The path towards a partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A: a rational approach: PART A

The path towards a partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A: a rational approach: PART A

Before May 2016, I would never have even imagined or dared to make the slightest effort to try to decipher Minoan Linear A, even partially. After all, no one in the past 116 years since Sir Arthur Evans began excavating the site of Knossos, unearthing thousands of Mycenaean Linear A tablets and fragments, and a couple of hundred Minoan Linear A tablets and fragments (mostly the latter), no one has even come close to deciphering Minoan Linear, in spite of the fact that quite a few people have valiantly tried, without any real success. Among those who have claimed to have successfully deciphered Linear A, we may count:

Sam Connolly, with his book:

Sam Connolly Beaking the Code Linear A

Where he claims, “Has the lost ancient language behind Linear A finally been identified? Read this book and judge for yourself”. 

Stuart L. Harris, who has just published his book (2016):

Sam Harris Linear A decipherment

basing his decipherment on the notion that Minoan Linear A is somehow related to Finnish, an idea which I myself once entertained, but swiftly dismissed,, having scanned through at least 25 Finnish words which should have matched up with at least 150 Minoan Linear A words. Not a single one did. So much for Finnish. I was finished with it.

and Gretchen Leonhardt


who bases her decipherments of Minoan Linear A tablets on the ludicrous notion that Minoan Linear A is closely related to Japanese! That is a real stretch of the imagination, in light of the fact that the two languages could not be more distant or remote in any manner of speaking. But this is hardly surprising, given that her notions or, to put it bluntly, her hypothesis underlying her attempted decipherments of Mycenaean Linear B tablets is equally bizarre.

I wind up with this apropos observation drawn from Ms. Leonhardt’s site:    If a Minoan version of a Rosetta Stone pops up . . , watch public interest rise tenfold. ‘Minoa-mania’ anyone?”. Glen Gordon, February 2007 Journey to Ancient Civilizations.

Which begs the question, who am I to dare claim that I have actually been able to decipher no fewer than 90 Minoan Linear A words

Minoan Linear A Glossary

since I first ventured out on the perilous task of attempting such a risky undertaking. Before taking even a single step further, I wish to emphatically stress that I do not claim to be deciphering Minoan Linear A. Such a claim is exceedingly rash. What I claim is that I seem to be on track to a partial decipherment of the language, based on 5 principles of rational decipherment which will be enumerated in Part B. Still, how on earth did I manage to break through the apparently impenetrable firewall of Minoan Linear A?  Here is how.

In early May 2016, as I was closely examining Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada),

KURO = total HT 31 Haghia Triada

which dealt exclusively with vessels and pottery, I was suddenly struck by a lightning flash. The tablet was cluttered with several ideograms of vessels, amphorae, kylixes and cups on which were superimposed with the actual Minoan Linear A words for the same. What a windfall! My next step - and this is critical - was to make the not so far-fetched assumption that this highly detailed tablet (actually the most intact of all extant Minoan Linear A tablets) was the magic key to opening the heavily reinforced door of Minoan Linear, previously locked as solid as a drum. But was there a way, however remote, for me to “prove”, by circumstantial evidence alone, that most, if not all, of the words this tablet actually were the correct terms for the vessels they purported to describe? There was, after all, no magical Rosetta Stone to rely on in order to break into the jail of Minoan Linear A. Or was there?

As every historical linguist specializing in ancient languages with any claim to expertise knows, the real Rosetta Stone was the magical key to the brilliant decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics in 1822 by the French philologist, François Champellion

Francois Champellion Rosetta Stone Schiller Institute
It is truly worth your while to read the aforementioned article in its entirety. It is a brilliant exposé of Monsieur Champellion’s dexterous decipherment.

