Linear A tablet HT 87 (Haghia Triada), apparently in Mycenaean derived Greek

Linear A tablet HT 87 (Haghia Triada), apparently in Mycenaean derived Greek:

Linear A tablet HT 87

Linear A tablet HT 87 (Haghia Triada) is apparently inscribed in Mycenaean derived Greek. The literal translation and the free translation derived from it do make sense if we interpret the text as being Mycenaean derived Greek. The only word which is indecipherable is sa?supu -or- ni?supu. I cannot determine what the word is, since the syllabogram on the far left is left-truncated. It may be either ni or sa. On thing is certain: Prof. John G. Younger got it wrong. But it is probably an archaic proto-Greek word, which may mean something along the lines of “perfumed”, resulting in a translation “perfumed unguent”, of which 1 part is saffron. This makes sense in context. 

Rams for ritual slaughter: KN 386 A 87 & KN 387 X c 57 joins

Rams for ritual slaughter: KN 386 A 87 & KN 387 X c 57 joins:

KN 386 & KN 387 tablet joins sacrificial rams

Here I am really digging deep into unknown waters in the decipherment of Linear B, deeper than I ever have.

These two fragments were originally one tablet. The central part is missing. This has got to be one of the most fascinating challenges I have ever encountered in the decipherment of Linear B text, since, as with all Linear B joins, it requires the decipherer to attempt to fill in the blanks, so to speak, i.e. the missing part of the original tablet, which as you can see is in an inverted V shape. If at all possible, as much the text that originally was located within that V has to be restored. Since as everyone knows who visits our blog that I am never one to skip a challenge, no matter how tough, I took it upon myself to make a serious attempt at a plausible reconstruction of at least part of the missing text, and to my satisfaction, I believe I succeeded, in the sense that I have recovered what might plausibly have been some of the original text, at least conjecturally. Any other interpretation might suffice, provided that (a) it made sense in the context of the text preserved on the two adjacent sides & (b) that the missing vocabulary was consistent with the ritual of religious sacrifice of sheep, a common practice in many civilizations of the ancient world.

Let us walk through my decipherment of the so-called missing text step by step. First of all, we have the left truncated syllabograms ... NO heading the first line of the right hand side of the original tablet (KN 387 X c 57). It is no easy matter to even make a stab at what the rest of this word could possibly have meant, or for that matter, how many syllabograms, in other words, syllables, it contained. So I had to take the only recourse available to me, and that was to ransack Chris Tselentis’ excellent Linear B Lexicon of at least 2,500 Linear B words for any word ending in NO which might possibly suit the context, keeping firmly in mind that this is the scene of a religious ceremony involving the ritual sacrifice of a ram or rams. I finally found the term which ideally suited the context, and it is temeno, which means a religious shrine or temple. It fits the context like a glove. So the likelihood that this was indeed the missing word ending with left-truncated NO is reasonably assured. On the second line of the same fragment (the right side), we have repa, the last two syllabograms or syllables of another missing word. The term which immediately leaped to mind was arepa = “cream” or “ointment”, and if that is a putative “correct” translation, it can be interpreted as meaning an  “anointing cream”. Fits the bill. The third word on the third line of the right hand side of the fragment, ending in the single syllabogram WE, was much harder to divine. It could be one of a dozen things, but I finally settled on duwowe, meaning  “a two handled vessel or urn”.  This again suits the context, but it is only one of scores of possible interpretations, all of which would have equally suited the context.  I was working on the assumption that the person making the sacrifice, presumably a priest, would have cremated the ashes of the ram(s) after the sacrifice. But this is definitely going out on a limb, since in most ancient societies, sacrificial slaughter of  sheep or rams involved killing them and then roasting them on a spit for subsequent consumption in a religious feast honouring the god” or if Hebrew, God. On the other hand, the Minoans and Mycenaeans may have (also) cremated the ashes of the sacrificed ram. If there is any researcher or archaeologist out there who visits this blog and can refute the notion of post-sacrificial cremation among the Minoans and Mycenaeans, please have at it and I shall revise my decipherment accordingly. 

