This is a beautifully illustrated Mycenaean Linear B tablet on 5 carpenters who owe the tax collector: The illustrations at the top are (left) several designs for Minoan houses (Knossos). Notice that many of them are 3 stories high, which is unusual for the ancient world, except for Rome, with its shabby multi-storied insulae (islands) or apartment buildings, which frequently collapsed. Such can scarcely be said of the Minoan houses, which were built to withstand earthquakes. You can see this for yourself from the top left picture, where the windows in the last 2 houses on the bottom display the heavy wooden beams, both vertical and horizontal, used to reinforce the windows. A cute clay model of a Minoan house at Knossos appears at the top right. The Minoans at Knossos were just as fussy about their typical beautifully fluted Minoan columns and sturdily reinforced doors, as can clearly be seen in these two photos I took when I was in Knossos on May 2, 2012: I am particularly impressed by the text in Mycenaean Greek, which is easily rendered into Archaic Greek.
Before we can decipher even a single Linear A tablet on olive oil, we must decipher as many as we can in Linear B, because... PART A: delivery of olive oil Before we can plausibly (and frequently tentatively) decipher even a single Linear A tablet on olive oil, we must decipher as many as we can in Linear B, because there are so many facets to be taken fully into consideration in the olive oil sub-sector of the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy related to the production of olive oil which on an adequate number of Linear B tablets (at least 10), mostly from Knossos, dealing with harvesting from olive oil trees and the production and delivery of olive oil that we must account for every single term related to olive oil on the Linear B tablets, and then compile a list of all of these terms in order to cross-correlate these with equivalent terms on the Linear A tablets, mostly from Haghia Triada. Another vital factor which just occurred to me is that the Minoan economy appears to have been primarily centred in Haghia Triada, while the Mycenaean primarily in Knossos, with valuable contributions from Pylos as well. In other words, the economic centre or power house, if you will, of the Minoan economy appears to have been Haghia Triada and not Knossos. I am somewhat baffled by the fact that researchers to date have not taken this important factor adequately into account. It appears to reveal that Knossos had not yet risen to prominence in the Minoan economy in the Middle Minoan Period (ca. 2100-1600 BCE): The gravest challenge confronting us in the cross-correlation of the several economic terms related to olive oil production in the late Minoan III 3a period under Mycenaean suzerainty (ca. 1500-1450 BCE) with potentially equivalent terms in Minoan Linear A arises from the mathematical theoretical constructs of combinations and permutations. Given, for instance, that there are potentially a dozen (12) terms related to olive oil production on an adequate number (10-12) Linear B tablets to afford effectual cross-correlation, how on earth are we to know which terms in Mycenaean Linear B correspond to apparently similar terms in Minoan Linear A? In other words, if we for instance extrapolate a total of 12 terms from Mycenaean Linear B tablets, how are we to line or match up the Mycenaean Linear B terms in a “Column A” construct with those in Minoan Linear B in “Column B”? There is no practical way that we can safely assert that term A (let us say, for the sake of expediency, that this word is apudosi = “delivery”) in Mycenaean Greek corresponds to term A in Minoan Linear A, rather than any of B-L, in any permutation and/or in any combination. This leads us straight into the trap of having to assign ALL of the signified (terms) in Mycenaean Linear A to all of the signified in Minoan Linear B. I shall only be able to definitively demonstrate this quandary after I have deciphered as many Linear B tablets on olive oil as I possibly can. For the time being, we have no choice but to set out on our search with these 3 tablets, all of which prepend the first term apudosi = “delivery” to the ideogram for olive oil. In closing, I wish to emphatically stress that this is precisely the signified I expected to turn up in the list of terms potentially related to olive oil production in Mycenaean Linear B. It is also the most important of all Mycenaean Linear B terms prepended to the ideogram for “olive oil” on the Linear B tablets. When we come to making the fateful decision to assign the the “correct” Minoan Linear A term meaning just that, “delivery” on the Linear A tablets dealing with olive oil, how are we to know which Linear A signified corresponds to Linear B apudosi = “delivery”? Still the situation is not as bad as you might think, at least for this term. Why so? Because if it appears (much) more often on the Linear B tablets (say, theoretically, 5 times versus less than 5 for all the other terms in Linear B related to olive oil), then the term appearing the most frequently on Minoan Linear A tablets related to olive oil is more likely than not to be the equivalent of apudosi, i.e. to mean “delivery”. The less frequent the occurrence of any particular term relative to olive oil on the Mycenaean Linear B tablets, the greater the room there is for error, to the point that where a term appears only once on all of the Linear B tablets we can manage to muster up for translation, it becomes next to impossible to properly align that term with any of the terms occurring only once on the Minoan Linear A tablets, especially where more than one signified occurs on the Mycenaean Linear B tablets. If for example, 3 terms occur only once on the Linear B tablets, which one(s) aligns with which one(s) on the Linear A? A messy scenario. But we must make the best of the situation, bite the bullet, and cross-correlate these 3 terms in all permutations and combinations (= 9!) from the Linear B to the Linear A tablets containing them. This I shall definitively illustrate in a Chart once I have translated all terms related to olive oil production in Mycenaean Linear A.
