winter haiku d’hiver – our family’s fête = dîner de famille

winter haiku d’hiver – our family’s fête = dîner de famille

our family’s fête,
our menorah, our blessing  –
Yahweh is silence


dîner de famille,
la menorah nous bénit  –
Yavé est silence

Richard Vallance

Mycenaean Linear B Units of Dry Measure, Knossos Tablet KN 406 L c 02: Click to ENLARGE

Mycenaean Linear B Units of Dry Measure, Knossos Tablet KN 406 L c 02: Click to ENLARGE

KN 416 L c 02 akareu paito spice total

The translation of this tablet from Knossos into English is relatively straightforward. The problem is that no one really knows what exactly the unit of measure designated by the Linear B symbol that looks like a T means. My best guess is that the 9 shakers of coriander (I say, shakers, because the ideogram looks like a shaker & it is most likely folks used shakers back in the good old days in Knossos, just as we do nowadays). However, the problem remains, how do 9 shakers of coriander add up to only 2 units. My best guess is that the shakers were boxed, 5 units per box. So 9 shakers would have filled one box and most of another... something along those lines.

Andras Zeke of the Minoan Language Blog gives a value of approx. 3 kilograms per unit, meaning we would end up with about 5 kg. or so for 9 shakers of coriander. They would have had to be really huge shakers! No one could have held them. So it is quite apparent that the measured value Andras Zeke has assigned to our wee little T is in fact way off the mark, if we are to believe our eyes. On the other hand, that T might very well have been divisible by 10 or even 100, given that the Mycenaean numeric system is based on units of 10, just like our own. So it is conceivable that we are dealing with some kind of metric system here. Given that the Mycenaean numeric is base 10, that would make sense. So we could be dealing with something like 50 grams and not 5 kilograms of coriander... that would make a hell of a lot of sense.  But since we were not there to see how the scribes allocated the spice jars into so-called units, we shall never really know. Still, there is no harm in speculating.

Now, as for my translation of the ideogram for a spice container (spice shaker), I have translated it specifically as a “a coriander spice shaker”, since on every single every tablet, bar none, from Knossos mentioning spice containers, it is always coriander that is spelled out. The folks at Knossos must have been crazy about coriander!  Since there are only 2 or 3 tablets which do not mention coriander outright, that leaves us with around 95 % of all tablets referring to spices which do spell it out. Linear B scribes were very fussy about having to spell out the names of spices, or for that matter, anything on Linear B tablets which could be easily represented, i.e. symbolized by an ideogram. The ideogram appears on this tablet, but the word does not. This is practically beside the point. It appears that the scribe simply did not bother writing it, for some reason or another. The practice of spelling out the name of any item on a Linear B tablet which can easily be illustrated with an ideogram is very unusual. The scribes were sticklers for saving space at all costs on what is admittedly a very small medium, rarely more than 30 cm. wide by 15 cm. deep, and more often than not, even smaller than that!  So the fact that the scribes generally did spell out coriander as the spice of choice for Minoan Knossos seems to imply that the king, queen, princes and the palace attendants prized it very highly. 

Another point: almost all of the tablets mentioning koriyadana = coriander also use the word apudosi = delivery, i.e. they tabulate the actual delivery of so many units of coriander to the palace. So this tablet can be translated any of these ways:

Achareus delivers to Phaistos 9 shakers of coriander for a total of 2 units
Achareus delivers for deposit at Phaistos 9 shakers of coriander for a total of 2 units.
or even
Achareus delivers for deposit at the palace of Phaistos 9 shakers of coriander for a total of 2 units.

These are all valid translations, since after all everyone who was anyone, meaning the scribes, the nobility and the wealthy businessmen) knew perfectly well that such precious commodities as coriander could only be consumed by the well-to-do, and that these folks all lived – you guessed it – in the palace! There was absolutely no need in the minds of the scribes, meaning, in practice, for them to write out what was obvious to everyone. This is precisely why nowadays we need to learn to read out of the tablets what the scribes were actually inventorying, rather than trying to read into them. If this sounds like a tough slog, you bet it is. But it is far better to aim at getting the actual gist of the message on the tablet (whether or not spelled out in text, or simply with logograms and ideograms) than to strip down your translation to the point where it becomes unintelligible.

