Linear B tablet KN 929 F q 01 with 3 supersyllabograms! ???

Linear B tablet KN 929 F q 01 with 3 supersyllabograms! ???

Supersyllabograms en masse? Is this possible on a single tablet? You can bet on it!

supersyllabograms en masse

Linear B tablet KN 929 F q 01,

Linear B tablet KN 929 F q 01 supersyllabograms KI PE O

with 3 supersyllabograms on it, is a perfect example of this relatively frequent phenomenon on Linear B tablets, regardless of provenance (Knossos, Pylos etc.). On this tablet alone, there are no fewer than 3 supersyllabograms, KI= kitimena ktoina = “a settled plot of land”, PE = periqoro = “(in) a sheep pen” and O = onato = “a lease field”. This is where decipherment can get tricky. At first sight, it looks rather peculiar that the scribe has positioned the first two supersyllabograms, KI and PE before the ideogram for “rams”, but without mentioning the number of rams “in sheep pens on a settled plot of land”, with this statement followed by yet another supersyllabogram, O = onato = “a lease field”, but only this time with the number of rams being specified = 80+. I say 80+ because the right hand side of this tablet is truncated, and so the number of rams could run anywhere from 80 to 89. But I suspect that, in spite of truncation, the number of rams is probably just 80. The problem remains, how do we concatenate the last supersyllabogram O with the previous two?  The only way this can be logically effected is by making the first two SSYLS, KI & PE, dependent on third, O... which is the scribe’s intention. This means that all of the sheep tabulated here are “in sheep pens on a settled plot of land”...  “on a lease field” .

In other words, all 80 of these sheep are being kept in a single sheep pen on only one of the settled plots of land on this lease field. There is no mention of the rest of the sheep on this lease field. But you can bet there are others. The point is that the scribe is explicitly drawing our attention to these 80 sheep alone. The tablet is extremely precise. That is the way of the best inventories. The more precise, the better.   

Linear B tablet KN 1119 E n 322 & the supersyllabogram PE = peribolos = sheep pen

Linear B tablet KN 1119 E n 322 & the supersyllabogram PE = peribolos = sheep pen:

Linear B tablet KN 1119 E n 322 supersyllabogram Pe = periqoro = sheep pen

This tablet, which also uses the supersyllabogram PE, informs us that the shepherd or sheep owner, Dekeraeus cares for 56 rams and 8 ewes at Damnios and another 28 rams in a sheep pen at Kutaistos.

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

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: O = onato = lease field # 2

Introduction to supersyllabograms in Linear B: O = onato = lease field # 2

Knossos tablet KN 1270 E j 213 and the supersyllabogram O

Now that I have fully explained how supersyllabograms function in Mycenaean Linear B, it is going to be a lot easier for us to understand the second tablet in the series, Knossos tablet KN 1270 E j 213, on which once again the supersyllabogram O = onato = “(usufruct) lease field” appears for the second time and again on the bottom line. So the translation of that line must be “... and 48 rams on a lease field on the island of Eksonos -or- Exonos”, where the supersyllabogram O in front of the ideogram for “rams” of course means onato = “(usufruct) lease field”. That was pretty easy. I shall post one more tablet with the supersyllabogram O = onato, to make it crystal clear how it functions. Then we shall turn to the supersyllabogram KI, which for the moment I am keeping a secret from you. Eksonos or Exonos was one of several major islands in the Minoan-Mycenaean Empire where sheep were raised.

Linear B tablet K 1248, Knossos, a special case

Linear B tablet K 1248, Knossos, a special case:

