Tag Archive: land

Minoan Linear A decorated ceramic, kitina, Cf. Linear B kot0na = plot of land?

minoan decorated ceramic

This Minoan Linear A decorated ceramic is inscribed with the single word, kitina, which looks very much like the Mycenaean Linear B word kotona or kotoina, which means a plot of land. If this is the case, it would appear that the ceramic is a personal token of the owner of a plot of land. It could also be a personal name, but this is less likely. What appears to ber the genitive singular, kitanasija, also appears in Linear A.

Decipherment of Haghia Triada tablet HT 11 entirely in Mycenaean derived Greek:

HT 11

If we read this tablet as if it were inscribed in Mycenaean derived Greek, it does actually make sense. While the tablet is partially an inventory, the rest of it is a religious ceremony for (farmed?) land leased out, blessed by 3 priests. It is much more complex than most tablets either in Linear A or in Linear B.

Proto-Greek Decipherment of Minoan Linear A silver pin from Mavro Spelio (Middle Minoan III = MM III) in the Heraklion Museum, Greece:

epingle-argent-kn-zf-31 620

This decipherment of Minoan Linear A silver pin from Mavro Spelio (Middle Minoan III = MM III) in the Heraklion Museum, Greece relies rather heavily on the debatable notion that Minoan Linear A is by and large proto-Greek, a theory espoused by Urii Mosenkis, one of the world’s most highly qualified linguists specializing in diachronic historical linguistics, including, but not limited to Minoan Linear A. Accordingly, I have deliberately interpreted ample chunks of the Minoan Linear a vocabulary on this silver pin as being proto-Greek, even though such a decipherment is surely contentious, at least in (large) part.

While the first line of my decipherment makes sense by and large, the second is more dubious. It is apparent that the Minoan Linear A word dadu on the first line is almost certainly not proto-Greek, but the last two syllables of dadumine, ie. mine appear to be the dative singular for the (archaic) Greek word for month, i.e. meinei (Latinized), such that the decipherment of this word at least would appear to read  in the month of dadu. There is nothing really all that strange or peculiar about this interpretation, since we know the names of the months neither in Minoan Linear A nor in Mycenaean Linear B. However, a definite note of caution must be sounded with respect to the decipherment of this word, as well as of all of the other so-called proto-Greek words on this silver pin, since none of them can be verified with sufficient circumstantial evidence or on the contrary. Hence, all translations of putative proto-Greek words in Minoan Linear A must be taken with a grain of salt.

While the second line on this pin, if taken as proto-Greek, makes some sense, it is much less convincing than the first, especially in light of the trailing word at the end, tatheis (Greek Latinized, apparently for the aorist participle passive of the verb teino (Latinized) = to stretch/strain, which actually does not make a lot of sense in the context.

Nevertheless, it would appear that at least some of the Minoan Linear A words which I have interpreted  as being proto-Greek or proto-Mycenaean may in fact be that. I leave it up to you to decide which one(s) are and which are not, if any in fact are. Additionally, even if a few or some of them are proto-Greek, they may fall within the pre-Greek substratum. The most dubious of the so-called proto-Greek words on this pin probably are qami -, tasaza & tatei, since none of these are likely to have fallen within the pre-Greek substratum. 

But if the Minoan language itself is not proto-Greek, then what is it? I shall have ample occasion to address this apparently thorny question in upcoming posts and especially in my second article on the decipherment of Minoan Linear A, which I shall be submitting to Archaeology and Science by no later than April 17, 2017. 

We have a new student of Mycenaean Linear B, our third, Dante Aramideh of Holland:

We have a new student of Mycenaean Linear B, our third, Dante Aramideh of Holland. Here are Dante’s first 2 translations.




She is 17 years old, and the youngest of our 3 students, the first being Rita Roberts of Crete, who is the senior of the three, and who has been with us since 2014, and who is by far our most advanced student, being as she is in her second year of university studies. Our second student to come on board is Thalassa Farkas of Canada, whose age falls in between that of Dante Aramideh and Rita Roberts. Thalassa is making rapid progress in learning how to decipher Mycenaean Linear B, as attested by her translation of these two tablets:





Both Dante and Thalassa are familiar with alphabetical ancient Greek, while Rita Roberts is learning it.

