Tag Archive: religious symbolism



Inscription from Malia in New Minoan Linear A, Tainaron, a town with authority:

Mallia text in Linear A dealing with Tainaron with Linear B transcription

Here we have yet another inscription from Malia in New Minoan Linear A, which appears to invoke the supreme authority of Tainaron, a town at the southern tip of Laconia, with the blessings of the gods. If this tablet is indeed inscribed in Mycenaean-derived new Minoan, then it is the fourth of the tablets from Malia I have deciphered, all of them in New Minoan. It would thus appear that the Mycenaeans had assumed suzerainty over Malia before these tablets were inscribed, and that the scribes there were still using the Linear A syllabary to inscribe tablets in Mycenaean Greek, just before the switch-over to the new official syllabary, Linear B. It cannot simply be co-incidental that all of the inscriptions from Malia, including the famous IDAMATE labrys from the Archalochori Cave, appear to be inscribed in Mycenaean-derived New Minoan. In fact, the word Idamate can easily be rendered as the mother (goddess) of Mount Ida”. It is also a matter of great interest to note that Tainaron itself is the toponym of Cape Tainaron,

Tainaron ancient Greece

where there was a sanctuary of Poseidon, who may very well be the god who has brought blessings on the town. It is to be noted that the Archalochori axe inscribed in proto-Greek is also in a sanctuary where a horde of bronze votive weapons, mostly axes, were discovered. Moreover, Malia tablet MA 1 appears to deal with Minos, the legendary king of Knossos offering gold to Rhea, mother of Zeus. In other words, all of the inscriptions from Malia deal with religious rites. This should come as no surprise, as more Linear A than Linear B tablets appear to focus on religious symbolism or rites.

Except for Tainaro, which is equivalent to the nominative neuter in Linear B, all proto-Greek spellings on this inscription have been adjusted to meet the exigencies of Old Minoan syntax. It would thus appear that etanasu is the Minoan orthography for hestanwn (standing, Greek Latinized), while pijani is the dative or instrumental singular in Minoan of the noun derived from the Greek verb, piainw, to enrich. The orthography of Tainaro appears to confirm that the nominative neuter in Linear B underwent no change in Minoan. This conclusion conforms with the table of 45 apparent Minoan masculine and neuter nominatives I recently posted:

https://linearbknossosmycenae.wordpress.com/2017/05/18/linear-a-nouns-ultimate-o-masculineneuter-nouns-and-adjectives/


Haghia Triada roundels & noduli:

Linear A nodulae with syllabogram SI from Haghia Triada

From: The Haghia Triada administrative documents:

http://www.aegean-museum.it/musint2/en/crete/documents.inc.php

Descriptions from this site (quoted):

Although the writing has not been deciphered neither the language has been interpreted (sic, poor grammar) various data may be obtained from the tablets. First of all, a list of Linear A signs may be hypothesized, which, with its 97 symbols, reveals a syllabic script of a simple typology (consonant + vowel and vowels): the signs are, in fact, too many, to represent a complex syllabic system (as the Near Eastern Cuneiform and the Aegyptian Hieroglyph). To these syllabic signs a long series of "logograms", representing each one a word, are added. 

Types of seals represented:

nodulae and roundels from Haghia Triada

Roundels:

The roundel is a characteristic document of the Neopalatian Minoan [1] administration, beside the tablet. It is a round clay disk (classified as Wc) with seals impressions along the edge - from one to six impressions - and, on most cases, one inscription on one or both sides. Frequently the inscription consists of a logogram, sometimes also of a sign-group. It seems to represent the last act [2] of an administrative transaction and probably functioned as a receipt. 

The seals stamped on roundels fully coincide with seals stamped on the other different documents. At Haghia Triada 22 roundels have been found, one of them being without (an) inscription. 

Nodules:

It is (sic, They are) the most widespread Aegean Bronze Age document, both geographically and chronologically. These clay small object (sic, objects) (defined as noduli by J. Weingarten) were not always inscribed but only sealed. They appear in two shapes: dome (classified as We) (fig. 4) and disk (classified as Wf) (fig. 5).  At Haghia Triada 54 noduli have been found, in dome shape, and only 7 are inscribed. 

