Translation of Linear B tablet KN 562 Se 01 by Rita Roberts:
Translation of Linear B tablet Knossos KN 710 Ma 05 by Rita Roberts: This translation is self-explanatory. The translation of the supersyllabogram O on top of the water jug is entirely appropriate. Notice that Rita Roberts is beginning to master the (archaic) ancient Greek alphabet.
Brian Wyble’s carved facsimile of Linear B tablet KN 349 J b 12. He made this himself. Amazing!
Linear B text Latinized:
Rukito apudosi + ideogram for “olive oil” 52+ (because it is right
52 + units (probably amphorae) of olive oil, delivery to Lykinthos.
Transliterated into archaic Greek:
n /b / a0mfiforh/#ei e1laia, a0pu/dosij Lu/kinqo.
Brian is our newest student of Linear B. He already has a fundamental understanding of ancient Greek, although I am sure he realizes from the archaic Greek text above that he needs to master archaic Greek. This should come to him in no time flat.
Welcome from all of us to the study of Linear B, Brian!
Translation of Linear B tablet KN 349 J b 12 by Rita Roberts:
Decipherment of Linear A tablet HT 14 (Haghia Triada) with John G. Younger’s errors corrected:
Minoan Linear A kirita2 (kiritai) = delivery & kiretana = delivered (nos. 67 & 68 deciphered): After due consideration, I have decided that the terms kirita2 (kiritai) = “delivery” and kiretana = “delivered” on the following Minoan Linear A tablets from Haghia Triada, HT 114, HT 120, HT 121 & HT 129. Kirita2 (kiritai) is used in association with grain on HT 114 & HT 129, and with olive oil on HT 121. Kiretana, on the other hand, appears only on HT 120, again in association with grain. But how could I possibly have drawn the conclusion that these two terms were in any way related? It is actually quite simple. Both kirita2 (kiritai) = “delivery” and kiretana = “delivered” begin with almost the same prefix, i.e. kiri and kire. But does that make them directly related? If you stop to think about it, yes. I am convinced they are different grammatical forms of the same word, namely, “delivery” (nominative) in English. As It see it, kirita2 (kiritai) = “delivery” (nominative) & kiretana = “(having been) delivered” (perfect participle passive) which makes a great deal of sense in light of the fact that the same changes in form occur in all languages, ancient and modern. For instance, in Mycenaean Linear B, we have: apudosi = “delivery” (nominative) & apudedomeno = “(having been) delivered” (perfect participle passive) in English: delivery (nominative) & (having been) delivered (perfect participle passive) and in French: livraison = “delivery” (nominative) & (ayant été) livré = “(having been) delivered” (perfect participle passive) The problem with my decipherment is that it must compete with a number of other words which are frequently conjoined with the ideograms for “grain/wheat” and “olive oil” on several Linear A tablets, as noted below (with the number of occurrences of each term immediately following these potential alternatives): adaro 40 (ARKH 5) adu 680 (HT 92) apu2nadu 45(HT 14) ase 26 (HT 93) datu 15 (olive oil) (HT 123-124) iqa*118 50+ (HT 131) kupaja 16 (HT 116) pa3ni 33 (HT 102) pa3nina 12 (HT 93) pi*34te (HT 116) pitakase 161 (HT 21) pura2 40 (HT 116) qanuma 20 (HT 116) qaqaru 5(HT 93) saru 16 (olive oil) (HT 123-124) simita 5 (HT 96) siqine 12 (HT 116) tukirina 40 (HT 129) turunuseme 10 (HT 128) zu*22di 40 (HT 101) Any one of these words could be just as good a candidate. Right? Wrong. First of all, all but one of the terms given above occur only singly, which does not account for the shift from the nominative to the perfect participle passive. Kirita2 (kiritai) and kiretana (femine) do account for it in Minoan Linear A, but so also do apudosi and apudedomeno (neuter) do in Mycenaean Linear B. Moreover, the number of syllables in the Minoan Linear A terms is approximately equivalent to that of their Mycenaean Linear B counterparts. While this co-incidence does not necessarily ensure that the terms are equivalent in both syllabaries, the chances are that the greater the number of syllables in both, the greater the likelihood is that the selected terms are likely to be on target. In the list of alternative terms above, the only other tenable candidates are pa3ni (HT 102) & pa3nina (HT 93). Note in particular the identical shift from the nominative to the perfect participle passive in the latter, where the ppp. pa3nina has the exact same ultimate as does kiretana. Even if the latter terms