summer haiku d'été – alone she reaps = seule elle moissonne alone she reaps the willowing wheat... yes her sorrows' lay seule elle moissonne le blé ondulant ... chant de son chagrin Richard Vallance © by/ par Richard Vallance 2020 painting, the harvester by Edward John Cobbett (1815-1899) based on the lovely lyrical poem by William Wordsworth (1770-1850) suivant le beau poème lyrique de William Wordsworth (1770-1850) The Solitary Reaper Behold her, single in the field, Yon solitary Highland Lass! Reaping and singing by herself; Stop here, or gently pass! Alone she cuts and binds the grain, And sings a melancholy strain; O listen! for the Vale profound Is overflowing with the sound. No Nightingale did ever chaunt More welcome notes to weary bands Of travellers in some shady haunt, Among Arabian sands: A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird, Breaking the silence of the seas Among the farthest Hebrides. Will no one tell me what she sings?— Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow For old, unhappy, far-off things, And battles long ago: Or is it some more humble lay, Familiar matter of to-day? Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain, That has been, and may be again? Whate'er the theme, the Maiden sang As if her song could have no ending; I saw her singing at her work, And o'er the sickle bending;— I listened, motionless and still; And, as I mounted up the hill, The music in my heart I bore, Long after it was heard no more. William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
HT 123 (Haghia Triada) VERSO, deciphered for the first time ever:
As follows: 1. 2 shares in an enclosed plot land for 11 months, 1 scythe for sowing 2. tidata . pisa . 4 2 shares in 1 enclosed plot 3. in 1 enclosed plot *188 tupadida 4. sowing *... kadi . repu 5. paputuito harvesting to full harvest 6. kuro 20 . kiro 5 NOTES: 1. the lop-sided square with a cross in it in line 1 is an enclosed plot of land with 2 shares for the tenant farmers, which was sown 11 months ago, the tenants using a scythe for sowing. The scythe also appears in line 1, looking somewhat like a sword. 2. In line 2, the 2 shares are repeated. The words *188 and tupadata are indecipherable, although tupadida is obviously some kind of crop. 4. In line 4, the word kadi refers to an amphora (large) for the storage of the paputuito (also indecipherable, also a crop) 5. which in line 5 has been harvested to full harvest. This makes perfect sense, since the harvest occurs in the 11th. month, i.e. lunar November. This particular season, it appears to be still warm enough that month to cash in on the full harvest. This is possible in a Mediterranean climate such as in Crete. 6. In line 6, kuro references the total return for the full harvest, while kiro stands for the 5 shares owed (4 for the tenants, 1 for the landlord). This also makes sense, since 2 shares are listed on line 1, and 2 more in line 2. As for the extra share, this is apparently the tithe for the landlord.
Are Minoan and Mycenaean fractions fractions? I am not at all convinced Since Minoan and Mycenaean fractions, as estimated by Andras Zeke of the Minoan Language Blog and Prof. John G. Younger, fall as low as 1/10 and 1/32, I am not at all convinced that these are fractions at all. They are, as far as I can tell, crop shares. This makes a lot more sense, since we are dealing with farming, where crop shares have always been of paramount importance. As for units of measurement, we have no real idea what they were, since Minoan Crete and the Mycenaean Empire are so remote in history. No one can possibly determine fractions that far back in history. In fact, Prof. Younger and Andras Zeke cannot even agree on the values of the fractions... not that that argument invalidates the notion they are not fractions. That is a specious argument. However, it makes more sense to consider these as crop shares, especially in view of the fact that some of the Mycenaean symbols are so remarkably similar to their Minoan counterparts. The appearance of symbols has nothing to do with what we take them to mean. This again is an arbitrary decision, which may be right or wrong.