Types:
1 Flat-based nodule:
This type of document is rarely inscribed but regularly sealed. Its characteristic is the negative impression on its reverse (or base) which shows that it had been placed upon a folded piece of parchment around which a thin thread was wound which was also wound into the clay. It appears in two different shapes: standing (fig. 6) or recumbent (fig. 7) (both classified as Wb). At Haghia Triada 76 flat-based nodules have been found, only 2 having a carved inscription. 

2 Hanging nodule [3]:

This small clay piece is characterized by string holes which show that it was fastened to another object by a string. They may present one or two holes. 
Those with two holes (classified as Wd) have an elongated shape (fig. 8), while those with one hole (classified as WA) present five slightly different shapes: pendant, pyramid, cone, dome, pear (fig. 9) [4]. At Haghia Triada 936 single-holes have been found, 851 being inscribed, and 11 two-hole, only 2 being inscribed. 

Comments by Richard Vallance:

[1] Neo-palatial Minoan administration: This is the Minoan administration at Haghia Triada dating from the Middle Minoan MM ca. 1750-1550 BCE & Late Minoan LM1A, ca. 1550-1500 BCE. Documents in Linear A inscribed during the LM1A period may have been inscribed in Mycenaean-derived New Minoan.  
[2] “the last act”. This is ambiguous English. Does it refer to the “the most recent” of the Haghia Triada administration? And if so, does this mean the act or acts date from the Late Minoan LM1A period?  And if so, are these acts inscribed in Mycenaean-derived New Minoan?
[3] The nodules illustrated in my decipherment of Figure 9 above are hanging nodules.
[4] See my 3 decipherments in Figure 9 at the outset of this post. If the syllabogram SI is the first syllable of a Mycenaean-derived New Minoan word, it could represent any of the 3 decipherments I have proposed. If on the other hand, SI represents any Old Minoan word, it is indecipherable.  

Haghia Triada pianta genrale

Decipherment of the Linear B seal BE Zg2:

Linear B seal BE Zg 2

This decipherment is straightforward. It certainly makes sense that a Linear B seal could deal with 5 torches, more than likely in the context of a religious or royal rite.

More gems of Bahai’ wisdom!


More gems of Bahai wisdom!

arts-crafts-science

bahai-teachings

abdul-baha-quote-the-reality-of-man-is-his-thought-not-his-material

 

 


Bahai’ = the latest Dispensation from God = Progressive Revelation

Imagine my astonishment when I happened across the teachings of the Bahai’ Faith, which came into being in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Its teachings are revolutionary. It allows one to keep the faith of one’s birth, in my case, Christian, but it opens up so many avenues to a faith greater than all religions, including itself. The Bahais firmly believe that theirs is not the last revelation, that more are to come. This sets them apart from all past religions.  Unlike all previous religions of the past, the Bahai’ faith firmly counsels universal education, the education of women and the equal rights of women and men, the promotion and teaching of technology and science, and the list goes on and on. This sort of religion truly appeals to an intellectual such as myself. I shall be posting the tenets of the Bahai’ faith on a regular basis here on Minoan Linear A, Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae.

Here are the first three observations from the faith:

one-country

science-a

education-of-women

They are real eye-openers!


