Tag Archive: rams

Rita Robert’s translation of an extremely challenging Linear B tablet, KN 903 D a 01:

Linear B tablet KN 903 D a 01

Linear B Latinized:
Line 1: Watoakoraya + ideogram for “rams” 60 + ideo for “ewes” 270 + ideo for aiza = billy goat  49
Line 2: ideogram for “she goat” 130 + ideo for siaro = “boar” 17 + ideo for sow 41 + ideo for tauro -or- toro = “bull/ox”   + ideo for “cow” 4

Line 1: From the market in Wato (or: from the town market), 60 rams and 270 ewes plus 49 billy goats
Line 2: along with 130 she goats plus 17 boar plus 41 sows 2 bulls  and 4 cows

We have a new student of Mycenaean Linear B, our third, Dante Aramideh of Holland:

We have a new student of Mycenaean Linear B, our third, Dante Aramideh of Holland. Here are Dante’s first 2 translations.




She is 17 years old, and the youngest of our 3 students, the first being Rita Roberts of Crete, who is the senior of the three, and who has been with us since 2014, and who is by far our most advanced student, being as she is in her second year of university studies. Our second student to come on board is Thalassa Farkas of Canada, whose age falls in between that of Dante Aramideh and Rita Roberts. Thalassa is making rapid progress in learning how to decipher Mycenaean Linear B, as attested by her translation of these two tablets:





Both Dante and Thalassa are familiar with alphabetical ancient Greek, while Rita Roberts is learning it.

Rita Roberts’ translation of Knossos Linear B tablet KN 946 G a 303 (mid-term, second year university):


Trust me, this is not an easy tablet to translate.

... with a translation into archaic ancient Greek added by Richard Vallance Janke.

Decipherment of Minoan Linear A tablet HT 131 (Haghia Triada) qareto = Linear B onato = “lease field”:

Following hard on the heels of Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada), dealing with vessels and pottery, which I have been able to successfully decipher with high precision from top to bottom, comes this tablet HT 131, focused on rams on a lease field.  How do I know this? As I have already pointed out several times on this blog, by utilizing the procedure of cross-correlative regressive extrapolation from similar or almost identical Mycenaean Linear B tablets, it is possible to reconstruct with high or moderately high accuracy the contents of many Minoan Linear A tablets. As we has already learned, Pylos tablet Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) may reasonably be considered the “Rosetta stone” for Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada). And so it has proven to be the case.

The same methodology, cross-correlative regressive extrapolation (or CCRE) from Mycenaean Linear B tablets closely corresponding to earlier Minoan Linear A t tablets can and does yield satisfying results. Take for instance Mycenaean Linear B tablet KN 1383 E j 924 from Knossos:


On this tablet we find the supersyllabogram O, which symbolizes the Mycenaean Linear B word, onato, meaning “lease field”. Notice also that the number of rams on this lease field = 99 and the number of ewes = 19 on the first line, while on the second, the number of rams = 25, all of them on a lease field.

Now taking in turn Minoan Linear A tablet HT 131:



we find to our surprise and satisfaction that the number of sheep is 27, and that these sheep have something to do with the Minoan Linear A word, qareto. I put it to you that qareto very probably means precisely the same thing as onato does in Mycenaean Greek. Hence, these two tablets, the Minoan and the second line of the Mycenaean, are practically identical. Of course, anyone can object — and such a person would be right — that the closely matched number of sheep on these two tablets (25 on the Linear A and 27 on the Linear B) is mere happenstance. However, the fact that the only surviving Minoan Linear A tablet with the term qareto on it matches up so neatly with the Mycenaean Linear B tablet from Knossos above is pretty good circumstantial evidence that the two tablets are dealing with one and the same phenomenon.

So I have assigned a scalar value of  > 75 % to qareto on the Linear B tablet, signifying that the chances this term means “lease field” are very good. Not perfect, but a decent match with the Mycenaean Linear B tablet. This is one of the Minoan Linear A terms which I shall be highlighting in my upcoming article in Vol. 12 (2016), “Pylos tablet Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris), the ‘Rosetta Stone’ to Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada) vessels and pottery” of the prestigious international annual, Archaeology and Science ISSN 1452-7448. This will be the third straight article in a row I shall have published in this annual by late 2017 or early 2018.

Symbaloo/Google search ranks Minoan Linear A, Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae as fourth largest on the Internet:


Since this is a Boolean AND search, if we omit sites dealing with only Minoan Linear A or only Mycenaean Linear B, which do not fulfill this requirement, our site ranks fourth. But since the site, Linear A and Linear B script: Britannica.com is a minor site, we actually rank third.