9 new Minoan Linear A words under U-WI, all of but 1 of which are probably of proto-Greek origin:


The 9 new Minoan Linear A words under U-WI are all probably of proto-Greek origin. As for those terms beginning with the syllabograms WA & WI, I have come to the conclusion that they all begin with digamma, meaning that digamma is even more common in Minoan Linear A than it is in Mycenaean Linear B. If we take into account that every last one of the Minoan Linear A words beginning with digamma would appear without digamma in Mycenaean Linear A, they all are equivalent to their Mycenaean Linear B and ancient Greek counterparts (the latter having dropped digamma for good). For instance, [3] TERA is almost certainly the ancient volcanic island of Thera, now Santorini, while [5] WAJA is equivalent to archaic Greek aia = earth, land and [7] WIJA is fem. pl. = arrows. The only word I have been unable to satisfactorily decipher is [6], of which I was able to decipher the first 2 syllabograms. You have to read the table to see my translation.

With this, we have come full circle to the end of our remarkable journey towards the decipherment of Minoan Linear A. Now that I have deciphered every last word I believe is of proto-Greek, proto-Hebrew, proto-Semitic or proto-Scythian origin, I have reached a cumulative grand TOTAL of 62 new Minoan Linear A words, expanding my original Minoan Linear A Glossary of 107 words = 21.5% of the total extant Linear B lexicon of 510 terms by my arbitrary count to a TOTAL = 169 words = 33 % of the total Minoan Linear A lexicon, which is exactly the sum and percentage I had predicted! This amounts to what is demonstrably a workable decipherment of the Minoan language, including of its grammar, which had evaded me before.

Now all I have to do is to decipher as many of the 27 supersyllabograms in Minoan Linear A, beyond the 9 I have already deciphered. Now that I am armed with 62 new Minoan Linear A words, I am quite sure that I shall be able to decipher quite a few more of the supersyllabograms, and with that goal accomplished, I shall have effectively and once and for all deciphered the Minoan language.


Rita Roberts’ translation of Knossos Linear B tablet KN 946 G a 303 (mid-term, second year university):


Trust me, this is not an easy tablet to translate.

... with a translation into archaic ancient Greek added by Richard Vallance Janke.

Decipherment of Minoan Linear A tablet HT 131 (Haghia Triada) qareto = Linear B onato = “lease field”:

Following hard on the heels of Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada), dealing with vessels and pottery, which I have been able to successfully decipher with high precision from top to bottom, comes this tablet HT 131, focused on rams on a lease field.  How do I know this? As I have already pointed out several times on this blog, by utilizing the procedure of cross-correlative regressive extrapolation from similar or almost identical Mycenaean Linear B tablets, it is possible to reconstruct with high or moderately high accuracy the contents of many Minoan Linear A tablets. As we has already learned, Pylos tablet Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) may reasonably be considered the “Rosetta stone” for Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada). And so it has proven to be the case.

The same methodology, cross-correlative regressive extrapolation (or CCRE) from Mycenaean Linear B tablets closely corresponding to earlier Minoan Linear A t tablets can and does yield satisfying results. Take for instance Mycenaean Linear B tablet KN 1383 E j 924 from Knossos:


On this tablet we find the supersyllabogram O, which symbolizes the Mycenaean Linear B word, onato, meaning “lease field”. Notice also that the number of rams on this lease field = 99 and the number of ewes = 19 on the first line, while on the second, the number of rams = 25, all of them on a lease field.

Now taking in turn Minoan Linear A tablet HT 131:



we find to our surprise and satisfaction that the number of sheep is 27, and that these sheep have something to do with the Minoan Linear A word, qareto. I put it to you that qareto very probably means precisely the same thing as onato does in Mycenaean Greek. Hence, these two tablets, the Minoan and the second line of the Mycenaean, are practically identical. Of course, anyone can object — and such a person would be right — that the closely matched number of sheep on these two tablets (25 on the Linear A and 27 on the Linear B) is mere happenstance. However, the fact that the only surviving Minoan Linear A tablet with the term qareto on it matches up so neatly with the Mycenaean Linear B tablet from Knossos above is pretty good circumstantial evidence that the two tablets are dealing with one and the same phenomenon.

So I have assigned a scalar value of  > 75 % to qareto on the Linear B tablet, signifying that the chances this term means “lease field” are very good. Not perfect, but a decent match with the Mycenaean Linear B tablet. This is one of the Minoan Linear A terms which I shall be highlighting in my upcoming article in Vol. 12 (2016), “Pylos tablet Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris), the ‘Rosetta Stone’ to Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada) vessels and pottery” of the prestigious international annual, Archaeology and Science ISSN 1452-7448. This will be the third straight article in a row I shall have published in this annual by late 2017 or early 2018.