This is all the more true in light of the fact that at least 800 of 3,000 tablets I meticulously consulted from the Scripta Minoa from Knossos contain very little if any text at all, and rather a lot of supersyllabograms (single syllabograms), ideograms and logograms. The reason for this is obvious: in order to save as much space as humanly possible, the Linear B accountants (scribes) never wrote out what was obvious to them all as a guild. In other words, Mycenaean Linear B, as an inventory and statistical accounting language – which is what it basically is – combines two notable features: (a) the language is highly formulaic & (b) the greater part of it is shorthand for Mycenaean Greek text inferred but rarely explicitly spelled out. If this sounds peculiar to us nowadays, we need only recall that this is exactly how modern shorthand functions. All too many Linear B translators have completely overlooked this fundamental characteristic of Mycenaean Linear B, which in large part explains its almost total uniformity over a wide geographic area, from Knossos to Phaistos and other Mycenaean sites on the island to Crete itself to Pylos on the opposite coast, all the way to Mycenae and Tiryns on the far side of the Peloponnese and even as far away as Thebes in Boeotia, which was a key Mycenaean centre and which has been continually occupied from then on right through to today. Click on the map to ENLARGE:

Thebes Boetia

All of this further implies that, while Linear B, the accounting and inventorying language for Mycenaean Greek, was homogeneous, uniform and formulaic to the teeth, the actual Mycenaean dialect may very well have not been. In fact, I sincerely doubt it was, since it is symptomatic of all ancient Greek dialects, even those which are closely related (such as the Ionic and Attic) to diverge and go their own merry way, regardless of the structure, orthography and grammatical quirks of their closest relatives. Since that was surely the case with every ancient Greek dialect with which we are familiar – and God knows it was! - then it must have also been the case with Mycenaean Greek and with its closest, kissing cousin, Arcado-Cypriot Greek, the latter written in Linear C or in the quirky Arcado-Cypriot alphabet. Even though no other ancient Greek dialects were as closely related as were Mycenaean and its kissing cousin, Arcado-Cypriot, these dialects were somewhat different. What is more, it is almost certain that there were notable variations within each of these dialects, the further afield you went. In other words, the Mycenaean Greek spoken at Knossos and Phaistos, which would have been much more influenced by its forbear, the Minoan language, was a little different from that spoken at Pylos, and doubtless even more from the Mycenaean Greek at Mycenae, Tiryns and especially Thebes.

But spoken Mycenaean Greek and the Mycenaean Linear B accounting and inventorying language are not the same beast. The latter is a homogeneous, formulaic and largely shorthand subset of the former. I shall have a great deal more to say about this extremely important distinction between the two in future.


All About Sypersyllabograms: Their Enormous Impact on the Nature of Linear B – Everything you ever wanted to know, but were afraid to ask!

All About Sypersyllabograms: Their Enormous Impact on the Nature of Linear B – Everything you ever wanted to know, but were afraid to ask!

Given that supersyllabograms invariably display the characteristics highlighted in the previous post, they must also be formulaic by nature. The several restrictions placed on their disposition next to or inside ideograms, the invariability of their meanings within each sector, and other such considerations means they are always formulaic. Although the language of Homer is also very often formulaic in the Iliad, especially in The Catalogue of Ships in Book II, there is probably little or no relationship between the formulaic nature of supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B and his archaic formulae. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that formulaic language is a particular characteristic of both Mycenaean Linear B and of Homer’s own so-called Epic Greek. However, the nature of the formulaic language of Linear B and that of Homeric Greek are of a different order.