Knossos tablet K 1248 PE rams

Linear B tablet K 1248 at Knossos presents us with a special case, in so far as it contains two new independent supersyllabograms, RU and KA. KA = kameu, which refers to the owner of a kama, a unit of land, which in turn is for all intents and purposes, synonymous with kitimena = a plot of land. This makes such perfect sense in context that it appears almost incontestable. And it also makes sense that the supersyllabogram KA, the owner of a unit or plot of land must be an independent supersyllabogram, because the owner is not necessarily directly linked to the sheep. Any kind of livestock might be present on his land at any given time. Moreover, the the unit or plot of land as such is independent of whatever livestock or, for that matter, crops which might turn up there. Now the tablet further clearly implies that KA = the owner of a unit of land because he is called by name, Kirinetos. He must be quite a wealthy farmer or superintendent of lands because he owns a lot of sheep (95) at one place (unnamed) and five more at Tuniya, which apparently is a minor outpost, given the small number of rams there. On the other hand, it is very difficult to establish whether or not he also owns a unit of land at Rukito = Lykinthos, since using a supersyllabogram, in this case, RU, to replace a toponym, is completely atypical. In fact, I reserve serious doubts that indeed RU refers to a place name. The only reason I selected it (Rukito) is that this is the only entry in Chris Tselentis' Linear B Lexicon which fits the bill. But it is a pretty poor excuse for the full word represented by the independent supersyllabogram RU, and so we must take it with a serious grain of salt.  I have tried my best.

Knossos tablet KN 1280 E m 222, 10 ewes, 10 lambs and 40 sheep in a sheep pen

Knossos tablet KN 1280 E m 222, 10 ewes, 10 lambs and 40 sheep in a sheep pen:

Knossos tablet KN 1280 E m 222 lambs and sheep in sheep pens

Knossos tablet KN 1280 E m 222 deals with 10 ewes as mothers of 10 lambs, and also with 40 rams in a sheep pen. The supersyllabogram PA = pauro in Linear B or pauros in ancient Greek, also parvus in Latin = “small” or “little”, hence a small sheep is naturally a lamb. As if. Unfortunately, although the supersyllabogram PA occurs on no less than 38 Linear B tablets in the sheep husbandry sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy, there is no attested word corresponding to this supersyllabogram anywhere in the Mycenaean Greek lexicon. So I had to make an “educated guess”. Well, actually more than just educated. After all, the ancient Greek word pauros = Latin parvus = “small” or “little” eminently fits the bill. So I chose it, just like that. It is possible that this SSYL does not mean “lamb”, but I rather doubt it, especially in light of the fact that the number of lambs on this tablet is exactly equal to the number of ewes. 10 mothers, 10 lambs.

Knossos Linear B tablet K 919, fleece, penning in sheep on a plot of land etc.

Knossos Linear B tablet K 919, fleece, penning in sheep on a plot of land etc.:

Linear B tablet K 919 with the supersyllabograms KI PE ZA SE

This is a unique Knossos Linear B tablet K 919, the only 1 of its kind in the entire repertoire of Linear B tablets, in so far as in it we have the only appearance in Linear B of the (apparently) independent supersyllabogram SE = sekaze in Linear B or sekazein in ancient Greek, which means “to pen in”. This suits the context like a glove, since the supersyllabogram PE, which means “a sheep pen” pops up immediately after the SSYL KI = “a plot of land”, while the left-truncated O to the right of the tablet is almost certainly the first supersyllabogram,  i.e. O, the first vowel of the Linear B word onaton = “a lease field”. I say that the SSYL SE is apparently independent, since it is not immediately fused with an ideogram,  in this case, the ideogram for “ewes” (100 of them) to its right. But this may be deceptive. The SSYL SE may be partially independent and partially dependent, since (a) it stands on its own in between maro = “fleece” and the ideogram for “ewes”, yet (b) it may very well be dependent on the ideogram for “ewes”, in spite of its placement. This is also a unique phenomenon in Linear B. No other supersyllabogram other than SE is both dependent and independent, if indeed that is what this one is. I cannot be sure. In point of fact, no other scribe ever resorted to placing a supersyllabogram mid-way between a Linear B word, maro, and an ideogram (ewes). Very odd.

Translation of Ashmolean Museum (British Museum) An1910_214_o: 100 rams

Translation of Ashmolean Museum (British Museum) An1910_214_o: 100 rams


a.k.a. Knossos tablet KN 1646 F j 01.