Stunning frescoes from Knossos, Third Palace, Late Minoan III b (ca. 1450 BCE) Post 1 of 2
More photos from Knossos (stairs and foundations): Post 1 of 2
Columns from the Late Minoan IIIb Palace (ca 1450 BCE) Post 2 of 2:
Columns from the Late Minoan IIIb Palace (ca 1450 BCE) Post 1 of 2:
Windows from the Late Minoan IIIb Palace (ca 1450 BCE):
Doors from the Late Minoan IIIb Palace (ca 1450 BCE):
Knossos building with perfect circular rosettes on its frieze! This building is remarkable for the typically Greek (or if you prefer, Minoan) simplicity of its architecture. What really struck me while I was visiting Knossos on the afternoon of May 2 2012 was that the circular rosettes on its frieze are perfectly circular, each one exactly identical to the next. It seems the Greeks inherited the mania for geometric simplicity fro their forbears, the Minoans. More photos follow in the next post.
CONTEST QUIZ & LOVELY BOOK PRIZES! Are these statuettes of the Mistress of the Hunt, Zeus & the Priestess of the Winds? Click to ENLARGE: NOTE that this POST is classified under the heading MEDIA at the top of this blog. If you click on MEDIA, you will find it much faster than if you simply try scrolling through the hundreds of posts on our blog. It is quite possible that these 3 statuettes are, from left to right, (a) Potnia Theron (Mistress of the Hunt), (b) DIWO (in Mycenaean Greek) or ZEUS & (c) ANEMOIYEREA (The Minoan Mycenaean Priestess of the Winds). For more on the Priestess of the Winds, click on this BANNER: But they may not be. Who is to say, if not you yourself? So why not tell us, and we will let you know if you are right. Moreover, if you get the answer EXACTLY right, you will win FIRST PRIZE of a fine edition of W. Ceram’s Gods, Graves and Scholars, and if you get the closest answer to the FIRST PRIZE winning answer, your SECOND PRIZE is another fine book on The Minoans. See below for details. HOW TO ENTER THE CONTEST: It is simple. Answer any of questions (a) to (d) below as you see fit. To reply with your answer, you may either: (a) leave your reply in the Comments section for this post; or (b) send me your answer to either of my e-mail accounts: email@example.com OR firstname.lastname@example.org (Since I must protect myself from spammers, these e-mail links are not live in this post. You must add my e-mail address to your address book.) THIS CONTEST QUIZ IS OPEN UNTIL JULY 1 2015. Good luck! HOW I FOUND THESE AMAZING STATUETTES! While watching a truly fascinating TV program this morning, I happened to see these three statuettes, which I instantly recognized as quite possibly being dated anywhere from the late Bronze Age to the early Iron Age (ca. 1300-800 BCE). Just one look at them, and you can see for yourselves that they could easily date from within these five centuries. But the question is, do they, and if they do not, what are they? Do not kid yourself, this is an extremely tricky quiz question, because, unless you have actually seen the program yourself and you recognized them flash across the screen, then you cannot possibly know the answer. However, to be fair, I shall give everyone out there, whether or not you are an expert in ancient Greek archaeology, an historian of ancient Greece, or an aficionado of all things ancient, more than an even break to guess the right answer... and there is only one. THIS QUIZ IS SO DIFFICULT IT IS OPEN TO EVERYONE, EVEN MY CO-RESIDENT BLOGGER, RITA ROBERTS. Answer these questions as you see fit: (a) Are these statuettes genuine ancient Greek artifacts, Minoan, Mycenaean or early Iron Age? OR (b) If not, are statuettes from another ancient civilization, and if, so, which one? OR (c) Are these statuettes fake? AND (d) If they are fake, precisely what are they? If you believe (c) to be true, then you must answer (d) precisely, i.e. you must identify exactly what these statuettes are and the actual name of the program from which they are derived. The only way anyone can get this last option (d) correct is if you have actually seen the program in question, and even then, I my be leading you astray. In other words, either (a) or (b) may be the right answer, or on the other hand (c) and (d). YOU DECIDE. There are two beautiful prizes to be won: FIRST PRIZE: for the person who tells me precisely what they are, down to the very last detail, providing the actual names of each statute in turn, AND the name of the TV program where I found them, this magnificent volume: Ceram, C.W. Gods, Graves, and Scholars: the Story of Archaeology. London: the