pa3ni and pa3nina are actually the correct translations for “delivery” (nominative) & “(having been) delivered” (perfect participle passive) in Minoan Linear A rather than the two I have opted for, one or the other combination is likely to be correct, i.e. either: kirita2 (kiritai) = “delivery” (nominative) & kiretana = “(having been) delivered” (perfect participle passive) OR pa3ni = “delivery” (nominative) & pa3nina = “(having been) delivered” (perfect participle passive) However, I have opted for the former in light of the fact that in almost all languages, ancient or modern, the perfect participle passive deviates in its orthography from the nominative, as is also the case with Mycenaean Linear B, English and French above. It is for this reason that kirita2 (kiritai) = “delivery” (nominative) & kiretana = “(having been) delivered” (perfect participle passive) are more tenable than pa3ni (nominative) & pa3nina (perfect participle passive), of which the nominative and perfect participle passive share the exact same prefix, pa3ni, at least in my judgement. The question still remains, what do pa3ni (nominative) & pa3nina (perfect participle passive) mean? I shall have to see if I can tackle that problem later on. This brings the total number of Minoan Linear A terms I have managed to deciphered more or less accurately to 68. The likelihood that these two terms are correctly deciphered is very good (> 75%).
Mycenaean Linear B tablets on terms and activities related to olive oil as templates for cross-correlation to Minoan Linear A tablets: In order to determine how to rationally assign meanings of terms and activities related to olive oil to Minoan Linear A tablets, we must rely on Mycenaean Linear B tablets as templates for cross-correlative retrogressive analysis to corresponding Minoan Linear A tablets of the same activities and terms relative to olives and olive oil. Otherwise, sensible decipherments of the latter are frankly impossible. For instance, these three Linear B tablets from Knossos clearly illustrate how terms and activities dependent on olive oil in Mycenaean Linear B must without exception be taken into consideration if we are ever to decipher the same terms and activities with any degree of accuracy on corresponding Minoan Linear A tablets: What possible value can these 3 tablets in Mycenaean Linear B serve as indicators of similar terms or activities on Minoan Linear A tablets? For instance, Minoan Linear A tablets HT 121 & 123+124 from Haghia Triada cannot be deciphered at all without cross-correlative retrogressive analysis with as many Mycenaean Linear B tablets as conceivably possible. At the present juncture, I am as yet unable to decipher it, but cross-correlative analysis with as many activities and terms related to olive oil in Mycenaean Linear B may eventually provide me with the means to achieve a reasonable decipherment of it. The operative word is may, and even that is a long shot: For the time being, the words kirita2 (kiritai) and kitai are utterly undecipherable. I have not the faintest idea what they mean. It is remotely possible that kitai may mean “delivery”, given that the number of olive oil (whatever) is 30. So conceivably we might be dealing here with the delivery of 30 units or amphorae of olive oil. But then the problem is, how do we know what the 30 units of olive oil refer to, in the absence of any word on the tablet other than kitai related to olive oil? On HT 123+124, kitai might conceivably mean “delivery” or it might mean something else, such as “amphora”, which could make sense in the context, where it could possibly mean 30 “amphorae” of olive oil. But we cannot have it both ways. In the absence of a second word referencing olive oil, it is impossible for kitai alone to mean either “delivery” or “amphorae” both or God knows what else simultaneously . So we are trapped in a paradox which cannot be resolved. On the other hand, another “definition” of kitai may possibly be in reach, but only after we have translated a number of Linear B tablets, in order to compile a list of potential alternative terms or activities which might possibly serve as templates for the potential decipherment of “corresponding” words on Linear A tablets. Possibly, but not probably, and more likely than not, never. The challenge is formidable. I have my work cut out for me. Moreover, the great number of permutations and combinations besetting any interpreter make the challenge much more intimidating.