HT 95 (Haghia Triada), dealing emmer and einkorn wheat, is one of the most significant of all Linear A tablets: Linear A tablet, HT 95 (Haghia Triada), which deals with various grain crops, i.e. emmer and einkorn wheat, millet and spelt, and with flax, is unquestionably the most important Linear A tablets, with the possible exception of HT 86, dealing with the same roster of grains, inscribed exclusively in Old Minoan. When I posted HT 86 (Haghia Triada) the first time round, I established that kunisu meant “emmer wheat” and dideru “einkorn wheat”, but I was not quite sure I had them in the right order. Thanks to Cyrus G. Gordon, who makes the following statement: ... Linear A ku-ni-su must mean some kind of wheat because it is followed by the WHEAT determinative. Now kunnisu is a Semitic word for “emmer wheat” so that Linear A ku-ni-su WHEAT “emmer wheat” not only adds a word to our Minoan vocabulary but it also establishes Ventris’s (sic) readings of the ku, ni and su signs. (italics mine) we now know beyond doubt that kunisu does mean emmer wheat, just as I had suspected. Consequently, since these two types of wheat appear conjointly here and very close together on HT 86, we are left to draw the conclusion that dideru means einkorn wheat. Now dideru appears 4 times on HT 86 & 95, while kunisu appears once on HT 10 & HT 79, and 4 times on HT 86 & 95, for a total of 6 times. So it pretty much goes without saying that these two grains play a significant role in the Minoan diet. This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Late Neolithic and Bronze Age Mediterranean and Middle Eastern diets, since these two grains were the predominant ones in all societies in these regions. This will become blatantly obvious when I publish the Comprehensive Linear A Lexicon of 1031 New Minoan, pre-Greek substratum and Old Minoan words sometime in July, from which I cite all the references dealing with grain crops in the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age Mediterranean and Middle Eastern diets in REFERENCES below (Note that I have italicized explicit references to major grains in each title dealing with the same). As for dame and qera2u (qeraiu), proper identification is a bit problematic, because we do not know which is which. This is why I have tagged dame with the reference , signifying it could mean either spelt or millet, and qera2u (qeraiu) with , meaning either millet or spelt (the reverse). But the problem is that we are confronted with 2 permutations here. By this we mean that dame could mean either spelt or millet or vice versa, and qera2u (qeraiu) millet or spelt or millet or vice versa. Either way, dame means one of the two, while qera2u (qeraiu) the other. But how do we know this? It just so happens that, after emmer and einkorn wheat, the next most common grains in the Bronze Age Mediterranean and Middle East were millet and spelt. So chances are good that dame and qera2 (qeraiu) each references one or the other. The reference note  with flax indicates two things, (a) first that flax is in an oblique case, probably instrumental, i.e. with flax, since the nominative is sara2 (sarai) & (b) the standard unit of measurement is probably not something a bushel, because flax is extremely light. What it is we shall never know, since after all we have no real concept of what any standard unit of measurement, dry or liquid, was either in Minoan Linear A or Mycenaean Linear B. These civilizations are so remote in the distant past that any attempt at determining standard units of measurement amounts to nothing more or less than a wild guess. Nevertheless, we find that we are able to decipher HT 95 with a reasonable degree of accuracy, and in the case of kunisu and dideru, with complete accuracy. So we can now say with confidence that these two grains have been conclusively deciphered once and for all time, thanks to Cyrus H. Gordon. © by Richard Vallance Janke 2017 REFERENCES: 1 Adu, Michael. Stay green in wheat: Comparative study of modern bread wheat and ancient wheat cultivars https://www.academia.edu/32352362/Stay_green_in_wheat_Comparative_study_of_modern_bread_wheat_and_ancient_wheat_cultivars 2 Beneš, Jaromír. Kernel Weights of Triticum, Hordeum, Avena, Secale and Panicum Species can be used for Better Estimation of Importance of Different Cereal Species in Archaeobotanical Assemblages https://www.academia.edu/31109189/Kernel_Weights_of_Triticum_Hordeum_Avena_Secale_and_Panicum_Species_can_be_used_for_Better_Estimation_of_Importance_of_Different_Cereal_Species_in_Archaeobotanical_Assemblages 