In the chart which follows, we see for the first time ever on our blog the disposition of each supersyllabogram in each sector of Minoan/Mycenaean society, with repetitions of certain supersyllabograms, which re-appear in different sectors, usually with different meanings from one sector to the next, with the exception of the supersyllabogram “newo/newa”, which always means “new”, regardless of sector. It alone appears in three sectors: agriculture (livestock, mainly sheep, rams & ewes), textiles & vessels, as seen in the chart here: Click to ENLARGE


While the meanings of some supersyllabograms are firmly established, due primarily to their high frequency on Linear B tablets from Knossos, others are less firmly demonstrable. For instance, in the sector, agriculture, sub-sector sheep husbandry, the meanings of the supersyllabograms O = lease field, KI = plot of land , NE = new & PE = enclosure or sheep pen, are firmly established with a very high degree of probability, if not total accuracy. In the case of PE, the definition is 100 % confirmed, since on one of the tablets in that series, the scribe conveniently spelled out the word in full, instead of using the simple superyllabogram PE. It is this very tablet which establishes beyond a doubt the authenticity of supersyllabograms as a phenomenon innate to Linear B alone, and not found in Arcado-Cypriot Linear C. As for Minoan Linear A, no-one knows whether SSYLS exist, because the language remains recalcitrant to decipherment.

In the military sector, the supersyllabogram ZE almost certainly means “a pair of..” or “a team of...”, with a 90 % or greater probability. However, once we get past the two primary sectors in which supersyllabograms are used extremely frequently, given that there are so many tablets to be found in these two primary sectors of Minoan/Mycenaean society, the situation devolves by degrees into less certainty.

Supersyllabograms found adjacent to any ideogram, as for instance those with the ideograms for sheep, ram, ewe (livestock), or horse or chariot (military) are considered to be associative. Associative Supersyllabograms are those which define characteristics of the environment or specific context in which their associative ideograms appear. For instance, it is natural and logical to associate sheep with lease fields, plots of land & sheep enclosures. The same goes for military ideograms. The ideograms for horse and chariot naturally associate with pairs or teams of... (fill in the blanks).    

There are still quite a large number of tablets in the textiles sector; so the meanings of most of the supersyllabograms in that sector are more than likely still very reliable, not the least because each of them still makes good sense: KU = gold cloth, PA = dyed cloth, PU = purple or Phoenician cloth (amounting to pretty much the same thing, anyway) & RI = linen. I would assign at least a 70 % to 90 % degree of probability to each of the definitions I have deduced for each of these supersyllabograms in textiles. The supersyllabograms in the sector of vessels (amphorae, drinking cups, water jugs etc.) may be a little less firm, but I am still convinced that I deduced most of them accurately, yielding a probability of 70 % - 80 %.

Supersyllabograms in the textile and vessels sector are another kettle of fish. Since they appear inside the ideograms they modify, they are attributive in nature. In other words, they describe attributes of the textiles or vessels which they modify, and are, in almost all instances, adjectival in nature. Their placement inside the ideograms makes it quite clear that this is what the scribes actually indented, since a symbol inside another always describes attributes of the ideogram in which it appears. Should anyone doubt this, we have only to appeal to symbols appearing inside others as they are found in today’s world, since they follow the exact same principle. For instance, we have: click to ENLARGE:

Modern Superalphabetical Symbols

Need I say more?     

On the other hand, I have been quite unable to decipher at least one supersyllabogram, SE, which sadly appears only 3 times on extant tablets from Knossos. For this reason alone, I dare not assign it a meaning, since I am quite sure that if I did, I would probably be (way) off the mark.

There remain the supersyllabograms for place names, which are in a category of their own, since none of them appear with ideograms, and all of them are found on only 1 tablet, Heidelburg HE Fl 1994, which Prof. Thomas G. Palaima so expertly deciphered in 1994. Click on this banner to read his translation and my explanatory POST in its entirety:


There can be no question whatsoever that these are in fact supersyllabograms, the very first ever to have been isolated, for which we owe Prof. Palaima full credit. Of course, he did not define them as supersyllabograms, as he was unaware of the high frequency of the rest of them as adduced above in this post. Nevertheless, they are what they are, supersyllabograms. We have KO for Konoso (Knossos), MU for Mukene (Mycenae), ZA for Zakros etc.

