SITO = “wheat” again, this time on a contextually considerably clearer fragment

SITO = “wheat” again, this time on a contextually considerably clearer fragment (Click to ENLARGE):

Knossos Fragment KN 849 K j 72 SITO wheat

Unlike the previous Linear B tablet sporting the ideogram for wheat = SITO in Linear B (transliterated into Latin script), which was a pure headache for me from beginning to end, I dare say I found this particular Linear BC fragment from Knossos much easier to decipher, or more to the point, to unravel. As it turns out, even the missing portions of the text were practically handed to me on a silver platter, well, at least almost.

Even in the first line of this fragment, the presence of the feminine singular adjective for “planted or cultivated” pretty much gave the show away. The one noun which fits this adjective like a glove is the Linear B word, KOTONA = “a plot of land”, the very word Chris Tselentis pairs with this adjective in his Linear B Lexicon, where he has this to say of PU2TERIYA, “planted, cultivated (of ‘ ktoina’ = plots”). And who am I to argue with him? Sometimes, translations of even missing words, in this case, the noun KOTONA, also feminine singular, seem just to leap up and bite you. I have almost no doubt whatsoever that this is indeed the word missing to the left of the alternate spelling PUTARIYA for PU2TERIYA.

The truncated word beginning with PERI was a considerably tougher challenge, but as I have so often said on this blog, who am I to refuse a good challenge? So I never do. Basing myself on the various possible spellings of Linear B PERI in alphabetical ancient Greek, meticulous consultation of Liddell & Scott, 1986, yielded no less than nine (9) distinct possibilities for Greek words beginning with the alternatives you see in the illustration above. I have included them all, even though some of them seem more far-fetched than others. What really struck me was that five (5) of these words were all in the same range of meanings, and so I naturally opted for any one of these variants... take your pick, while eliminating the others. Of course, there is no real justification for tossing all of the others out, especially “by the sea”, except that Chris Tselentis himself has an entry in his excellent and comprehensive Linear B Lexicon, which is almost perfectly matched with all five of the alternative meanings I have opted for. Given that this entry, “the further provinces” is the one and only entry beginning with PERA in any available online Linear B glossary or lexicon, there is absolutely no reason to doubt that this may indeed be the very word that originally appeared intact at this position on the tablet. But there is no way to know.

The rest of the notes on the illustration of this fragment from Knossos are self-explanatory. The translation of the second line is completely unambiguous.

Now, on to the alternative translations... take your choice. These are:

A: a cultivated (plot of land) close by, with wheat amounting to a total of 130+ units (bales)... where “amounting to a total of” is a free translation of  “so much wheat 130+”
B: a cultivated (plot of land) just beyond, with wheat amounting to a total of 130+ units (bales)...
C: a cultivated (plot of land) on the other side of (... the island or peninsula or whatever...), with wheat amounting to a total of 130+ units (bales)...
D: a cultivated (plot of land) on the opposite side of (... the island or peninsula or whatever...), with wheat amounting to a total of 130+ units (bales)...
E: a cultivated (plot of land) in a distant province, with wheat amounting to a total of 130+ units (bales)...

and even possibly:

F: a cultivated (plot of land) by the sea, with wheat amounting to a total of 130+ units (bales)...

Again, I say, take your pick. All of these translations are perfectly sound, and since the context of this fragment is no longer fully intact, any one of them could very well have been the original integral text. I would much rather entertain all the probabilities for this context, partial as it is. If it is possible to cross-correlate the context of this fragment with that of a more complete tablet using almost exactly the same text as this one, then we may be able to confirm the best translation(s) from the seven (7) alternatives above, possibly even rounding them down to two. I am a real stickler for context. Where a very similar or almost identical context does exist on another Linear B tablet, regardless of its provenance, we simply must not fail to take its entire text into strict account, in order to flesh out the missing text on the tablet we have in front of ourselves. Of course, where no cross-correlated context is to be found on any extant Linear B tablets or fragments, we have to make do without it. 

At this moment in time, I can think of no other Linear B tablet or fragment from among the 3,000+ I have closely examined, the content of which cross-correlates with that of this tablet. Given the fact, however, that even the missing text of this tablet appears not to be so mysterious after all, we can, I think, rest assured that we are on the right track.