But is there any Rosetta Stone to assist in the decipherment of Haghia Triada tablet HT 31. Believe it or not, there is. Startling as it may seem, that Rosetta Stone is none other than the very first Mycenaean Linear B tablet deciphered by Michael Ventris in 1952, Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952.  If you wish to be informed and enlightened on the remarkable decipherment of Pylos Py TA 641-1952, you can read all about it for yourself in my article, published in Vol. 10 (2014) of Archaeology and Science (Belgrade) ISSN 1452-7448 

Archaeology and Science, Vol. 10 (2014), An Archaeologist's Translation of Pylos Tablet 641-1952. pp. 133-161, here: 

Archaeology and Sciene Belgrade

It is precisely this article which opened the floodgates to my first steps towards the partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A. The question is, how? In this very article I introduced the General Theory of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear A (pp. 148-156). It is this very phenomenon, the supersyllabogram, which has come to be the ultimate key to unlocking the terminology of vessels and pottery in Minoan Linear A. Actually, I first introduced in great detail the General Theory of Supersyllabograms at the Third International Conference on Symbolism at The Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, on July 1 2015:

Koryvantes Association of Historical Studies Athens

Role of SSYLs in Mycenaean Linear B

This ground-breaking talk, re-published by Koryvantes, is capped off with a comprehensive bibliography of 147 items serving as the prelude to my discovery of supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B from 2013-2015.

How Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) serves as the Rosetta Stone to Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada):

Believe it or not, the running text of Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada) is strikingly alike that of Mycenaean Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris). So much so that the textual content of the former runs very close to being parallel with its Mycenaean Linear B counterpart. How can this be? A few preliminary observations are in order. First and foremost, Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) cannot be construed in any way as being equivalent to the Rosetta Stone. That is an absurd proposition. On the other hand, while the Rosetta stone displayed the same text in three different languages and in three different scripts (Demotic, Hieroglyphics and ancient Greek), the syllabary of Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada) is almost identical to that of Mycenaean Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris). And that is what gives us the opportunity to jam our foot in the door of Minoan Linear A. There is not point fussing over whether or not the text of HT 31 is exactly parallel to that of Pylos Py TA 641, because ostensibly it is not! But, I repeat, the parallelisms running through both of these tablets are remarkable.

Allow me to illustrate the cross-correlative cohesion between the two tablets right from the outset, the very first line. At the very top of HT 31 we observe this word, puko, immediately to the left of the ideogram for “tripod”, which just happens to be identical in Minoan Linear A and in Mycenaean Linear B. Now the very first on Mycenaean Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) is tiripode, which means “tripod”. After a bit of intervening text, which reads as follows in translation, “Aigeus works on tripods of the Cretan style”, the ideogram for “tripod”, identical to the one on Haghia Triada, leaps to the for. The only difference between the disposition of the term for “tripod” on HT 31 and Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) is that there is no intervening text between the word for tripod, i.e. puko, on the former, whereas there is on the latter. But that is scarcely an impediment to the realization, indeed the revelation, that on HT 31 puko must mean exactly the same thing as tiripode on Pylos Py TA 641-1952. And it most certainly does. But, I hear you protesting, and with good reason, how can I be sure that this is the case? It just so happens that there is another Linear B tablet with the same word followed by the same ideogram, in exactly the same order as on HT 31, here: 

Linear A 19 confirmation that puko means tripod

The matter is clinched in the bud. The word puko in Minoan Linear A is indisputably the term for “tripod”, exactly parallel to its counterpart in Mycenaean Linear B, tiripode.

I had just knocked out the first brick from the Berlin Wall of Minoan Linear A. More was to come. Far more.

Continued in Part B.


