Translation of Knossos Linear B tablet KN 552 R o 03 by Rita Roberts:
The ancient Greek alphabetical numeric system: This chart illustrates both the ancient Greek acrophonic and alphabetical numeric systems. However, the acrophonic system, used primarily in Classical Athens ca. 500 – 400 BCE, came much later than the alphabetical system. So in effect we must resort to the only Greek numeric system we can use to represent numbers in Mycenaean Greek numbers, i.e. the alphabetical system. The alphabetical numbers are displayed in the second column after the modern numbers, 1 – 100,000 in the following chart. Here are some examples of alphabetic numbers representing Mycenaean numbers:
4-sided Cretan pictogram bar with end shown & interpretations of pictograms:
So-called Cretan hieroglyphs are not hieroglyphs at all. Example 1
These 2 palm-leaf tablets incised with Cretan symbols are the first example of why so-called Cretan hieroglyphs are not hieroglyphs at all. We note right off the top that there are only 6 symbols, all of which are in fact ideograms or logograms. The numeric symbols, 40 and 100 on the fist tablet and 50, 10 & 80 on the second, do not conform to Linear A and B standards. In Linear A & B, decimals to the tens (10…90) are represented by horizontal bars, 1 for 10, 2 for 20, 8 for 80 etc. It appears instead that the dots on these tablets represent decimals to the tens. This is partly because the figure for 100 on the first tablet accords with Linear A & B practice, making it more likely that the dots are indeed in the tens.
Some other symbols are clearly identifiable. No. 1. is definitely the ideogram for an adze or labrys, which in Linear A and B is metamorphosed into the syllabogram for the vowel A. 2. is more likely to represent olive tree(s) rather than olive(s), for reasons which will become apparent in upcoming examples. 5. is very likely the ideogram for helmet, because it is very similar to same ideogram in Linear B.
So what are these palm-leaf tablets about? The first appears to be primarily military, te second primarily agricultural, with the sole exception of the ideogram for helmet, which appears out of place. But perhaps it is not. Perhaps the olive tree crops are being defended by the military. We shall never know.
Linear B numerals 100, 1k and 10k are atemporal, like those in the movie. Arrival:
It is quite clear from the following illustration of the numbers 1-12 in the Heptapod circular language, which correspond to the number of ships landing on earth, that their numbers, occurring in a circle, are similar to the numerals for 100, 1k and 10k in Mycenaean Linear A. This correspondence reveals an intriguing characteristic of these Linear B numerals, namely, that they can serve as ideograms for extraterrestrial communication. In other words, just as the Heptapod numbers serve to communicate from the extraterrestrials, the Linear B numerals can serve to communicate with them or any other extraterrestrial civilization.
Partial conjectural decipherment of Linear A tablet HT 6 Haghia Triada (VERSO):
If there is any Linear A tablet which has proven a real headache, it has to be this one. The surface of the VERSO of HT 6 (Haghia Triada) is so badly damaged that experts such as Andras Zeke of the Minoan Language Blog and Prof. John G. Younger cannot even agree on a few syllabograms in the text, while I myself disagree with them on some of the same. Additionally, there is no consensus on the values of Linear A fractions. Interpretations by Andras Zeke and Prof. John G. Younger of the smaller fractional values often do not agree. So I am unwilling to add fuel to the fire. I simply choose whichever value (either that of Zeke or of Younger) seems more convincing to me. At any rate, no one today can determine with any degree of accuracy numeric values in Minoan Linear or Mycenaean Linear B, since both syllabaries are so historically remote as to preclude any convincing readings.
As for the syllabograms on this tablet, once again, Andras Zeke and John G. Younger do not agree on the values of at least 3 of them. And I find myself at odds with their own interpretations. This is the result of the shoddy scribal hand and the less than ideal condition of the tablet itself. As for maridi, I find myself obliged to read it as if it were meridi, since the interpretation “wool” (mari) is utterly out of the question in the context of this tablet, whereas reading it as meridi = “honey” makes much more sense contextually. As for sama, it may be the Minoan equivalent of Mycenaean Linear B samara = “mound/hill”, but once again, this interpretation is conjectural. I have previously tentatively deciphered Old Minoan (OM) pa3nina (painina) as “an amphora for the storage of… ”, but here again, I have gone out on a limb. Nevertheless, the interpretation once again suits the context. Once all of fig and pomegranate juice (RECTO) and the drops of wine and honey (VERSO) are accounted for, we can see that this tablet may deal with a recipe for a sweet alcoholic beverage, which with these ingredients would indeed be delicious.
