and sub-sector. 

I shall explicitly compare the relative economic distribution of each society, the Minoan and Mycenaean in my upcoming article, Linear B tablet Pylos TA 641-1952 (Ventris) is the Mycenaean Linear B “Rosetta Stone” for Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada, in Vol. 16 (2016) of the prestigious international annual, Archaeology and Science (Belgrade) ISSN 1452-7448. The Table of 24 Supersyllabograms in Minoan Linear A by economic sector & sub-sector is to appear in this article.

I have deciphered the following 8 supersyllabograms more or less successfully in Minoan Linear A:

DA = dadumata = grain/wheat measurer? = Linear B sitokowo
KA = kapa = follower or foot soldier, attendant to the king 
KI = kidata = to be accepted for delivery = Linear B dekesato
OR
kireta2 (kiritai) = delivery = Linear B apudosis
kiretana = (having been) delivered (past participle passive) = Linear B amoiyeto
AND
kireza = unit of measurement for figs, probably 1 basket
AND
kiro = owed = Linear B oporo = they owed
NI = nipa3 (nipai) or nira2 (nirai) = figs = Linear B suza. But Mycenaean Linear B shares NI with Minoan Linear A, in spite of the fact that the Mycenaean word for figs is suza.   
PA = pa3ni (amphora for storing grain) + pa3nina = grain or wheat stored in an amphora
RA ra*164ti = approx. 5 litres (of wine) 
SA sara2 (sarai) = small unit of measurement: dry approx. 1 kg., liquid approx. 1 litre
TE = tereza = standard unit of usually liquid measurement, sometimes of dry measurement


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

kunisu grains wheat yield

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

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


Minoan Linear A adaro = Mycenaean Linear B kirita = “barley”?

Linear A barley ARK5 ADARO

It looks very much like Minoan Linear A adaro = Mycenaean Linear B kirita = “barley”, especially in light of the fact that the number assigned to the term is at least 400 (40 truncated right).  Anyone growing barley would want to grow a lot of it. The term zu*22di might mean “barley”, but that is much less likely, given that the number following it is only 40.

This is the seventy-third (73) term in Minoan Linear A I have deciphered more or less accurately. 
  

It is very likely that Minoan Linear A pitakase means the same thing as epididato = “distributed” in Mycenaean Linear B:

Dictionary.com distributed

In all probability, Minoan Linear A pitakase means the same thing as epididato = “distributed” in Mycenaean Linear B. There is firm circumstantial evidence to support my hypothesis. Dictionary.com defines “distributed” as follows:

HT 21  PITAKASE 161 distributed

Pay close heed to the synonyms I have underlined for each of the definitions above. Note that the definition includes reference to “prizes”... “distributed among ten winners”. Ten prizes, ten winners. Likewise, on Linear A tablet HT 21 (Haghia Triada), Prof. Younger directly links pitakase to“mixed commodities” (in his own words). This leads me straight to conclusion I have drawn. The term pitakase fits the context very well indeed, especially in light of the fact that a relatively large number (161) of commodities are being distributed. These are all almost certainly agricultural in nature, most likely representing barley, wheat, figs and other commodities in the same vein. So I am quite convinced that pitakase does indeed mean “distributed”, rating 75% or more on the scale of accuracy I have assigned for Minoan Linear A words I have deciphered.

This is the seventy-second (72) Minoan Linear A term I have deciphered, more or less accurately, to date.


Another Minoan Linear A word tentatively deciphered: sara2 = sarai = a small unit of measurement?

Minoan Linear A sara2 = sarai = approx. kilogram or litre

While I have encountered enormous challenges deciphering scores and scores of Minoan Linear A words which are not accompanied by an ideogram, being quite unable to decipher any of them at all, sara2 = sarai is a rare exception. I have tentatively assigned it the value of a small unit of dry measurement for wheat and barley (crops) and of wet measurement for olive oil or wine. Since it is impossible for us today to determine with any degree of accuracy what each unit of a sara2 = sarai actually was, I have had to resort to approximations, correlating the unit of dry measurement with the modern metric kilogram (more or less) and the unit of wet measurement with the metric litre (more or less). It is the best we can hope for. My decipherment is based entirely on the gross amounts of sara2 = sarai reported on several Minoan Linear A tablets with the ideograms for “grain/wheat”, “barley” or “olive oil”. The numbers on the following tablets range from a low of 1 (olive oil) on HT 28  to 2 (grain) on HT 125 to 10 (grain) on HT 18 and HT 114, to 20 (grain) on HT 28 & HT 90 to 41 (grain) on HT 101 to 976 (grain !) on HT 102. The totals for sara2 = sarai on all of these tablets from Haghia Triada = 1070 units, of which 1069 are small units of dry measurement for “grain/wheat” or “barley”. The remaining 1 shows 1 small unit of liquid measurement for “olive oil”.