And if a few of you are still in doubt as to the viability of supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B, remember: the very same phenomenon applies to internationally standardized signs nowadays.

Once again, nowadays, we have a symbol within a symbol, or if you like, a symbol inside an ideogram. It is truly amazing how such a practice has resurfaced after at least 32 centuries, even if it was only the Minoan/Mycenaean scribes in the ancient world who figured out the system in the first place, leaving it interred for 32 centuries before it re-appeared in the twentieth century. So once again, we find ourselves face to face with a very ancient script, namely the Linear B syllabary, which was so systematic, formulaic and logical that it can only be considered as a brilliant breakthrough in the art of writing. After all, supersyllabograms are not the only phenomenon Linear B sported with such bravado. Ideograms in and of themselves abounded (over 100 of them!). They even used ideograms as the equivalent of subject headings as they resurfaced in nineteenth century libaries, in the Dewey Decimal & Library of Congress systems.

Witness just one tablet alone, namely, Pylos 641-1952 (Ventris), the very first tablet ever translated with complete success by none other than the great Michael Ventris himself, and you can see these “subject headings” for yourself, plastered all over that amazing tablet! Why did the scribes use so many ideograms for vessel types on this single tablet? The answer was obvious, at least to them... the ideograms for vessels were the signposts or indexing markers of this tablet which instantly allowed the scribes to identify the precise type of vessel described in the full text immediately preceding each one, even before they bothered reading the descriptive text. That this is a very clever indexing system goes without saying. And it re-appears over and over on so many tablets that it is without question one of the hallmarks of the Linear B syllabary. Finally, their numeric accounting system was the most efficient ever devised in the ancient world. Summarizing all of the streamlined characteristics of Linear B we have just enumerated, it becomes obvious that Linear B was, first and foremost, a carefully devised form of shorthand for Mycenaean Greek. Once again, the Mycenaean scribes anticipated a methodology for writing business transactions which would not re-appear as modern shorthand – you guessed it – until the nineteenth century AD.

All of this adds up to one inescapable conclusion: Linear B was the world’s fist ever commercial shorthand, and until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, there was nothing even remotely as efficient, logical and practical ever to be found throughout history until... the modern era. This is precisely why I am so in awe of Linear B, a script which was millennia ahead of its time. It is also why I refuse to characterize Linear B as being prehistoric. It is nothing of the sort. It is in a word, a proto-historic writing and accounting system, leading me to the inexorable conclusion that Minoan/Mycenaean society was in fact not prehistoric at all, but proto-historic. I am not the first linguist specializing in ancient linguistics to have asserted this claim, but I am the first to speak up as emphatically and unequivocally as this.        

This then has been a brief summary of the functions and the key rôle supersyllabograms play in the decipherment of Mycenaean Linear B.



Linear B “To all the gods… ” There is much more than meets the eye in Rita Roberts’ Astute Translation

Linear B “To all the gods... ” There is much more than meets the eye in Rita Roberts’ Astute Translation: Click to ENLARGE

Rita Roberts Translation Linear B tablet to all the gods

Now that Rita has been translating tablets from Linear B into English for well over a year, she has come to learn quite a few tricks of the trade, and is well aware of the numerous pitfalls that beset translators of Mycenaean Greek, who can and all too often do fail to “read” everything that the scribes meant to convey, leaving unsaid what they all knew perfectly well they actually were saying to one another, regardless of inventorial context. This phenomenon occurs over and over on the majority of Linear B tablets, and always for the same reason: the scribes were forced to save as much valuable space as they possibly could on a very small, cramped medium, the Linear B tablet. They quickly became extremely adept at finding clever little shortcuts around the problem of cramming as much essential – versus inessential - information as they could into the little space afforded them.  

What Rita has assumed in the specific context of this text, which happens to be uncharacteristically religious for Linear B, is just this: the text does not merely read, “to all the gods oil 1”. That is a patently ridiculous, semantically stripped translation. This would be tantamount to an inventory nowadays stating something silly like, “for the car oil 1”, when we really mean,“1 refill can of type XX oil for our car.”