Folio Society, © 1999. xxx, 528 pp. Illustrated with full colour and black & white plates. Bound in full buckram, printed on Inveresk Wove paper by the Bath Press. Approximate Value: $80 SECOND PRIZE: for the person who tells me gets the closest to the answer for the first PRIZE, down to the very last detail, providing the actual names of each statute in turn, but missing out on only one or two details, this splendid book: Fitton, J. Lesley. The Minoans. London: the Folio Society, © 2004. xix, 392 pp. Illustrated with full colour and black & white plates. Bound in full cloth, printed on Abbey Wove paper by Cambridge University Press. Approximate Value: $65 NOTE: IF YOU STILL HAVE ANY QUESTIONS OR ARE IN ANY WAY UNSURE HOW TO ANSWER THE QUESTION, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME IN COMMENTS HERE ON THE BLOG OR BY E-MAIL. Richard
A Series of Maps of the Minoan & Mycenaean Empires, Some with New Toponyms Seen for the First Time Our first map is of the principal Minoan cities and settlements, with the locations of the major palaces in the Late Minoan Era (LM Ia – LMII, ca. 1550 -1450 BCE) Click to ENLARGE: It was over the last half of the sixteenth & the first half of the fifteenth century that the Minoan civilization made the swift switchover from using the as yet undeciphered Linear A syllabary to writing Mycenaean Greek in Linear B. Whether or not Knossos itself was conquered by the Mycenaeans around 1500 BCE is a question entirely open to conjecture. Many historians are quite convinced it was, but I personally am not so convinced. However, you should take my opinion with a large grain of salt, as I am a linguist and not a historian! The largest Minoan palaces after that of Knossos, the capital city of the Minoan Empire, with a population estimated to have been somewhere around 55,000 (a huge city for the Bronze age!) were those at Phaistos & Zakros. All of the palaces illustrated on this map have been thoroughly excavated, and they have yielded inestimable treasures of Linear A & B tablets, magnificent Minoan frescoes and art, bronze ware of all sorts (weaponry, utensils etc.), pottery and so on. If you have already had the opportunity to visit any of these magnificent sites (as I have, seeing Knossos in May 2012), you will know to what heights the Minoan Empire and their highly cultured civilization aspired. They (the Minoans) were so cultivated and refined that they virtually outclassed and outshone all other contemporary Bronze Age empires, and that includes, to my mind at least, Egypt! In fact, the Mycenaeans, shortly after arrival at Knossos, imitated lock-stock-and-barrel, the brilliant architecture and the entire repertoire of military expertise, the arts and crafts and every other area of the prosperous Minoan agri-economy. Their tribute to the Minoans could not have been more profound than that of the Romans to the Greeks some 1,000 years or more later on. It was that kind of phenomenon, nothing less. All of these maps, as well as all of the maps in the next few posts, also appear on the following PINTEREST Boards, Richard
What Are the Symbols on the Wisconsin U.S.A. Shard & What Might They Mean? PART A: ARCHEOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS: A Shard from Wisconsin, U.S.A. (A: Top Left), Minoan Pottery (B, C & D) Click to ENLARGE: Is the shard from a giant storage container something like the Minoan pithos? In response to James’ newest post, illustrating a shard from Wisconsin, allow me to make the following observations and comments. In the first place, leaving aside all consideration of pictographs or script (whatever the symbols are on this shard), from a strictly archaeological point of view, the shard seems to conform most closely in its apparent thickness to the giant Minoan pithoi or storage jars found at Knossos. These pithoi are huge (I know, I have seen them myself). They were used to store such commodities as wine, grain, olive oil etc. This observation might lead us to the conclusion that the Wisconsin shard is also from a North American vessel of the approximate configuration of a pithos, but there is really no way to know. What I am saying is simply this: just because the shard looks as if it is approximately the same thickness as a Minoan pithos does not necessarily mean that it comes from a pithos at all. What kind of vessel it comes from I simply cannot tell. Since I am a linguist, and not an archaeologist, I leave it up to Rita Roberts, our resident archaeologist, and specialist in Minoan wares, to shed