The Ashmolean Museum of the British Museum contains The Sir Arthur Evans Collection of of a couple of dozen tablets, some of them of major importance. This one deals with sheep, which the greatest number of tablets by far in Linear B deal with. The original tablet here is approximately the correct size. Of some 800 extant tablets with supersyllabograms on them, some 640 or 80% are in the agricultural sector alone, and of these 640, some 580 or 90% deal with sheep! That is amazing by all accounts. There are several supersyllabograms in the agricultural sector, as illustrated here in Table 6, Supersyllabograms for sheep in the agricultural sector of Mycenaean Linear B:

Table 6 supersyllabograms for sheep

which is to appear in my article, The Decipherment of Supersyllabograms in Linear B, to appear in the next issue of Archaeology and Science (Belgrade) ISSN 1452-7448, Vol. 11 (2015) which is to be published sometime in the spring of 2017.

On this particular tablet, Knossos tablet KN 1646 F j 01, the supersyllabogram is PE which corresponds to the Linear B term, periqoro = an enclosure, sheep pen, for which the ancient  Greek equivalent (Latinized) is peribolos. This supersyllabogram appears fourth in the left column of Table 6. Apart from Knossos itself, where the vast majority of sheep were raised, Exonos is one of several islands where the Minoans and Mycenaeans raised sheep. 

Linear B tablet KN 595 R p 31 with reference to the chiton undertunic

Linear B tablet KN 595 R p 31 with reference to the chiton undertunic:

Linear B tablet KN 595 R p 31 & the supersyllabograms O PE & KI

This tablet has to be one of the most challenging and most intriguing I have ever had the pleasure of deciphering. Challenging because it introduces two new associative supersyllabograms which appear nowhere else on tablets in the military sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy. Intriguing because, as is to be expected, the two associative supersyllabograms, O & PE in the military sector, cannot possibly mean the same thing as they do in the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy, where they are occur on hundreds of tablets. Associative supersyllabograms, which always appear adjacent to the ideograms they modify, are those which describe some characteristic or element related it, unlike attributive supersyllabograms, which always appear inside the ideogram which they modify. Attributive supersyllabograms are without exception an attribute of the ideogram which they embody. Thus the attributive supersyllabogram KI describes precisely the type of textile its ideogram refers to, namely, the chiton undertunic = kito in Linear B, which the Mycenaean warriors, charioteers and foot soldiers alike wore under their breastplate = toraka in Linear B or thorax in ancient Greek. There is no mystery here.

But what about the associative supersyllabograms O on the first line and PE on the second line? What can they possibly signify? It is obvious from the outset that here, in the military sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy, they cannot conceivably mean the same thing as they do in the agricultural sector, where O = onato i.e. a lease field & PE = periqoro = a sheep pen in Linear B. This is where context comes into play, and in a big way. In fact, without context in the broadest sense of that word, no supersyllabogram, whether associative or attributive, can have any meaning at all.

It is absolutely necessary to define context in its all-inclusive sense. By context I do not merely mean the semantic-syntactical context within the confines of the tablet in which any supersyllabogram whatsoever appears, but also the cross-comparative syntactical contextual significance of each and every syllabogram cutting across any number of tablets in which these supersyllabograms appear in the same sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy. But even at this level, context is not sufficiently accounted for. It is all fine and well to contend that this is all there is to context. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unless and until we take context to mean the actual real world significance of each and every supersyllabogram, let alone word or phrase, we take into account in any and all sectors of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy, contextual and cross-contextual syntactical context alone fall far short of establishing their actual meaning. The real world context is just that. It is the clincher.

For instance, if we contend that the associative supersyllabograms O = onato or lease field, and PE = periqoro or a sheep pen in contextual association alone with the ideogram they modify, we cannot be certain that that is in fact what these two supersyllabograms designate. Unless we take their real world, environmental context fully into account, there is no substantive corroborative evidence that these supersyllabograms actually mean what they appear to mean in their contextual sense alone. The only way we can be certain that these supersyllabograms O & PE actually refer to a lease field and a sheep pen in turn, and nothing else, is to fully account for their real world context, namely, the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy (which just so happens to be almost always sheep). Otherwise, all the contextual analysis in the world amounts to a hill of beans. As it just so happens, these two supersyllabograms, O & PE, in the agricultural sector alone, must mean what they do mean, because there are no other feasible alternatives in their real world environment.

The guiding principle is, change the sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy in which any supersyllabogram appears, and you automatically change its real world significance in the vast majority of cases, with very few exceptions. It is patently impossible for the supersyllabogram O to mean a lease field or for the supersyllabogram PE to refer to a sheep pen in in the military sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy. The idea is ludicrous. That leaves us with no other alternative than to attempt to establish, not only the (cross-) contextual, but also the real world significance of the associative supersyllabograms O & PE in the military sector. This is not such a simple operation as one might assume.