Mycenaean Linear B tablet KN 791 G c 101 & the co-dependent supersyllabograms O & KI:

KN 791 G c 101 & supersyllabograms O & KI

On Mycenaean Linear B tablet KN 791 G c 101, we find the co-dependent supersyllabograms O & KI. In Mycenaean Greek, the SSYL (supersyllabogram) O = onato = a lease field & the SSYL KI = kitimena = a plot of land. When these two SSYLS are combined, they become co-dependent, each one delimiting the other. Hence, on the second line of this tablet, O KI + the ideogram for “rams” or “ewes” (we are unsure which, since the ideogram is right-truncated)  means “an unknown number (right-truncated) of sheep -or- rams -or- ewes on a settled plot of land in a lease field.” When two or more co-dependent supersyllabograms are used with the ideograms for “sheep”, “rams” or “ewes”, both must be nouns. Adjectives are never used for associative co-dependent supersyllabograms, which is precisely what O + KI are on the second line. Associative SSYLS never define the ideogram(s) with which they are linked, since the ideograms themselves already mean exactly what they mean, in this case, “sheep”, “rams” or “ewes”. What associative SSYLS do is modify the ideograms with which they are associated.

NOTE that all supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B were handed down from Minoan Linear A, which invented them. 

Minoan Linear A tablet Zakros ZA 11 & kupa or sa*301ri = planter:

Zakros Linear A tablet ZA 11 planter

On Minoan Linear A tablet Zakros ZA 11, we run across 2 terms which are likely to mean “planter”, kupa or sa*301ri. The problem is, which one does mean this? I really had no choice but too tag both of these words as candidates for “planter”. This predicament has faced me more than once in attempting to attribute suitable meanings to Minoan words. However, a decision must be made. In this case, the more appropriate term for “planter” appears to be sa*301ri rather than kupa, since the latter is more likely to be feminine.

Whichever of these two terms is the more a propos remains an open question. At any rate, the term is no. 104 in our Glossary of Minoan Linear A.

Linear B tablet KN 929 F q 01 with 3 supersyllabograms! ???

Supersyllabograms en masse? Is this possible on a single tablet? You can bet on it!

supersyllabograms en masse

Linear B tablet KN 929 F q 01,

Linear B tablet KN 929 F q 01 supersyllabograms KI PE O

with 3 supersyllabograms on it, is a perfect example of this relatively frequent phenomenon on Linear B tablets, regardless of provenance (Knossos, Pylos etc.). On this tablet alone, there are no fewer than 3 supersyllabograms, KI= kitimena ktoina = “a settled plot of land”, PE = periqoro = “(in) a sheep pen” and O = onato = “a lease field”. This is where decipherment can get tricky. At first sight, it looks rather peculiar that the scribe has positioned the first two supersyllabograms, KI and PE before the ideogram for “rams”, but without mentioning the number of rams “in sheep pens on a settled plot of land”, with this statement followed by yet another supersyllabogram, O = onato = “a lease field”, but only this time with the number of rams being specified = 80+. I say 80+ because the right hand side of this tablet is truncated, and so the number of rams could run anywhere from 80 to 89. But I suspect that, in spite of truncation, the number of rams is probably just 80. The problem remains, how do we concatenate the last supersyllabogram O with the previous two?  The only way this can be logically effected is by making the first two SSYLS, KI & PE, dependent on third, O... which is the scribe’s intention. This means that all of the sheep tabulated here are “in sheep pens on a settled plot of land”...  “on a lease field” .

In other words, all 80 of these sheep are being kept in a single sheep pen on only one of the settled plots of land on this lease field. There is no mention of the rest of the sheep on this lease field. But you can bet there are others. The point is that the scribe is explicitly drawing our attention to these 80 sheep alone. The tablet is extremely precise. That is the way of the best inventories. The more precise, the better.   

Linear B tablet KN 791 G c 101 & the co-dependent supersyllabograms O & KI:

KN 791 G c 101 & supersyllabograms O & KI

Linear B tablet KN 791 G c 101 features the single dependent supersyllabogram O = onaton = “lease field” on line 1 & the co-dependent supersyllabograms O & KI = (O = onaton = “lease field” + KI = kitimena kotona =  “a settled plot of land in a lease field” on line 2, where the first SSYL O = onaton is dependent for its context on the second KI = kitimena kotona. Usually KI kitimena kotona =  “an owned & settled plot of land in a lease field”, but this scenario is impossible on this tablet, since a plot of land cannot be owned if it is one of many in a lease field. Context. Logic.