3 Desheva, Gergana. Comparative Evaluation of Einkorn Accessions (Triticum monococcum L.) of Some Main Agricultural Characters https://www.academia.edu/33523050/Comparative_Evaluation_of_Einkorn_Accessions_Triticum_monococcum_L._of_Some_Main_Agricultural_Characters 4 Gordon, Cyrus H. Linguistic continuity from Minoan to Eteocretan http://smea.isma.cnr.it/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Gordon_Linguistic-Continuity-from-Minoan.pdf 5 Mosenkis, Yuriy. MINOAN GREEK FARMING IN LINEAR A https://www.academia.edu/27669709/MINOAN_GREEK_FARMING_IN_LINEAR_A_Iurii_Mosenkis 6 Mueller-Bieniek, Aldona. Plant macrofossils from the site of Tell Arbid, Northeast Syria (3rd–2nd millennium BC). Preliminary report https://www.academia.edu/31923542/Plant_macrofossils_from_the_site_of_Tell_Arbid_Northeast_Syria_3rd_2nd_millennium_BC_._Preliminary_report 7 Poupet, Pierre. Approche pédoarchéologique des espaces de production agricole à l’âge du Bronze dans les montagnes méditerranéennes (exemples des Pyrénées-Orientales et de la Haute-Corse, France) https://www.academia.edu/32748459/Approche_p%C3%A9doarch%C3%A9ologique_des_espaces_de_production_agricole_%C3%A0_l_%C3%A2ge_du_Bronze_dans_les_montagnes_m%C3%A9diterran%C3%A9ennes_exemples_des_Pyr%C3%A9n%C3%A9es-Orientales_et_de_la_Haute-Corse_France_ 8 Salamini, F. AFLP Analysis of a Collection of Tetraploid Wheats Indicates the Origin of Emmer and Hard Wheat Domestication in Southeast Turkey https://www.academia.edu/33035148/AFLP_Analysis_of_a_Collection_of_Tetraploid_Wheats_Indicates_the_Origin_of_Emmer_and_Hard_Wheat_Domestication_in_Southeast_Turkey 9 Ibid. Genetics and geography of wild cereal domestication in the near east https://www.academia.edu/33035139/Genetics_and_geography_of_wild_cereal_domestication_in_the_near_east 10 Ibid. Molecular Diversity at 18 Loci in 321 Wild and 92 Domesticate Lines Reveal No Reduction of Nucleotide Diversity during Triticum monococcum (Einkorn) Domestication: Implications for the Origin of Agriculture https://www.academia.edu/33035113/Molecular_Diversity_at_18_Loci_in_321_Wild_and_92_Domesticate_Lines_Reveal_No_Reduction_of_Nucleotide_Diversity_during_Triticum_monococcum_Einkorn_Domestication_Implications_for_the_Origin_of_Agriculture 11 Shaaf, S. Evolutionary History of Wild Barley (Hordeum vulgare subsp. spontaneum) Analyzed Using Multilocus Sequence Data and Paleodistribution Modeling https://www.academia.edu/32892906/Evolutionary_History_of_Wild_Barley_Hordeum_vulgare_subsp._spontaneum_Analyzed_Using_Multilocus_Sequence_Data_and_Paleodistribution_Modeling 12 Stein, Gil. Isotope evidence for agricultural extensification reveals how the world's first cities were fed https://www.academia.edu/33353345/Isotope_evidence_for_agricultural_extensification_reveals_how_the_worlds_first_cities_were_fed 13 Ulanowksa, Agata. Different skills for different fibres? The use of flax and wool in textile technology of Bronze Age Greece in light of archaeological experiments. Workshop: The Competition of fibres, March 8-10, Excellence Cluster TOPOI (A-4), Textile Revolution https://www.academia.edu/31717946/Different_skills_for_different_fibres_The_use_of_flax_and_wool_in_textile_technology_of_Bronze_Age_Greece_in_light_of_archaeological_experiments._Workshop_The_Competition_of_fibres_March_8-10_Excellence_Cluster_TOPOI_A-4_Textile_Revolution_Freie_Universit%C3%A4t_Berlin_program_download_ 14 Yakar, Yak. The Nature and Extent of Neolithic Anatolia’s Contribution to the Emergence of Farming Communities in the Balkans - an Overview https://www.academia.edu/33025599/yakar_fur_festschrift_nikolov_web.pdf 15 You, Frank. The structure of wild and domesticated emmer wheat populations, gene flow between them, and the site of emmer domestication https://www.academia.edu/32014519/The_structure_of_wild_and_domesticated_emmer_wheat_populations_gene_flow_between_them_and_the_site_of_emmer_domestication 16 Zapata, Lydia. Hulled wheats in Spain: history of minor cereals https://www.academia.edu/33394959/Hulled_wheats_in_Spain_history_of_minor_cereals17 17 Ibid. Measuring grain size and assessing plant management during the EPPNB, results from Tell Qarassa (southern Syria) https://www.academia.edu/33337133/Measuring_grain_size_and_assessing_plant_management_during_the_EPPNB_results_from_Tell_Qarassa_southern_Syria_ 18 Ibid. The spread of agriculture in northern Iberia: New archaeobotanical data from El Mirón cave (Cantabria) and the open-air site of Los Cascajos (Navarra) https://www.academia.edu/32531730/The_spread_of_agriculture_in_northern_Iberia_New_archaeobotanical_data_from_El_Mir%C3%B3n_cave_Cantabria_and_the_open-air_site_of_Los_Cascajos_Navarra_