She is fully aware that the Linear B scribe who wrote this text was actually saying much more than that. The scribe was able to telescope or abstract the full content of his message into just 2 Linear B words + 1 ideogram + the numeral 1. So what exactly was he saying? Today, we no longer know, nor can we. But rest assured that all his fellow scribes knew exactly what he was saying, because they all followed the same “script”, consisting of the same formulaic, usually partial, phrases; the same logograms and ideograms; and the same supersyllabograms repeated over and over, from Knossos to Phaistos to Pylos to Mycenae to Thebes, you name it, anywhere where Mycenaean Greek was written down in Linear B. The Mycenaean Greek as composed in Linear B was by far the most uniform ancient Greek script, because it was an inventorial language, and nothing more, in other words, a finely telescoped subset of the Mycenaean dialect. No one has ever seen the Mycenaean dialect per se actually written out in full sentences, paragraphs and documents, because it never was. I repeat, Linear B is a small statistical inventorial subset of Mycenaean Greek. To view it any other way is tantamount to forcing it far beyond its clearly defined, restricted boundaries, and to twist it into something it was never meant to be, i.e. a dialectical script.

However, just because we can no longer really be sure nowadays what the formulaic language the Minoan/Mycenaean scribes actually conveyed in each and every specific context (agricultural, textiles, military, religious etc.), this does at all not imply that we cannot hazard various tenable reconstructions of their original intent... because in fact we can. In some cases, the underlying full context lies closely enough to the surface that only a few, possibly as many as four, truly tenable translations are likely to arise. That is the case with this tablet. Rita and I discussed at some length the putative meanings that could possibly be assigned to this text, and we could only come up with four. These are:

(a) Rita’s own translation, “To all the (our) gods an offering * of one gift of oil.”
(b) “To all the (our) gods one vessel (vial) of oil.”     
(c) “To all the (our) gods an offering * of one vessel (vial) of olive oil.”
(d) “To all the (our) gods a gift of one vessel (vial) of oil.”

OMITTED: any of these words: our, offering, gift, vessel, vial, olive oil & anyway, just who are “all the gods”! The scribes all knew. We don’t. Too bad. Tough.

The reason for the insertion of the Mycenaean Linear B word, * APUDOSIS * (offering) is transparent enough. It was frequently used on Linear B tablets in contexts just such as this, and so, if omitted, it can still be supplied. Secondly, the oil used by the Greeks was almost always olive oil, which of course had to be contained in some type of vessel. There are well over 20 Linear B ideograms for vessels. But why mention the vessel when (as I am sure any scribe would have told you) it is obvious to any idiot that you put olive oil in a vessel. Omit what it obvious to “everyone” (us scribes) & save lots of space. Great! Ergo... one thing is pretty much certain. At least one of the translations above has to be almost spot on, regardless of word order, which does not amount to much more than a hill of beans in Mycenaean Greek anyway, given that as much is left unsaid as is spelled out.

In our next post, we shall discuss in greater detail the profound implications this methodology of interpretation has on the decipherment and translation of practically all Linear B tablets right acrossthe board.


Rita Roberts’ Translation of Knossos Tablet K 1092, Rams at Eksonos & Sygrita

Rita Roberts’ Translation of Knossos Tablet K 1092, Rams at Eksonos & Sygrita: Click to ENLARGE

Rams at Ekoso
Rita Roberts, my Linear B student who is now at the advanced stage of learning Mycenaean Greek, and I had quite a field day discussing the implications of various interpretations which might be lent to this tablet in translation. What especially intrigued me was the possibility that one could interpret the toponym Eksonos as meaning “outside the belt”, where “belt” refers to a belt of arable agricultural land. Rita, who lives near Heraklion and Knossos in Crete, put me onto this scent, as she explained to me that even to this day sheep are raised on non-arable land in Crete and Greece, which makes perfect sense when you come to think of it... except that, being Canadian and living in the “Great White North”, the idea never crossed my mind. It takes a native to know the lay of the land. As soon as she said that, I instantly recognized the possibility of parsing Eksonos into the Greek preposition “eks” + the genitive adjectival “zonos” (of a belt), which may or may not have been current in Mycenaean Greek. The point is that Prof. John Chadwick and other Mycenaean Greek researchers since have often enough noted that Mycenaean toponyms and eponyms can sometimes be parsed into Greek words which, taken together, make semiological sense. Interpretations such as this are of course susceptible to plenty of criticism, because there is no real evidence that the Mycenaeans and Minoan scribes who worked for them were necessarily conscious of such connotations. But the idea is intriguing nevertheless.