The only thing which troubles me with this tentative translation is that, although the total figures for dry and liquid measurement are sky high,  there is only 1 unit of liquid measurement on HT 28 (olive oil) and there are only 2 units of dry measurement on HT 125 (grain, wheat or barley). I find it difficult to believe that a Minoan scribe would tally only 2 small dry units (approx. = to 2 kg.) and 1 small liquid unit (approx. = 1 litre) on these two tablets. What is the point of that? On the other hand, all of the other figures for units of measurement range from a respectable low of 20, to 41 to the enormous amount of 976 on HT 102. These latter figures would appear to lend some credence to my tentative decipherment of sara2 = sarai. All this is not to say that I will necessarily adhere to this initial decipherment in the near to not so near future. Should reasonably reliable evidence arise to contradict this decipherment, I shall take it into close consideration,  and if the need arises, I may have to scrap this initial decipherment. 


Another Linear B tablet from Amnisos referencing olive oil and barley dedicated to all the gods, not once but twice:

Linear B tablet Knossos KN 48 J f 12 olive oil and barley to all the gods

Here we have yet another Linear B tablet from Amnisos referencing olive oil and barley dedicated to all the gods, but this time it flags the signal importance to the scribe as well as to the palace administration at Knossos by stressing twice the necessity of offering up olive oil and barley as sacrifices to all the gods. We have already accumulated four (4) tablets referencing offerings of olive oil or olive trees and barley to all the gods, and there are two more to come from Pylos, for a grand total of 6, making such offerings the most frequently mentioned on Linear B tablets which are to be cross-correlated with Minoan Linear A tablets. So apudosi = “delivery” and Keresiya (feminine) = “Cretan” with 3 references each now have to take a back seat to pasiteoi = “to all the gods”, mentioned twice as often as I had expected. I would like to stress as well that if the Minoan Linear A tablets on olive oil and barley contain a phrase as long as pasiteoi, it is more likely than not that such a phrase means the same thing in the Minoan language as it does in Mycenaean Greek. But this is not necessarily the case, given that the Minoan tablets in Linear A may divide the phrase into two words, which is what we would expect. We shall soon see.

In addition, the frequent mention of units of dry measurement on previous Linear B tablets I have posted relating to olive oil and and barley strongly suggest that my earlier translations of reza, adureza and tereza, which refer to (linear) measurement, dry measurement and liquid measurement (of wine) respectively are probably correct after all. I was in considerable doubt of their meanings until I started deciphering the Linear B tablets on olive oil and barley, most of which directly reference dry measurement. These tablets seem to confirm that my initial decipherment of reza, adureza and tereza in Minoan Linear A are on the mark after all. 
 

Linear B tablet on olive trees and barley as debts to be paid to the gods:

Linear B tablet Knossos debts to the gods of olive oil and barley

This particular tablet serves as a minor variant on the others we have posted with reference to dedications of olive trees and barley to the gods. Twice over tt adds the notion of debts to be paid (to the gods). This emphasis is obviously of great importance to the fellow who must pay these debts to the gods, to the palace administration at Knossos (which benefits from said payment) and to the gods themselves (who do not, since no one can pay out debts to abstract beings).

The tablet adds an extra dimension to the vocabulary on Linear B tablets on olive oil and barley owed to the gods, which hopefully can be successfully cross-correlated with Minoan Linear A tablets possibly referencing the same procedure.


Knossos tablet with all sorts of references to olive oil and barley:

Knossos tablet 1 j olive oil barley etc

This tablet is a real hodgepodge of references to olive oil, olive oil trees and barley, ranging from references the port of Amnisos, to units of dry measurement (which also frequently occur on Minoan Linear A tablets), to all the gods and to the goddess Erinu in particular. Not only that, it also tabulates bales of barley, even down to single units of dry measurement of barley. So this tablet serves as a real cornucopia for olive oil, olive oil trees and barley. Thus, it adds one more reference to every single facet of these commodities. I shall tally the totals for all references to each commodity when I have finished translating as many Linear B tablets as I can referencing olive oil.