Consequently, any convincing decipherment of the VERSO of HT 6 is beyond our reach. We simply have to muddle through it and come up with the best alternatives we can for each apparently decipherable word. However, by fully taking into account the much more accessible text on the RECTO of HT 6, I believe I have been able to rescue a small portion of the significance of the text on the VERSO by placing it in its proper context with the RECTO. See the previous post for my fuller decipherment of the RECTO.
Partial decipherment of Linear A inscription PH 1 (Arkalochori Axe): My decipherment is partial. The only candidate for Mycenaean derived vocabulary is the word uro = entire, whole, i.e. total, a synonym of kuro = reaching, attaining, i.e. total. The word jaku obviously refers to the cargo.
Minuscule Units of Measurement & yet Another Major Breakthrough in Supersyllabograms in Linear B: Click to ENLARGE
Upon close examination of the syllabogram WE in the context of dry weight in Mycenaean Linear B, in this particular instance, dry weight of saffron, I have come to the conclusion that the line(s) transversing the syllabogram WE at an approximate angle of 105 - 110 º are actually equivalent to the tens (10 & 20), while the black circles in the upper and lower portions of WE are equivalent to the 100s (100 & 200) in the Linear B numeric system. Once again, the scribes would never had added these lines and circles to the syllabogram, unless they had good reason to. And they surely did. There is a striking resemblance between the approximately horizontal lines to the 10s, and of the black circles to the 100s in that system, as can be seen from the actual placement values for 10s and 100s immediately above the syllabogram WE. As if this is not impressive enough, there is even more to this syllabogram. It is in fact a supersyllabogram. Its meaning is identical to the same SSYL for crops in the agricultural sector, namely; WE is the first syllable of the Mycenaean Linear B word weto, which literally means “the running year”, in other words “the current fiscal year”. This makes perfect sense, since the scribes at Knossos, Phaistos, Mycenae, Pylos, Thebes and other Mycenaean locales only kept records for the current fiscal year, never any longer. The most astonishing feature of this supersyllabogram is that it combines itself as a SSYL with the Linear B numeric system, meaning that it alone of all the SSYLS refers to both the number of minusucle items (in this case, saffron, but it could just as easily refer to coriander or other spices) and the total production output of the same items for the current fiscal year. The Linear B scribes have truly outdone themselves in this unique application of the supersyllabogram, distilling it down to the most microscopic level of shorthand, thereby eliminating much more running text from the tablet we see here than they ever did from any other tablet, including all of those sporting “regular” supersyllabograms. In this instance alone (on this and the few other tablets on which it appears), this unique “special” SSYL is a supersyllabogram with a specific numeric measurement value at the minuscule level, something entirely new, and seen nowhere else in all of the extant Linear B literature. Quite amazing, if you ask me. NOTE: the assignment of a value approximating 1 gram for the single unit, i.e. the simple syllabogram WE with no traversing lines or black circles, is just that, nothing more than an approximation. I had to correlate the single unit with something we can relate to in the twenty-first century, so I chose the gram as an approximate equivalent. One thing is certain: the unit WE is very small, indicating as it does minuscule dry measurement weight. Richard
Mycenaean Linear B Units of Measurement, Liquid & by Weight: Click to ENLARGE Aside from the fact that we cannot be at all sure how much each of these units of measurement is supposed to represent, I am still operating on the premise that the Mycenaean system of measurement is 10-based or decimal, hence, something along the lines of the modern metric system. However the units are configured, it is quite certain that in the case of these two tablets, the units must be small, because the items measured, saffron (on the left) and olive oil (on the right) are usually dispensed in small amounts. Since saffron is very light, I assume that the weight is something like 10 grams, while the liquid measurement for the olive oil is in the range of about 2 litres, or whatever amount the Minoans & Mycenaeans used to house these commodities. Richard