Also, our PINTEREST board is ranked fifth (actually fourth). We have over 1.7 K Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B translations, photos, maps & images on our PINTEREST board, Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B, Progressive Grammar and Vocabulary. Click the banner to visit and join if you like!

Minoan Linear A Linear B


Translations of 2 Linear B tablets from Knossos dealing with rams by Rita Roberts:

Here we see translations of 2 Linear B tablets from Knossos dealing with rams by Rita Roberts, Crete, who is now in her second year of university. Bravo, Rita!



2 more Pylos cc series Linear B neither you (almost certainly) nor I have ever seen before:

First, Pylos cc 1283, which is a fragment:


and then, Pylos cc 1285:


The Decipherment of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B” to be published in Archaeology and Science (Vol. 11, 2015) ISSN 1452-7448



Rita Roberts’ first two translations of Linear B tablets for her second year of university, rams and ewes on a lease field:

Here we see Rita Roberts’ first two translations of Linear B tablets for her second year of university, both of them concerning rams and ewes on a lease field:

KN 1069 F b 09

KN 1084 E e 321

Rita made a couple of small errors in her translations, which I have corrected on the tablets as illustrated above. Her first error was to have omitted the ideogram for “rams” on the first line of Linear B tablet KN 1069 F b09. Although the ideogram is partially effaced, it is clearly that for “rams”, because we can still see the two parallel bars. In addition, the number of rams given in the effaced part of the tablet is lost. Since we shall never know what their number was, I have replaced it by a question mark (?) on the tablet above. On the same tablet, she refers to “units” of wool, which are generally referred to as “bales”.

On Linear B tablet KN 1084 E e 321, for some strange reason, she omitted “at Phaistos” on the second line.

Nevertheless, her initiation into Linear B tablets in the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean may be considered a success. We look forward with anticipation to her future translations.  Although I cannot possibly post all of them, as they run into the hundreds, I shall be posting some of the most intriguing in the near future and beyond.

Mycenaean Linear B tablet KN 791 G c 101 & the co-dependent supersyllabograms O & KI:

KN 791 G c 101 & supersyllabograms O & KI

On Mycenaean Linear B tablet KN 791 G c 101, we find the co-dependent supersyllabograms O & KI. In Mycenaean Greek, the SSYL (supersyllabogram) O = onato = a lease field & the SSYL KI = kitimena = a plot of land. When these two SSYLS are combined, they become co-dependent, each one delimiting the other. Hence, on the second line of this tablet, O KI + the ideogram for “rams” or “ewes” (we are unsure which, since the ideogram is right-truncated)  means “an unknown number (right-truncated) of sheep -or- rams -or- ewes on a settled plot of land in a lease field.” When two or more co-dependent supersyllabograms are used with the ideograms for “sheep”, “rams” or “ewes”, both must be nouns. Adjectives are never used for associative co-dependent supersyllabograms, which is precisely what O + KI are on the second line. Associative SSYLS never define the ideogram(s) with which they are linked, since the ideograms themselves already mean exactly what they mean, in this case, “sheep”, “rams” or “ewes”. What associative SSYLS do is modify the ideograms with which they are associated.

NOTE that all supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B were handed down from Minoan Linear A, which invented them. 

Andras Zeke’s definitions for “rams”,  “ewes ”, “billy goats” & “nanny goats” (Minoan Language Blog. The fault is in our stars:

On Minoan Linear A tablet PH 31,

Linear A PH 31 and agricultural stock

Andras Zeke provides us with 5 definitions for “rams”, but none for  “ewes ”, while he highlights one each for “billy goats” & “nanny goats” (Minoan Language Blog):

The four nomenclatures he attributes to “rams” are teri, rurumati, amidao, madi & patada. But as the old saying goes, you cannot have it both ways, or in this case, you cannot have it five ways. It is possible that one (and only one) of these words refers to young “rams” (lambs), but that still leaves us with the conundrum, which 1 of the 5 references “rams” and which young “rams” (lambs), if the latter even occur! There are just too many permutations and combinations to make any single definition for “rams” accessible.