Minoan Linear A Reza Adureza Tereza. Do they measure up? PART 2 = adureza

KH 11 barley adureza sowing perhaps

Iklaina KH 11 adureza recto verso

It appears that, in spite of myself, I came close enough to the specific unit of dry measurement adureza the first time I attempted to decipher it. So things stand pretty much as they are. But when it comes to tereza, things get positively gripping, and there will be much to reveal... eventually.


Breakthrough in the decipherment of Linear A? adureza reza tereza Part 2 adureza

KH 11 barley adureza sowing perhaps

If the Minoan Linear A word reza appears to mean “measurement”, then the word adureza is almost certain to be a variation on that word, as it contains the prefix adu. Linear A tablet KH 11 describes the adureza of a small measurement of barley, which amounts to 1/10 of a larger amount, perhaps a tenant’s ration share of barley. The translation thus all comes down to the “measurement” of a share of barley, and since barley is dry, then adureza probably means “dry measurement”. This makes quite a lot of sense if we take reza simply to mean “measurement” alone. I should have thought of this in the last post, but we can apply that minor correction now, i.e. reza = “measurement” alone, while adureza, with the prefix adu = “dry” means “dry measurement”.

I furthermore am coming to believe that Minoan Linear A words modify their meanings from the simple root word, in this case, reza, by adding prefixes, not suffixes, which would explain why adureza, with the prefix adu = “dry” means “dry measurement”, not just “measurement” (reza).

The original Iklaina Linear A tablet KH 11:

Iklaina KH 11 adureza recto verso




Linear B tablet KN 777a K b 01 & the wheat (and barley) harvest:

Linear B tablet 777a K b 01

Linear B tablet KN 777a K b 01 deals with the wheat and barley harvest at Knossos, without specifying the amount of the barley harvest, and then goes on to enumerate the wheat harvests alone at Amnisos and Phaistos. We note that the toponyms go by their ethnic names. So I have deemed it appropriate to translate their names as “by the farmers of”... + locale. I find it very suspicious that the scribe has chosen to allot 100 + hectares to every single locale. Bizarre. Maybe he was high on something. But of course, I doubt that. The only alternative explanation that I can think of is that the palace administration at Knossos capped the wheat harvest at each of these milieux. Otherwise, the total amount of wheat produced would have filled the granaries (presumably at Knossos) to the bursting point.  


Translation of the Gezer Agricultural Almanac into Mycenaean Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

Gezer Almanac left and translation into Mycenaean Linear B  right

This is the first ever attempt to translate the Gezer Agricultural Almanac in Paleo-Hebrew (ca 925 BCE) into Mycenaean Linear B. My reasons for doing so are manifold:
1. While the text in Paleo-Hebrew is written in the proto-Hebrew alphabet, which for all intents and purposes is practically identical to the Phoenician alphabet, the translation is of course in the Linear B syllabary.
2. The Gezer Agricultural Almanac has no vowels, since Paleo-Hebrew, like the Phoenician alphabet, had none. On the other hand, the translation into Linear B, which is a syllabary, automatically guarantees that every single syllable contains a vowel.
3. The alphabetical text of The Gezer Agricultural Almanac takes up considerably more space than the translation into Mycenaean Linear B, since alphabetic scripts use up more space than syllabaries, even though syllabaries contain considerably more syllabograms than alphabets do letters. In the case of the Phoenician and Proto-Hebrew alphabets alike, there are 22 letters, all consonants. The reason why syllabaries take up less space than most alphabets is simple: each single syllabogram consists of a consonant + a vowel, whereas most alphabets must express consonants and vowels as separate entities. However, in the case of the Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew alphabets, this distinction does not apply, since the number of consonants in the latter approximate the number of syllabograms in Linear B.
4. But the question remains, if this is the case, then why is the Linear B translation still noticeably shorter than the proto-Hebrew original? This is no idle question. There are three primary reasons for Linear B’s uncanny capacity to telescope long text into shorter. These are:
4.1 While alphabetic scripts, regardless of whether or not they contain vowels, and irrespective of their antiquity or modernity, are generally incapable of telescoping text into smaller entities, Linear B does this with ease, first by using ideograms, which appear on every single line of the Linear B translation you see here of the Gezer Almanac. I could have written out the text in full, but had I done so, I would not have reflected the spirit and the commonplace practice of Linear B scribes to replace long text with ideograms, because they were forced to save precious space of what were, without exception, very small tablets (most running to no more than 15 cm. wide, and only a few as wide as 10 cm.)
4.2.1 For the precise same reason, Linear B scribes also frequently resorted to replacing entire Linear B words, such as “rino” = Greek “linon” = English “linen”, the Mycenaean Greek word for both the raw product “flax” and the finished, “rino” with logograms. You can see the single syllabogram = logogramNI” = “flax” on line 3, immediately preceding the ideogram for “meno” = “month”.
4.2.2 If this practice is a clever ploy, what are we make of the same procedure carried even further, when in line 7, the scribe (me) replaces the word for “fruit” = “kapo” in Mycenaean Linear B, with the very same word with the exact same number of syllabograms = 2, but by placing one (po) on top of the other (ka)! That way, the scribe uses the space for only 1 syllabogram while in reality writing 2. If this isn’t a brilliant ploy, I don’t know what is. But it goes even further. Although we do not see an example of this practice carried to its extreme in this translation, scribes even resorted to piling 3 syllabograms on top of one another! A prefect example of this is the Mycenaean word  “arepa” = Greek “aleifa” = English “ointment”, consisting of 3 syllables. In this instance, scribes almost always wrote “arepa” as a logogram, by piling the syllabogram “pa” on top of “re” on top of “a”. Now that takes some gymnastics! In this case, the scribes used the space for 1 syllabogram to replace an entire word of 3 syllabograms. Talk about saving space! All of these clever little tricks are illustrated here: Click to ENLARGE

