Supersyllabograms in the Military Sector of Mycenaean Linear B: The Table above illustrates all of the supersyllabograms in the military sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy. These are identified in Linear B first, then in archaic Greek, and then translated into English. The Linear B Latinized names for each of the supersyllabograms follow, starting TOP DOWN with the left column and then the right. LEFT COLUMN: dapu = double axe kito = chiton mono = single, spare qero (ouisia) * = (wicker) shield qeqinomeno = made by twisting, woven RIGHT COLUMN: rino = linen rousiyewiya = a part of the reins made of leather perekeu ** = axe wirineo = leather zeukesi = a pair of, a set of wheels, a team of horses (derived from the Greek zeugos for “yoke” NOTES: * The supersyllabogram is simply QE, but it stands for qero ousiya = “a wicker shield” ** The supersyllabogram is actually WE, which may not seem to make much sense, given that the word it represents is perekeu = “an axe”, but there you have it. That is what it is. And these are the actual supersyllabograms in the military sector. PS This is for you, Rita!
Linear B tablet 04-39 N u 10 from the Knossos “Armoury” illustrating the SSYLS ZE & MO While the translation of this tablet is relatively straightforward, there are a few points worthwhile mentioning. The first is that the supersyllabogram MO, appearing for the first time on this tablet, is the first syllable of the Linear B word – mono - , meaning – one, single (i.e. spare). Secondly, since the tablet is right-truncated, we do not know how many spare wheels (MO) the scribe has inventoried, but my bet is that there is a spare wheel for each set of wheels on axle. Given that there are 3 sets of wheels on axle, that would mean that there would be 3 spare wheels. Lastly, and significantly, there is absolutely no mention of a chariot on this tablet (nor is there on well over a dozen other tablets), leading me to the all but inescapable conclusion that a considerable number of chariots were fully assembled without their wheels, the wheels being separately manufactured. But why? There are three discreet sets of tablets discussing the construction of chariots and their wheels (on axle): (a) The first set of tablets inventory fully assembled chariots with their wheels on axle and their spare wheel (if present); (b) The second is comprised of tablets for fully assembled chariots without their wheels on axle and; (c) The third details the construction of wheels on axle, usually along with spare wheels, with no mention of chariots. Now this third set of tablets raises the inescapable question: why do so many tablets refer to the construction of wheels (both wheels on axle and spares), with no mention whatsoever of the chariots for which they are destined? The most plausible explanation for these discrepancies is that the privileged functionary who has ordered his chariot does not want it delivered with its wheels already on axle [set (b) above], because he wishes to have the wheels separately manufactured according to his own specifications. We can be reasonably certain that VOPs such as the wanax (King) or the rawaketa (Commander-in-Chief) were the only supernumeraries who could possibly afford to have chariot wheels manufactured to their exacting specifications. Here you see a composite of four different styles of Mycenaean chariot wheels: Such highly placed aristocrats would probably have been terribly fussy about the style and decoration of the wheels they wanted mounted. So the wheels on axle would have been manufactured separately from the chariots, which neatly explains why numerous tablets speak of wheel construction alone, while others refer to chariots without their wheels attached destined for the same elite customers. In fact, these two types of tablets appear to run in tandem with each other, there being one tablet referring to the chariot fully assembled without wheels on axle and a corresponding one detailing the manufacture of the wheels on axle (and most of the time of the spare wheel), but with no mention of the chariot itself. The difficulty is which Knossos tablet dealing with a particular fully assembled chariot without wheels is to be paired with which corresponding tablet describing the manufacture of wheels on axle (and most often a spare wheel to boot)? That is a question we shall never know the answer to, but the plausibility of this method of dual (or paired) construction of chariots without wheels in tandem with the separate manufacture of wheels makes sense.