The application of geometric co-ordinate analysis (GCA) to parsing scribal hands: Part A: Cuneiform

The application of geometric co-ordinate analysis (GCA) to parsing scribal hands: Part A: Cuneiform


I propose to demonstrate how geometric co-ordinate analysis of cuneiform, the Edwin-Smith hieroglyphic papyrus (ca. 1600 BCE), Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B and Arcado-Cypriot Linear C can confirm, isolate and identify with great precision the X Y co-ordinates of single characters or syllabograms in their respective standard fonts, and in the multiform cursive “deviations” from their fixed font forms, or to put it in different terms, to parse the running co-ordinates of each character, syllabogram or ideogram of any scribal hand in each of these scripts. This procedure effectively encapsulates the “style” of any scribe’s hand, just as we would nowadays characterize any individual’s handwriting style. This hypothesis constitutes a breakthrough in the application of graphology a.k.a epigraphy based entirely on the scientific procedure of geometric co-ordinate analysis (GCA) of scribal hands, irrespective of the script under analysis.


cuneiform font
Any attempt to isolate, identify and characterize by manual visual means alone the scribal hand peculiar to any single scribe incising a tablet or series of tablets common to his own hand, in other words, in his own peculiar style, has historically been fraught with difficulties. I intend to bring the analysis of scribal hands in cuneiform into much sharper focus by defining them as constructs determined solely by their relative positioning on the X Y axis plane in two-dimensional Cartesian geometry. This purely scientific approach reduces the analysis of individual scribal hands in cuneiform to a single constant, which is the point of origin (0,0) in the X Y axis plane, from which the actual positions of each and every co-ordinate on the positive planes (X horizontally right, Y vertically up) and negative planes (X horizontally left, Y vertically down) are extrapolated for any character in this script, as illustrated by the following general chart of geometric co-ordinates (Click to ENLARGE):

A xy analysis
Although I haven’t the faintest grasp of ancient cuneiform, it just so happens that this lapsus scientiae has no effect or consequence whatsoever on the purely scientific procedure I propose for the precise identification of unique individual scribal hands in cuneiform, let alone in any other script, syllabary or alphabet  ancient or modern (including but not limited to, the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Semitic & Cyrillic alphabets), irrespective of language, and even whether or not anyone utilizing said procedure understands the language or can even read the script, syllabary or alphabet under the microscope.    

This purely scientific procedure can be strictly applied, not only to the scatter-plot positioning of the various strokes comprising any letter in the cuneiform font, but also to the “deviations” of any individual scribe’s hand or indeed to a cross-comparative GCA analysis of various scribal hands. These purely mathematical deviations are strictly defined as variables of the actual position of each of the various strokes of any individual’s scribal hand, which constitutes and defines his own peculiar “style”, where style is simply a construct of GCA  analysis, and nothing more. This procedure reveals with great accuracy any subtle or significant differences among scribal hands. These differences or defining characteristics of any number of scribal hands may be applied either to:

(a)  the unique styles of any number of different scribes incising a trove of tablets all originating from the same archaeological site, hence, co-spatial and co-temporal, or
(b)  of different scribes incising tablets at different historical periods, revealing the subtle or significant phases in the evolution of the cuneiform script itself in its own historical timeline, as illustrated by these six cuneiform tablets, each one of which is characteristic of its own historical frame, from 3,100 BCE – 2,250 BCE (Click to ENLARGE),

B Sumerian Akkadian Babylonian stamping
and in addition

(c)  Geometric co-ordinate analysis is also ideally suited to identifying the precise style of a single scribe, with no cross-correlation with or reference to any other (non-)contemporaneous scribe. In other words, in this last case, we find ourselves zeroing in on the unique style of a single scribe. This technique cannot fail to scientifically identify with great precision the actual scribal hand of any scribe in particular, even in the complete absence of any other contemporaneous cuneiform tablet or stele with which to compare it, and regardless of the size of the cuneiform characters (i.e. their “font” size, so to speak), since the full set of cuneiform characters can run from relatively small characters incised on tablets to enormous ones on steles. It is of particular importance at this point to stress that the “font” or cursive scribal hand size have no effect whatsoever on the defining set of GCA co-ordinates of any character, syllabogram or ideogram in any script whatsoever. It simply is not a factor.