The principle of cross-contextual real world significance of supersyllabograms:

Before moving on to the definitions of these two supersyllabograms in the military sector, it is absolutely necessary to generalize the principle of the sense of any supersyllabogram whatsoever in the context of any and all sectors of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy in which it appears. Hypothetically and in actuality, the meaning of any supersyllabogram whatsoever, associative as well as attributive, depends entirely on both the syntactical and real world context within which it appears. Change the environmental context in which any single supersyllabogram is set, and you automatically change its meaning or more properly speaking, its true significance. Thus, for instance, the supersyllabograms O & PE each signify one thing and one thing only in the agricultural sector and quite another in the military sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy. This is true for every single supersyllabogram which cuts across any or all of the sectors of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy. These sectors are: agricultural, military, textiles, vessels (pottery etc.), religious and toponyms. For instance, the supersyllabogram PA cuts across all sectors but one, vessels. But it cannot and does not carry the same real world significance in any of these sectors. This factor must always be held uppermost in mind in the determination of the real world significance of any and all supersyllabograms, associative or attributive, as they cut across the boundaries separating the sectors of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy.

That leaves us with the burning question, just what do the associative supersyllabograms O & PE signify in the military sector? The answer, at least in the case of the associative supersyllabogram O, is not so obvious as one might imagine. Why so? Unfortunately, when we turn to Chris Tselentis’ superb Linear B Lexicon, we discover to our dismay that there are no fewer than three candidates for the supersyllabogram O. These are (a) that the supersyllabogram O means a military unit, such as a squadron or battalion or (b) it refers to the delivery of the item(s) under the scope or (c) to the purchase of said item(s). Which one is right?  We shall never know. We were not there when the scribes assigned the real world significance to this supersyllabogram, O. Any one of the aforementioned definitions fits the bill where the military sector is concerned. It is particularly tempting to opt for the first meaning, as it is explicitly military, but we must be on our guard about making such an assumption. However, it does appear that the notion of a military unit such as a squadron or battalion makes eminent sense, given the presence of the word eropakeya, which references game hunting. At the same time, that definition looks suspiciously like it is too specific with regard to the real world context, as I am somewhat doubtful whether a scribe would run to such detail in the determination of the significance of the supersyllabogram at hand, namely, O. It makes just as much sense to postulate that O refers to the delivery or purchase of the textile, the chiton undergarment. We were not there when the scribe assigned the meaning he did to this supersyllabogram, O. So we shall never know. So take your pick.

As for the supersyllabogram PE, things are much more straightforward. We already know from the syntactical and real world context of the attributive supersyllabogram KI, which can refer to one thing and one thing only, the (undergarment) chiton, that the associative supersyllabogram PE must without a shadow of a doubt be directly related to its parallel attributive supersyllabogram KI. It just so happens that Chris Tselentis has lit upon the one word which precisely fits the context (at all levels). And that word is pekoto, which refers to a kind of textile. And that kind of textile is quite obviously the chiton. But why would the scribe find it necessary to repeat the notion of textile, once as pekoto (a kind of textile) and secondly as kito (a chiton) specifically? There has to be a legitimate reason; otherwise he would not have done so. The reason is this: the scribe is specifically drawing our attention to the manufacture of a certain type of textile, in this instance, the chiton undergarment. This is the primary thrust of the overall significance of the text (contextual and real world) of this tablet. In other words, the fact that the supersyllabogram O refers to a military hunting unit, or to the delivery or purchase of the items under consideration for game hunting (namely, textiles) is secondary, taking a back seat to the actual manufacture of this item, which is the chiton undertunic. At least that is how I interpret it.