New interpretation of Linear A tablet PE 1 (Petras), grain crops:
In light of recent crucial discoveries I have made with respect to the cultivation of grain crops in the Bronze Age, particularly in Crete, I have revised my original decipherment of this tablet to read as follows:
Although it is uncertain whether or not the supersyllabogram PA refers to pa3qe (paiqe) or even if that word refers to the specific crops, millet or spelt, at least we do know the tablet is referencing grains throughout, because the ideogram for them appears twice, with the same supersyllabogram both times. It would appear that the 72 men are the sowers or harvesters. If that is the case, then ukare or asesina might mean “sowing” or “harvesting”, more likely the latter than the former. The addition of these two new words raises the total number of entries in the Comprehensive Linear A Lexicon from 1029 to 1031, now 257 more than the 774 in the Linear A Reverse Lexicon by Prof. John G. Younger, such that our lexicon is 25 % larger than his.
Decipherment of the RECTO of Linear A tablet HT 86 (Haghia Triada):
It is possible to decipher this tablet and several others dealing with grain crops with a reasonable degree of accuracy and, in the case of some words, with complete accuracy. The Linear A word akaru is almost certainly the equivalent of akaro, and not of akareu, in Linear B, the latter interpretation of John G. Younger being utterly out of the question in context. The standard Old Minoan words for “emmer wheat” and “roasted einkorn” are kunisu and dideru. The second of these words, dideru, is equivalent to Linear B, didero, but neither word appears in any later ancient Greek dialect, leading me to draw the inference that dideru/didero is either archaic proto-Mycenaean Greek or that it falls within the pre-Greek substratum or alternatively that it is Old Minoan (OM). As for dame, it appears to be dative singular for damu (Linear A) or damo (Linear B), hence grains “for the village wheat”. Finally, minute would appear to signify “and for one month”, te being enclitic, meaning “and”, with the entire phrase derived from mini = “month”. The actual case structure for the ultimate u has yet to be determined for Old Minoan. Unfortunately, it will be some time before I can tackle Old Minoan grammar (declensions and conjugations), as I must first decipher as many Old Minoan, pre-Greek substratum and Mycenaean-derived words as I can in Linear A. And these run to at least 300 out of 988 Minoan words I have isolated.
Archaeology and Science annual: the Decipherment of Supersyllabograms in Linear B, the last & most formidable frontier in the decipherment of Mycenaean Linear B:
For the past 65 years since Michael Ventris first deciphered Linear B, one phenomenon has eluded historical linguists and philologists. This is the supersyllabogram, which is always a single syllabogram, being the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of a particular Mycenaean word in any one or more of the major economic sectors of the Mycenaean economy: agriculture, military, textiles and the vessels and pottery sector, along with a few religious supersyllabograms. Supersyllabograms are always independent; they always stand alone on extant Linear. My discovery, isolation and classification of supersyllabograms represents the final frontier in the decipherment of Mycenaean Linear B. Some 800 tablets from Knossos alone contain primarily supersyllabograms, with a subset of these incised with supersyllabograms and nothing else. It is difficult to decipher the former, and impossible to decipher the latter without fully accounting for the presence of supersyllabograms. The decipherment of supersyllabograms accounts for the last and most difficult remaining 10 % of Mycenaean Linear B to be deciphered.
You may also download “The Decipherment of Supersyllabograms in Linear B” here:
This article is 35 pages long (pp. 73-108) in a 29 cm. x 22 cm. format, which is far oversized compared with the standard north American format for research journals (ca. 20 cm. vertical), meaning that if it had been published in the standard north American format, it would have run to some 50 pp., which is the size of a small book.