UPDATE on the military Minoan Linear A tablet HT 94 (Haghia Triada) = attendants to the king/foot soldiers: 

ideogram-eqeta-linear-b-kapa-linear-a

This tablet, HT 94 (Haghia Triada) contains the key military Minoan Linear A term, kapa, which is almost certainly the approximate equivalent to Mycenaean Linear B eqeta = “follower”.

mycenaean-eqeta-or-follower-of-the-king

The term eqeta in Mycenaean Greek has a special connotation. It denotes an attendant to the king, wanaka, who is usually also the rawaketa = “leader of the hosts” i.e.  “Commander-in-Chief”, which in the case of the Mycenaean expedition against Troy (ca. 1300-1250 BCE) would have been Agamemnon.

so-called-mask-of-agamemnon-mycenae

It is notable that the ideogram, apparently for “man”, on the medallion is so large that it practically fills the entire surface. Note also the supersyllabogram KA which is surcharged top right. This medallion is not the Linear A tablet HT 94 (Haghia Triada), but its resemblance to the text of the latter is so striking it simply cannot be ignored. In addition, this ideogram is more elaborate than the standard one for “man” in Minoan Linear A, and bears an amazing resemblance to the fresco image of the eqeta above. For these two reasons alone, I have come to the firm conclusion that indeed kapa in Minoan Linear A is the close equivalent to eqeta in Mycenaean Linear B, with a scalar precision of 75 % or >.      

According to the renowned twentieth century Linear B expert and researcher, L.R. Palmer, the eqeta also appears to have had a religious function.

It is highly unlikely there was such a person as a “follower” in pre-Mycenaean, Minoan society at Knossos. So we must take a stab at an approximation to the term eqeta in Minoan Linear A, i.e. kapa, which would probably have referred to attendants to the King, much in the same way as the Praetorian Guards who protected the sacrosanct person of the Emperor in post AD ancient Rome. 

praetorian-guard



Minoan Costume History synopsis: a wonderful site!


Minoan Costume History synopsis: a wonderful site!

Minoan costume history

You simply have to check this site out! I have never seen such an in-depth study on Minoan costume, female and male alike, on the Internet. Here is just a small excerpt:

An era of great development, contemporaneous with the civilization of ancient Egypt and Phoenicia, and which may be dated about 2000-1500 B.C., had preceded the civilization that came from Asia Minor into Crete and Greece. Such fragments of Cretan culture as have come down to us reveal a beauty of technique and a delicate sense of form to which no contemporaneous civilization provides any parallel. (italics mine). It is certainly true that the Minoans were far more style-conscious than people of any other contemporaneous civilization, such as the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians and Hittites. No question about it.

Owing to the lack of written records, the processes and methods of manufacture are still wrapped in obscurity, but although we are thus reduced to surmise regarding the materials used, the dress of that time is of the highest interest in view of its connexion with the costumes of other peoples. Our attention is especially attracted by the dress worn by the women. The slim, wiry figures of the men are clothed almost universally with a loincloth, richly patterned and splendidly decorated. Here and there we see wide cloaks that clothe the whole body, giving it a large appearance. Women also, it would seem, wore the short loincloth, but we find them wearing in addition skirts put together in an almost fantastic manner that betrays a highly developed knowledge of the technique of dressmaking. These skirts are constructed in tiers, separated by strips of rich ornamentation. 

Illustrations from this site (there are many more, just as striking as these!)

Minoan loving cup

male saffron gatherer

Minoan seated ladies in grandstand

Minoan fountain



3 alternatives in Minoan Linear A for pasiteoi = “to all the gods” in Mycenaean Greek:

pasiteoi pasi

I rummaged through every last of the scores of Minoan Linear A tablets I have on file, searching for any rendition possible commensurate with the phrase pasiteoi = “to all the gods” in Mycenaean Greek. I have made the assumption, however misplaced, that since this a 5 syllabogram or syllable phrase in Mycenaean Linear B, the cross-correlated phrase in Minoan Linear A should run to approximately the same number of syllabograms or syllables, give or take. I found 3 alternatives. I had little choice, as there is simply no way or knowing whether or not any one of these 3,  iqa*118, dadumata or *47nuraja  corresponds to the Mycenaean phrase, if indeed any of them do. However, the chances are pretty good that one of them does.