The Suitability of Mycenaean Linear B, Classic & Acrophonic Greek, Hebrew and Latin Numeric Systems for Calculation Here is the Mycenaean Linear B numeric system (A:) Click to ENLARGE Here are the 2 ancient Greek numeric systems, the so-called Classical (BA:) and the (CA:) Acrophonic, side by side: Click to ENLARGE This table compares the relative numeric values of the so-called Classical Greek numeric (BA:) & the Hebrew numeric (BB:) systems, which are strikingly similar: Click to ENLARGE Finally, we have the Latin numeric system (CB:) Click to ENLARGE The question is, which of these 5 numeric systems is the the most practical in its application to the (a) basic process of counting numbers, (b) to accounting and inventory or (c) geometry & (d) algebra? Let's briefly examine each of them in turn for their relative merits based on these criteria. We can take the Classical Greek & Hebrew numeric systems together, since they are patently based on the same principle, the application of letters of the alphabet to counting. For the same reason, it is expedient to lump the Acrophonic Greek & Latin systems together. There are other ways of classifying each of these systems, but for our purposes, and for the sake of clarity and consistence, we have opted for this approach. A: the Mycenaean Linear B numeric system: Merits: well suited to accounting and inventory; possibly suited to geometry, but only in limited contexts, though never used for that purpose Demerits: space-consuming, discursive; totally unsuitable for algebra. While their numeric system seems never to have been applied to geometry, the Minoans and Mycenaeans who relied on this system were, of course, not only familiar with but adept in geometry, as is attested by their elegant streamlined rectilinear & circular architecture. We must also keep firmly in mind the point that the Minoan scribes never intended to put the Mycenaean Linear B numeric accounting system to use for algebra, for the obvious reason that algebra as such had not yet been invented. But we mustn’t run away with ourselves on this account, either with the Mycenaean system or with any of the others which follow, because if we do, we seriously risk compromising ourselves in our own “modern” cultural biases & mind-sets. That is something I am unwilling to do. B = (BA:+BB:) the Classical Greek & Hebrew numeric systems: Merits: well-suited to both geometric and algebraic notation & possibly even to basic counting. Demerits: possibly unsuitable for counting, but that depends entirely on one's cultural perspective or bias. Who is to say that the modern Arabic system of counting (0...9) is in any way inherently superior to either the Classical Greek or Hebrew numeric systems? Upon what theoretical or practical basis can such a claim be made? After all, the Arabic numerals, universally adopted for counting purposes in the modern world, were simply adopted in the Middle Ages as an expedient, since they fitted seamlessly with the Latin alphabet. Nowadays, regardless of script (alphabet, syllabary or oriental) everyone uses Arabic numerals for one obvious reason. It is expedient. But is it any better than the Classical Greek & Hebrew numeric systems? I am quite sure that any ancient Greek or Hebrew, if confronted with our modern Arabic system of numerics, would probably claim that ours is no better than theirs. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. However, in one sense, the modern Arabic numeric notation is probably “superior”. It is far less discursive. While the ancient Greeks & Hebrews applied their alphabets in their entirety to counting, geometry and algebra, the Arabic numerals require only 10 digits. On the other hand, modern Arabic numerals cannot strictly be used for algebra or geometry unless they are combined with alphabetic notation. The Classical Greek alphabetic numeric system has been universally adopted for these purposes, as well as for the ease of application they bring to calculus and other complex modern systems such as Linear A, B & C, which have nothing whatsoever in common with the ancient Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B or Arcado-Cypriot Linear C syllabaries, except their names. Regardless, it is quite apparent at this point that the whole question of which numeric system is supposedly “superior” to the others is beginning to get mired down in academic quibbling over cultural assumptions and other such factors. So I shall let it rest. C = (CA:+CB:) the Acrophonic Greek & Latin numeric systems: Before we can properly analyze the relative merits of these two systems, which in principle are based on the same approach, we are obliged to separate them from one another for the obvious reason that one (the Acrophonic Greek) is much less discursive than the other (the Latin). Looking back through the lens of history, it almost seems as if the Athenian Greeks took this approach just so far, and no further, for fear of it becoming much too cluttered for their taste. After all, the ancient Greeks, and especially the Athenians, were characterized by their all-but obsessive adherence to “the golden mean”. They did not like overdoing it. The Romans, however, did not seem