Supersyllabograms for sheep husbandry at Knossos (K series supplemental): Click to ENLARGE

Supersyllabograms for sheep husbandry at Knossos (K series supplemental): Click to ENLARGE

Sheep husbandry tablets Scripta Minoa K series supplemental
We see illustrated above 13 tablets in the K series (supplemental) from Scripta Minoa (Sir Arthur Evans), Cambridge University, 1952. The supersyllabograms on these tablets are 0 for onato = lease field, pa for Paito, i.e. Phaistos (?) and pe for periqoro = enclosure or sheep pen. Although the SSYL pa appears with high frequency on the Linear B tablets from Knossos dealing with sheep husbandry, its precise meaning remains unclear. I have been unable to find any word beginning with the syllabogram pa as first syllable in any lexicon of Mycenaean Greek which can possibly be a match for this supersyllabogram, except for the toponym, Paito = Phaistos. This would appear to be in violation of the meanings of supersyllabograms we should expect in any sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy regardless, since none of the SSYLs I have isolated, defined and categorized to date are place names, with the sole exception of pa, if indeed it represents Phaistos — and I have serious reservations about that. However, in spite of its high frequency on the Linear B tablets from Knossos, there is no other cogent decipherment at hand. So I am forced assume that the SSYL pa is the first syllable of the Mycenaean place name, Paito = Phaistos. Until and unless another more reliable decipherment for the SSYL pa for sheep husbandry in the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy is forthcoming, this translation will have to do. I am obliged to base my conjecture for this decipherment on the plausible assumption that the scribes were in the habit of inventorying sheep, rams and ewes at Knossos, given that tens and tens of thousands of them are mentioned for that city alone, whereas the number of sheep raised in all other centres, including Phaistos, usually runs into the scores or hundreds at most, almost never into the thousands. So it would appear that the scribes took to mentioning Phaistos by name for sheep raising at that locale, whenever they felt this was appropriate. It makes sense, given that Phaistos was the next major locale for sheep raising after Knossos, as illustrated on this map: Click to ENLARGE

Minoan Mycenaean Crete Knossos Phaistos and other centres
This is all the more plausible as few other centres for sheep raising are mentioned with any frequency on the Linear B tablets from Knossos.


Associative Versus Attributive Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B: Appendix H

Associative Versus Attributive Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B: Appendix H

Appendix H neatly summarizes the rôle of supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B. Click to ENLARGE:

H Appendix
I wish to stress one thing in particular. There is a marked difference in associative supersyllabograms, which account for the greatest number of SSYLS in Mycenaean Linear B, and attributive supersyllabograms, which appear primarily in the textiles and vessels (pottery, amphorae, cups etc.) sectors of the Late Minoan III & Mycenaean economies.

Associative supersyllabograms inform of us of some element, usually a land tenure factor, which relates to the ideogram itself, or which circumscribes its environment, especially in the livestock raising sub-sector of the agricultural sector. For instance, the supersyllabogram O, which you see in this Appendix, plus the ideogram for sheep + the number of sheep accounted for in the inventory of any particular tablet, informs us that the sheep are being raised on a lease(d) field, more specifically a usufruct lease field (i.e. a lease field which a farmer tenant cultivates for the use of his own family and village neighbours, with a taxation imposed by the overseer). In other words, the supersyllabogram is associated with the raising of x no. of sheep. The scribe could have simply informed us that x no. of sheep were raised, and left it at that. But he did not. By adding just one syllabogram, in this case a simple vowel = O, he has given us a great deal more information on the raising of the sheep (rams & ewes) on this particular tablet. And he has done all of this without having to resort to writing it all out as text. Since it was critical for the scribes to use as little space as possible on what were (and are) extremely small tablets, the use of supersyllabograms as a substitute for wasteful text is illustrative of just how far the scribes were willing to go to save such invaluable space. They did not do this only occasionally. They did it a great deal of the time, and they always followed the exact same formula in so doing. Not only are syllabograms such as O (on a lease field), KI (on a plot of land) & NE (in their sheep pens) in the field of sheep husbandry associative, they are all what I designate as dependent supersyllabograms, since they are meaningless unless they are immediately adjacent to the ideograms they qualify. No ideogram, no supersyllabogram. Period.