So take your pick. I lean towards dadumata, as it looks like it might be plural, though certainly not necessarily neuter plural, corresponding to the ultimate “a”, which imposes itself on any word in the neuter or feminine plural in Mycenaean Greek. One simply cannot transpose the last vowel “a” for the neuter plural in Linear B to Linear A. The same problem obtains with *47nuraja.  On the other hand, transposition of “a” for Greek “ai” in Mycenaean Greek is a (somewhat remote) possibility in Minoan Linear A. But here again we cannot and must not leap to any premature conclusions. 

Each of these terms qualifies as the sixty-ninth (69) term I have deciphered, more or less accuracy, in Minoan Linear A.


Linear B tablet Pylos TA Ae 08 offerings of gold from her slaves to the priestess at Pylos:

Linear B tablet Pylos Ae 08 offerings by slaves to the priestess at Pylos

The Linear B tablet Pylos TA Ae 08 offerings of gold from her slaves to the priestess at Pylos is one of the most famous of all Linear B tablets. It rounds out our survey of 6 religious tablets in Mycenaean Linear B which may very well serve as templates for the decipherment of Minoan Linear A tablets in the same vein.


Linear B tablets on wheat: KN 36 K c 33:

KN 36 K c 33 wheat

This is a typical Linear B tablet from Knossos dealing with wheat.


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.
     

Knossos tablet KN 497 O a 06 & the supersyllabogram DA = labrys = double axe:

Knossos tablet KN 497 O a 06 supersyllabogram DA = labrys = double axe

There isn’t much I can say about this tablet, apart from the fact that it inventories 6 double axes. The text on the left side is unintelligible, being left truncated. The importance of the labrys or double axe in the Minoan/Mycenaean religion cannot be over-stressed. This repetitive motif appears the whole length of the Hall of the Double Axes at Knossos – which I personally saw in May 2012 and which is a magnificent work of art. A nearly identical motif re-appears on frescoes at Mycenae. The presence of the labrys is all-pervasive in the Minoan/Mycenaean religious symbolism of the military. It is uncertain whether the religious or the military aspect predominates in such art, but I am inclined to say that it is the religious, since religious symbolism is rampant in the Minoan/Mycenaean pantheon. Moreover, their religion is primarily matriarchal, and not patriarchal. It is to be expected that religious mythology would trump military in matriarchal societies such as this.


Full PDF text of  “The Rôle of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B” for the talk I gave at The Third International Disciplinary Conference ‘Thinking Symbols’ at the Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, Poland, July 1 2015

Thinking Symbols

This is the full PDF text (Click to READ):

The Role of SSYLS in Mycenean Linear B

of the ground-breaking talk I gave at  The Third International Disciplinary Conference ‘Thinking Symbols’ at the Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, July 1 2015. This presentation constitutes the most significant breakthrough in the further decipherment of Mycenaean Linear B since the genius, Michael Ventris, realized a successful decipherment of the Linear B syllabary in June-July 1952. In this paper, I isolate, identify and classify all 34 supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B, previously and largely erroneously referred to as “adjuncts”  in the field of linguistic research into Linear B. The discovery of supersyllabograms is of such critical import to the full decipherment of Linear B that they simply cannot safely be ignored, to the peril of misinterpretation or even total misreadings of some 700-1,000 intact Linear B tablets from Knossos alone. In fact, it staggers the imagination to find that fully 34 of 61 syllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B alternatively function as supersyllabograms on hundreds of tablets. Actually, it is more accurate to say that syllabograms specifically identified as supersyllabograms are no longer simple syllabograms at all, as my talk makes perfectly clear. Read on, my friends, and stand as amazed as I was (and still am) at the discovery,  isolation, identification and classification of supersyllabograms in Linear B.

Furthermore, my presentation includes an extremely  comprehensive bibliography of 147 items on prior research into any and all phenomena related to syllabograms leading (in)directly to my own discovery of supersyllabograms as a phenomenon it is own right. This  bibliography even references (item 139) the upcoming publication of a major article by myself, which is to appear in the February 2016 issue of prestigious peer-reviewed European journal,

Archaeology and Science = Arheoologija I Prirodne Nauke (Belgrade) ISSN 1452-7448,
February 2016. approx. 30 pp.