much concerned at all with that guiding principle, taking their own numeric system to such lengths (and I mean this literally) that it became outrageously discursive and, in a nutshell, clumsy. Why the Romans, who were so eminently practical and such great engineers, would have adopted such a system, is quite beyond me. But then again, I am no Roman, and my own cultural bias has once again raised its ugly head. CA: Greek Acrophonic Merits: well-suited to both geometric and algebraic notation & possibly even to basic counting. Demerits: See alphabetic Classical Greek & Hebrew systems above (BA:+BB:) CB: Latin Merits: easy for a Roman to read, but probably for no one else. Demerits: extremely discursive and awkward. Useless for geometric or algebraic notation. This cartoon composite neatly encapsulates the dazzling complexity of the Latin numeric system. Click to ENLARGE: Richard
Comparison of the Merits/Demerits of the Linear B, Greek & Latin Numeric Systems: Linear B: As can be readily discerned from the Mycenaean Linear B Numeric System, it was quite nicely suited for accounting purposes, which was the whole idea in the first place. We can see at once that it was a simple matter to count as far as 99,999. Click to ENLARGE: In the ancient world, such a number would have been considered enormous. When you are counting sheep, you surely don't need to run into the millions (neither, I wager, would the sheep, or it would have been an all-out stampede off a cliff!) It worked well for addition (a requisite accounting function), but not for subtraction, multiplication, division or any other mathematical formulae. Why not subtraction, you ask? Subtraction is used in modern credit/deficit accounting, but the Minoans and Mycenaeans took no account (pardon the pun) of deficit spending, as the notion was utterly unknown to them. Since Mycenaean accounting ran for the current fiscal year only, or as they called it, “weto” or “the running year”, and all tablets were erased once the “fiscal” year was over, then re-used all over for reasons of practicality and economy, this was just one more reason why credit/deficit accounting held no practical interest to them. Other than that, the Linear B numeric accounting system served its purpose very well indeed, being perhaps one of the most transparent and quite possibly the simplest, ancient numerical systems. Of course, the Linear B numerical accounting system never survived antiquity, since its entire syllabary was literally buried and forgotten with the wholesale destruction of Mycenaean civilization around 1200 BCE (out of sight, out of mind) for some 3,100 years before Sir Arthur Evans excavated Knossos starting in early 1900, and successfully deciphered Linear B numerics shortly thereafter. This “inconvenient truth” does not mean, however, that it was all that deficient, especially for purposes of accounting, for which it was specifically designed in the first place. Greek: On the other hand, the Greek numeric system was purely alphabetic, as illustrated above. It was of course possible to count into the tens of thousands, using additional alphabetic symbols, as in the Mycenaean Linear B system, except that the Greeks were not anywhere near as obsessive over the picayune details of accounting, counting every single commodity, every bloody animal and every last person employed in any industry whatsoever. The Minoan-Mycenaean economy was hierarchical, excruciatingly centralized and obsessive down to the very last minutiae. Not surprisingly, they shared this zealous, blinkered approach to accounting with their contemporaries, the Egyptians, with whom the Minoan-Mycenaean trade routes and economy were inextricably bound on a vast scale... much more on this later in 2014 and 2015, when we come to translating a large number of Linear B transactional economic and trade records. However, we must never forget that the Greek alphabetic system of numeric notation was the only one to survive antiquity, married as it is to the universal Arabic numeric system in use today, in the fields of geometry, theoretical and applied algebra, advanced calculus and physics applications. Click to ENLARGE: It would have been impossible for us to have made such enormous technological strides ever since the Renaissance, were it not for the felicitous marriage of alphabetic Greek and Arabic numerics (0-10), which are universally applied to all fields, both theoretical and practical, of mathematics, physics and technology today. Never forget that the Arabians took the concept of nul or zero (0) to the limit, and that theirs is the decimal system applied the world over right on through to computer science and the Internet. Latin (Click to ENLARGE): When we come to the Roman/Latin numeric system, we are at once faced with a byzantine complexity, which takes the alphabetic Greek numeric system to its most extreme. Even the