To summarize, my hypothesis runs as follows: the technique of geometric co-ordinate analysis (GCA) of scribal hands, in and of itself, all other considerations aside, whether cross-comparative and contemporaneous, or cross-comparative in the historical timeline within which it is set ( 3,100 BCE – 2,250 BCE) or lastly in the application of said procedure to the unambiguous identification of a single scribal hand is a strictly scientific procedure capable of great mathematical accuracy, as illustrated by the following table of geometric co-ordinate analysis applied to cuneiform alone (Click to ENLARGE):

C geometric co-ordinate analysis of early mesopotamian cuneifrom

The most striking feature of cuneiform is that it is, with few minor exceptions (these being circular), almost entirely linear even in its subsets, the parallel and the triangular, hence, susceptible to geometric co-ordinate analysis at its most fundamental and most efficient level. 

It is only when a script, syllabary or alphabet in the two-dimensional plane introduces considerably more complex geometric variables such as the point (as the constant 0,0 = the point of origin on an X Y axis or alternatively a variable point elsewhere on the X Y axis), the circle and the oblong that the process becomes significantly more complex. The most common two-dimensional non-linear constructs which apply to scripts beyond the simple linear (such as found in cuneiform) are illustrated in this chart of alternate geometric forms (Click to ENLARGE):

D alternate geometric forms
These shapes exclude all subsets of the linear (such as the triangle, parallel, pentagon, hexagon, octagon, ancient swastika etc.) and circular (circular sector, semi-circle, arbelos, superellipse, taijitu = symbol of the Tao, etc.), which are demonstrably variations of the linear and the circular.
These we must leave to the geometric co-ordinate analysis of Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B and Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, all of which share these additional more complex geometric constructs in common. When we are forced to apply this technique to more complex geometric forms, the procedure appears to be significantly more difficult to apply. Or does it? The answer to that question lies embedded in the question itself. The question is neither closed nor open, but simply rhetorical. It contains its own answer.

It is in fact the hi-tech approach which decisively and instantaneously resolves any and all difficulties in every last case of geometric co-ordinate analysis of any script, syllabary or indeed any alphabet, ancient or modern. It is neatly summed up by the phrase, “computer-based analysis”, which effectively and entirely dispenses with the necessity of having to manually parse scribal hands or handwriting by visual means or analysis at all. Prior to the advent of the Internet and modern supercomputers, geometric co-ordinate analysis of any phenomenon, let alone scribal hands, or so-to-speak  handwriting post AD (anno domini), would have been a tedious mathematical process hugely consuming of time and human resources, which is why it was never applied at that time. But nowadays, this procedure can be finessed by any supercomputer plotting CGA co-ordinates down to the very last pixel at lightning speed. The end result is that any of an innumerable number of unique scribal hand(s) or of handwriting styles can be isolated and identified beyond a reasonable doubt, and in the blink of an eye. Much more on this in Part B, The application of geometric co-ordinate analysis to Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B and Arcado-Cypriot Linear C. However strange as it may seem prima facie, I leave to the very last the application of this unimpeachable procedure to the analysis and the precise isolation of the unique style of the single scribal hand responsible for the Edwin-Smith papyrus, as that case in particular yields the most astonishing outcome of all.

© by Richard Vallance Janke 2015 (All Rights Reserved = Tous droits réservés)

Comparison Between the Paleo-Hebrew Alphabets and Hieratic Egyptian & the Phoenician Alphabet: Click to ENLARGE

Comparison Between the Paleo-Hebrew Alphabets and Hieratic Egyptian & the Phoenician Alphabet: Click to ENLARGE

Phoenician Paleo-Hebrew Hieratic-Paleo

This chart clearly illustrates the comparison between both Early (right) and Late (left) Paleo-Hebrew with Hieratic Egyptian & Ancient Phoenician. The comparison between the Late Paleo-Hebrew with the Phoenician alphabet establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that they are virtually one and the same alphabet, based on the soundly reasoned inference that they developed simultaneously in the historical time line, implying in turn that the cross-cultural and cross-economic exchanges between these two civilizations was very intense. This quotation from Wikipedia is particularly telling,

Phoenician had long-term effects on the social structures of the civilizations which came in contact with it. As mentioned above, the script was the first widespread phonetic script. Its simplicity not only allowed it to be used in multiple languages, but it also allowed the common people to learn how to write. This upset the long-standing status of writing systems only being learned and employed by members of the royal and religious hierarchies of society, who used writing as an instrument of power to control access to information by the larger population.