Once you accept the notion that Eksonos has this notion built-in, then you can extrapolate this meaning to other Minoan/Mycenaean sites for sheep husbandry on pasture land, which is why we did this for Sygrita on this tablet. Anyway, whether or not the toponym Eksonos carries this connotation with it, sheep were raised in antiquity and are still raised today in Greece (let alone pretty much anywhere else in the world) on non-arable land, which is to say, outside the fertile agricultural belt for crops.

On the other hand, we should probably not read too much into (or more like it, out of) the tablets, since that sort of practice can and often does lead to mis-interpretations. Still, since Linear B is by and large a shorthand script for Mycenaean Greek, the tiny size of the tablets necessitating such drastic shortcuts, it is by no means inconceivable that the scribes, who knew perfectly well what the tablets meant to themselves, and who could care less what they might mean to future generations, given that the tablets were devised for annual accounts only, and nothing more than that, did not see any need to bother with explaining away the contents of their ephemeral annual accounts, destroyed at the end of every “wetos” or fiscal year. Prof. John Chadwick himself, in his ground-breaking book, The Decipherment of Linear B (Cambridge University Press, © 1958), makes this perfectly clear, when he notes:

By contrast there are several mentions in the tablets of ‘this year’ (toto wetos), ‘next year’ (hateron wetos) and  ‘last year’s’ (perusinwos). These phrases would be meaningless, unless the tablets were current only for a year. This seems to imply that at the beginning of every year the clay tablets were scrapped and a new series started. (pg. 128, italics Chadwick’s)

and again, that Linear B “is rather like shorthand; the man who wrote it would have little difficulty reading it back...” to other scribes, “But a total stranger might well be puzzled, unless he knew what the contents were likely to be.”  (pg. 131, italics mine). 

I can easily carry Prof. Chadwick’s conclusions one step further. I can now assert with confidence that a great deal of Linear B is precisely that, shorthand, and in fact far more of it is shorthand than has been assumed until now. Logograms and ideograms play a significant rôle in the frequent application of shorthand to Linear B. But supersyllabograms, which are an entirely new phenomenon which I myself discovered only last year, come into play and in a much bigger way than logograms and ideograms, as we shall soon enough see this year. There are in fact so many supersyllabograms (31) that it astonishes me that no-one actually isolated them in the past 64 years since the successful decipherment of some 90 % of the Linear B syllabary by our dear friend, the genius, Michael Ventris, in June 1952. 

PS I invite anyone who is adept at translating Linear B tablets to contest our rather unusual translation of this one, since after all, we may have strayed too far from the proverbial aurea mediocritas, “the golden mean”, just as the splendid Roman poet, Horace (65-27 BCE) characterized it so long ago:

Auream quisquis mediocritatem diligit, tutus caret obsoleti sordibus tecti, caret invidenda sobrius aula. “Whoever cherishes the golden mean is sober, safe and secure from the filthiness of a mansion fallen into disrepair, and free of palace intrigues.” (Translation mine)


Progressive Linear B: Level 4.3 Accounting List Ideograms of Crops & Produce:

Progressive Linear B: Level 4.3 Accounting List Ideograms of Crops & Produce (Click to ENLARGE):