ancient Greeks and Romans were well aware of the convolutions of the Latin numeric system, which made the Greek pale in comparison. And Roman numerics are notoriously clumsy for denoting very large figures into the hundreds of thousands. Beside the Roman system, the Linear B approach to numerics looks positively like child's play. Thus, while major elements of the alphabetic Greek numeric system are still in wide use today, the Roman system has practically fallen into obscurity, its applications being almost entirely esoteric, such as on clock faces or in dating books etc. And even here, while it was still common bibliographic practice to denote the year of publication in Roman numerals right on through most of the twentieth century, this practice has pretty much fallen into disuse, since scarcely anyone can be bothered to read Roman numerals anymore. How much easier it is to give the copyright year as @ 1998 than MCMXCVIII. Even I, who read Latin fluently, find the Arabic numeric notation simpler by far than the Latin. As for hard-nosed devotees of Latin notation, I fear that they are in a tiny minority, and that within a few decades, any practical application of Latin numeric notation will have faded to a historical memory. Richard
Sir Arthur Evans‘ successful decipherment of the Numeric Accounting System in Linear B (Click to ENLARGE):
as published in Scripta Minoa (Oxford University Press, 1952), the very same year that Michael Ventris finally deciphered the entire Linear B syllabary as well as a large number of its ideograms. Sir Arthur Evans had, of course, deciphered the numeric system years before.
Progressive Linear B: Level 4.2 Livestock Syllabograms (Click to ENLARGE):
It is absolutely essential to read the above table in its entirety if you wish to distinguish between Linear B Syllabograms and Ideograms for any field: agriculture, construction, manufacturing, trade, religion, the military etc., since the Linear B scribes followed a consistent procedure in the application of syllabograms and ideograms on extant tablets. In other words, we can extrapolate a fundamental principle from scribal usage of syllabograms and ideograms. At the specific level of livestock and animals in the field of agriculture, we note that scribes never used ideograms for land, land tenure or agricultural techniques, but only for livestock and animals. Even in the latter case, they only used syllabograms for generic animal nomenclature, e.g. “horse” and “pig”, but not for the masculine and feminine of that animal. The reasons, as I see them, are enumerated in this table.
Finally, to make it quite clear what an Ideogram is (in modern terms), I provide you with the following example:
I have to say that I find the “Do not feed the birds” ideogram quite funny!
Derivation [D] of Linear B Numerics: 1-10 20 100 & 200 [Click to ENLARGE]:
Derivation [D] of Linear B Numerics: 1-10 20 100 & 200 as reconstructed in Progressive Linear B Grammar:
Explanation of the Table of Numerics:
The Principle of Derivation [D] as applied to the reconstruction of the orthography of numerics in Linear B. Even though there are very few attested [A] examples of numbers spelled out on Linear B tablets, I believe that we can safely derive them with a considerable degree of confidence, if we strictly apply the spelling or orthographic conventions of Linear B, which are available online here:
 These numbers are all spelled identically in Linear B and in ancient alphabetic Greek.
 The linear B number QETORO  is obviously a variant of the Latin “quattro”. There is nothing unusual whatsoever about the parallelism between Linear B & Latin orthography, since linguistically speaking, Q or QU are interchangeable with T. First, we have the spellings of 4 in Greek (te/ssarej te/ttarej). Though it will come as a surprise to many of you that the Linear B spelling for 4 QETORO would eventually morph into (te/ssarej te/ttarej) in ancient Greek & then back to “quattro” in Latin, there is a perfectly logical explanation for this phenomenon. This is why you see a ? to the left of the Greek for 4, because it is all too easy to fall into the trap of erroneously concluding that Linear B QETORO cannot have been a ancestor of the ancient Greek spellings for 4, when in fact it is. In order to put this all into proper perspective, Latin spells 4 as “quattro” for the simple reason that “tattro” would simply not do. All this boils down to a single common denominator, the principle of euphonics, meaning the alteration of speech sounds, hence orthography, such that any word in any language sounds pleasing to the ear to native speakers of that language (not to non-speakers, i.e. anyone who cannot speak the language in question). Every language has its own elemental principles of euphony, but some languages place far more stress on it than others. Greek is notorious for insisting on euphony at all times.