On a final note, even where context is sufficient to establish meaning with a fair degree of certainty, as in this instance, it is not everything. We must prepare ourselves for all possible contingencies, which is precisely what I have done here, and what I attempt to do to the best of my ability with any Linear B tablet or fragment I must struggle with to decipher it... in the exact same scenario which faces any and all Linear B translators.   


Table 2: Comparison of Spelling Conventions in Linear B and Alphabetical Greek

Table 2: Comparison of Spelling Conventions in Linear B and Alphabetical Greek – Click to ENLARGE:

Linear B syllabograms correspondance with ancient Greek

As you will quickly enough appreciate from studying Table 2, Comparison of Spelling Conventions in Linear B and Alphabetical Greek, the Linear B syllabary sometimes has a tough time representing exactly the Greek vowels and consonants they are supposed to be (exactly but not always!) equivalent to. This is particularly true for:
(a) the vowels E & O, which are both short and long (epsilon in the Table) and long (aytay in the Table in alphabetical Greek & o micron (short) & o mega (long) (See the 2 variants on each of these vowels in Greek in Table 2 above) can only be represented by 1 single vowel syllabogram for the same vowels, i.e. E & O, in Linear B. (See also the same Table).
(b) the situation seems considerably more complicated with the alphabetical Greek consonants, but the appearance of complexity is just that, merely apparent.
By studying the Table above (Table 2), it should dawn on you soon enough that the Linear B syllabograms in the KA, PA, RA, QE & TA series are forced to represent both alphabetical Greek variants on the vowels each of them contains, since once again, Linear B is unable to distinguish between a short vowel and a long vowel following the initial consonant in each one of these series.
(c) In the next post, we will provide ample illustrations of these principles of spelling conventions in Linear cross-correlated with their equivalent spelling conventions in (early) alphabetical Greek.

NOTE: When we eventually come around to analyzing the Syllabary of Arcado-Cypriot (the Greek dialect resembling the Mycenaean Greek dialect to a striking degree), we will discover that in fact the Syllabary for Arcado-Cypriot, known as Linear C, suffers from precisely the same deficiencies as Linear B, which in turn establishes and confirms the principle that no syllabary can substitute fully adequately for the Greek alphabet, although I must stress that both Linear B & Linear C are able to account for a great many (though certainly not all) of the peculiarities of the Greek alphabet. What is truly important to keep in mind is that a syllabary, in which all 5 vowels have already been accounted for, and in which the consonants (so to speak) are all immediately followed by any one of the vowels, is the very last step in evolution from hieroglyphic through to ideographic and logographic systems before the actual appearance of the (earliest form of) the ancient Greek alphabet. In other words, the evolution from hieroglyphic systems such as ancient Egyptian all the way right on through to the Greek alphabet, the culmination of 1,000s of years of evolution, looks something like this:

hieroglyphics - ideograms -› logograms -› syllabary -› alphabet

in which only the last two systems, the syllabaries, represented by Linear A, Linear B & Linear C, and the Greek alphabet, contain all of the vowels. This is of the greatest significance in the understanding of the geometric economy of both syllabaries and alphabets, explaining why syllabaries consist of far fewer characters (generally no more than about 80-90 syllabograms, not counting logogams and ideograms, which are merely remnants of the previous systems) than any previous stage(s)in the evolution of ancient writing systems, and why alphabets consist of even fewer characters (only 24 in the classical Attic Ancient alphabet, and never more than 30 in the earliest Greek alphabets).



Progressive Linear B Vocabulary: Level 4.3 Advanced – Crops & Produce

Progressive Linear B Vocabulary: Level 4.3 Advanced – Crops & Produce (Click to ENLARGE):

Progressive Linear B Level 4.3 Agricultural Crops & Produce

Once again, most of the syllabograms dealing with crops & produce are relatively straightforward. However, a few words of warning. First, we notice that some ideograms have more than one meaning, as in the case of KANAKO = saffron, which is the dye derived from the crocus. So this ideogram also means “crocus”. Likewise, RINO means “flax”, but it can also (though rarely) mean “linen”. Secondly, it is absolutely essential to bear in mind that some syllabograms (in this case, NI & SA) are also ideograms, so that in translating Linear B tablets, you must take this into account; otherwise, you may read the character as a syllabogram instead of an ideogram, when in fact it is the latter. The tabular context should, however, make it quite clear which one is meant.