This soi-disant (i.e. unattested) “tablet” written in Linear B, presumably from Pylos, amply serves to illustrate the eminently practical methodology for shorthand the Mycenaean scribes followed to compile accounting lists of any kind, as we can see for instance in this specific example. The “tablet” you see here never did exist, but there can be no doubt whatsoever that Mycenaean scribes, whether here, at Pylos, or anywhere else they worked (Knossos, Chania, Mycenae etc.) could have, and probably did compile lists very much like the one you see here. I compiled this accounting list of agricultural crops and produce to clearly illustrate the almost universal application the scribes made of ideograms – instead of syllabograms – to compile lists, usually for accounting purposes. As we have previously demonstrated on this blog, the use of syllabograms only for such long lists would have proven to be wasteful in the extreme on the small baked tablets the Linear B scribes used in an agro-thalassocratic economy as prosperous as that of the Minoans and Mycenaeans, so heavily reliant on widespread international trade to all parts of the he Mediterranean (Egypt, Phoenicia, Tyre, the Hittite Empire and beyond), which they seem to have dominated for at least two centuries from ca. 1450 – ca. 1200 BCE.


INTRODUCTION TO IDEOGRAMS: Level 4 (Advanced) 2014

INTRODUCTION TO IDEOGRAMS: Level 4 (Advanced) 2014

It is absolutely essential that you read the table below which includes (Click to ENLARGE):

MERITIRIYA ideograms man woman horse chariots

[1] an actual extant Linear B tablet, which contains the ideogram for “woman” &

[2] examples of 5 basic ideograms for – man/human being, woman, horse, chariot (with wheels) & chariot without wheels.  It is vital to understand that there are well over 100 ideograms in Linear B, all of which you will have to learn if you are to translate Linear B tablets, since the scribes almost always made copious use of ideograms to save precious space on the small clay tablets they used for transcription of what was, after all, primarily accounting information. So once again, we are confronted with the phenomenon of shorthand, to which the Minoan & Mycenaean scribes had frequent recourse in principle and in practice, again to save precious space on the tablets.  Shorthand is a prime characteristic of Linear B, which sets the script apart from alphabetic Greek, which, being a literary language,  resorted to shorthand far less often.  Oh and by the way, if you are already finding this POST tedious to read, why bother reading any further?  If you are at Level 1 & 2 (Basic) or only part way through Level 3 (Intermediate), this is probably what is bound to happen. So if I were you, which admittedly I am not, I would tuck this post away in the back of my mind, copy the text into my "Linear B Lessons" folder, and come back to it later, when I am really ready to proceed to Level 4 (Advanced).  Otherwise, I guarantee this post is going to bring on a headache!  That's what it almost did to me when I wrote it!

[3] Read the copious Notes, which clarify the application of ideograms to scribal transcriptions on Linear B tablets, on which the use of ideograms is – I repeat – the rule rather than the exception. If you do not read the Notes, you will not grasp one of the most fundamental principles and practices of scribal execution of Linear B; hence, you will not be able to translate the vast majority of Linear B tablets. 

[4] As the Notes explain (in excruciating detail!) the application of ideograms to Linear B writing, you will benefit immensely from reading them thoroughly and as often as required until you finally have the concept of ideograms down pat.  Once you reach this threshold in learning Linear B  at Level 4 (Advanced), you will be in a solid position to start translating Linear B tablets.  But a word of warning!  There are 2 Advanced Levels, 4 & 5, and you will not be able to “completely” master the art of translating Linear B tablets until you have pursued the Lessons from Levels 1 & 2 (Basic) through Level 3 (Intermediate) all the way to Levels 4 & 5 (Advanced).  Still, not to worry, friends.  You can take all the time you need and want to learn Linear B, as I tailor the teaching/learning process to the individual needs and learning curve(s) of each student.   I am here for you and not the other way around.

For those of you who already have a decent grasp of Linear B, and feel confident enough to proceed to  Level 4 (Advanced: Part 1), we will proceed in earnest with our lessons at this level  starting in January 2014.  As for the rest of you, please do not worry, and do not let this concern you in the least.  When you feel you are ready to advance to Level 4, we will do just that, but not before.  I honestly dislike placing needless pressure on my students.   Rushing things achieves nothing but frustration for teacher and student alike.  And who needs that, like a hole in the head?