ABSTRACT

In partnership with The Association of Historical Studies, Koryvantes (Athens), our organization, Linear B,Knossos & Mycenae (WordPress), conducts ongoing research into Mycenaean archaeology and military affairs and the Mycenaean Greek dialect. This study centres on a fresh new decipherment of Pylos tablet TA 641-1952 (Ventris) by Mrs. Rita Roberts from Crete, who brings to bear the unique perspectives of an archaeologist on her translation, in all probability the most accurate realized to date. We then introduce the newly minted term in Mycenaean Linear B, the supersyllabogram, being the first syllabogram or first syllable of any word or entire phrase in Linear B. Supersyllabograms have been erroneously referred to as “adjuncts” in previous linguistic research into Mycenaean Linear B. This article demonstrates that their functionality significantly exceeds such limitations, and that the supersyllabogram must be fully accounted for as a unique and discrete phenomenon without which any approach to the interpretation of the Linear B syllabary is at best incomplete, and at worse, severely handicapped.

Keywords: Mycenaean Linear B, syllabograms, logograms, ideograms, supersyllabograms, adjuncts, Linear B tablets, Pylos, Pylos TA 641-1952 (Ventris), decipherment, translation, pottery, vessels, tripods, cauldrons, amphorae, kylixes, cups, goblets

Please note that this post shall shortly be supplemented with several more delving into the general application of supersyllabograms in Linear B, and into the specific application of them to every sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy, from agriculture to the military, from textiles to vessels (pottery) to over-arching realm of the religious in their society.

Richard


The Famous “Dolphin Fresco” at Knossos on Papyrus! Minoan Literature? Did any Exist?

Click to ENLARGE

Replica of the Dolphin Fresco Knossos on papyrus

Here you see a magnificent reproduction of the famous “Dolphin Fresco” at Knossos reprinted on Papyrus, which I purchased for the astonishing price of 10 euros while I was visiting the site on May 2, 2012. The colours on this papyrus version are so vibrant no photograph can fully do justice to them. Nevertheless, the photo turned out wonderfully, and if you would like to use it yourself, please feel free to do so. I even framed it to enhance it.

Papyrus in Minoan/Mycenaean Crete?

The very idea of reprinting one of the amazing Knossos frescoes onto papyrus may seem blasphemous to some, but certainly not to me. It raises the very astute question: did the Minoans, writing in Linear A or in Linear B, ever produce any literature as such? Consent is almost unanimous on the Internet and in print – No! They did not write any literature. But not so fast! It strikes me as peculiar - indeed very peculiar – that a civilization as advanced and sophisticated as that of Knossos, in both the Minoan Linear A eras (Middle Minoan – early Late Minoan) and in the Mycenaean Linear B era (Late Minoan), may very well have had a literature of its own, for these reasons, if none other:

(a) Creation Myths:

Ancient Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, the Hittites and other proto-literate civilizations, at least had a religious literature, whether or not it was composed on papyrus (as with Egypt), here at Wikipedia:

The sun rises over the circular mound of creation as goddesses pour out the primeval waters around it

Egyptian Creation Myth Sunrise_at_Creation 

or on baked clay tablets, as with the Babylonians, here:

The Enûma_Eliš Epic (Creation Myth) ca. 1,000 lines long on 7 tablets: 

Enûma_Eliš Creation Myth

Proemium:

When on high the heaven had not been named,
Firm ground below had not been called by name,
When primordial Apsu, their begetter,
And Mummu-Tiamat, she who bore them all,
Their waters mingled as a single body,
No reed hut had sprung forth, no marshland had appeared,
None of the gods had been brought into being,
And none bore a name, and no destinies determined--
Then it was that the gods were formed in the midst of heaven.
Lahmu and Lahamu were brought forth, by name they were called.


the famous Sumerian Myth of Gilgamesh on 7 Tablets here:

Epic of Gilgamesh

and the Sumerian & Akkadian Myths, including that of Gilgamesh, here:

Akkadian Gilgamesh:

Akkadian cuneiform-gilgamesh

(b) The implications of the astounding achievements of the highly advanced Minoan Civilization for a putative literature of their own:

Just because the Minoans, writing in Linear A or in Linear B, left behind no literature as such on their administrative inventory tablets, does not necessarily mean that they never wrote any literature at all. That strikes me as bordering on nonsensical, since Knossos always had the closest economic and cultural ties with Egypt and with all of the other great civilizations contemporaneous with her. Egypt, above all, set great store on the inestimable value of Knossian, Minoan and Mycenaean artifacts such as gold, in which the Mycenaean artisans were especially gifted, lapis lazuli, of which the finest quality in the entire known world issued from Knossos; Minoan & Mycenaean pottery and wares, which again were of the most splendid designs; Minoan textiles and dyes, again the finest to be found, and on and on. In fact, the Minoans were rightly renowned as the among the very best dyers in the entire known world.

But why stop there? Why should such an obviously advanced civilization as the Minoan, with its understanding of the basic principles of hydraulics, quite beyond the ken of any other contemporary civilization, and with its utterly unique airy architecture, based on the the most elegant geometric principles, again quite unlike anything else to found in the then-known world, not have a literature of its own? To me, the idea seems almost preposterous.

(c) If the Minoans & Mycenaeans did write any literature, what medium would they most likely have used for it?

The question remains, if they did have a literature of their own, it too was most likely religious in nature. But on what medium would they have written it down? - certainly not on their minuscule tablets, as these were so tiny as to virtually exclude the composition of any religious literature such as that of the origin of mankind (very much in currency at that era in the other civilizations mentioned above). Again, the Minoan scribes writing in Linear B used their tiny tablets solely for ephemeral annual accounting and inventories. Still, I can hear some of you objecting, “But the Babylonians and other civilizations wrote down their creation myths on tablets!” Fair enough. Yet those tablets were larger, and they were deliberately baked to last as long as possible (and they have!), quite unlike the Minoan & Mycenaean ephemeral administrative tablets, which were never baked.  And, as if it isn’t obvious, one civilization is not necessary like another, not even in the same historical era. This is especially so when it comes to the Minoan civilization – and to a very large extent to its cousin, the Mycenaean, versus all others at the time, since clearly the socio-cultural, architectural and artistic defining characteristics of the former (Minoan/Mycenaean) were largely very much at odds with those of the latter, (Egypt, Babylon, Assyria etc.), much more ostentatious than the Minoans... except for one thing...

We are still left with the question of medium. If the Minoans, writing in Linear A and later in Linear B, did have a literature, and let us assume for the sake of argument that they did, which medium would they have used? Before I get right down to that, allow me to point out the Knossos was, as it were, the New York City of the Bronze Age, the metropolis at the very hub of all international trade and commerce on the Mediterranean Sea. All you need to do is look at any map of the Mediterranean, and you can see at a glance that Knossos was located smack dab in the centre of all trade routes to all other great civilizations of her day and age, as we quite clearly see on this composite map: Click to ENLARGE

Minoan Trade Routes 1600-1400 BCE

Is it any wonder that no-one was particularly bent on attacking her, or any other city on the island of Crete, such as Phaistos, since after all everyone everywhere strictly depended on Knossos as the very nexus of international trade? No wonder the city was never fortified. This pretty much how Knossos looked at her height: Click to ENLARGE

role-of-knossos-in-the-trojan-war-according-to-homer

No walls or fortifications of any kind in evidence! That alone is a very powerful indicator of the critical commercial value of Knossos as the very hub of international commerce in her era. But more than anywhere else, the archaeological evidence powerfully evinces a very close trade relationship between Knossos and Egypt, since Minoan jewelry, textiles, pottery and wares have shown up in considerable amounts – sometimes even hordes - in Egyptian archaeological sites. The Egyptians clearly placed extreme value on Minoan goods, as exquisitely crafted as they were. So what? - I hear you exclaim.