Click the banner below to read the entire article.

Wikipedia Phoenician Alphabet
The Phoenician alphabet is also often tagged Proto-Canaanite for inscriptions anterior to 1050 BCE. It is the first ever consonantal proto-alphabet, otherwise known as abjad.  The Phoenician alphabet was derived from Egyptian hieroglyphics on the one hand and from cursive Hieratic Egyptian on the other. What is particularly striking about the Phoenician and Proto-Hebrew alphabets, which are mirror images of one another, is the fact that the former was used to write one of the earliest Semitic languages, while the latter was confined to Hebrew (also Semitic, but eventually to become completely unlike Arabic).
This may come as somewhat of a shock to die hard Jews and die-in-the-wool Muslims alike, but it is an incontestable historical fact which cannot be lightly brushed aside. It is absolutely essential to understand that these twin alphabets were far more ancient than the latter-day Hebrew alphabet, which was nevertheless a descendant of the Proto-Hebrew and the Phoenician alphabets alike. While the Phoenician alphabet was the scriptural medium for early Semitic Phoenician, that civilization, being far more ancient than Islam, was in intimate contact with Judeo-Palestine, with whom it cultivated friendly cultural and economic ties. In other words, the religious overlay imputed to the latter-day Hebrew alphabet, itself indirectly derived from the Phoenician alphabet versus the Arabic alphabet, was utterly absent from the consciousness of both the early Semitic Phoenicians and Hebrews. Of course, the Arabic alphabet eventually did develop on its own from the 6th. century AD, characteristically unlike the Phoenician and Proto-Hebrew alphabets in every conceivable way.

The Similarities Among Hieratic Egyptian, the Phoenician alphabet, Early Proto-Hebrew and Late Proto-Hebrew:

Now let’s take a good close look at the alphabets in this chart.

1. Oddly enough, Early Proto-Hebrew bears but a faint resemblance with the Phoenician and Late Proto-Hebrew alphabets, but it does have some points in common with Hieratic Egyptian. Given this scenario, it somehow strikes me that Early Proto-Hebrew was anterior to both the Phoenician and Late Proto-Hebrew alphabets; otherwise, how are we to explain all these bizarre discrepancies? Not that I would know, as I am no expert in Egyptian hieroglyphics or Hieratic Egyptian. I leave it to the expert linguists in that domain to enlighten us, and I certainly hope they will.  

2. For all intents and purposes, the Phoenician and Late Proto-Hebrew alphabets are identical.

3. Except for lamedth and tav (taw), neither the Phoenician and Late Proto-Hebrew alphabets resemble Hieratic Egyptian and the Early Proto-Hebrew in any significant way, which is particularly surprising to this author. The early Proto-Hebrew letter vav mirrors both its Hieratic and Phoenician equivalents, as well as the letter waw in Proto-Hebrew, the latter merely being an avatar of the previous three. Lamedh is also equivalent in all four scripts. If we take it as oriented right, Hieratic Egyptian tadhe bears a close resemblance to early Proto-Hebrew nun & tsade, which instead are oriented left. There is absolutely nothing unusual in this phenomenon, which is so common to so many ancient scripts that it boggles the mind. Early Proto-Hebrew qof, horizontally oriented, bears a close resemblance to its equivalent, the vertically oriented Phoenician letter koph, while its tav resembles one of the two versions of the Phoenician tav. Just to complicate matters or to frustrate the living daylights out of us, taw in the Late Paleo-Hebrew alphabet resembles the other version of Phoenician tav.

PS If anyone who is an expert in Egyptian hieroglyphics or Hieratic Egyptian is willing to enlighten us poor ignorant folk on the finer points of their relationship with the other scripts we have discussed here, please do contact us, commenting on the inevitable errors in this post.