further light on this issue. It is not up to me to draw any conclusions either way (or any way, for that matter), due to my ignorance of the archaeological implications of such ancient artifacts, no matter what their provenance, Asian, Australasian, Mediterranean, European, North or South American etc. I have eliminated the other examples (B & C) of Minoan pottery in the illustration above for the simple reason that they appear to be too thin. But here again, I may very well be deceived by appearances. Only Rita Roberts is qualified to determine whether the apparent thickness of the Wisconsin shard falls within the parameters of thickness for Minoan pithoi, and in order for her to accomplish this, she would need a precise measurement of the thickness of the Wisconsin shard from James. So James and Rita, the ball is in your court. Snake Goddess or Priestess or...? Click to ENLARGE: As for the appearance of what looks like a snake goddess or priestess or someone of that kind on the Wisconsin shard, may I make the following observations? It all boils down to one thing: there were snake goddesses all over the place in the ancient world, as can be seen above. However, in all fairness to James, the Minoans were the most obsessed of all ancient civilizations with the worship of the snake goddess, so there is a very remote possibility that the snake goddess or snake priestess or whatever the symbol on the Wisconsin shard might be of Minoan origin, but I for one certainly would not count on that. Just because a snake symbol on an archaeological artifact from one part of the world (Wisconsin, U.S.A) looks like a similar symbol on an artifact from another, far-off region of the world, does not imply that they are (even remotely) the “same” symbol or, and this is even more critical, that they are from the (relatively) “same” historical period, as I go on to elaborate in the next section, carbon-dating. The Absolute Necessity for Carbon-Dating (yet again): On the other hand, as I pointed out in a previous post, the necessity for carbon-dating is absolutely paramount for both the tablet and the shard. Although carbon-dating is most likely to reveal that they both originate from the same pre-historical or historical period, there is still the possibility that they do not, and in that case, we would find ourselves at an impasse yet again. Without carbon-dating, however, there is simply no way to come close to an accurate determination of the approximate historical timeline within which these artifacts fall. Moreover, given that we are dealing with an enormous timeline, from paleolithic to as recent as the early modern era, when North American aboriginals still held sway all over the North American content (say, from as early as 10,000 BCE to as late as the 18th. century AD), the chances that these artifacts would actually fall within the timeline of the Minoan civilization (ca. 1900 – 1200 BCE, or about 700 years) is about 1/17, if we operate solely from this hypothesis, excluding all others, namely, that the total timeline rounds out to about 12 millennia (12,000 years, BCE to AD). If we were to extend the timeline further back in time, the odds would get even worse. If we were to restrict the timeline to, say, 5,000 BCE until today, the timeline is still 7 millennia, leaving us with odds of about 1/10, which is to say that there is still a 90% chance that the Wisconsin artifacts do not fall within the entire timeline of the Minoan/Mycenaean civilization, i.e. 1,900 – 1,200 BCE (700 years). There is simply no way around this road block, unless we do carbon-dating, and even then, the chances that the Wisconsin artifacts are contemporary with the Minoan/Mycenaean era are still only 1 in 10, in the best case scenario, or 1 in 17 in a more realistic timeline of 12,000 years. Chronological and Geographic Considerations: Moreover, even if carbon-dating of the Wisconsin artifacts does result in an approximate timeline of something like 2,000 – 1,000 BCE, this is only an indication that the Wisconsin artifacts versus any and all artifacts of the Minoan/Mycenaean civilization share the same timeline, give or take a few centuries (!), and nothing more. In other words, we are dealing with rough chronological simultaneity, but beyond that, what else can we say? Add to this the fact that, even if carbon-dating should result in an almost perfect chronological alignment, we are still faced with such an enormous geographical distance between the sites (Wisconsin, U.S.A. versus Crete) that the chances of these