What does the word teri mean in Minoan Linear A? In spite of the fact that Andras Zeke of the Minoan Language Blog attributes to the Minoan Linear A word teri the name of a type of ram on Linear A tablet PH 31, his translation cannot stand, because the same word is used in association with olive (oil) on another tablet, HT 91 (Haghia Triada). So the term is clearly independent of either association. On the other hand, the context of both these tablets is susceptible of assisting in determining what teri might mean. We should definitely take into account that only 1 ram and 1 (amphora?) of olive oil is mentioned on each of these two tablets. So the context severely limits our interpretation(s), since only large numbers of rams and olive oil admit of more liberal translations. I found that I had no real choice other than to consult Chris Tselentis’ superb Linear B Lexicon, in order to extract any meaning(s) that might possibly mesh with the Minoan word teri in light of the fact that only 1 reference is made to a ram and an amphora of wine. Under the circumstances, the only practicable translations I could come up with were:  just delivered (as it is certainly conceivable that just 1 of either of the above could have been “just delivered” to a farmer or possibly to a priest or priestess, possibly for sacrifice  as an offering, again to a priest or priestess, possibly for sacrifice or  being delivered, once again in the same context. This brings the number of Minoan Linear A words we have deciphered, more or less accurately, to 65.
Olive oil and olive trees in Mycenaean Linear B — Part B: Cretan olive trees: Here we have 3 more tablets from Knossos which specifically mention Cretan olive trees in Mycenaean Linear B. It would be nice if the word for “Cretan” in Minoan Linear A were similar to Keresiya (feminine here because it must agree with the feminine word erawa = “olive tree”. But Googling the Internet I have come up with nothing so far. This will make it very difficult to extrapolate the “correct” word for “Cretan” from the Linear A tablets on olive oil production, even though Kerasiya occurs as often as apudosi = “delivery” on the Linear B tablets.
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.
Linear A tablet dealing with spices (unknown provenance): coriander or delivery The word ti?redu on the left hand side of the top line of this Linear A tablet of unknown provenance dealing with spices may mean either “coriander” or “delivery”, but my bet is on the latter, since the word “coriander” is almost certainly pre Indo-European, and therefore probably existed in the Minoan language as well, along with the three words cited on the Linear A tablet above. I cannot for the life of me figure out what the second syllabogram on this tablet is. If there is anyone out there who can clinch it for me, please do so. Compare the text on this tablet in Linear A with those on Linear B tablets Kn 415 Lc 01, KN 4176 L c 01 & KN 418 Lc 11 below for the reason why I prefer the translation “delivery” over “coriander”.
Linear B tablet KN 349 J b 12, delivery of olive oil to Lykinthios (or Lykinthos): Linear B tablet KN 349 J b 12 displays the standard, formulaic text for delivery of anything, in this case, olive oil. In addition, the destination, “to Lykinthios” (or “Lykinthos”, a major island in the Mycenaean Empire) is designated. Had the olive oil been delivered to Knossos, no destination would have been specified, as the Linear B scribes all took it for granted that any tablet mentioning delivery of any livestock (especially sheep) or any commodity (coriander, spices, olive oil etc.) without any mention of the destination was that it was Knossos by default. There was no point in their mentioning Knossos, since after all it was the capital of the Empire, and by far the largest city in it (pop. 55,000+, a huge city for the Bronze Age).
Linear B tablets dealing with gold cloth (supersyllabogram KU incharged): The 3 Linear B tablets above all deal with gold cloth. The supersyllabogram KI incharged in the ideogram for pawea = textiles indicates that the cloth is made of gold = kuruso in Linear B. The translations are completely transparent. The only problem is with the right-truncated syllabogram A on the first fragment. This could be the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of at least 5 Mycenaean Greek words as illustrated above. Take your choice. My favourite is “decorated”, although I also particularly like “silver”, since cloth woven with silver and gold would be extremely precious. The following picture illustrates two Minoan women wearing dresses with gold weaving.