On the other hand, he attributes just one definition each to “billy goat” (patane) and  “nanny goat”  (tujuma), which looks neat on the surface of things. But this scenario does not take into account the possibility, even probability, that other words are teamed up with “billy goat” and  “nanny goat” on other Linear A tablets, even if none appear on any other extant Linear A tablets. Since, in the absence of God knows how many lost Minoan Linear A tablets, we cannot know for sure whether or not other terms are conjoined with “billy goat” and “nanny goat” on the lost tablets, there is no way of our knowing whether or not additional words are adjacent to the ideograms for “billy goat” and “nanny goat” on those. In other words, other words may very well have been teamed up with these ideograms on lost tablets, but we shall never know. It is for this reason that I can neither consider the word patane as meaning “billy goat” nor tujuma as standing for “nanny goat”.

But the situation is further compounded by another critical factor, which is that the corresponding ideograms for all of these farm animals, sheep, rams, ewes, billy goats and nanny goats recur hundreds of times on Linear B tablets, yet never with any definition for any of them! All we see on any of these hundreds of tablets are the ideograms for each animal (masculine and feminine), never their definitions. And here on Linear A tablet PH 31 we find the same ideograms (which appear slightly differently in Linear A). So that leaves the question wide open. Just what can the words teri, rurumati, amidao, madi & patada, associated with rams, and patane for billy goat plus tujuma for nanny goats, possibly refer to? The situation is further complicated by the fact that never more than 5 and more often than not only 1 of each of these words attached to their respective ideograms appear on this tablet. This is in contradistinction with the total numbers of any these animals on practically all Linear B tablets, ranging from lows of scores to highs of hundreds. What is going on here? Why the huge discrepancy? Take for instance the three Linear B tablets below. On the first (KN 1301 E j 324),

a AN1938_708_o KN 1301 E j 324

78 rams and 22 ewes are mentioned, on the second (KN 928 G c 301),

b Knossos tablet KN 928 G c 301 supersyllabogram KI = kotona kitimena

the numbers of rams and ewes are truncated, but you can be sure that there are lots of them, while on the third (KN 791 G c 101),

c Knossos tablet KN 791 G c 101 ewes and rams

10 ewes & 105 rams are referenced, with the last ideogram on the second line truncated, so that we cannot even identify whether or not it is masculine or feminine. But here again, we can rest assured that the number of rams or ewes following the last ideogram runs at least to the scores.

There is no way of accounting for this huge discrepancy in the number of ewes and rams on Linear A tablet PH 31 (1 to 5) and the much greater numbers on the three Linear B tablets. Let us not forget that the totals for rams and ewes on almost every Linear B tablet run to the scores and hundreds, and even to the thousands for rams. I am thus left with no alternative but to conclude that the words on the Linear A tablet are not definitions for rams and ewes, and that even though there is only one “definition” (taken with a grain of salt) each for billy and nanny goat, that does not preclude the possibility and even probability that other words related to the same agricultural stock may have appeared on Minoan Linear A tablets, especially the non-extant ones. We cannot ignore that distinct possibility. The probability factor may also enter the equation.

The third supersyllabogram PE = periqoro = a sheep pen, the “magic bullet”!

the magic bullet Linear B periqoroyo

The third supersyllabogram PE = periqoro = “a sheep pen” is truly the “magic bullet”! Linear B tablet KN 1232 E d 462 gives it all away!

Linear B tablet KN 1232 E d 462 the code breaker for PE = periqoro = sheep pen

It contains no supersyllabogram at all, but that is just the point. What it does is spell out the word periqoroyo, which is the genitive singular of periqoro, corresponding to the Athenian Greek word, peribolos (here Latinized), which means “an enclosure”. But how does that work out to mean “a sheep pen” in Mycenaean Linear B, you ask? As we recede further and further into the past in any (ancient) language, the words which are generally abstract or at the very least generically concrete, as is peribolos “an enclosure” in Attic Greek become ever more concrete as the timeline regresses. Since Mycenaean Greek is the very earliest of the East Greek dialects (of which the much later Attic Greek is also a member ) it stands to reason that the meaning of the word periqoroyo (genitive on this tablet) or periqoro (nominative) is almost certain to mean “a livestock pen” and in the even more specific context of sheep husbandry “a sheep pen”. Which is precisely what it does mean.

I repeat. The scribe has not used a supersyllabogram (namely, PE) on Linear B tablet KN 1232 E d 462 at all. He has chosen to write out the word in full. This is just the stroke of luck I was fervently dreaming of when I was in the early stages of deciphering supersyllabograms in the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy, since I desperately needed at least some circumstantial evidence that what I chose to call supersyllabograms were in fact the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of a Linear B word or phrase. And this tablet gave it all away. An obliging Linear B scribe had, on this tablet alone of the 3,000+ tablets and fragments from Knossos, actually written out in full the word the supersyllabogram PE symbolized. The word periqoroyo is in the genitive singular on this tablet, which literally means  “from a sheep pen”. In other words, all of the 23 rams and 27 ewes on this tablet come from a sheep pen, or if you like, were originally in a sheep pen. Must have been great fun!