The Editorial Board consists of 21 peer reviewers, all of them matriculated professors and researchers at the Ph.D. level or higher, from Ancona, Belgrade, Belgium, Bologna, Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.A., Moscow, Münich, Philadelphia, U.S.A., Rome, Warsaw & Trieste. Every author must pass muster with the majority of these peer reviewers if his or her article is to be published in Archaeology and Science. That is one tall hurdle to overcome.
Note also that I am ranked in the top 0.5 % of all researchers and publishers on academia.edu
What do all those supersyllabograms in Linear B associated with the ideogram for “saffron” mean? In response to a recent query by a research colleague of mine regarding the use of 4 key supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B (A, TI, RO & WE) related to the harvesting and production of saffron, I am reposting this table: It is clear that each of these 4 supersyllabograms functions in its own unique way. I sincerely hope that this reposting clears up any ambiguities that may have previously persisted.
Stunning Minoan fresco, Akrotiri, figs & Linear A tablet Zakros ZA 1, kireza = measurement of figs by the basket: This stunning fresco from Akrotiri, featuring the typical Minoan “blue monkey” motif, fanciful animals on a celestial backdrop of figs is truly amazing! It is one of my favourite Minoan-style frescoes by far. Immediately below it we find Linear A tablet Zakros ZA 1, on which the word kireza is inscribed. This word is so strikingly similar to the standard Minoan Linear A units of measurement, reza = standard unit of (linear) measurement adureza = standard unit of dry measurement tereza = standard unit of liquid measurement (e.g. Wine) that it is rather difficult to imagine it could be anything but a unit of measurement. However, I have only seen it used in conjunction with figs on any Minoan Linear tablet, and in fact, this is the only Minoan Linear A tablet on which kireza appears. Now the question is, what is the base unit of measurement of figs kireza refers to? Given that the number of kireza on this tablet is 42, it would appear that it is a relatively large standard unit of measurement. And the unit which leaped to my mind was (and is) a basket of figs, by which I mean a basket which can be carried on one’s shoulders. Additionally, as can be inferred from the Akrotiri fresco, women were tasked with gathering figs. This is the fifty-sixth (56) word in Minoan Linear A I have deciphered more or less accurately.
Linear B tablet KN 847 K j 61, wheat production at Knossos for one lunar month:
Linear B tablet KN 847 K j 61 deals with wheat production at Knossos for one month (we do not know which month). Soanobotos is the wheat farmer. Note that the ideogram for “month” looks like the moon, which is scarcely surprising. The output of wheat at 12 hectares for this particular month is in line with the extent of wheat production we might expect from the large expanse of fields surrounding a city as large as Knossos (population ca. 55,000). It is absolutely critical to understand that, in ancient times as in modern in the Mediterranean basin, the production of wheat could not have extended through every month of the year. Far from it. That is par for the course in any civilization, ancient or modern. The second point, which stage of production are we dealing with here? This tablet does not make it at all clear. Is is spring and are we dealing with the sowing of wheat? Or is it autumn, and the harvesting of wheat. My bet is decidedly in favour of the latter scenario. Now it is more than likely that harvesting of wheat was spread over two months at most, since the autumns are warm in the Mediterranean. So we can expect that something in the order of the number of “hectares” = 12 for this month, let’s say it is lunar “September”, would be repeated for the next month, lunar “October”, though probably on a somewhat lesser scale, let’s say 8 hectares. That would yield a crop of 20 “hectares” harvested for the current year. Pretty decent, I would say. Not only that, we must keep firmly in mind that this crop is only that of Soanobotos, who is only 1 of God knows how many farmers at Knossos. There could have been as few as 20 or as many as 50. No one knows for sure. So the wheat crop harvested at Knossos alone could have run to 240 hectares at a conservative estimate. Just about right on target for such a large city. If a conservative estimate for both of the lunar months is taken into account, the harvest runs to 400 hectares! We’ll never know, but it is always worthwhile conjecturing, and in any case, the wheat crop at Knossos would have had to be pretty substantial.