Moving over to the left hand side of the join (KN 386 A 87), which contains considerably less text, we have on the second line the syllabogram QE, which by itself means “and”, but which in this case might possibly be the last syllabogram, i.e. last syllable of a Linear B word... except that scarcely any Linear B words end in QE,  and any way the syllabogram QE in this context is written huge. So I am left with no other alternative than to interpret it as I have done = “and”.  But “and” what? There you have me. I am stumped. On the next line, the third one down, we have the ideogram for “man” or “person” followed by the number 1, for “one person”, this in turn followed by the supersyllabogram SA, and then by the ideogram for “ram” and the number 1. The SSYL SA I have previously established on another tablet posted on this blog as most likely meaning sapaketeriya = “for ritual slaughter” or “for ritual sacrifice”. This too suits the context very well.  You can see the downwards pointing arrow from the ideogram for “man” to the word Towaune = “Towaunes”, presumably the name of the man, on the fourth line. His name in turn is followed by a Linear B word, which, if complete, is doke, a variation on odoke, the aorist (simple past) of the verb didomi (in Linear B), which means “to give” or “to offer”, and in this context “to offer up” (for ritual sacrifice). So now the sense is complete, except for all those single syllabograms (qe wa & po) on the left side of the join, which I can make no sense of at all. And that is a pitfall. However, within these restraints, I have been able to come up with one possible, even plausible interpretation (among God knows how many others), which you can see in translation at the bottom of the figure above.

Translation of the Gezer Agricultural Almanac into Mycenaean Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

Translation of the Gezer Agricultural Almanac into Mycenaean Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

Gezer Almanac left and translation into Mycenaean Linear B  right

This is the first ever attempt to translate the Gezer Agricultural Almanac in Paleo-Hebrew (ca 925 BCE) into Mycenaean Linear B. My reasons for doing so are manifold:
1. While the text in Paleo-Hebrew is written in the proto-Hebrew alphabet, which for all intents and purposes is practically identical to the Phoenician alphabet, the translation is of course in the Linear B syllabary.
2. The Gezer Agricultural Almanac has no vowels, since Paleo-Hebrew, like the Phoenician alphabet, had none. On the other hand, the translation into Linear B, which is a syllabary, automatically guarantees that every single syllable contains a vowel.
3. The alphabetical text of The Gezer Agricultural Almanac takes up considerably more space than the translation into Mycenaean Linear B, since alphabetic scripts use up more space than syllabaries, even though syllabaries contain considerably more syllabograms than alphabets do letters. In the case of the Phoenician and Proto-Hebrew alphabets alike, there are 22 letters, all consonants. The reason why syllabaries take up less space than most alphabets is simple: each single syllabogram consists of a consonant + a vowel, whereas most alphabets must express consonants and vowels as separate entities. However, in the case of the Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew alphabets, this distinction does not apply, since the number of consonants in the latter approximate the number of syllabograms in Linear B.
4. But the question remains, if this is the case, then why is the Linear B translation still noticeably shorter than the proto-Hebrew original? This is no idle question. There are three primary reasons for Linear B’s uncanny capacity to telescope long text into shorter. These are:
4.1 While alphabetic scripts, regardless of whether or not they contain vowels, and irrespective of their antiquity or modernity, are generally incapable of telescoping text into smaller entities, Linear B does this with ease, first by using ideograms, which appear on every single line of the Linear B translation you see here of the Gezer Almanac. I could have written out the text in full, but had I done so, I would not have reflected the spirit and the commonplace practice of Linear B scribes to replace long text with ideograms, because they were forced to save precious space of what were, without exception, very small tablets (most running to no more than 15 cm. wide, and only a few as wide as 10 cm.)
4.2.1 For the precise same reason, Linear B scribes also frequently resorted to replacing entire Linear B words, such as “rino” = Greek “linon” = English “linen”, the Mycenaean Greek word for both the raw product “flax” and the finished, “rino” with logograms. You can see the single syllabogram = logogramNI” = “flax” on line 3, immediately preceding the ideogram for “meno” = “month”.
4.2.2 If this practice is a clever ploy, what are we make of the same procedure carried even further, when in line 7, the scribe (me) replaces the word for “fruit” = “kapo” in Mycenaean Linear B, with the very same word with the exact same number of syllabograms = 2, but by placing one (po) on top of the other (ka)! That way, the scribe uses the space for only 1 syllabogram while in reality writing 2. If this isn’t a brilliant ploy, I don’t know what is. But it goes even further. Although we do not see an example of this practice carried to its extreme in this translation, scribes even resorted to piling 3 syllabograms on top of one another! A prefect example of this is the Mycenaean word  “arepa” = Greek “aleifa” = English “ointment”, consisting of 3 syllables. In this instance, scribes almost always wrote “arepa” as a logogram, by piling the syllabogram “pa” on top of “re” on top of “a”. Now that takes some gymnastics! In this case, the scribes used the space for 1 syllabogram to replace an entire word of 3 syllabograms. Talk about saving space! All of these clever little tricks are illustrated here: Click to ENLARGE