Translation of tablets K 04.40 N u 03 & K 04.41 from the Knossos “Armoury” While the translation of these two tablets is quite straightforward, there is a little problem with the second one, since it is unsure whether or not the chariot body or the chariot wheels are made of willow. However, I prefer the first translation over the second, given that on almost all other Linear B tablets from the Knossos “Armoury” are made of elm. On the same tablet (04.41), it is obvious to the observant translator that we may be dealing with anywhere from 50 to 59 sets of wheels on axle, ergo, 50 to 59 chariots.
Here you see two more chariot tablets from the Knossos “armoury” KN 04-34 N u 08 The first deals with 2 chariots, not 1, since the number 2 after the ideogram for “wheel” cannot conceivably mean that one chariot has two sets of wheels on axle! Given that the supersyllabogram MO refers to “a single”, it would appear that there is at least a single spare wheel on hand. But that is not necessarily the case, because the tablet is right truncated. It makes more sense that there would be two spares for two chariots. Folks back in the late Minoan and Mycenaean era kept spares on hand too, though they did not carry the spare around with them. They would have to go back to the workshop to get a spare for a broken wheel. A bit of a pain in the butt. Still, there is nothing new under the sun. Chariots, cars, six of one, half a dozen of the other. KN 04.38 N u 11 The second one deals with the eventual delivery of 15 chariots made of elm wood with their wheels already on axle presently under construction. Their translation is quite straightforward. The supersyllabogram ZE, when paired with the ideogram for “wheel” always means “with (2) wheels” or to put it more succinctly, “with its wheels on axle”.
Mycenaean Linear B Units of Dry Measure, Knossos Tablet KN 406 L c 02: Click to ENLARGE The translation of this tablet from Knossos into English is relatively straightforward. The problem is that no one really knows what exactly the unit of measure designated by the Linear B symbol that looks like a T means. My best guess is that the 9 shakers of coriander (I say, shakers, because the ideogram looks like a shaker & it is most likely folks used shakers back in the good old days in Knossos, just as we do nowadays). However, the problem remains, how do 9 shakers of coriander add up to only 2 units. My best guess is that the shakers were boxed, 5 units per box. So 9 shakers would have filled one box and most of another... something along those lines. Andras Zeke of the Minoan Language Blog gives a value of approx. 3 kilograms per unit, meaning we would end up with about 5 kg. or so for 9 shakers of coriander. They would have had to be really huge shakers! No one could have held them. So it is quite apparent that the measured value Andras Zeke has assigned to our wee little T is in fact way off the mark, if we are to believe our eyes. On the other hand, that T might very well have been divisible by 10 or even 100, given that the Mycenaean numeric system is based on units of 10, just like our own. So it is conceivable that we are dealing with some kind of metric system here. Given that the Mycenaean numeric is base 10, that would make sense. So we could be dealing with something like 50 grams and not 5 kilograms of coriander... that would make a hell of a lot of sense. But since we were not there to see how the scribes allocated the spice jars into so-called units, we shall never really know. Still, there is no harm in speculating. Now, as for my translation of the ideogram for a spice container (spice shaker), I have translated it specifically as a “a coriander spice shaker”, since on every single every tablet, bar none, from Knossos mentioning spice containers, it is always coriander that is spelled out. The folks at Knossos must have been crazy about coriander! Since there are only 2 or 3 tablets which do not mention coriander outright, that leaves us with around 95 % of all tablets referring to spices which do spell it out. Linear B scribes were very fussy about having to spell out the names of spices, or for that matter, anything on Linear B tablets which could be easily represented, i.e. symbolized by an ideogram. The ideogram appears on this tablet, but the word does not. This is practically beside the point. It appears that the scribe simply did not bother writing it, for some reason or another. The practice of spelling out the name of any item on a Linear B tablet which can easily be illustrated with an ideogram is very unusual. The scribes were sticklers for saving space at all costs on what is admittedly a very small medium, rarely more than 30 cm. wide by 15 cm. deep, and more often than not, even smaller