space saving Linear B ideograms and logograms

5. The scribes also replaced entire Mycenaean Greek words with supersyllabograms on about 27 % of all Linear B tablets. SSYLS save even more space than logograms and ideograms, in some cases, far more, since they can replace entire phrases in Mycenaean Greek. Yet, even without resorting to SSYLS in this translation, l managed to telescope the discursive alphabetic Proto-Hebrew text into a much shorter Linear B translation.

Now the most amazing thing about Linear B’s amazing capacity to shortcut text by telescoping it into the much smaller discrete elements, logograms, ideograms and supersyllabograms, is that the Linear B syllabary preceded both the Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew alphabets by at least 4 centuries!

So who is to say that alphabets are superior to syllabaries? I for one would not even dare.

Richard


The Gezer Agricultural Almanac 925 BCE, Comparison Between the Paleo-Hebrew Alphabet on it & Mycenaean Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

Gezer Calendar or Almanach 925 BCE original versus Linear B

The Gezer Agricultural Almanac or Calendar was discovered in 1908 by R.A.S. Macalister of the Palestine Exploration Fund during the excavation of the ancient Canaanite city of Gezer, 32 kilometres to the west of Jerusalem. Inscribed on limestone, it describes monthly or bi-monthly periods of agricultural activities such as harvesting, planting or tending to specific crops. Paleo-linguistic scholars are divided concerning the language it is written in, some believing it to be Phoenician, others Proto-Canaanite, otherwise known as Paleo-Hebrew. But since the tablet makes as much sense in Paleo-Hebrew as it does in Phoenician (even though the translations must perforce differ), this raises a serious question which cannot be safely ignored over the perceived theoretical or actual relationship between the Phoenician and the Paleo-Hebrew alphabets, which in turn raises the further question whether or not Paleo-Hebrew is itself directly derived from Phoenician. Although open to dispute, if this notion holds any water, then the Proto-Canaanite or Paleo-Hebrew alphabet may very well be directly derived from the Phoenician, in which case even the ancient classical Hebrew alphabet, spawned from Paleo-Hebrew, is also indirectly derived from the Phoenician alphabet, despite appearances to the contrary.

But the vein may run even deeper. Since many scholars believe that the Phoenician alphabet grew out of Egyptian hieroglyphics, this in turn implies that the ancient Paleo-Hebrew alphabet at least is indirectly descended from Egyptian hieroglyphics. But there is a further complication. Since Paleo-Hebrew post-dates the almost identical syllabaries, Minoan Linear A by 7 centuries & Mycenaean Linear B, the latter falling into obscurity with the destruction of the Mycenaean civilization ca. 1200 BCE, fully 200 years before the advent of Proto-Canaanite, what are we to make of that? This is all the more pressing an issue, given that no fewer than 12 of 61 or 20 % of Linear B syllabograms look strikingly like the Paleo-Hebrew letters on the Gezer Calendar? if in fact it is written in Hebrew.