space saving Linear B ideograms and logograms

5. The scribes also replaced entire Mycenaean Greek words with supersyllabograms on about 27 % of all Linear B tablets. SSYLS save even more space than logograms and ideograms, in some cases, far more, since they can replace entire phrases in Mycenaean Greek. Yet, even without resorting to SSYLS in this translation, l managed to telescope the discursive alphabetic Proto-Hebrew text into a much shorter Linear B translation.

Now the most amazing thing about Linear B’s amazing capacity to shortcut text by telescoping it into the much smaller discrete elements, logograms, ideograms and supersyllabograms, is that the Linear B syllabary preceded both the Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew alphabets by at least 4 centuries!

So who is to say that alphabets are superior to syllabaries? I for one would not even dare.


How to Insert Logograms and Ideograms into Linear B Text

How to Insert Logograms and Ideograms into Linear B Text

Insertion of Logograms:

Now that we have learned how to type Linear B in a document, the only thing left for us to do is to insert logograms and ideograms as required into our text.

In Linear B, a logogram is either
(a) a homophone such as rai, which also means “saffron”
(b) a combination of two or three syllabograms, one on top of the other, which combine to form the word which they represent. Linear B scribes often resorted to this short-cut in order to save precious space on the tiny tablets they inscribed. 

The procedure for each of these two different types of logograms is not the same.

For (a), it is simple. Since the logogram, such as rai for “saffron”  is already a homophone, it is on the Linear B keyboard. So you just type it, as we see here:

(First switch from your default font to Linear B as per the instructions in the last post): Click to ENLARGE both examples

Linear B apudosi rai delivery of saffron

Linear B arepa mare ointment wool
(1) right after you insert the logogram, you must then select Wrap – Wrap Through, otherwise the logogram will appear above or below the preceding word in Linear B, but not beside. In other words, the logogram must be anchored to the paragraph in which the Linear B word is found, or if there is no paragraph, immediately to the right of the Linear B word.
(2) You can easily see that the logogram for “ointment” is actually the Linear B word for ointment.
In the sentence, The Queen has wool, the logogram = the syllabogram MA with RE underneath = mare = wool. Note that the logogram is not spelled the same as the word for -wool = mari. For the logogram for honey = meri, see below.

Insertion of Ideograms:

The procedure for the insertion of ideograms is identical to method (b) above for logograms such as arepa, mari (above) & meri (below) for ointment, wool & honey respectively.

1 Insert (from the Insert Menu) - Picture – From File, as illustrated here in the introductory text to Pylos Tablet Py 641-1952 (Ventris): Click to ENLARGE

Linear B honey tiripode

Right after you insert the ideogram, you must then select Wrap – Wrap Through, otherwise the ideogram will appear above or below the preceding word in Linear B, but not beside it. In other words, the ideogram must be anchored to the paragraph in which the Linear B word is found, or if there is no paragraph, immediately to the right of the Linear B word.