And to round out our little post, a cute cartoon!

bah humbug

Linear B tablet KN 934 G y 201 & the autonomous supersyllabograms KI & O:

KN 934 G y 201 & the supersyllabograms KI & O discrete

Linear B tablet KN 934 G y 201 & the autonomous supersyllabograms KI & O presents us with a different scenario than the previously posted tablet, in which the two supersyllabograms KI & O were co-dependent, i.e. the one could not exist without the other conjoined with the ideogram for sheep or rams which they both modified together, as a unit. In such a case, the meaning is clear. The scribe is describing a “leased plot of land”, one of several parcelled out from a larger “lease field.”

But on this tablet, the two supersyllabograms are kept distinctly separate from one another, although each one modifies the ideogram which appears immediately to its right. So in this case, each of these two supersyllabograms must stand alone. The first one on this tablet, KI, used in conjunction with the ideogram for “rams”, of which there are 6, simply means “an owned and settled plot of land”. The notion of leasing does not enter the picture. On the other hand, the second supersyllabogram, O, refers specifically to “a usufruct lease field” in contrast to the previously mentioned “owned and settled plot of land”. On this particular tablet, which has been right-truncated, the actual ideogram, be it for sheep, rams or ewes, is missing, but we know for certain it must have been on the tablet when it was intact, because O = onato cannot stand on its own.

When it comes to land tenure, everyone for himself!

Your land NO my land!

The co-dependent supersyllabograms KI = kitimena kotona & O = onaton in Linear B:

Knossos tablet KN 930 G a 302 & the supersyllabograms KI & O

The two supersyllabograms KI = kitimena kotona & O = onaton in Linear B are very frequently concatenated on Linear B tablets in the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy. This combination of supersyllabograms KI + O occurs on scores of tablets from Knossos alone. These two supersyllabograms always precede the ideogram they modify, and this ideogram is always either the one for “rams” (most often) or “ewes” and occasionally for “sheep” (the generic ideogram).  When linked together in this fashion they always mean “a usufruct lease field which is a plot of land”, in other words “a usufruct leased plot of land” within the context of a larger “lease field” of which this plot of land is one among several. How many we cannot say, because we were not there when the Minoan/Mycenaean overlords parcelled out their fields to be leased as smaller plots of land to their tenants.

The number of leased plots per lease field may have been as few as 4 or as many as 10 or 20. If the number were to have run to the latter end of the spectrum, that would have meant that the lease fields themselves, which were to have been sub-parcelled into leased plots must have been quite large, even if the size of the separate leased plots might have been as small as approx. 1 hectare. In that scenario, a lease field with 20 leased plots of approx. 1 hectare would be about 20 hectares in size. It is to be clearly understood that we have no yardstick or should I say metric stick by which to determine exactly or even approximately the Minoans at Knossos or Phaistos or the Mycenaeans at Mycenae, Pylos and elsewhere actually measured the size of their fields. The hectare is just an approximation, nothing more. But it will do as well as any measure.

On another count, we note that on this tablet, the land tenant is Siadyweis. He is not the land owner because he is clearly leasing a plot of land on a much larger lease field owned by the overseer.  Also, we note that the person connected with the Minoan Goddess, Potnia, must be her priest, because it is in the masculine. This seems a rather odd arrangement to me, since in almost all other instances where this famous Minoan goddess is mentioned, it is with reference to her Priestess(es) and not her Priest(s). The Minoan religion was substantively matriarchal, not patriarchal. That said, this tablet clearly defines her attendant as her Priest.

Several illustrations of the the Minoan goddess, Potnia:

Potnia Theron Minoan Snake goddess and Artemis


The second supersyllabogram in Linear B, KI = an owned & settled plot of land:

Knossos tablet KN 928 G c 301 supersyllabogram KI = kotona kitimena

The second supersyllabogram in Linear B, also a subset of land tenure is KI = “an owned & settled plot of land”. What is particularly remarkable about this second supersyllabogram in the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy is that it, KI, replaces not just one, but two Linear B words, viz. (a) kotona = “a plot of land” & (b) kitimena = “owned”, “settled” or more likely “owned and settled”. Concatenate the two Linear B words, kotona kitimena (in the natural Mycenaean Linear B and archaic Greek word order, noun + adjective) and we wind up with “an owned and settled plot of land.”  That sure is one long phrase in English covered by a single supersyllabogram, i.e. KI, and it even replaces two Linear B words, kotona kitimena. This unique supersyllabogram, KI is the one and only SSYL in all of Mycenaean Greek which replaces two Mycenaean Linear B words (though only in the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy). 

