Is the Minoan Linear A labrys inscribed with I-DA-MA-TE in Minoan or in proto-Greek? PART A: Is it in the Minoan language? In my previous post on the Minoan Linear A labrys inscribed with I-DA-MA-TE, I postulated that the word Idamate was probably either the name of the king or of the high priestess (of the labyrinth?) to whom this labrys has been ritually dedicated. But in so doing I was taking the path of least resistance, by seeking out the two most simplistic decipherments which would be the least likely to prove troublesome or controversial. In retrospect, that was a cop-out. No sooner had I posted my two alternate simplistic translations than I was informed by a close colleague of mine in the field of diachronic historical linguistics focusing on Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B that at least two other alternative decipherments came into play, these being: 1. that the term Idamate may be the Minoan equivalent of the Mycenaean Linear B Damate, which is apparently an early version of the ancient Greek, Demeter, who was the goddess of cereals and harvesting: 2. that the term Idamate may be Minoan for Mount Ida, in which case, the word Mate = “mount”, such that the phrase actually spells out “Ida mount(ain)” : Since both of these decipherments make eminent sense, either could, at least theoretically, be correct. But there is a third alternative, and it is far more controversial and compelling than either of the first two. 3. It is even possible that the four syllabograms I DA MA & TE are in fact supersyllabograms, which is to say that each syllabogram is the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of a word, presumably a Minoan word. But if these 4 supersyllabograms represent four consecutive Minoan words, what on earth could these words possibly signify, in light of the fact that we know next to nothing about the Minoan language. It appears we are caught in an irresolvable Catch-22. Yet my own recent research has allowed me to tease potential decipherments out of 107 or about 21 % of all intact words in Prof. John G. Younger’s Linear A lexicon of 510 terms by my own arbitrary count. Scanning this scanty glossary yielded me numerous variations on 3 terms which might conceivably make sense in at least one suppositious context. These terms (all of which I have tentatively deciphered) are: 1. For I: itaja = unit of liquid volume for olive oil (exact value unknown) 2. FOR DA: either: daropa = stirrup jar = Linear B karawere (high certainty) or datara = (sacred) grove of olive trees or data2 (datai) = olive, pl. date = Linear B erawo or datu = olive oil or daweda = medium size amphora with two handles 3. For TE: tereza = large unit of dry or liquid measurement or tesi = small unit of measurement But I cannot find any equivalent for MA other than maru, which seemingly means “wool”, even in Minoan Linear A, this being the apparent equivalent of Mycenaean Linear B mari or mare. The trouble is that this term (if that is what the third supersyllabogram in idamate stands in for) does not contextually mesh at all with any of the alternatives for the other three words symbolized by their respective supersyllabograms. But does that mean the phrase is not Minoan? Far from it. There are at least 2 cogent reasons for exercising extreme caution in jumping to the conclusion that the phrase cannot be in Minoan. These are: 1. that the decipherments of all of the alternative terms I have posited for the supersyllabograms I DA & TE above are all tentative, even if they are more than likely to be close to the mark and some of them probably bang on (for instance, daropa), which I believe they are; 2. that all 3 of the supersyllabograms I DA & TE may instead stand for entirely different Minoan words, none of which I have managed to decipher. And God knows there are plenty of them! Since I have managed to decipher only 107 of 510 extant intact Minoan Linear A words by my arbitrary count, that leaves 403 or 79 % undeciphered! That is far too great a figure to be blithely brushed aside. The > impact of combinations of a > number of Minoan Linear A words on their putative decipherment: To give you a rough idea of the number of undeciphered Minoan words beginning with I DA & TE I have not been able to account for, here we have a cross-section of just a few of those words from Prof. John G. Younger’s Linear A Reverse Lexicon: which are beyond my ken: For I: iininuni ijadi imetu irima itaki For DA: dadana daini daki daku daqaqa For MA: madadu majasa manuqa masuri For TE: tedatiqa tedekima tenamipi teneruda But the situation is far more complex than it appears at first sight. To give you just a notion of the enormous impact of exponential mathematical permutations and combinations on the potential for gross errors in any one of a substantial number of credible decipherments of any given number of Minoan Linear A terms as listed even in the small cross-section of the 100s of Minoan Words in Prof. John G. Younger’s Reverse Linear A Lexicon, all we have to do is relate the mathematical implications of the chart on permutations to any effort whatsoever at the decipherment of even a relatively small no. of Minoan Linear A words: CLICK on the chart of permutations to link to the URL where the discussion of both permutations and combinations occurs: to realize how blatantly obvious it is that any number of interpretations of any one of the selective cross-section of terms which I have listed here can be deemed the so-called actual term corresponding to the supersyllabogram which supposedly represents it. But, and I must emphatically stress my point, this is just a small cross-section of all of the terms in the Linear B Reverse Lexicon beginning with each of the supersyllabograms I DA MA & TE in turn. It is grossly obvious that, if we allow for the enormous number of permutations and combinations to which the supersyllabograms I DA MA & TE must categorically be subjected mathematically, it is quite out of the question to attempt any decipherment of these 4 supersyllabograms, I DA MA & TE, without taking context absolutely into consideration. And even in that eventuality, there is no guarantee whatsoever that any putative decipherment of each of these supersyllabograms (I DA MA & TE) in turn in the so-called Minoan language will actually hold water, since after all, a smaller, but still significant subset of an extremely large number of permutation and combinations must still remain incontestably in effect. The mathematics of the aforementioned equations simply stack up to a very substantial degree against any truly convincing decipherment of any single Minoan Linear A term, except for one small consideration (or as it turns out, not so small at all). As it so happens, and as we have posited in our first two alternative decipherments above, i.e. 1. that Idamate is Minoan for Mycenaean Damate, the probable equivalent of classical Greek Demeter, or 2. that Idamate actually means “Mount Ida”, these two possible decipherments which do make sense can be extrapolated from the supersyllabograms I DA MA & TE, at least if we take into account the Minoan Linear A terms beginning with I DA & TE (excluding TE), which I have managed, albeit tentatively, to decipher. However, far too many putative decipherments of the great majority of words in the Minoan language itself are at present conceivable, at least to my mind. Yet, this scenario is quite likely to change in the near future, given that I have already managed to tentatively decipher 107 or 21 % of 510 extant Minoan Linear A words, by my arbitrary count. It is entirely conceivable that under these circumstances I shall be able to decipher even more Minoan language words in the near future. In point of fact, if Idamate actually does mean either Idamate (i.e. Demeter) or Ida Mate (i.e. Mount Ida), then: (a) with only 2 possible interpretations for IDAMATE now taken into account, the number of combinations and permutations is greatly reduced to an almost insignificant amount & (b) the actual number of Minoan Linear A words I have deciphered to date rises from 107 to 108 (in a Boolean OR configuration, whereby we can add either “Demeter” or “Mount Ida” to our Lexicon, but not both). A baby step this may be, but a step forward regardless.