To illustrate the radical difference between a Linear B tablet on which a supersyllabogram + an ideogram is used, and another on which the text is spelled out, take a good hard look at this comparison: Click to ENLARGE

Knossos Tablet KN 933 G d 01 supersyllabograms and text

This comparison between the real tablet from Knossos using only supersyllabograms and ideograms (left) and a putative one using text in full (right) is precisely the reason why so many scribes much preferred the former formulaic approach to inscribing tablets to the latter discursive and space wasting technique. A textual version of this tablet would have been twice as long as the actual tablet. Even if no one nowadays has ever managed to decipher dependent supersyllabograms until now, that cannot conceivably mean that the Linear B scribes did not know what they were, since otherwise, they would never have used them so liberally in the first place. In other words, using SSYLS for no reason at all is tantamount to a reductio ad absurdum. There are thousands of supersyllabograms found on 700 tablets from Knossos. They are there because all of the scribes, as a team or, if you like, as a guild, all understood each and every supersyllabogram to mean one thing and one thing only in its proper context. In other words, supersyllabograms are standardized and always formulaic. This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Homer, who also heavily relied on formulaic expressions, though for entirely different reasons. My point is that formulaic language is a key characteristic of ancient Greek texts, right on down from Mycenaean times through to Attic and beyond. We should never overlook this extremely important characteristic of ancient Greek, regardless of period (1450 – 400 BCE).   

Attributive dependent supersyllabograms always appear inside the ideogram which they qualify, never adjacent to it. They always describe an actual attribute (usually known as an adjectival function) of the ideogram. For instance, the syllabogram PO inside the ideogram for “cloth” is the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of the Mycenaean word ponikiya = “purple”, hence the phrase = “purple cloth”.  Likewise the syllabogram TE, when it appears inside the ideogram for “cloth” is the supersyllabogram for the Mycenaean word tetukuwoa, which means “well prepared” or if you like, “well spun”. Hence, the syllabogram TE inside the ideogram for cloth must mean one thing and one thing only, “well-prepared cloth”. I have discovered, identified & classified well over a dozen examples of associative supersyllabograms. 

Neither type of dependent supersyllabogram, associative or attributive, was ever isolated and tabulated in Mycenaean Linear B until I systematically studied, deciphered and classified scores of them on some 700 tablets from Knossos.


Linear B Ideogram for Wheel + ZE = a set of wheels on axle – Distinctions, Distinctions! Fussy, Fussy

Linear B Ideogram for Wheel + ZE = a set of wheels on axle - Distinctions, Distinctions! Fussy, fussy

Since the use of the supersyllabogram ZE, which invariably means “a pair of/a team of” or minor variants thereof in the military sector of Minoan/Mycenaean society, was the first supersyllabogram we ever discovered, when we deciphered the ideogram for horse IQO + ZE as meaning “a team of horses” back in the spring of 2014, we really ought to have followed that post up right away with our discussion of this combination of ideogram + supersyllabogram, the ideogram for “wheel(s)” + the supersyllabogram ZE. But we did not. This situation we now rectify. We should have posted our observations on these two combinations the other way around, i.e. the ideogram for “wheel(s)” + ZE before the ideogram for horse IQO + ZE, since to be perfectly honest, it was not I who discovered the meaning of the former, but Chris Tselentis, in the Appendix of Linear B Tablets he translated at the end of his excellent Linear B Lexicon, as clearly illustrated here with my first three examples of the usage of the ideogram for “wheel(s)” + ZE: Click to ENLARGE

Mycenaean Lineae B Supersyllabnogram Wheel ZE A

There is absolutely no doubt about it. Chris Tselentis hit the nail right on the head. In addition, he also cleverly intuited the meaning of the second supersyllabogram appearing right after the first (ZE) on the same tablet, i.e. MO which he correctly translated as “monos”, meaning “only 1, 1 only or – single- ”. However, he did not take his insight any further. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that he must not have had the occasion or the chance to do as I have had, i.e. to trudge through some 3,000 tablets in the Scripta Minoa from Knossos. Missing that opportunity, he could not have realistically been expected to discover that there were 24 other Linear B tablets from Knossos sporting the precise same formula, the ideogram for “wheel(s)” + ZE. Nor could he have possibly known that there were not just scores, but hundreds of other Scripta Minoa tablets, on which scores of other formulae, constructed on the exact same principles, recurred over and over and over.  