It was not quite so straightforward a matter to translate this intriguing Linear B tablet. Several issues jumped to the fore. In the first place, the word anano on the first line appears nowhere in any Greek Lexicon, and so I have to assume (and probably correctly) that it is a variant of anono, which means “not leased”. The reason why I believe this to be a variant spelling is that this is the sole Linear B tablet on which the supersyllabogram KI appears all alone, all by itself . On every other tablet I have found, the supersyllabograms KI & O appear in conjunction. And since O = onato = “a leased plot of land”, it stands to reason, in the absence of the SSYL O on this particular tablet, and in the presence of the word anano = anono = “not leased”, that this tablet is the only one with the supersyllabogram KI on it which deals with land which is not leased. On all the other tablets with the SSYL KI, the SSYL O = onato = “a leased field” also appears, in contraindication with this one.

Secondly, the word Rawoqonoyo also appears nowhere in any Linear B Lexicon, and so I really had to put my thinking cap on!   The first two syllables of this word are easy to decipher. They are the Mycenaean Linear B rawo = “the host”, “the army” or “the people.”  It is duly found in Chris Tselentis’ Linear B Lexicon. However, what are we to make of “qonoyo”? To begin with, it is immediately obvious that these last three syllabograms are in the genitive, ending as they do with “oyo”. That raises the question, what is the nominative? Nowhere to be found on any extant Linear B tablet other than this one, and nowhere in any Linear B Lexicon. Me, stumped? Of course not!  Checking the Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary, I discovered the Classical Greek word goneus (here Latinized), which means “parent” or “ancestor”, for which the Mycenaean genitive singular would have been gonoyo. Looks like a bingo, with the caveat, however, that this word actually existed in Mycenaean times. In my view, the chances are very high it did. So then this word is apparently a name, an eponym which roughly translates as “The Father of the People”, in other words the (shaman) overseer of the clan owning this flock of ewes.  Grandpa in the Spirit.  He does not even have to be alive. By virtue of being the revered worshipped ancestor of the folks who own these ewes, he merits his title, Most High Dude (so to speak). The translation makes sense, and so that is why I am sticking to my guns on this one. I simply have an intuitive feel for this one. In passing I should also like to explain why I opted for the free translation “owned by the Father of the Host”, which looks like it should be dative, whereas it is actually genitive, as we have seen. But if a plot of land is that of the Father of the Host, that implies he owns it. Simple as that. Besides, this construction (genitive standing in for dative for “by”) is common not only to Mycenaean and Homeric Greek, but to Classical Greek as well.

According to Tselentis, the village name is either Dawos or Dawon. Dawos makes more sense to me,  as toponyms are usually masculine in Mycenaean Greek: Knossos, Amnisos and Pylos, or feminine, Mycenae.

This was a lot of ground to cover, but then again, this supersyllabogram. KI = kotona kitimena = “an owned and settled” plot of land is not only the only SSYL which concatenates two Linear B words, kotona + kitimena, but is also one of the most heavily used SSYLs in Mycenaean Linear B, along with its cousin counterpart, O = onato = “lease field” .

Linear B tablet KN 791 G c 101, ewes and rams & what it signifies:

Knossos tablet KN 791 G c 101 ewes and rams

Linear B tablet KN 791 G c 101, as with most Linear B tablets dealing with sheep, takes stock of ewes and rams. There are literally 100s of such tablets, far more than all the tablets put together in every other sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy (military, textiles & vessels or pottery). This goes to show the critical importance of sheep raising and sheep husbandry in the Minoan/Mycenaean economy. It is by far and away the most important sector of their economy. I first translated this tablet back in 2014, when I was just familiarizing myself with supersyllabograms. I made a fundamental error in my then translation, by conflating KI with pakoso, giving pakososi, which is meaningless. In actual fact, the separate syllabogram KI is the supersyllabogram for kitimena = a plot of land.

On another point. Those of you who visit our site may find it odd that the nouns on Linear B tablets are almost always in the nominative, even when one modifies another, such as onato kitimena which literally means “a lease field, a plot of land”, but freely and accurately translated means “on a leased plot of land”,  where onato becomes attributive. The difficulty here is that these are both associative supersyllabograms, both of which must be nominative regardless of context. Why so? Since the Linear B tablets are inventories, the scribes could not be bothered with inflected cases, unless it was absolutely unavoidable.  As far as they were concerned each “item” on the inventory stood on its own, as a nominative, in other words, as a naming marker.  Although this seems very peculiar to us, that does not matter one jot, because here we are in the twenty-first century and there they were in the thirteenth or fourteenth century BCE, and never the twain shall meet. After all, they, the scribes, wrote the tablets, so whatever we may think about their “style” (which is also irrelevant because they could have cared less about that too), we have to put up with their formulaic conventions, because that is what these phenomena and others similar to them amount to. Take it or leave it. But if you leave it does not make a hill of beans worth of difference.