But, you must be asking, how does this tablet prove that the supersyllabogram PE actually means “from a sheep pen” or “in a sheep pen”? It does so because every other tablet, including the very next one in this series, KN 1233 E n 224

Linear B tablet KN 1233 E n 234 the real Mccoy

do not spell out the word periqoro(yo), but instead deliberately substitute the supersyllabogram PE for it. And there are some 20 tablets in the series!

There is no other instance anywhere on any other Linear B tablets, regardless of provenance (Knossos, Pylos etc.) where the supersyllabogram is spelled out in full on one tablet in a given series and then replaced by its supersyllabogram,  except in this sole case where one tablet does spell the word out in full, only to be followed by its paradigmatic SSYL PE in the next and the next and the next tablet... and so on, and indeed on the tablets preceding it. 

Introduction to supersyllabograms in Linear B – what is a supersyllabogram?

In brief, a supersyllabogram is the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of any Linear B word (or phrase) used in conjunction with any one of scores of Linear B ideograms. In a sense, almost all supersyllabograms are dependent on the ideogram which they modify, hence they are called dependent supersyllabograms. However, it is not as simple as that. In actual fact, it is the supersyllabogram which modifies the meaning of the ideogram, sometimes drastically.

Additionally, in the field of agriculture, all supersyllabograms without exception are said to be associative, which is to say that they are associated by happenstance with the ideograms they modify as indicators of geographic location, land tenure, land disposition, sheep raising and husbandry, as dictated by each supersyllabogram. The tablet shown here clearly illustrates the disposition of an associative supersyllabogram, in this case O = Linear onaton = “a usufruct lease field” or more simply “a lease field”, which as you can see is an entire phrase in English, even though it is only one word in Mycenaean Linear B. Here is how the supersyllabogram O = onaton in particular functions. Where the ideograms alone (accompanied by no supersyllabogram) signifying rams and ewes appear on any Linear B tablet, as on the first line of KN 1371 E j 921, they simply mean what they are, rams and ewes, which is why the first line of this tablet simply translates as 80 rams and 8 ewes. Period. Nothing more, nothing less. Simple.

Linar B tablet KN 1371 E j 921 O supersyllabogram = onaton = lease field

The supersyllabogram O, the first of 36: 

The first supersyllabogam in Mycenaean Linear B = O = onaton = lease field

However, as soon as the scribe places a supersyllabogram, in this case O, which as we have just noted above is the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of a certain Linear B word, the meaning changes, often  dramatically. The problem is, what does O mean? Upon consulting Chris Tselentis’ excellent Linear B Lexicon, we discover (not much to our surprise) that there is one word and one word only which fits the context and that word is of course onato. Every other entry under the vowel syllabogram O in his Lexicon comes up cold. They are dead ends. This leaves us with only one alternative. The vowel syllabogram O must mean onato = “a lease field”, and absolutely nothing else. So the second line on this tablet can only mean one thing, “12 rams on a (usufruct) lease field”. Nothing else. Period.  However, take away the ideogram, in this case for “rams”, and leave the O all by itself on the tablet, it means absolutely nothing. It is just the vowel syllabogram O, and there is no Mycenaean Linear B word  with the single vowel “O”. This is precisely why the supersyllabogram O (and all other supersyllabograms in the agricultural sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy are tagged as associative (because they just so happen to be associated with the ideograms they modify) and dependent on the ideogram they modify (because once they are associated with a particular ideogram, they distinctly modify its meaning). This phenomenon takes some getting used to, because it does not exist in any other language or script, ancient or modern... which is astounding when you think of it.

Unfortunately, not all supersyllabograms are that easy to crack. In fact, the majority of them are not. But we can leave that prickly problem to later, much later. In case you are wondering , out of 61 syllabograms + 1 homophone (AI) in Mycenaean Linear B, no fewer than 36 (!) or  59 % are supersyllabograms. That is a huge investment on the part of Mycenaean Linear B scribes. But why, I hear you asking, would they even bother doing this? The answer stares us in the face... to save precious space on what are after all tiny tablets. Linear B tablets are rarely more than 15 cm. wide,  with only a few being 30 cm. So rather than spell out onato in full, in this case onato = a lease field, they simply placed the supersyllabogram O in front of the ideogram for any of sheep or rams or ewes, and left it at that. And what goes for the supersyllabogram O goes for every last one of the 36 supersyllabograms.