For the sake of argument and sheer practicality, let us say it is. If that is the case, then we have to wonder whether or not both the Phoenician and Proto-Canaanite alphabets were actually at least partially derived from either Minoan Linear A or Mycenaean Linear B or both. Given this scenario, it is open to serious doubt whether or not the Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew alphabets were exclusively derived from Egyptian hieroglyphics alone. This hypothesis cannot be safely ignored, given the striking similarities in particular characters in all 4 of these scripts, Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B, Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew. However, there is a wrench in the works. If this hypothesis is correct, then why on earth did both the Phoenician and Proto-Canaanite alphabets lose the five vowels of their more ancient predecessors, Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B? So we are left with an irresolvable conundrum.

Nevertheless, this hypothesis does raise doubts over Egyptian hieroglyphics being the sole ancestor of the Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew alphabets. Why so? ... because neither Minoan Linear A nor Mycenaean Linear B are the offshoots of Egyptian hieroglyphics. Back to our messy little paradox. The Gezer Almanac is held in the Archaeological Museum Artifacts Collection of the Istanbul Archaeological Museums (ISTANBUL ARKEOLOJI MÜZELERI), here:

Istanbul Archeological Museums Logo
In the next three posts, I shall:

1. post a table illustrating the comparison between the Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew alphabets, which are almost identical;
2. draw a thorough comparison between the Paleo-Hebrew letters (consonants only) on the Gezer Almanac and the 12 syllabograms + one ideogram in Mycenaean Linear B which resemble them;
3. translate the Gezer Calendar into Mycenaean Linear B, to clearly demonstrate the extremely close parallel in the efficacy of both scripts for statistical inventories. If anything, this remarkable parallelism reinforces the possibility that the Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew alphabets may at least partially be outcrops of Minoan Linear A (preceding them both by at least 700 years) & Mycenaean Linear B, disappearing two centuries prior to widespread appearance of the former at the outset of what is commonly and largely erroneously referred to as the Dark Ages of the early Iron Age (ca. 1100-780 BCE).

Richard

							

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.


Richard


Dry Measurement of Wheat, Barley & Grain Seeds in Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

Linear B tablet  KN 819 A j 0 wheat barley & seed

Because this tablet is largely intact, it is fairly easy to translate. But there are still a few small problems in the second line. First of all, the total wheat production for 1 month (or does this mean, the average monthly wheat total for 1 year?) is given as approx. 3 kilograms, if we are to trust the measurement table established by Andras Zeke of the Minoan Language Blog- and there is no reason why we should not under the circumstances, namely, that we really have no idea what the actual total (represented by the Linear B logogram which looks like a T) for dry measurement was. So kilograms will do as well as anything. Still, at least the system appears to have been metric. This is followed by a much larger output for barley of 3 x 9 = 27 kilograms, which strikes me as a little bit odd, given that wheat was probably the staple crop, followed by barley. On the other hand, there is nothing to indicate that this is a monthly total for barley. In fact, the total of approx. 27 kilograms is immediately followed by the number 7. My interpretation of this apparently stray number is that it may represent 7 months (the ideogram for month being conveniently omitted), yielding a total of a little less than 4 kilograms per month, which would align the barley production total with the wheat. But this still strikes me as really odd. Why would the scribe assign the total for only 1 month’s production of wheat, and follow it up with the total production of barley for 7 months? This does not make much sense. We then have a total production of about 3 x 3 = approx. 9 kilograms of seed, if I am interpreting this right. The reason I assign 3 x 3 = about 9 kilograms of seed is this: I believe the scribe deliberately omitted the T logogram (which is equal to about 3 kilograms), hence 3 (x 3) = 9.

Why would he do that? It is really quite simple. He has apparently omitted the ideogram for “month” right after the number 7. He has already used the T logogram twice on this line, and so – again to save valuable space on a very small tablet - he simply omits it the third time (as he did for the second occurrence for “month”), since he knows that all of the other scribes clearly understand that it is implicit. Just another shortcut. More shorthand. Big surprise. Still, the statistics do not seem to square. Our translation of the inventory totals just does not “feel right”. For this reason, I have to reserve judgement on the translation, given that there appears to be something the scribes all implicitly understood - I am not quite sure what – but which we do not at a remove of some 32 centuries. And I fear I may have taken the scribal practice of omitting what was “obvious” to the scribes a little too far.
  
Richard

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