Translation of the Gezer Agricultural Almanac into Mycenaean Linear B: Click to ENLARGE 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 = logogram “NI” = “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 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 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: 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
REVISED: Co-op Storage of Olive Oil & Mass Production of Wheat in Linear B: Click to ENLARGE This tablet has been one of the most fruitful I have ever had the pleasure to translate. Not only did it yield up its contents (meaning) with little effort on my part, it also provided a brand new verb to add to the Mycenaean Greek Linear B lexicon (in the sense of vocabulary), with the prefix ama + the verb, epikere (3rd. person sing.) which, translated literally would mean, “cuts down all together”, or more appropriately “co-operates in cutting down” & in this context better still “co-operates in harvesting”, which in turn can be neatly rendered into English as “the co-operative of (the village of Dawos) harvests...”. I would like to extend my profound thanks to Ms. Gretchen Leonhardt, who has brought to my attention a critical error I made when I first translated this tablet. I had read ama & epikere as a single word, when a mere glance at this tablet clearly shows the words separated by the standard Linear B word divider, a vertical bar. Her vital correction serves to add more weight to my translation. It all makes perfect sense in this context, as it would indeed take an intensive co-operative effort on the part of the entire village of Dawos to harvest such a massive wheat crop. We note that the harvest is approx. 10,000 kilograms at the very least, and, considering the right truncation of this tablet, likely even more, from a minimum of 10K kilograms to 99.99K kilograms, though the upper limit figure is almost certainly way too high. So for the sake of expediency, let us assume the harvest runs to something in the range of 10K – 20K kilograms of wheat, still an enormous intake. The second line of this tablet presents only one rather peculiar problem, the insertion of the number 1 inside the second ideogram for olive or olive oil, in this case, clearly olive oil, since people store olive oil rather than olives in pithoi or giant amphorae. I am not quite sure what that number 1 inside the second ideogram for olive oil refers to, but I assume it describes 1 type of amphora, as apposed to another, viz. the previous type mentioned on the same line with reference to 70 amphorae of olive oil. However, here again, we are confronted with the same difficulty we always encounter when trying to ascertain quantities in Mycenaean Linear B. The scribes knew perfectly well what an attributive number meant when assigned to an ideogram (here, for olive oil), but we do not and cannot 32 centuries later. As for the rest of the line, going back to the first reference to olive oil, we find the syllabogram A inside the ideogram for olive oil. In this instance, it is an attributive supersyllabogram, and it clearly means A for aporewe, the Mycenaean Greek plural of amphora = amphorae, in this case the giant pithoi in which the Minoans at Knossos always stored their olive oil and wine. Since the SSYL A is attributive and not associative (i.e. outside the ideogram), it must mean that the scribe is referring to olive oil which is always stored in pithoi or giant amphorae rather than consumed for immediate use (another attributive but separate value or characteristic for which there appears to be no known sypersyllabogram, since it is never referenced in any extant Linear B tablet). The distinction is subtle, but essential. When we say that a use of an item or commodity is typical, this means that it is an attributive characteristic or that item. The olive oil in this specific context can only be olive oil that is always stored in amphorae for later consumption... and when I say, amphorae, I mean the enormous pithoi or amphorae we encounter when we visit Knossos, as illustrated here: Click to ENLARGE Richard
Measurement of Wheat Crop Yields in Mycenaean Linear B: Click to ENLARGE In the case of these two tablets from Knossos, apart from the fact that we do not know what the base unit for the measurement of wheat crop yields was in Mycenaean Greek, the numeric totals are very easy to translate. As I have said before, in previous posts, I am convinced that their measurement system was metric, to keep it in line with their metric base-10 counting system. So whatever the base unit for the measurement of wheat crop yields was, it was mostly likely metric. The best yardstick we have is, I suppose, the Imperial measurement of a bushel, but there is absolutely no way of telling what real value the Mycenaean base unit had, so there is no point wasting our time trying to figure it out... except that we can be sure that 130 or more units of wheat crop yield was a lot of wheat. The First Tablet: KN 849 K j 72 The real problems with any attempted translation of these two tablets, however valiant, lies