I need only cite a few examples of these to underscore my hypothesis beyond the point of no return, or more to the point, if you will pardon the pun, to the very point where returns have richly rewarded our exhaustive efforts to dig up the truth about supersyllabograms. And what an amazing phenomenon they have proven to be, in the most practical terms and in their application in the realm of attested Linear B. The most common supersyllabograms by far are found in the agricultural sector of Minoan/Mycenaean society. Of the 3,000 tablets from Knossos I meticulously examined, 800 tablets (27%!) contain supersyllabograms, all of them following the exact same formulaic structure as the military supersyllabograms IQO + ZE & wheel + ZE. Even more astonishingly, some 700 (23%!) of these tablets refer to sheep husbandry (of rams and ewes) alone and to nothing else, attesting to the extreme significance of the sheep raising sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy, the one single sector with which the scribes were obsessed far beyond all others, even the military. Here are just a few examples of supersyllabogram + ideogram formulae in the sheep husbandry sector of the economy, which follow precisely the template established by  IQO + ZE & wheel + ZE to the letter. In order to clearly illustrate the formulaic function of supersyllabograms for those of you who are not familiar at all with Mycenaean Linear B, we have, for instance:

We have for the Military:

Ideogram for horse (IQO) + ZE = a team of horses
Ideogram for X wheels + ZE = X sets of wheels on axle ready to be mounted
Ideogram for X chariots + wheels + ZE = X sets of wheels on axle mounted on chariots

We have for Sheep Husbandry:

Ideogram for X Rams or Ewes + vowel O = X Rams or Ewes on a lease field (Onaton)
Ideogram for X Rams or Ewes + syllabogram KI = X Rams or Ewes on a plot of land (KItimena)
Ideogram for X Rams or Ewes + syllabogram PE = X Rams or Ewes in an enclosure or sheep pen (PEriqoro)
Ideogram for X Rams or Ewes + syllabogram ZA = X Rams or Ewes of this year (ZAweto), meaning X young Rams or Ewes

We have for textiles:

Ideogram for textile or cloth +  syllabogram KU = gold cloth (KUruso)
Ideogram for textile or cloth +  syllabogram RI = linen (RIno)
Ideogram for textile or cloth +  syllabogram TE = well-prepared, well-spun (TEtukowoa)

Even if you have no prior knowledge of Mycenaean Linear B, the latinized forms of the ideograms and supersyllabograms you see above make it crystal clear that the template for the formula for ideogram-dependent supersyllabograms is invariable, from one sector to another of Minoan/Mycenaean society. The very inflexibility of the formula = ideogram + syllabogram, in all cases, clearly serves to underscore its authenticity throughout the range of some 800 of 3,000 tablets in Scripta Minoa, where it so frequently re-appears with the absolute consistency you see illustrated above.

As I have demonstrated over and over on this blog, the same formulae invariably apply to all sectors of Minoan/Mycenaean society, agricultural, military, textiles, pottery and vessels, and religious, without exception. If the formulae work in one sector, they will work in the next. And since the overall structure of the formulae, i.e. ideogram + supersyllabogram, is always invariable and always in that particular order, we have hit upon a phenomenon in Mycenaean Linear B which has been staring us in the face ever since 1952, when our genius, Michael Ventris, first deciphered the vast majority of the Linear B syllabary, but which no-one, not even Prof. John Chadwick or Chris Tselentis, has ever isolated for extrapolation, at least until now. I must however give both of these brilliant researchers, Prof. John Chadwick & Chris Tselentis, the full credit that is without question due to them, for without their invaluable insights into two specific examples of the appearance of supersyllabograms, one by Prof. Chadwick, and the other by Chris Tselentis (as illustrated by the presence of the supersyllabogram ZE with the ideogram for – wheel – in Knossos Tablet KN SO 4439 above), I would have never been able to extrapolate their discoveries of these two specific occurrences into the general hypothesis of the signal contribution of supersyllabograms, which occur at high enough a frequency (800 times in 3,000 tablets) to warrant their inclusion as actual Linear B words and phrases in the lexicon of extant Mycenaean Linear B vocabulary. What once seemed merely to be stray single syllabograms on so many tablets have turned out not to be simple syllabograms at all, but the first syllabogram i.e. the first syllable of scores of words and even entire phrases in Mycenaean Greek.

If this is not a major step forward in the decipherment of Mycenaean Linear B, I don’t know what is.