Finally, I have decided to go way out on a limb, and attempt to guess what the meaning (so-called) is for each of 4 ideograms for which there is no assignable meaning. Why did I do this? Why not? No-one else has, as far as I know. So it might as well be me. Perhaps at some point in the mid- to far- future, some new Linear B tablets will be unearthed, and may shed a little light on the true “meanings” of these syllabograms. In the meantime, you certainly should not assume that the “meanings” I have dared to assign to any of them is even remotely accurate, although I for one took a long, hard look at each one of them before I intuitively leaped to my “conclusions”. I invite anyone familiar with Linear B, above all Linear B experts, to shoot my hypothetical guesses down in flames. Someone surely will. If you are that person, please leave your comments on this Blog, so that we can further discuss the ramifications.

People familiar with or experts in Linear B will surely notice that some agricultural ideograms are missing from this table. There is good reason for this. It will all come clear in the near future.  

Thank you


Progressive Linear B Vocabulary Level 3.4 (Intermediate)

Progressive Linear B Vocabulary: Level 3.4 (Intermediate) Click to ENLARGE:

Progressive Linear B Vocabulary Level 3.4_edited

The vocabulary for Progressive Linear B, Level 3.4 is mercifully short, and for good reason. Once we venture beyond the Basic Linear B syllabograms, we enter the territory of the esoteric, since the homophones appear much more rarely than the basic syllabograms on extant tablets. However, there are some crucial points to consider. This is especially true of the homophone A2 (HA), as it usually represents an aspirated A. The ancient Greek alphabet had no consonant H. Instead, ancient Greek used the (open apostrophe) to before any initial vowel to indicate that it was to be aspirated, i.e. pronounced as if there were a breathed (aspirated) H in front of it, such as in the English word, house. Linear B does allow for this rough breathing (as it is called in Greek), but only for the vowel A, which is represented by the homophone A2 (HA), as illustrated in the vocabulary above.

On the other hand, when the homophone A2 (HA) occurs at the end of a Linear B word, it may or may not be aspirated in its Greek equivalent. In the words 1. EMAHA & 2.a KEREA2 it is aspirated, or apparently so. I say this because 2.a KEREA2 is problematic. It was found on the very first tablet Michael Ventris translated in June-July 1952 (Pylos 641-1952), as the last letter in the word for “tripod legs” Now, the MYCENAEAN (Linear B) – ENGLISH Glossary lists this word as KEREA, terminating with the standard Linear B vowel A. This entry is correct, leading us to the conclusion that KEREA2 and KEREA are equivalent. This would seem to be the case.

On the other hand, the homophone A2 is often unaspirated when it falls at the end of a Linear B word, as in 3. above, in which case its value is identical to the Linear B for the vowel A.

NOTE: You can instantly tell whether a word beginning with a vowel in alphabetical Greek is aspirated or unaspirated, because when it is aspirated, it begins with an (open apostrophe) and when unaspirated, it begins with a (closed apostrophe). When a vowel is unaspirated, it is simply pronounced as it appears, with no breathing. This is called the smooth breathing in Greek, although I suppose it would have been better if it hadn’t been called that at all, considering that there is no breathing. Examples of rough versus smooth breathing in Greek are Click to ENLARGE:

Linear B & Greek aspirated unaspirated

The problem is, as can be clearly seen in the aspirated Greek examples above, Linear B has no way to indicate the presence of aspiration in front of any vowel other than A.  The translator must always bear this in mind.

With this we come to the end of Progressive Linear B Level 3 (Intermediate).