So what indeed. These major trading partners each must have had something to trade with the other that the other was in desperate need of. And in the case of Knossos and the Minoans, the Egyptian commodity they would probably have needed most of all would be, you have it, papyrus. The Cretan climate was not dry enough for them to produce it themselves. So they would have had to rely exclusively on Egypt for what was, after all, one of the most precious commodities of the entire Bronze Age.

If we accept this hypothesis – and I see no reason why we should not at least seriously entertain it – then the Minoans may very well have used papyrus and ink to record their religious literature. There is some evidence, however second-hand and circumstantial, that they may have composed religious texts, and possibly even a religious epic, on papyrus.

This evidence, although only secondary, if we are inclined to accept it as such – is the high incidence of the names of Minoan and Mycenaean deities and priestesses, and even of religious rites, on the Linear B accounting and inventory tablets from Pylos, over all other Minoan/Mycenaean sites. Why on earth even bother mentioning the names of so many gods so frequently on minuscule tablets otherwise dealing almost exclusively with anything as boring – yet naturally economically vital - as statistics and inventories of livestock, crops, military equipment, vases and pottery, and the like? There was nothing economically useful about religious rites or babbling on about deities. So why bother, unless it was a matter of real significance to the Minoans and Mycenaeans? But ostensibly, it was. Chuck economics, at least where religion is concerned, they apparently believed. This cannot come as any surprise in the ancient world, and of course, in the Bronze Age itself, where religions and superstitious beliefs were rampant, playing an enormous and absolutely essential rôle in virtually every civilization, every society, great or small. This composite of Minoan/Mycenaean deities, which were were found in droves on every single Minoan/Mycenaean site, makes this blatantly obvious: Click to ENLARGE 

Minoan goddesses TOP Mycenaean goddesses B

(d) The implications of a putative Minoan & Mycenaean military literature in The Catalogue of Ships in Book II of the Iliad: 
  
Given this scenario, I am seriously inclined to believe that not only did the Minoan and Mycenaean scribes writing in Linear B (leaving Minoan Linear A aside for the time being) keep track of religious rites, and possibly even compose a creation myth of their own on papyrus, but that they may very well have also written down a stripped down written version of their oral military epic, their own story of the Trojan War, and if so, the most accurate version of the events of that war. Their original history of the Trojan war would have almost certainly been much more factual than the version of The Catalogue of Ships in Book II of The Iliad, which must have been derived from it, had it existed. This would go a long way to explaining why the Greek of The Catalogue of Ships in Book II of The Iliad is written in the most archaic, and the most-Mycenaean like Greek in the entire Iliad – not to say that Mycenaean Greek does not appear elsewhere in both the Iliad and the Odyssey, because, surprise, surprise, it most certainly does.  

There is one passage in The Catalogue of Ships which really brings this sort of scenario to the fore. I refer specifically to lines 645-652, which read as follows in the original Greek and in my translation: Click to ENLARGE

Iliad II Catalogue of Ships Role of Knossos and Crete in the Trojan Wariliad-2-615-652 (1)

It is passingly strange that Homer bluntly states, in no uncertain terms, that Knossos and Crete were major contributors to the Achaean fleet in the Trojan War, since everyone these days, archaeologists and literati alike, assume without question that Knossos fell long before the Trojan War (ca. 1450-1425 BCE). So who is right?  Homer? - us? -anyone? How on earth can we resolve the blatant discrepancy? We cannot, nor shall we ever. But the fact remains that this extremely important passage in The Catalogue of Ships in Book II of The Iliad leaves me quite unsettled. Since Homer is obviously convinced that Knossos and some 100(!) Cretan cities did figure prominently in the Trojan War, where on earth did he get his information from? I for one believe it is quite conceivable that rewrites on papyrus of some Minoan documents from Knossos and possibly even Phaistos may still have been in existence when Homer wrote the Iliad, or that at least stories of their prior existence were still in circulation. If you think correlatively as I always do, this hypothesis cannot simply be dismissed out of hand.