This phenomenon may seem a little weird to you all at first sight. But you will rapidly become accustomed to it as I post more and more supersyllabograms (a.k.a. SSYLs) pursuant to this post.

Note that until I myself deciphered all 36 supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B between 2014 & 2016, no one in the field of linguistic research into Linear B had ever deciphered any more than a scattered few or them, let alone isolated, identified and classified all 36. In fact, no researcher to date has ever even understood what the phenomenon of the supersyllabogram is. Not until I cracked them wide open.

This is the most significant breakthrough in the decipherment of Mycenaean Linear B in the 64 years since its initial decipherment by Michael Ventris in 1952. In 2017, I will be publishing the definitive article on The Theory and Application of Supersyllabograms in Linear B, but in which publication and precisely when remains a closely guarded secret never to be whispered until it meets the light of day.

Linear B tablet KN 791 G c 101, ewes and rams & what it signifies:

Knossos tablet KN 791 G c 101 ewes and rams

Linear B tablet KN 791 G c 101, as with most Linear B tablets dealing with sheep, takes stock of ewes and rams. There are literally 100s of such tablets, far more than all the tablets put together in every other sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy (military, textiles & vessels or pottery). This goes to show the critical importance of sheep raising and sheep husbandry in the Minoan/Mycenaean economy. It is by far and away the most important sector of their economy. I first translated this tablet back in 2014, when I was just familiarizing myself with supersyllabograms. I made a fundamental error in my then translation, by conflating KI with pakoso, giving pakososi, which is meaningless. In actual fact, the separate syllabogram KI is the supersyllabogram for kitimena = a plot of land.

On another point. Those of you who visit our site may find it odd that the nouns on Linear B tablets are almost always in the nominative, even when one modifies another, such as onato kitimena which literally means “a lease field, a plot of land”, but freely and accurately translated means “on a leased plot of land”,  where onato becomes attributive. The difficulty here is that these are both associative supersyllabograms, both of which must be nominative regardless of context. Why so? Since the Linear B tablets are inventories, the scribes could not be bothered with inflected cases, unless it was absolutely unavoidable.  As far as they were concerned each “item” on the inventory stood on its own, as a nominative, in other words, as a naming marker.  Although this seems very peculiar to us, that does not matter one jot, because here we are in the twenty-first century and there they were in the thirteenth or fourteenth century BCE, and never the twain shall meet. After all, they, the scribes, wrote the tablets, so whatever we may think about their “style” (which is also irrelevant because they could have cared less about that too), we have to put up with their formulaic conventions, because that is what these phenomena and others similar to them amount to. Take it or leave it. But if you leave it does not make a hill of beans worth of difference.


Yes, that’s right, folks!  Sheep humour and plenty of it. We need a break from all that academic hoopla on our blog. So have fun! LOL! Here goes nuttin’.

sheep humour a

sheep humour b

sheep humour c

sheep humour d

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.

Associative versus Attributed Supersyllabograms Illustrated in Mycenaean Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

Illustration of Associative versus Attributive Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B

This is Slide H of my lecture, “The Rôle of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B ” I shall be giving at the Conference, “Thinking Symbols” at the Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, associated with the University of Warsaw, Poland, between June 30 & July 2, 2015. It clearly illustrates the marked difference between an associative (as) and an attributive supersyllabogram (at).

Associative Supersyllabograms:

Associative SSYLs relate to physical objects or items, places, specific locations & geographic identifiers which are independent of the ideograms they are associated with, and which do not define them in any way, except as additional information relative to the latter. A sheep is still a sheep, a horse is still a horse & an ox is still an ox, even when it has no associative supersyllabogram modifying it. However, associative SSYLS are extremely informative, since they always circumscribe the circumstances in which the ideograms, almost always animate and animal, find themselves placed. As such, associative SSYLS (as) replace whole words and even entire phrases, which offer us a great deal more insight into the ideogram involved than would have been supplied by the ideogram alone. There is a huge difference between the ideogram for “sheep” or “ram” all on its own, and the same ideograms accompanied by an associative supersyllabogram. For instance, in this illustration, the SSYL (as) KI informs us that “the ram is on a plot of land”.  That is an entire sentence in English symbolized by the SSYL (as) KI + the ideogram for “ram” (only two characters!). The SSYL (as) O + “sheep” is even more informative, telling us that “the sheep is on a lease field.” and even “the sheep is on a usufruct lease field.” Not only that, the scribes frequently combined two or more SSYLs (as), such as KI & O with an ideogram, usually for “ram”, “ewe” or “sheep”, replacing a very long sentence in both Mycenaean Linear B and in English (or any other target language into which the source – Mycenaean Greek – is translated). Thus, the SSYLs (as) KI + O + the ideogram for “ewe + the number 114 mean no less than,114 ewes on a plot of land which is a usufruct lease field”.