Linear B tablet K 1248, Knossos, a special case:

Knossos tablet K 1248 PE rams

Linear B tablet K 1248 at Knossos presents us with a special case, in so far as it contains two new independent supersyllabograms, RU and KA. KA = kameu, which refers to the owner of a kama, a unit of land, which in turn is for all intents and purposes, synonymous with kitimena = a plot of land. This makes such perfect sense in context that it appears almost incontestable. And it also makes sense that the supersyllabogram KA, the owner of a unit or plot of land must be an independent supersyllabogram, because the owner is not necessarily directly linked to the sheep. Any kind of livestock might be present on his land at any given time. Moreover, the the unit or plot of land as such is independent of whatever livestock or, for that matter, crops which might turn up there. Now the tablet further clearly implies that KA = the owner of a unit of land because he is called by name, Kirinetos. He must be quite a wealthy farmer or superintendent of lands because he owns a lot of sheep (95) at one place (unnamed) and five more at Tuniya, which apparently is a minor outpost, given the small number of rams there. On the other hand, it is very difficult to establish whether or not he also owns a unit of land at Rukito = Lykinthos, since using a supersyllabogram, in this case, RU, to replace a toponym, is completely atypical. In fact, I reserve serious doubts that indeed RU refers to a place name. The only reason I selected it (Rukito) is that this is the only entry in Chris Tselentis' Linear B Lexicon which fits the bill. But it is a pretty poor excuse for the full word represented by the independent supersyllabogram RU, and so we must take it with a serious grain of salt.  I have tried my best.

Linear B tablets on wheat: KN 849 K j 72:

Knossos KN 849 K j  72 wheat

This tablet is rather more challenging. The Linear word beginning with pera on the first line is right-truncated; so we do not know what word or phrase it is supposed to represent. Upon consulting Chris Tselentis’ excellent Linear B Lexicon, I discovered only one Linear B word which fit, and that is peraakoraiya, which means “in the further provinces”. It is plausible, I suppose, but rather unlikely. However, it is possible, even likely, that Linear B pera is not truncated at all, and that it is therefore the preposition for “beyond”... but beyond what? It just so happens that, as with everything else in the agricultural sphere, the Minoans and Mycenaeans raised their sheep and livestock and cultivated their crops on Linear B kitimena = “plot(s) of land”. So a better translation would be, “Wheat is being cultivated beyond the confines of this particular plot of land”, in other words, in an adjacent plot. That makes quite a lot of sense to me. 

The supersyllabogram SA in Mycenaean Linear B: sapaketeriya = animals for ritual slaughter: Click to ENLARGE

KN 386 X a 87 & KN 387 X c 57
Recently, I ran across two new fragmentary tablets from Knossos, KN 386 X a 87 & its quasi-join, KN 387 X c 57, both of which sport the supersyllabogram SA to the left of the ideogram for ram(s). The addition of this new supersyllabogram brings the total number of SSYLS in Mycenaean Linear B to 35 or 57.4 % of a syllabary of 61 syllabograms in all. This is a significant chunk, which attests to the supreme rôle of supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B. We have defined the phenomenon of the supersyllabogram over and over in our blog, but for those of you who are not familiar with it, a supersyllabogram is the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable only of a particular word or even an entire phrase in Mycenaean Greek. It is advisable for our newcomers to consult the section SUPERSYLLABOGRAMS, which you can click on at the top of our blog (see above).