For my in-depth discussion of this very important question, please refer to this post:

RipleyBelieveitorNot Knossos in the Trojan War

(e) If the Minoans and Mycenaeans wrote some sort of religious and/military literature of their own on papyrus, there is absolutely no evidence that they did! 

This leaves us with only one final consideration. If the Minoans and Mycenaeans actually did compose documents on papyrus, where are they all? The answer to that stares us in the face. While the scribes would have taken great pains to assiduously preserve documents on papyrus in dry storage while the city of Knossos was still flourishing, these same documents would all have rotted away entirely and in no time flat, once Knossos and the Minoan civilization had collapsed. Crete was not Egypt. Egypt’s climate was bone dry; the climate of Crete was, and still is, Mediterranean. Ergo, the whole argument against the Minoans and Mycenaeans ever having had a literature of their own, composed on papyrus scrolls is de natura sua tautological, as is the argument they did. 50/50. Take your choice. But since I am never one to leave no stone unturned, I much prefer the latter scenario.

NOTE: This post took me over 8 (!) hours to compile. So I would appreciate if at least some of you would tag it LIKE, comment on it, or better still, reblog it!
For all the intense work Rita and I put into this great blog of ours, it often shocks me that so few people seem to take much interest in some of our most compelling posts. I am merely letting you know how I feel. Thanks so much. 


Richard

  


Linear B Show & Tell # 3:  Axes & (Temple of the) Double Axes & their Relgious Symbolism: (Click to ENLARGE)

A akosono dapu dapuritoyo axes (temple of the) double axes

If anything, the symbolism if the “axe” and especially of the “double axe” is one of the major underpinnings of Minoan/Mycenaean religion. We find axes and double axes all over the place on Minoan and Mycenaean frescoes, regardless of site, Knossos, Mycenae, Pylos etc.  If ever you visit Knossos, you will see for yourself the famous Temple of the Double Axes. Although the lower story is sealed off, if you look down, you will see a lovely frieze of horizontal double axes on the back wall of the lower story. To this day, no-one really knows the true significance of the symbol of the axe or double axe in Minoan or Mycenaean mythology. They pose a real dilemma. Since the Minoans at Knossos were a peaceable people, why would they plaster double axes all over the walls of a building which we take to be the Temple of the Double Axes (erroneously or not)?

In Mycenae, however, the symbol of the axe or double axe makes perfect sense, as the Mycenaeans were a warlike people. The simplest explanation I can come up with is that the Mycenaeans exported the axe and double axe to Knossos after their conquest or occupation of the city. And no-one is quite sure if the Mycenaeans actually did conquer Knossos, or whether the two “city states” allied in order to greatly strengthen their hand as a unified Empire in the economic and trading affairs of the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean seas ca. 1500-1200 BCE. Of course, Knossos (Late Minoan III Palatial Period) itself fell sometime around 1450-1400 BCE, but the great Mycenaean Empire persisted until ca. 1200 BCE, after which the Nordic Dorians invaded the entire Greek peninsula, the Peloponnese, leaving the Mycenaean “city states” in ruins. It is entirely probable that the Minoan-Mycenaean Empire ca. 1500-1400 BCE rivalled the Egyptian Empire in the scope of its power. Almost certainly the Mycenaeans were actively trading with civilizations along the East coast of Greece and inland, Athens and Thebes (the latter being a Mycenaean stronghold) and with the city of Troy and the inhabitants along the West coast of what we now know as Turkey. What is particularly fascinating and (highly) revealing in the historical perspective of the rise of ancient Greece is that the new Greek colonies which spread all over the Aegean in the 7th. and 6th.  centuries BCE flourished in precisely the same places where the Mycenaeans had carried on such extensive trade some 6 to 10 centuries earlier! There is more to this than meets the eye, as we shall eventually discover in key posts on this blog later this year or sometime in 2015.

Other omnipresent religious symbols included the Horns of Consecration at Knossos, and the Snake Goddess & the goddess Pipituna at both Knossos and Mycenae.

Richard

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