Linear B tablets K 04.30 and 04.33 from the Knossos “Armoury” illustrating the use of the supersyllabogram ZE K04.33, being a mere fragment, can be translated in the blink of an eye as “one set of wheels on axle”, although we can be certain that the lost part of this fragment dealt with chariot construction and design. What on earth else? As far as K 04.30 is concerned, we have to wonder why the scribe set the word “newa” = “new” so far to the right of the phrase “Komoda opa”. I believe there is tenable explanation for this. We notice that the word “newa” is closer to the ideogram for a set of wheels on axle = ideogram for wheel + ZE. So this may indicate that the scribe probably wishes to draw our attention more to the fact that this set of wheels is “new” than to the other parts of the chariot. But that still begs the question, why? Scribes often separate single syllabograms or words from phrases to the right or left of the phase each is related to. As I have often said before, on this blog and in my published papers, no scribe or writer uses any linguistic device in any language whatsoever, unless that linguistic device plays a specific mandatory role in context, the function of which cannot be substituted by any other textual approach. This is the case here. The scribe is surely stressing that this set of wheels on axle is not just new but brand new. But again, why on earth would anyone do that, when it is apparent to the reader that the entire chariot is new? Or is it? Appearances can be deceiving. The emphasis on the newness of the set of wheels on axle leads me to believe that this chariot is to some extent constructed with spare or used parts. Consequently, we may assume that many other chariots inventoried on tablets are also partially constructed from spare or used parts. If that is the case, then the fact that the set of wheels is brand new takes precedence over the condition of the other parts in the construction of this chariot in particular makes perfect sense, at least to me. This explanation is sound. Given that the same ploy pops up on a considerable number of tablets, and not just in the military sector of the economy, we have to ask ourselves why the scribe has resorted to this approach in each and every case where similar dispositions of syllabograms are separated from the text they appear in on tablets, regardless of economic sector. In other words, the praxis of the separation of (a single) syllabogram (s) from the rest of the text on the same line is never effected as a recurring linguistic practice without good reason. We shall discover that this is so over and over in the discussion of supersyllabograms in Linear B, again regardless of economic sector. Richard
POST 1,000! Linear B tablets K 04-31 N u 07 & 04-37 N u 04 in the Knossos “Armoury” Yes, we have finally hit 1,000 posts on Linear B, Knossos and Mycenae, in its slightly less than three years of existence. While the translation of both of these tablets is relatively straightforward, I do have a few comments to make. In the first place, it is becoming more than obvious by this point (after seeing several Linear B tablets on the design and construction of chariots already posted here) that not only is the vocabulary for chariots completely standardized, i.e. formulaic in the extreme, but that words referencing the parts of the chariot almost always appear in a minimally variable order on the tablets. It is to be noted that the generic words for the largest parts always appear first, followed by (characteristics of) their smaller components. Thus: 1 EITHER if it is mentioned, – amota – (with wheels) or – anamota – (without wheels) almost always appears in the first position. If the reference to wheels is the first on the tablet, it is apparent that the scribe is squarely placing emphasis on the (construction of the) wheels over all other parts of the chariot. OR if it is mentioned, – iqiyo – (for a single dual chariot for two people and NOT for the dual, 2 chariots!) or – iqiya – (for a chariot or chariots) almost always appears in the first position. If the reference to the chariot is the first on the tablet, it is apparent that the scribe is squarely placing emphasis on the construction of the chariot over all other concerns. This is routinely followed either: 2 (a) by the kind of wood the scribe is referring to, usually either – pterewa – = elm or – erika – = willow, then by the designation – temidweta – referring to the rims of the wheel(s), (b) inversely, by the designation – temidweta – referring to the rims of the wheel(s) and then usually either – pterewa – = elm or – erika – = willow, for the kind of wood the rims are made of; 3 followed by – odatuweta – referring to the grooves in the rims (it makes perfect sense to refer to the rims first and then to the grooves on the rims, rather than the other way around, which would violate common sense) then with a reference to the use of – kako – = bronze or any variations of it (although this word can sometimes appear in the first position but only if either of the words – amota – (with wheels) or – anamota – (without wheels) do not appear on that line; 4 then by the ideogram for wheel + the supersyllabogram ZE = – zeugesi – = a pair of wheels, or more properly speaking, (a set of) wheels on axle + the number of sets of wheels (if present) , with the understanding that if more than 1 set of wheels is listed, then more than one chariot is referenced. Thus, if the supersyllabogram (SSYL) ZE is followed by the number 22, the scribe is referring to 22 chariots; and (if present) by the ideogram for wheel, either preceded or followed by the supersyllabogram MO = – mono – = a single wheel, or more properly = a spare wheel or spare wheels, if a number > 1 appears after MO; 5 and finally (if present) by the ideogram for chariot with wheels or chariot without wheels. Of course, the word order is not set in stone (nothing ever is), but you get the picture. In short, the vocabulary appearing on military tablets dealing with chariots is both formulaic and routinely predictable. This is a prime characteristic of all inventories, ancient or modern.