How did I come to the determination that this SSYL references the Mycenaean Greek word, sapaketeriya? It was actually quite straightforward. In Chris Tselentis' excellent comprehensive Linear B Lexicon (PDF), which you can download from my academia.edu account here:

Linear B Lexicon Tslentis
there are only so many Mycenaean Greek words of which the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable, is SA. Of these, one and one only neatly fits the context of sheep raising in the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy, and that is the word sapaketeriya = animals for ritual slaughter. It is significant that this SSYL appears nowhere else on any extant tablet or fragment from either Knossos or Pylos. The reason for this seems to be that the practice of tallying ritual slaughter in inventories would appear to be the exception by far rather than the norm. The norms in inventories of sheep (rams & ewes) on hundreds of tablets from Knossos are primarily tallies of sheep on kitimena = plots of land, onato = lease fields, periqoro = enclosures or sheep pens, and similar aspects of prime interest to sheep husbandry and sheep raising. We have done scores of translations of tablets focusing on these areas on our blog. But again, this quasi-join of (apparently) one tablet is exceptional in two ways. First, it is a particularly rare exception to the types of tallies with which animal raising and husbandry tablets in Linear B are concerned, regardless of provenance (Knossos, Pylos etc.) and secondly, the quasi-joined tablet is in and of itself exceptional, in other words, quite remarkable. It is, in a word, a stunning find.

The partial translation:

Of all the tablets in Mycenaean Linear B which I have translated to date, this is by far the most difficult text with which I have been faced. The gaps in the quasi-join are so fragmented that it appears to make it next to impossible to glean any sense out of the tablet's intent, in other words, what it is supposed to inventory. However, closer examination of the fragmentary text which does appear to the left and to the right of the quasi-join reveals a few fascinating clues. These are tagged in the translation in the illustration above. A few words of explanation are however in order. I've managed to make some sense of the overall intent of the inventory by extrapolating what I take to be the missing text from the context of the intact text.

For instance, it seems to me that the right-truncated word following the indecipherable left-truncated word toyaone on left line 3 is very likely to be paketere, the Mycenaean Greek word for a peg or pegs, or more to the point, a stake or stakes. In the context of this tablet, the ritual slaughter of rams, this rather makes sense, especially in light of the fact that once again, in Chris Tselentis' Linear B Lexicon, it is the only word beginning with the syllabogram pa which fits the context. So that is why I have translated the snippet as such. After all, it does make sense that a ram intended for ritual slaughter would be tied to a stake, to restrain it. One can easily argue that this isn't necessary at all, but on the other hand, it is entirely plausible. Secondly, on right line 0 we find the termination no, left-truncated. What word can this final syllabogram possibly refer to? Once again, turning to our trusty Linear B Lexicon, we discover the word kono, the Mycenaean for the schinus rush plant. It is quite possible that the schinus rush plant may have played a rôle in the ritual slaughter of rams. No one can claim with any certainty that it did... but then again it might have. There is no way of our knowing, peering back 3,300 years through the mists of history, as we were not there when the scribe who tallied this tablet wrote whatever he wrote. But this guestimate is as good as any.

Next, on right line 1, we have the two syllabograms ito left-truncated. One of the most common words found on scores and scores of tablets from Knossos dealing with sheep and livestock is of course the toponym or place name, Paito = Phaistos. So I have opted for that. But then how are we to account for the presence of the number 1 immediately following Phaistos? The explanation might run as follows. What the scribe is describing here is the ritual slaughter of rams at Phaistos only once on this occasion, hence, the number 1. It is well worth considering. Finally, on right line 2, we find the single ultimate (terminal) syllabogram we. What can that possibly refer to?  And once again, there is a plausible explanation for the missing word of which it is the ultimate, namely, the word akorowe, referencing a field or fields. After all, where do we normally find sheep? ... in fields. That too makes sense in the context.

So while my translation is fragmentary, enough of the original text remains on the tablet to allow at least one plausible reconstruction of the intent of the inventory's tally. The reconstituted text does make eminent sense in its proper context. It is of course only one of several possible reconstructions. But I for one am satisfied with it as it stands.  

On a final note, I feel I ought to address the problem of the juxtaposition of the huge syllabogram QE with the much smaller syllabogram wa subsumed to its right. I bring this point up because I have noticed the same phenomenon recurring on scores of tablets from Knossos, and not just with this particular type of combination of these two syllabograms alone. Several other syllabograms appear in the same configuration, i.e. with one, the much larger, appearing first, and the second, much smaller, subsumed to it on the right. I have no idea what this means, but it is surely significant of something, because, as I have said many times over, the Mycenaean scribes never used any linguistic device unless they meant to, in other words, unless they found some practical advantage in so doing. So any two consecutive syllabograms (whichever ones they are) appearing in this particular configuration do not appear to constitute a Mycenaean Greek word, but rather to be a variation on the phenomenon of the supersyllabogram itself. I have neither the room nor the intellectual means to address this unusual configuration in this post, as I have not even begun to make any determination yet re. what this phenomenon actually is. However, I do intend to investigate it thoroughly in the relatively near future, as it quite possibly constitutes a sub-category of supersyllabograms, presumably being a corollary of the latter phenomenon.