than that! So the fact that the scribes generally did spell out coriander as the spice of choice for Minoan Knossos seems to imply that the king, queen, princes and the palace attendants prized it very highly. Another point: almost all of the tablets mentioning koriyadana = coriander also use the word apudosi = delivery, i.e. they tabulate the actual delivery of so many units of coriander to the palace. So this tablet can be translated any of these ways: Achareus delivers to Phaistos 9 shakers of coriander for a total of 2 units or Achareus delivers for deposit at Phaistos 9 shakers of coriander for a total of 2 units. or even Achareus delivers for deposit at the palace of Phaistos 9 shakers of coriander for a total of 2 units. These are all valid translations, since after all everyone who was anyone, meaning the scribes, the nobility and the wealthy businessmen) knew perfectly well that such precious commodities as coriander could only be consumed by the well-to-do, and that these folks all lived – you guessed it – in the palace! There was absolutely no need in the minds of the scribes, meaning, in practice, for them to write out what was obvious to everyone. This is precisely why nowadays we need to learn to read out of the tablets what the scribes were actually inventorying, rather than trying to read into them. If this sounds like a tough slog, you bet it is. But it is far better to aim at getting the actual gist of the message on the tablet (whether or not spelled out in text, or simply with logograms and ideograms) than to strip down your translation to the point where it becomes unintelligible. This is all the more true in light of the fact that at least 800 of 3,000 tablets I meticulously consulted from the Scripta Minoa from Knossos contain very little if any text at all, and rather a lot of supersyllabograms (single syllabograms), ideograms and logograms. The reason for this is obvious: in order to save as much space as humanly possible, the Linear B accountants (scribes) never wrote out what was obvious to them all as a guild. In other words, Mycenaean Linear B, as an inventory and statistical accounting language – which is what it basically is – combines two notable features: (a) the language is highly formulaic & (b) the greater part of it is shorthand for Mycenaean Greek text inferred but rarely explicitly spelled out. If this sounds peculiar to us nowadays, we need only recall that this is exactly how modern shorthand functions. All too many Linear B translators have completely overlooked this fundamental characteristic of Mycenaean Linear B, which in large part explains its almost total uniformity over a wide geographic area, from Knossos to Phaistos and other Mycenaean sites on the island to Crete itself to Pylos on the opposite coast, all the way to Mycenae and Tiryns on the far side of the Peloponnese and even as far away as Thebes in Boeotia, which was a key Mycenaean centre and which has been continually occupied from then on right through to today. Click on the map to ENLARGE: All of this further implies that, while Linear B, the accounting and inventorying language for Mycenaean Greek, was homogeneous, uniform and formulaic to the teeth, the actual Mycenaean dialect may very well have not been. In fact, I sincerely doubt it was, since it is symptomatic of all ancient Greek dialects, even those which are closely related (such as the Ionic and Attic) to diverge and go their own merry way, regardless of the structure, orthography and grammatical quirks of their closest relatives. Since that was surely the case with every ancient Greek dialect with which we are familiar – and God knows it was! - then it must have also been the case with Mycenaean Greek and with its closest, kissing cousin, Arcado-Cypriot Greek, the latter written in Linear C or in the quirky Arcado-Cypriot alphabet. Even though no other ancient Greek dialects were as closely related as were Mycenaean and its kissing cousin, Arcado-Cypriot, these dialects were somewhat different. What is more, it is almost certain that there were notable variations within each of these dialects, the further afield you went. In other words, the Mycenaean Greek spoken at Knossos and Phaistos, which would have been much more influenced by its forbear, the Minoan language, was a little different from that spoken at Pylos, and doubtless even more from the Mycenaean Greek at Mycenae, Tiryns and especially Thebes. But spoken Mycenaean Greek and the Mycenaean Linear B accounting and inventorying language are not the same beast. The latter is a homogeneous, formulaic and largely shorthand subset of the former. I shall have a great deal more to say about this extremely important distinction between the two in future. Richard