in the fragmentation of the tablets themselves, resulting in the unfortunate loss of (right-truncated) text in the first tablet, and (left-truncated) text in the second. It is a lot easier to reconstruct or retrieve right-truncated text, especially in the case of the first tablet, in which the missing syllables of the last word almost leap at us. Immediately after the phrase “cultivated estates” we see the preposition “pera”, which in this case is almost certainly not the simple preposition, but the prefix “pera” of a longer Mycenaean Linear B word. In Chris Tselentis’ fine Linear B Lexicon, we immediately happen upon a word which fits the bill to a T, peraakoraiya = the further provinces, more properly translated as, the outer provinces. So far, so good. But where on earth did I dig up the word, kotona = plot of land -or- estate? How can I possibly justify the insertion of a word that is not on the tablet? The adjective putariya = cultivated is the give-away. If we are saying that something is cultivated, that something has to be a field, plot of land, estate ... whatever. Now since our scribe is referencing lands in the outer provinces, which are at quite a geographic distance from Knossos (presumably at Mycenae, Tiryns or even Thebes), these lands must be of great enough importance to merit such close scrutiny. The actual wheat yield of 130-139 basic units of wheat, makes it all the more likely that the scribe means to say estate, because that is quite a lot of wheat. Once again, the Mycenaean scribal practice of not explicitly writing out what is implicitly understood by all of the scribes as a guild rears its head. Once again, to save space on the tablets, minuscule as they were. After all, if the adjective cultivated is already spelled out on the tablet, then we know for certain that the scribe is referring to land. It is that simple. Simple in a sense, since we still have to come up with the most appropriate translation for the kind of land the scribe is talking about. Since we were not there when the scribe wrote this tablet, or for that matter, when any scribe wrote other tablets with the almost identical formula on them, we can never be certain that we have assigned the right word to the generic concept of land. But, as is always the case with myself, I am not loathe to venture at a sensible translation... ergo. The Second Tablet: KN 850 K j 31 Here we run up against the opposite scenario. The tablet is left-truncated, meaning of course that the syllablograms masiyo are the last three syllables of some Mycenaean Linear B word. But what word? Your guess is as good as mine. The translation goes on to read, “at the same time (as)” followed by the totals for wheat yield. But we are left up in the air concerning what other crop(s) if any are being tabulated “at the same time as” the wheat crop yield. In other words, the yields for at least one other crop (the other likely being barley) is tabulated here together with wheat yields, as being harvested “at the same time”. Beyond this we can go no further, because all else is speculation. So any attempt to reconstruct the missing parts of this tablet is an exercise in futility. I merely wanted us to be aware that there assuredly is missing text on this tablet, probably on the right as well as on the left. As for masiyo, I hazard a guess that this is the name of the person who was accountable for the crops. But even this is uncertain. We are still left with one last problem. Why does the tablet report 132 units of wheat and then add (almost as an afterthought) the syllabogram TO, which just so happens to be the supersyllabogram for toso (so much, so many, i.e. a total of), and then add another figure, 5? 5 what? What is going on here? Why does the scribe give us a total of 132 units of wheat, and then go on to reference 5 units? What are these units? What do they have to do with the 132 units (cf. bushels) of wheat? Here is my take on it. It appears that there were a total of 5 separate crops of wheat harvested, yielding a total of 132 units in all, or approximately 42 units per harvest. It is a good try, if nothing else. Richard
Pylos Tablet PY cc 665: The Shepherd, Fresh Penis, Offers to Goddess Potnia... Click to ENLARGE (the Tablet, I mean, not the Shepherd’s Tool) When my esteemed colleague, Rita Roberts, sent me her latest translation of an extant Linear B tablet from Pylos, PY cc 665, little did she suspect, indeed, even less did I suspect what we were in for. Rita’s translation is the most commonsensical one a translator could come up with. The word NEWOPEO is almost certainly the name of the suppliant making an offering of 100 sheep and 190 pigs to the goddess, Potnia, one of the major Mycenaean deities, almost all of whom were feminine anyway. Potnia, otherwise called, “Potnia Theron” or Mistress of the Wild Beasts, has often been associated with Artemis, the ancient Greek goddess of the hunt, but she may also be linked with Demeter Ceres, goddess of the grain harvest, as appears to be the case with the Mycenaean fresco in this collage: click to ENLARGE Certainly the