? The masculine for the number 1 is missing for the exact same reason that the 2nd. person singular is missing from my paradigm for the present tense of Linear B verbs. I find it impossible to accurately reconstruct any Greek word ending in eij for the simple reason that it not possible for any word to end in a consonant in Linear B. So why bother? This handicap will return to haunt us over and over in the Regressive reconstruction of all the conjugations and declensions and parts of speech in Linear B Progressive grammar, leaving gaping holes all over the place.
Orthography of Numerics In Linear B:
At a glance, we can instantly see that the spelling of several numerals in Linear B is identical to that of their later Greek alphabetic counterparts, with the exception of marking initial aspirates & non-aspirates, which Linear B was unable to express with just one exception, the homophone for HA. This speaks volumes to the uniformity of the spelling of numerics over vast expanses of time, as in this case, from ca. 1450 BCE (Linear B) – ca. 100 AD and well beyond. In fact, some numbers are still spelled exactly the same way in modern Greek, meaning that the orthography of the Greek numeric system has remained virtually intact for over 3,400 years!
Linear B’s Conspicuous Reliance on Shorthand:
Since the Mycenaeans used Linear B primarily for accounting, agricultural, manufacturing & economic purposes, they almost never spelled out numbers, for the obvious reason that they needed to save space on tablets that were small, because they were baked, hence fragile, and not only that, destroyed at the end of every “fiscal” year, to make room for the following year’s statistics. Their habitual use of logograms for numbers was in fact, (a type of) shorthand. Keep this in mind, because Linear B makes use of shorthand for various annotative purposes – not just for numerals. This is hardly surprising, considering that the tablets were used almost exclusively for accounting. So if we think shorthand is a modern invention, we are sorely mistaken. The Mycenaeans & Minoans were extremely adept in the liberal use of shorthand to cram as much information, or if you like, data on what were, after all, small tablets. But there is more: every extant single tablet is a record of the agricultural, manufacturing & economic activities for one single year. It also means that there is no way for us to know which, if any, of the tablets from one site, for instance, Knossos, where the vast majority of tablets have been found, represent accounting statistics for exactly the same year as any of the others. So we have to be extremely careful in interpreting the discrepancies in the quasi-chronology and even reverse-chronology of the data found on the tablets. There are several other reasons why we need to exercise extreme caution in interpreting the data on extant tablets, but since these are of a different nature, I shall not address them here.
A Linear B Tablet listing 50 swords (CLICK to enlarge):
This small Linear B tablet clearly illustrates the accounting system adopted for Linear B. Once again, we see an Ideogram, which is tagged with an asterisk (*). It may seem rather odd that on this particular tablet the scribe actually supplemented the word for sword, “pakana” with its ideogram, which sounds counter-intuitive, given what I just said in the last post, that the whole idea of the Linear B accounting system was to save space on the tablets, not waste it. But in fact, such is not the case. The explanation is simple: in this particular case, the scribe is making certain that no one mistakes what he is counting, by not only writing out the word but also inscribing its ideogram right beside it. It’s almost as if he were self-auditing. This makes the Linear B accounting system even more coherent and consistent than it might otherwise have been. We will see that this practice of writing the word for the total number of items accounted for + its ideogram recurs frequently in Linear B tablets. However, the downside of this is that some Linear B scribes were apparently either lazy or in a rush or simply felt that the ideogram alone more than sufficed in tabulating accounting lists. Thus, on some (but far from all) Linear B tablets, accounting lists give only the ideograms for the items in the list(s), which means that unfortunately for us, we have to learn all the major ideograms if we are to be in a position to decipher all the accounting records. We cannot count on finding both the words and the ideograms for each item being listed in all Linear B tablets.