Progressive Linear B Homophones & Ideograms: Level 3.4 (Intermediate):

Progressive Linear B Homophones & Ideograms: Level 3.4 (Intermediate) Click to ENLARGE:

Progressive Linear B Syllabograms Level 3.4

With these homophones and ideograms, we come to the end of Progressive Linear B characters, Level 3 (Intermediate). Starting in January 2014, we will move on to Level 4 (Advanced: Part 1), which will deal exclusively with ideograms. Although I have already defined logograms and ideograms previously on this blog, I will address them as linguistic phenomena in far greater detail throughout 2014. There remain 2 more Levels to Progressive Linear B, viz; Level 4 (Advanced: Part 1) & Level 5  (Advanced: Part 2). When we have completed Levels 4 & 5, we will be firmly positioned to translate even the most difficult of extant Linear B tablets…. which may (or may not) be fun, depending  on the tablet.  Some tablets are real sticklers, as we shall eventually see.

Following this post, I will be posting the last major post for 2013, which is the Vocabulary for Level 3.4. Visitors to this blog are reminded that I have already posted vocabularies from Level 1 (Basic) through to the end of Level 3 (Intermediate)  There is a complete Table of all the vocabulary at each Level & sub-level in the archived posts, beginning in June 2013.  If you wish to download the entire Vocabulary, consisting of at least 500 words to date, you will need to go all the way back to June and download each and every Vocabulary Table from Level 1 to Level 3 inclusive, moving forward month by month until you reach December 2014.  I would like to stress that the Progressive Linear B Vocabulary contains more words at every level than are found  in the popular MYCENAEAN (Linear B) – ENGLISH Glossary, so widely available on the web, which itself, as I have already pointed out, contains numerous errors (I have found 24 to date!) and which therefore should be consulted with caution.  The Table of all 24 corrections is found on this blog here:

Users of the MYCENAEAN (Linear B) – ENGLISH Glossary are strongly advised to correct these 24 errors, since otherwise reliance on their entries will lead to completely erroneous translations of these Linear B words.


Progressive Linear B Vocabulary: Level 3.3 A-K

Progressive Linear B Vocabulary: Level 3.3 A-K (CLICK to ENLARGE):

Progressive Linear B Vocabulary Level 3.3 A-K

With respect to Progressive Linear B Vocabulary: Level 3.3 A-K, I have the following critical point to make: as I was at pains to stress with Progressive Linear B Vocabulary: Level 3.2, The MYCENAEAN (Linear B) – ENGLISH Glossary, widely available on the Internet, is replete with spelling errors, which have serious implications for the student of Linear B.  I will address this issue comprehensively in the next post on this blog.

In addition, as I have pointed out in the NOTES for the Progressive Linear B Vocabulary: Level 3.3 A-K, digamma occurs quite frequently in Mycenaean Linear B.  This in turn helps explain why digamma keeps cropping up in Homer's “Iliad” and “Odyssey”, composed some 400 years after the demise of Linear B.  As for Homer, it is conceivable that other poets preceded him, and I quote:

“So, long before Homer, in the childhood of the Greek race, there were doubtless poets who voiced the religious feelings of the people and contributed their share to the development of the poetic art which the authors of the Iliad and Odyssey inherited in its perfected form. ”
(italics mine) and again:

“There are no remains of a Greek literature before Homer. Even the Greeks of the classical period possessed nothing earlier than the Iliad. It is impossible to suppose, however, that poems so perfect as works of art could have come into being without forerunners. There must have been bards before Homer, just as certainly as there were sculptors before Pheidias.”

Source: Internet Archive: Full text of "From Homer to Theocritus; a manual of Greek literature"

Unfortunately, their writings (poems), if any there were, have been lost to the annals of history, so we do not and cannot know either when they were composed or even if they were written in alphabetical Greek. Thus, as it stands today, no one will ever know the “truth” of the matter. I would like to point out as well that there is nothing really surprising about the fact that their writings have been lost to history, since some 90% of all ancient Greek literature has disappeared in the chasm of time. That is a staggering figure by any account. But my point is this: there is nothing to gainsay the possibility, however remote, that indeed there was Greek literature even before the Iliad and the Odyssey. I say this simply because I was never, and am never one not to entertain any historical hypothesis, however tenuous it may appear to be. Far too many historians - though I can scarcely claim to be one myself - seem much too certain of their own hypotheses regarding very ancient history that they seem almost heedless of the commonly debated, though surely tenable proposition that we are in no position to judge the sociocultural values of civilizations that remote, let alone of the “world view” the Greeks, especially the Athenians held at the acme of their own great corpus of literature (ca. 500-300 BCE). Civilizations that remote in the annals of history, the Athenian being some 2,400 years (25 centuries!) in the past, are simply out of our reach. Many renowned historians are of this school, asserting that we in the twenty-first century cannot possibly evaluate or, if you like, judge with any degree of certainty what societal and political values obtained in any ancient civilization with any extant literature. Since, after all, the literature of any society or civilization is entirely dependent on that civilization's inherent socio-political and spiritual values, unless we truly know what their values were all about, there is no way we can truly grasp the true import of such values in any such literature.