Eventually we shall see.  


Associative Versus Attributive Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B: Appendix H

Appendix H neatly summarizes the rôle of supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B. Click to ENLARGE:

H Appendix
I wish to stress one thing in particular. There is a marked difference in associative supersyllabograms, which account for the greatest number of SSYLS in Mycenaean Linear B, and attributive supersyllabograms, which appear primarily in the textiles and vessels (pottery, amphorae, cups etc.) sectors of the Late Minoan III & Mycenaean economies.

Associative supersyllabograms inform of us of some element, usually a land tenure factor, which relates to the ideogram itself, or which circumscribes its environment, especially in the livestock raising sub-sector of the agricultural sector. For instance, the supersyllabogram O, which you see in this Appendix, plus the ideogram for sheep + the number of sheep accounted for in the inventory of any particular tablet, informs us that the sheep are being raised on a lease(d) field, more specifically a usufruct lease field (i.e. a lease field which a farmer tenant cultivates for the use of his own family and village neighbours, with a taxation imposed by the overseer). In other words, the supersyllabogram is associated with the raising of x no. of sheep. The scribe could have simply informed us that x no. of sheep were raised, and left it at that. But he did not. By adding just one syllabogram, in this case a simple vowel = O, he has given us a great deal more information on the raising of the sheep (rams & ewes) on this particular tablet. And he has done all of this without having to resort to writing it all out as text. Since it was critical for the scribes to use as little space as possible on what were (and are) extremely small tablets, the use of supersyllabograms as a substitute for wasteful text is illustrative of just how far the scribes were willing to go to save such invaluable space. They did not do this only occasionally. They did it a great deal of the time, and they always followed the exact same formula in so doing. Not only are syllabograms such as O (on a lease field), KI (on a plot of land) & NE (in their sheep pens) in the field of sheep husbandry associative, they are all what I designate as dependent supersyllabograms, since they are meaningless unless they are immediately adjacent to the ideograms they qualify. No ideogram, no supersyllabogram. Period.

To illustrate the radical difference between a Linear B tablet on which a supersyllabogram + an ideogram is used, and another on which the text is spelled out, take a good hard look at this comparison: Click to ENLARGE

Knossos Tablet KN 933 G d 01 supersyllabograms and text

This comparison between the real tablet from Knossos using only supersyllabograms and ideograms (left) and a putative one using text in full (right) is precisely the reason why so many scribes much preferred the former formulaic approach to inscribing tablets to the latter discursive and space wasting technique. A textual version of this tablet would have been twice as long as the actual tablet. Even if no one nowadays has ever managed to decipher dependent supersyllabograms until now, that cannot conceivably mean that the Linear B scribes did not know what they were, since otherwise, they would never have used them so liberally in the first place. In other words, using SSYLS for no reason at all is tantamount to a reductio ad absurdum. There are thousands of supersyllabograms found on 700 tablets from Knossos. They are there because all of the scribes, as a team or, if you like, as a guild, all understood each and every supersyllabogram to mean one thing and one thing only in its proper context. In other words, supersyllabograms are standardized and always formulaic. This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Homer, who also heavily relied on formulaic expressions, though for entirely different reasons. My point is that formulaic language is a key characteristic of ancient Greek texts, right on down from Mycenaean times through to Attic and beyond. We should never overlook this extremely important characteristic of ancient Greek, regardless of period (1450 – 400 BCE).   

Attributive dependent supersyllabograms always appear inside the ideogram which they qualify, never adjacent to it. They always describe an actual attribute (usually known as an adjectival function) of the ideogram. For instance, the syllabogram PO inside the ideogram for “cloth” is the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of the Mycenaean word ponikiya = “purple”, hence the phrase = “purple cloth”.  Likewise the syllabogram TE, when it appears inside the ideogram for “cloth” is the supersyllabogram for the Mycenaean word tetukuwoa, which means “well prepared” or if you like, “well spun”. Hence, the syllabogram TE inside the ideogram for cloth must mean one thing and one thing only, “well-prepared cloth”. I have discovered, identified & classified well over a dozen examples of associative supersyllabograms. 

Neither type of dependent supersyllabogram, associative or attributive, was ever isolated and tabulated in Mycenaean Linear B until I systematically studied, deciphered and classified scores of them on some 700 tablets from Knossos.


Measurement of Wheat Crop Yields in Mycenaean Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

Mycenaean Linear B wheat yields Kn 849 KN 850

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.


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