Associative supersyllabograms proliferate in the agricultural sector of the Mycenaean economy, and are also characteristic of the military sector. Associative SSYLS are not symbiotic.

Talk about a shortcut! Of course, many of us already know by now that the Mycenaean scribes frequently resorted to this clever stratagem to save plenty of space on what are, after all, very small tablets, rarely more than 30 cm. wide by 15 cm. deep, and usually much smaller.

Attributive Supersyllabograms:  

On the other hand, attributive SSYLs (at) always modify the the sense of ideograms on which they simultaneously depend as the ideograms themselves depend on them through the attributive qualities they assign to the latter. In other words, the relationship between the attributive supersyllabogram and the ideogram which it modifies is both symbiotic and auto-determinative. The plain ideogram for “cloth” has nothing inside it. But when the ideogram for “cloth” is assigned an attribute (usually defined as an adjectival modifier) that ideogram contains inside itself the supersyllabogram which unequivocally modifies its meaning. Thus, the ideogram for “cloth” with the SSYL NE inside it can mean one thing and one thing only, “new cloth”. Likewise, the SYL PU inside the ideogram for “cloth” can only mean “purple cloth”, and nothing else. Similarly, the SSYL TE inside the same ideogram has the specific meaning, “well-prepared cloth” or “finished cloth prepared for market or sale”. Thus, all attributive supersyllabograms modify the unqualified meaning of the simple syllabogram for “cloth” in the textile sector, while similar SSYLS in other sectors, especially the vessels, pottery & vases sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy operate in the exact same fashion. Associative supersyllabograms proliferate in these two sectors. 



Rita Roberts’ Translation of Knossos Tablet K 1092, Rams at Ekzonos (Outside the Belt) & Sygrita: Click to ENLARGE

Knossos Tablet K 1092 translated by Rita Roberts 2014
Rita’s translation of this particular tablet is as polished as are all of her translations. The only real difficulty Rita still has to deal with in deciphering Linear B tablets is that her first encounter with Greek, ancient or modern, was with Mycenaean Greek in Linear B, which is the exact reverse approach pretty much everyone on earth has to take when acquiring a knowledge of Greek... everyone that is to say except Rita. This just so happens to be greatly in her favour, though, because since she is obliged to decipher Linear B tablets straight into Mycenaean Greek, with no intermediary steps into ancient Greek getting in her way, she very often discovers meaning(s) for Linear B words which elude those of us who have a prior solid knowledge of ancient Greek, let alone modern. In other words, her translation do not suffer from bias which is far too often unnecessarily introduced by scholars of ancient Greek, such as myself, who also know Linear B. So Rita has tripped me up on more than one occasion, and she will again... and again... well, at least until she has to learn a little ancient Greek, at least enough to be able to read the ancient Greek equivalent texts of all the Linear B tablets we have posted so far on our blog (and that is scores of them!) and which we will be continuing to post.  For the time being, though, Rita can safely rest on her laurels. When the time comes for her to master at least a modicum of ancient Greek, she and I will as always work together as the fine team we are. 

I for one have not yet even mastered modern Greek, but it appears I shall have to, because although I can read it (sort of), I must be able to read the several articles which appear only in modern Greek on Linear A, B, C, the Iliad etc. Otherwise, I am going to miss out on some very important research. So as you can see, folks, both Rita and I are going to have to eventually “graduate” to the next level.


A KEY TO THE MINOAN ECONOMY? An emphatic YES. 21,904 sheep in one place? Guess where... (Click to ENLARGE):

Knossos KN 162a D b

Knossos, of course! I have a number of relevant comments to make on this fascinating numeric tablet, which is is typical of the scads of numeric tablets the Minoan scribes (mostly at Knossos) produced for inventory, just as they did with pretty much every other agricultural animals or crops, or economic merchandise or trade in general. One of my comments in particular [2 infra] turns on the possibility, if not probability, that the word in question may even be Minoan! 

Following the NOTES in the illustration above, we notice that:

[1] the numbers to the left of the generic ideogram for sheep seem to be meaningless, for lack of context, the usual bugbear that plagues so many Linear B tablets. What these numbers, which seem quite haphazard, refer to is anyone’s guess, but I prefer to think of them as mere practice scribblings. On the other hand, they may refer to the ideogram [3] below. See infra.    