This premise even obtains for different civilizations at this very moment in world history, the early twenty-first century. How is it possible for allophones in English societies and nations such as America and England to truly understand the psycho-socio-political impact of French society on French literature, or even to acount for the divergence of values from one French culture to the next, for instance, from France to Québec? I for one assert that it is not possible.

To summarize, digamma is in fact a hallmark or signpost of the socio-cultural, hence literary, values in place, not only at the time Homer composed the “Iliad” and  “Odyssey”, but also of Mycenaean Linear B, where it is represented by the syllabograms WA WE WI & WO. It would appear, a priori, that the digamma, which is a prime characteristic of Homer’s Greek must have grown out of the digamma syllabograms WA WE WI & WO in Linear B, for where on earth else could it have originated? This in turn implies that Homer’s “memory” of Linear B, however unconscious, did in fact inform his own early Greek, and very significantly. We note that digamma rapidly fell out of use in the centuries after Homer, at least in most Greek dialects, this in turn implying that the historical  “memory” of its existence as an actual LETTER in Homeric Greek gradually into the mists of time, entirely to disappear from Ionic and Attic Greek in the 6th. And 5th. centuries BCE. This happened because the letter no longer held any literary significance to Attic Greek society in those centuries. Likewsie, and not surprisingly, the same fate was in store for other “primitive” alphabetical letters, such as koppa, san and sho. SOURCE : Non-Attic Letters

In the next post, I must address the numerous errors which plague the popular The MYCENAEAN (Linear B) – ENGLISH Glossary, widely available on the Internet, as these errors can and do impact the learning curve for students of Linear B who are unaware of them, taking the accuracy of the Glossary for granted.  However, I am never one to take anything for granted, if I can possibly avoid it, which admittedly I cannot always claim to do.


Progressive Linear B: Characters Levels 2.9-2.12 (ends Level 2)

Progressive Linear B: Characters Levels 2.9-2.12 (ends Level 2)

Characters Levels 2.9 & 2.10:

Level 2 2.9 & 2.10 FDE YE KE MO

If we look closely at the first 3 syllabograms at levels 2.9 &  2.10, we can readily see that they share certain characteristics. The syllabograms DE & YE share an X, while the DE & KE share the W shape with two angled lines, one on each side. I don’t think this is an  accident. It appears that the scribes who devised the Linear B system decided to make these 3 so similar in appearance, since after all they ALL end with the vowel E. If you keep this in mind when learning these 3 characters, it should be easier for you to remember them.

Characters Levels 2.11 & 2.12:

Linear B Levels 2.11 & 2.12 YO KO KU MU

We have now arrived at the last 4 syllabograms at Level 2 = Levels 2.11 &  2.12.  Of these, the last 2, KU & MU (Level 2.12) will give you a taste of what is in store for you, when we introduce Level 3  (Intermediate-Advanced) this autumn.  You can readily see that KU & MU both utilize more complex geometric forms, as will all syllabograms at level 3. By the time we are finished with Level 3, you will have learned ALL of the standard syllabograms in Linear B.  But there is still more to learn, namely, the extended character set (Advanced Level 4) and logograms, which I will define later on (at Advanced Level 5).  We will be studying Linear B at Advanced Levels 4 & 5 in the winter of  2014.

Once you have mastered ALL the Linear B syllabograms and logograms by the early spring of 2014, you will be in a position to translate a number of Linear B Tablets.  This is, after all, the end-goal of our Lesson Plan. Of course, if you can’t wait to learn what a logogram is, you can always look it up at WIKIPEDIA now.  Then, if you like, you can post a Comment on your discovery!