Tag Archive: Middle Minoan

Complete decipherment of the Kafkania Pebble, ca. 1700 BCE. Is this the first ever inscription in proto-Greek?

Linear A Kafkania pebble 1700 BCE

This medallion is particularly striking, insofar as it actually appears to be inscribed entirely in proto-Greek. So even though this medallion dates from the Middle Helladic or Middle Minoan era (ca. 1700 BCE), the text appears not to be Minoan at all, but proto-Greek! If this is the case, this is by far the earliest inscription ever unearthed actually inscribed in proto-Greek. The decipherment makes perfect sense. Moreover, the presence of the king is clearly implied in this inscription. And what is even more astonishing is this: the Royal Seal of Malia, equally archaic, inscribed in Cretan hieroglyphics, appears to describe in no uncertain terms the word, wanaka!

the Royal Seal of Malia with wanaka inscribed

If this is true, then wanaka, which as we all know means “king” in Mycenaean Greek, in other words, in a language which came to the fore much later than the Minoan language, is in all probability either a Minoan word or, failing that, in the pre-Greek substratum. It is just as conceivable that all of the words on the Kafkania Pebble fall within the pre-Greek substratum, in other words, that all of these terms were to be taken over by the Mycenaeans at least a century later (ca. 1600 BCE at the earliest).

This is an amazing discovery, to say the very least.

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. 

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 three Periods of Minoan Civilization

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.

CONTEST QUIZ & LOVELY BOOK PRIZES! Are these statuettes of the Mistress of the Hunt, Zeus & the Priestess of the Winds? Click to ENLARGE:

Potnia Theron Diwo Anemoieriya
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:
POST Anemoiyerea
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:




(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.)


Good luck!  


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. 


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

Ceram Gods Graves and Scholars Folio
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

Fitton Minoans Folio



What Are the Symbols on the Wisconsin U.S.A. Shard & What Might They Mean?


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:

Minoan Egyptian Hindu snake goddesses

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:

Minoan Ship and Fresco

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.


Cross-Correlation of the Timelines for Egyptian, Minoan & Mycenaean Civilizations (Click to ENLARGE):

Timelines Egyptian Minoan Mycenaean

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.


Knossos: walls of the Second Palace & Fresco of the Cupbearers (Click to ENLARGE):

Knossos cup bearers & second palace walls

The Fresco of the Cupbearers adorned the magnificent Palatial Entranceway to the Last Palace of Knossos (Late Minoan III, ca. 1400 BCE), while the walls of the Second Palace are Middle Minoan (1700-1600 BCE)





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