Minoans and Mycenaeans both relied heavily on their grain harvest, as did all Greek societies and city states, Crete, Cyprus, Athens, all the Athenian colonial cities, Corinth, Macedonian Pella, Syracuse etc., right on down through the Classical and Hellenic Eras, as indeed did Egypt and all other major ancient civilizations, including Rome, of course. Apparently, the Minoan hierarchy of goddess and gods was matriarchal rather than patriarchal, although whether this was the case for the Mycenaean pantheon of gods we cannot say for sure. However, that being said, we can see right away that Rita Robert’s translation does great justice to the apparent significance of this important tablet as a religious votary, by translating NEWOPEO as the suppliant’s name. So far, so good. But when I happened to take a closer look at the fellow’s name, I noticed at once that the first two syllables were the Linear B word for “new”, a very common word in Mycenaean Greek. So then, of course, the question is, what do the last two syllables mean? I was already suspicious of what the result would be even before I looked up a Greek word that would fill the bill, and sure enough my suspicions were confirmed, to a T. It meant what I thought it meant. Not only that, it cannot mean anything else in Classical Greek, if spelled the way it is in this fellow’s name in Linear B. The Mycenaean Greek word and its Classical Greek equivalent are one and the same. No doubt about it. “Penis”. But is this so very surprising, given the Greeks’ obsession with the beauty of the male anatomy in all its parts, apparently, it seems, right on down from the Mycenaeans to the Hellenic Age and beyond? There is one splendid Minoan fresco of a fisherboy from Akrotiri (Late Cycladic 1, Late Minoan 1A) which does show a fellow nude. Sadly, however, his lovely penis has been effaced by the ravages of time. Here is this exquisite fresco: Click to ENLARGE As for the ancient Greeks themselves (by whom I mean those from ca. 700 BCE to 100 BCE and beyond), they were utterly obsessed with the all-too prominent aspects of the male physique, given that to them, i.e. the Greeks, the male physiognomy of the gods and of their heroes held a supremely religious value, even beyond the equally enticing virtues of the female physique, divine (athanatos) or mortal (thanatos). Onomastics & Personal Names: Yet what about nomenclature? Would the ancient Greeks have been so daring as to give their men names like this? Certainly. Why not? Their pagan religion was saturated with imagery and images alike of fertility and sensuality, with a marked emphasis on the former, as were the religions of practically every ancient civilization right up to the Roman. No big surprise there to anyone. Still, I will have to buttress this claim of mine with actual examples of racy Greek names, if I expect our readers to actually believe me. We needn’t look very far. Among the Greek deities, some of the most prominent bear names with distinctly sensual overtones: Pan, Greek name derived from the word pa-on, meaning "herdsman". In mythology, this is the name of a god of shepherds and flocks, who had the horns, hindquarters and legs of a goat; Herpes, god of prostitutes & cunning; Himeros, god of sexual desire (Himeros can be translated as “love or lust attack”); Eros, god of love and sexual desire; Pothos, god of sexual desire and longing; Ganymede, Priapus etc. And among mortals, Arsenios (Virile), Beelzeboul (Lord of Dung), Dioskouroi (Zeus’ boys!), Pythias (rotting!), Seilinos (moving back and forth in a wine trough), Zoroastres (he whose camels are angry) etc. As for the plays of Aristophanes, they are riddled with obscene names, most of which of course are meant as parodies, but nevertheless... Compare Rita Robert’s translation of this tablet (Pylos PY cc 665) to my own: Click to ENLARGE: My version, which requires considerable knowledge of ancient Greek grammar in numerous dialects, relies on translating NEWOPEO in an entirely different manner, and in two different versions, (a) the first rendering this word as the present participle active of the Greek verb “to bring” & (b) the second referencing bringing tribute to Potnia by ship. The problem with my interpretations is that they overlooked the obvious, which Rita did not. Which of these three versions carries the most weight I leave entirely in your hands. Or perhaps all three of them have something going for them. One thing is certain: it is extremely unwise to fall into the trap of believing that there can only be one “right” translation for so many Linear B tablets, given that adequate context to clinch the matter is sorely lacking in the vast majority of them. I have mentioned this often on our blog, and shall continue to raise the point for the simple reason that a great many Linear B tablets admit of more than one interpretation, and often of more than two. In such instances, each translation has its own merits and weaknesses, which are subject to rigorous critical analysis by Linear B scholars worldwide... as indeed they should be, without exception. Richard