Before we can decipher even a single Linear A tablet on olive oil, we must decipher as many as we can in Linear B, because... PART A: delivery of olive oil Before we can plausibly (and frequently tentatively) decipher even a single Linear A tablet on olive oil, we must decipher as many as we can in Linear B, because there are so many facets to be taken fully into consideration in the olive oil sub-sector of the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy related to the production of olive oil which on an adequate number of Linear B tablets (at least 10), mostly from Knossos, dealing with harvesting from olive oil trees and the production and delivery of olive oil that we must account for every single term related to olive oil on the Linear B tablets, and then compile a list of all of these terms in order to cross-correlate these with equivalent terms on the Linear A tablets, mostly from Haghia Triada. Another vital factor which just occurred to me is that the Minoan economy appears to have been primarily centred in Haghia Triada, while the Mycenaean primarily in Knossos, with valuable contributions from Pylos as well. In other words, the economic centre or power house, if you will, of the Minoan economy appears to have been Haghia Triada and not Knossos. I am somewhat baffled by the fact that researchers to date have not taken this important factor adequately into account. It appears to reveal that Knossos had not yet risen to prominence in the Minoan economy in the Middle Minoan Period (ca. 2100-1600 BCE): The gravest challenge confronting us in the cross-correlation of the several economic terms related to olive oil production in the late Minoan III 3a period under Mycenaean suzerainty (ca. 1500-1450 BCE) with potentially equivalent terms in Minoan Linear A arises from the mathematical theoretical constructs of combinations and permutations. Given, for instance, that there are potentially a dozen (12) terms related to olive oil production on an adequate number (10-12) Linear B tablets to afford effectual cross-correlation, how on earth are we to know which terms in Mycenaean Linear B correspond to apparently similar terms in Minoan Linear A? In other words, if we for instance extrapolate a total of 12 terms from Mycenaean Linear B tablets, how are we to line or match up the Mycenaean Linear B terms in a “Column A” construct with those in Minoan Linear B in “Column B”? There is no practical way that we can safely assert that term A (let us say, for the sake of expediency, that this word is apudosi = “delivery”) in Mycenaean Greek corresponds to term A in Minoan Linear A, rather than any of B-L, in any permutation and/or in any combination. This leads us straight into the trap of having to assign ALL of the signified (terms) in Mycenaean Linear A to all of the signified in Minoan Linear B. I shall only be able to definitively demonstrate this quandary after I have deciphered as many Linear B tablets on olive oil as I possibly can. For the time being, we have no choice but to set out on our search with these 3 tablets, all of which prepend the first term apudosi = “delivery” to the ideogram for olive oil. In closing, I wish to emphatically stress that this is precisely the signified I expected to turn up in the list of terms potentially related to olive oil production in Mycenaean Linear B. It is also the most important of all Mycenaean Linear B terms prepended to the ideogram for “olive oil” on the Linear B tablets. When we come to making the fateful decision to assign the the “correct” Minoan Linear A term meaning just that, “delivery” on the Linear A tablets dealing with olive oil, how are we to know which Linear A signified corresponds to Linear B apudosi = “delivery”? Still the situation is not as bad as you might think, at least for this term. Why so? Because if it appears (much) more often on the Linear B tablets (say, theoretically, 5 times versus less than 5 for all the other terms in Linear B related to olive oil), then the term appearing the most frequently on Minoan Linear A tablets related to olive oil is more likely than not to be the equivalent of apudosi, i.e. to mean “delivery”. The less frequent the occurrence of any particular term relative to olive oil on the Mycenaean Linear B tablets, the greater the room there is for error, to the point that where a term appears only once on all of the Linear B tablets we can manage to muster up for translation, it becomes next to impossible to properly align that term with any of the terms occurring only once on the Minoan Linear A tablets, especially where more than one signified occurs on the Mycenaean Linear B tablets. If for example, 3 terms occur only once on the Linear B tablets, which one(s) aligns with which one(s) on the Linear A? A messy scenario. But we must make the best of the situation, bite the bullet, and cross-correlate these 3 terms in all permutations and combinations (= 9!) from the Linear B to the Linear A tablets containing them. This I shall definitively illustrate in a Chart once I have translated all terms related to olive oil production in Mycenaean Linear A.