two far-flung sites sharing the “same” or similar civilization are very remote indeed. I hasten to add that Minoan ships, with their extremely low gunwales and profile, were suitable only for navigation in the Mediterranean in the spring and summer only, trade routes pretty much lying dormant for the winter. Here we see two images of a Cycladic/Minoan/Cretan ship, one a model and the other a fresco. Click to ENLARGE: Note the extremely low gunwales. James, being a former naval officer, as I recall, fully appreciates the implications of such a configuration for seaworthiness on the high Atlantic. After all, if the Wisconsin artifacts are conceivably Minoan, Cypriot or of a related Mediterranean civilization, the people had to cross the Atlantic even to get to the Eastern shores of North America, let alone having to trek another 3,000 kilometres or more to get to Wisconsin! Yet, for all I have to say here, it is not up to me to draw any conclusions in the archaeological sphere, as I am not qualified to do so. I leave that task to our esteemed colleague, Rita Roberts. The Pre-Historical or Historical Significance of the Wisconsin Artifacts in their own right: On a final note, regardless of the timeline of the Wisconsin artifacts, once verified by carbon-dating, they are bound to be of great historical significance in and of themselves, without the need to take into account reference to any other ancient or more recent civilization whatsoever. This is the prime consideration I believe James should keep uppermost in mind. Again, it is up to Rita to confirm or dissent on this point, but it strikes me that any and all major archaeological finds, regardless of where in the world they are unearthed, must perforce be evaluated in their own geological, historical and geographic context, as telling sign posts to the very civilization they represent, and to none other. To illustrate: just because the Minoan civilization was contemporaneous with much of the ancient Egyptian does not mean they were the same or even similar civilization, regardless of geographical proximity, because they were not. The same could be said for the Sumerian and Hittite Empires, also co-existent with the Minoan/Mycenaean. And yet all of these Empires were situated smack dab in the same geographical area of the world!... not 10s of thousands of kilometres apart. I shall turn my attention to address the linguistic implications of the Wisconsin tablet and shard in the next post. Richard
Cross-Correlation of the Timelines for Egyptian, Minoan & Mycenaean Civilizations (Click to ENLARGE): This Table cross-correlates the Timelines for the: 1. Egyptian Middle Kingdom MK (ca. 2000-1800 BCE), 2nd. Intermediate Period2IN (ca. 1800-1550 BCE) and New Kingdom LK (ca. 1150-1000 BCE) 2. Middle Minoan MM (ca. 2000-ca. 1600 BCE) & Late Minoan LM (ca. 1550-1350 BCE) 3. Mycenaean Civilization (ca. 1650BCE-1200 BCE). Sir Arthur Evans devised a methodical and practical Timeline for Minoan Civilization, by deriving it from the Egyptian Timelines as outlined in 1 above. His assignation of Periods for Minoan Civilization is still in wide use even today, though it has been modified and revised several times in the past century. Moreover, researchers and archaeologists specializing in these 3 civilizations are at wide variance in their interpretations of the timelines for each of these civilizations, and to such an extent that there are scores of variations in the relative relationship of all 3 timelines to one another. Some would agree that Evans' estimates for the MM & LM periods are reasonably close to the timelines for MK 2IN & NK, while maintaining that the timeline for the Mycenaean civilization does not correspond to that given in this table, while others would argue that MK 2IN & NK do not correspond to Evans' MM & LM, at the same time maintaining that the Mycenaean timeline illustrated here is sound. Still others claim that at least 2 or all of these timelines are out of whack, or that some or none of them are valid. So we end up with a fine mess. However, for the sake of consistency and relative clarity, I have adopted the Table of Timelines you see here, without however claiming that it is any more accurate than any other timeline, and reserving judgement on it until such time as I am convinced that this particular timeline is possibly or probably invalid. For the time being, however, I am in no such position, not yet having even minimally investigated the correlations between the timelines for these 3 great civilizations. Richard