[2] This is undoubtedly the ideogram for “month”. The problem is, what does the supersyllabogram RE immediately preceding it refer to, if not the name of the month itself? And that is just what I take it to mean. The difficulty we are now faced with, what is the name of the month which begins with the first syllable, the syllabogram RE? We cannot assume it is a Classical Greek name for any month, because in the Minoan & Mycenaean era (ca. 1900 BCE – 1200 BCE), Classical Greek month names did not exist. So either the month name referred to here beginning with the supersyllabogram RE is a Mycenaean Greek month name or even a Minoan month name, for the simple reason that the Minoan scribes writing in Mycenaean Greek sometimes very likely transposed (i.e. used) Minoan names for islands, municipalities, names of people, names of the seasons and months etc. This practice, if indeed it was their practice, may very well serve to provide a definite clue to the categories of Minoan vocabulary I refer to above, and then some. It is an approach to the partial decipherment of Linear A we need to take seriously. The problem with supersyllabograms such as RE is that they are only the first syllable of any word they represent, and are thus incapable of revealing what the word behind the supersyllabogram in question refers to, unless we already know the language the supersyllabogram is used for. If the language is Mycenaean Greek in Linear B, then we stand a (usually remote) chance of deciphering the word, but if the word is Minoan, and – I must strongly emphasize this – a Minoan month name written, not in Linear A, but in Linear B (since this is after all a Linear B tablet) we stand no chance whatsoever of deciphering the month name, at least for the present. 
[3] This ideogram looks remarkably like the ideogram for “honey”, but wait! Hold on now! Does that make any sense at all in the context of this tablet, which otherwise and principally provides meaningful statistics on sheep, and nothing else? So it appears that suggesting this is the ideogram for “honey” may be stretching the limits of credibility, especially in light of the fact that the numbers to the left of the generic ideogram for “sheep” appear haphazard at best, hence, probably meaningless, except as (practice) doodles. There is simply no way of knowing.   

[4] The scribe appears to have effaced the lower half of this 1K (1,000), but I prefer to assume that he did so in error. If not, then the total number of sheep would be 21,804 rather than 21,904, as if that makes much of a difference! It is still a helluva lot of sheep. 

[5] This modified ideogram for “person”, in which the person appears to be holding a spear or something of that ilk, poses a few problems, none of them insurmountable, and any of which may be valid in the context of this tablet. First of all, why would a person hanging around sheep bear a spear, except to chase off predators such as wolves? If we assume that this modified ideogram actually means “shepherd”, then the problem almost resolves itself. Almost. The difficulty now is, what is the shepherd holding? It certainly could still be a spear, but shepherds usually hold staffs, and so that it what I take it to mean for this modified ideogram, unless... this is the signature of the scribe, which is an entirely plausible alternative. So this ideogram could mean 1 of 3 things. Take your pick.

Last, but far from least, we are still left with two nagging questions. How is it possible that this tablet, in combination with the 5 tablets on rams from Knossos, all 6 of them, can yield a mind-boggling total of over 45,000 sheep?  Was the even countryside around Knossos capable of sustaining such an immense number of livestock, let alone only sheep, not counting bulls & cows, horses etc. etc.? What is going on here? Have our assiduous scribes gone overboard?  The answer is simply, no. The second part of our question must reference the time, i.e. the year, season or month each and every one of these tablets was composed. This is no idle matter for speculation. The tablet in this post seems to refer only to the month RE, though only on the left side of the ideogram for sheep, leaving us with the question whether the rest of the tablet dealing only with sheep to the right of the ideogram for sheep, refers to the same time period, i.e. on month, that month being RE. It could go either way. But once again, we shall never know.

It simply strikes me as a little odd, in fact bordering on the ridiculous, that there would be 45,000 sheep around Knossos all at once! However, the explanation for this oddity follows. Once we clear that up, we can then conclude, within reasonable parameters, that there more than likely were never as many as 45,000 sheep wandering around, stinking up the countryside, and posing an awful environmental hazard to the city of Knossos. Otherwise, the city, as prosperous and as clean as the Minoans were, would never have survived more a few years. But ostensibly it did. I have addressed this issue before in posts where I refer to the strong likelihood that the Minoans, being the advanced civilization they were, were not only plainly familiar with the basic principles of hydrology and plumbing (which they most certainly were), but equally with the principles and practice of crop rotation and even rotation of animals in husbandry. If we allow for this scenario, then there would more likely than not, be far fewer than 45,000 sheep hanging around Knossos in any given running or fiscal year, though how many there would be we can never know... except that, given the fact that almost all sheep-related tablets from Knossos itself rarely inventory fewer than 5,000 sheep on any one tablet. So we can at least speculate an annual figure of some 5,000-10,000 sheep, if nothing else.      
And who is to say this tablet, and any or all of the remaining tablets, were inscribed in the same year? Again, no idle question, for two inescapable reasons.