Is the syllabogram ZE just a plain old syllabogram? A MAJOR discovery soon to be announced! ZE, the Super Syllabogram! Just the other day, while meticulously examining some of the 100s of the fragments of the Scripta Minoa I have already ploughed through with a fine-tooth comb, I noticed something particularly astonishing, something which has never been directly observed until now, but which is bound to have a significant impact on the continuing saga all of us, as researchers, are pursuing in our attempts to successfully decipher certain aspects of the Linear B syllabary, including both logograms and ideograms, which have hitherto remained entirely recalcitrant to interpretation. But I sincerely believe I have actually cracked another mystery in the Linear B saga, and that mystery revolves around not one, but more than one, Linear B syllabogram, logogram and ideogram, taken not in isolation but in specific, invariable combination(s) with one another. This entirely new approach to the decipherment of hitherto inexplicable portions of Linear B tablets, indeed, even of fragments of Linear B tablets, is bound to have profound implications in our ability to break open at least some of the remaining mysteries of Linear B. Not only did I discover this particular syllabogram ZE in a specific configuration, that is to say, a specific, invariable order with the very same ideogram several times over, but I also discovered the same phenomenon occurring at least as frequently and in some cases, far more frequently, with specific syllabograms always combined in exactly the same order with exactly the same ideogram. Something is going on here, and I mean something big, which has eluded the notice of all Linear B researchers to date, in the 60 years plus since Michael Ventris first deciphered Linear B. To say the very least, I was extremely lucky to have stumbled upon this particular and particularly precise usage of the “syllabogram” ZE in the Scripta Minoa, which places it firmly in the same class as the most common Linear B logograms, all of which are already perfectly understood. The big difference here is that, until now, all Linear B logograms we know the precise meaning of are all comprised of nothing but two or more syllabograms. I stress this. In the case of ZE, we have an entirely new phenomenon, as you shall soon discover for yourselves. Please understand that for my purposes, and in fact for the sake of absolute clarity and for sound theoretical purposes, I insist on a clear distinction between a logogram and an ideogram. In fact, as you are soon to see, we may have to “invent” at least one new class of Linear B “symbols” which is a composite of either: a both a syllabogram and an ideogram, but always in the same precise configuration and in the same precise order; b and, yes, even 2 ideograms, again always in the same precise configuration and in the same precise order. I am in fact so convinced that the “meaning” I am about to assign to the syllabogram ZE in combination with the (as yet) “secret” syllabogram I shall be unveiling is in fact so sound as to be practically self-evident. I challenge all major researchers into Linear B to challenge my interpretation of the ZE + ideogram logogram, since after all I may be barking up the wrong tree. But somehow, intuitively, inductively and contextually, I do not believe I err. Only time will tell. What I sincerely believe I am about to demonstrate is this: Linear B is an even more complex, more sophisticated, in short, a more elegant syllabary system than we have yet imagined, so much so indeed that it may be the most sophisticated syllabary ever to have existed prior to the advent of the alphabetic scripts. Keep posted! Richard
Linear B Ideograms: Level 5.0 (Advanced) Ideograms formed by Combinations of Syllabograms (Click to ENLARGE): It is obvious from this table illustrating 3 of the most common ideograms found on extant Linear B tablets, i.e. cheese, honey & ointment, that the Minoan/Mycenaean scribes were at great pains to save as much precious space on those little (often tiny) baked clay tablets they used, as they very frequently resorted to replacing whole words, specifically the most common Mycenaean vocabulary, with ideograms. Ideograms were formed in 2 distinct ways. The easiest way, which the scribes resorted to almost all of the time, was simply to use a pictorial representation of the word(s) which they wished to “write”, as illustrated in this example (Click to ENLARGE): The second method, which was considerably more complex, and also very clever, was to combine 2, and sometimes even 3, syllabograms, by simply piling them on top of one another, but always in a specific order and in a universal standard geometric pattern. This is just another example of the geometric economy of Linear B, which I have referenced previously in our Blog. The only thing I myself can't quite figure out is this, why would the scribes have used simple ideograms for the vast majority of the common words they were intended to replace, but then turn to (seemingly) complicating matters by piling syllabograms on top of one another? I just don't know. But they did, and that's the end of it. On a final note, once we have come to the end of Level 5, Advanced, in our Linear B lessons, we shall have completed the course, and will have under our belts the Linear B syllabary and ideograms in their entirety. This is a wonderful accomplishment for any student willing to take the lengthy time and sustained effort to learn Mycenaean Linear B, a language which cannot be mastered, so to speak, “with a snap of the fingers”. To tell the truth, it has already taken me 3 years to get to the point where I am myself in my attempts to “master” Linear B and the complex Mycenaean Greek grammar underlying it, and I still have a long way to go. But perseverance always pays off in the long run. I also have 3 students learning Linear B, of whom 1 in particular is now at the threshold of Linear B Level 3 (Intermediate), and who has already mastered the entire basic syllabary. Richard