[1] The Minoan scribes kept annual statistics for absolutely anything and everything they inventoried, and erased the very same tablets on which these annual statistics were inscribed, and replaced the whole shebang with the new statistics for the next fiscal year for the same inventories of whatever they were recording (sheep, rams, ewes, cows, bulls, horses, chariots, armour, vessels and vases of all kinds, cloth, jewelry, you name it, the list goes on and on and on). In other words, putting it in a nutshell, there is simply no way of determining whether any or all of these 6 tablets in this and the previous post originate from the same “wetos” or “running year” = fiscal year, as the Minoan scribes so aptly called each inventory year.

[2] Add on top of this scenario the fact that all 4,000 or so of the tablets at Knossos were unearthed from the rubble of either a massive earthquake or the destruction of the city by invasion (the place is scarred with burns), or both, how can anyone be sure that any fragments laying side-by-side in the messy rubble on any aspect of Minoan life whatsoever, are from the same year, let alone the same category of inventory shelves on which they were almost certainly stored according to some classification system making it easy for the scribes to retrieve any tablet on any aspect of the Minoan agri-economy for any given running year, i.e. fiscal year? Once again we are at an impasse, up against a solid (or if you like, crumbling) brick wall.  The likelihood that there is a strong relationship, some sort of relationship, or little relationship at all between one tablet and the next lying beside aside in the rubble that Sir Arthur Evans and company had to all too meticulously and cautiously rummage through remains an open question at best. True enough, as I have myself discovered in certain sequential ranges of tablets and fragments in Scripta Minoa, there are several instances in which the tablets in a particular entirely intact series, say speculatively, KN 1610 – KN 1654, for the sake of argument, all deal with the very same aspect of the Minoan agri-economy, for instance, sheep, rams and ewes, but even when they do, there is still absolutely no guarantee that any of these intact sequences all deal with the same running or fiscal year. And all too many adjacent tablets are not directly related. So we are left with the same enigma we were confronted with in the first place. 


Where are all these tens of thousands of rams from? Guess. One guess & you’re right! Click to ENLARGE:

Knossos KN 917 1088 1089 1090 1096

As I pointed out in great detail in a previous post, the Minoan/Mycenaean economy ca. 1450 BCE, with its home base at the city of Knossos itself, spread out its sheep husbandry locales among several key sites, notably, Kytaistos, Phaistos & Lykinthos, mentioned 20 times each, Exonos 15 times, Davos 14, Lato & Syrimos 12, Lasynthos 9, Sugrita 8, Tylisos (or Tyllisos) 5 & Raia 3 times. But Knossos is never mentioned at all! All of this is threshed out in the previous post, CRITICAL Post: The Minoans Counted Sheep While They Were Wide Awake,


which I strongly suggest you read, if you are at all fascinated by the Minoan economy and their international trade, especially in the area of sheep raising and husbandry, which was the vital underpinning of their entire subsistence as a people, outweighing by far all other economic activities of any kind whatsoever.  

Regardless of the fact that the scribes at Knossos never mention the city as a sheep raising site, it was in fact the primary locale for sheep husbandry, for the simple, plain reason that only a city of this size, with a population probably in excess of 50,000, enormous for the ancient world, had the human and land resources to accommodate such huge numbers of sheep as illustrated above, i.e. 24,000 at the very minimum, and only on these 5 tablets! In the next post, I shall post a Linear B tablet from Knossos, in which the numbers of sheep mentioned will literally blow you away!

If anyone thinks even for a moment that any of the other sheep raising locales mentioned at the outset of this post had anywhere near the land space and human resources sufficient to raise such huge numbers of sheep, that person is probably deluding him- or herself.

We are left with one bizarre mystery. The only thing that utterly baffles me is, where are all the ewes! That question, not a rhetorical question at all, begs the issue. I simply cannot figure this out for the life of me. How can you raise any new sheep, i.e. newborns, if there are no ewes around! If anyone has any suggestions or comments whatsoever to help us unravel this plainly weird mystery, be my guest!


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