Are there any Minoan Linear A words in Mycenaean Greek? Of course!

Are there any Minoan Linear A words in Mycenaean Greek? Of course!

Consider the word kidapa on the third line of Mycenaean Linear B tablet KN 894 N v 01:

Knossos tablet KN 894 N v 01 original text Latinized and in archaic Greek

which is certainly not an ancient Greek word, not in any ancient Greek dialect from the earliest, Mycenaean, to the latest, Attic and Hellenic. But if it is not Greek, then what on earth is it? Before we answer that question, let us review just a few other terms which appear both in the Minoan language and in Mycenaean Greek, as follows: sedina (Minoan) & serino (Mycenaean) = celery/orada (Minoan) & rodo (Mycenaean) = rose/araiwa (Minoan) & erawo (Mycenaean) = olive (oil) and finally kanaka (Minoan) & kanako (Mycenaean) = saffron. All of these terms are firmly deciphered in the Minoan language and fully translated in Mycenaean Greek, let alone in the later ancient Greek dialects. But none of them are Indo-European.

On another footing, it is notable that, in Minoan, a significant proportion of the terms we have managed to decipher to date, more or less accurately, begin with the letter K. Referencing our Glossary of 75 Minoan Linear A words, we find that at least 15/75 or 20% begin with K. This is rather striking, in light of the fact that a correspondingly large number of words in ancient Greek begin with K, even though the two languages are in no way related. In other words, since kidapa begins with K, that is another reason to conjecture that it might possibly be Minoan.  

Finally, I feel obliged to make the observation, however transparent it may seem to some of us, that all languages, ancient and modern, inherit thousands upon thousands of words from ancestral languages, and in a great many cases, the words inherited are not even of the same class of language (for instance, Indo-European). English is notorious for this. While most of the hundreds of thousands of words in English which are not strictly English are Indo-European, having been lifted in droves from ancient Greek, Latin and French, great many are not Indo-European. Examples are: ketchup, chai (tea) from Sino-Tibetan; chile, poncho from Arawak (Andean) & anchovy and jingo from Basque, to cite a very few.

So if all languages, ancient or modern, can and do borrow vocabulary from previous languages not in in their class, then Mycenaean Greek, which is Indo-European, must also have done the same with respect to Minoan.

However, since I have been unable to find kidapa on any Minoan Linear A tablet or fragment, there is absolutely no way I can confirm it is Minoan. Nevertheless, for the reasons I have enumerated above, there stands a good chance that it may very well be Minoan. Thus, although I intend to add it and other bizarre and unaccountable words in Mycenaean Greek, which are clearly not of Indo-European origin, to my Glossary of Minoan Linear A words, I shall do so under the subtitle, “Words in Mycenaean Greek of putative Minoan origin”, but I shall not add any of these words to the total number of Minoan words I have already deciphered more or less accurately.

Finally, how did I come to the conclusion, tentative as it is, that kidapa may very well mean “ash”, even if it is not Minoan and even though it is certainly not Greek? It all boils down to the methodology I resort to over and over, namely, cross-correlative analysis. If the words for elm and willow respectively appear on lines 1. and 4., then it is reasonable to assume that kidapa on line 3. should also be a type of wood. Carrying this assumption one step further, we may reasonably deduce that the type of wood kidapa is supposed to be is supposed to be is also a species of hardwood, like the other two (elm and willow). Homer mentions ash as the preferred wood used for the construction of ships in the Iliad; so it is quite feasible that kidapa is indeed “ash”. But there is absolutely no way of verifying this assumption. 

This tablet is held at the Ashmolean Museum, British Museum:

Asmolean Museum An1910_211_o

Translation of Pylos tablet SA 834, a set of wheels with rims on axle

Translation of Pylos tablet SA 834, a set of wheels with rims on axle:

PY SA 834

This tablet presented a couple of irritating little difficulties. Both of the Mycenaean words on this tablet, amepaitoa?ka and wesakee are irretrievably lost to us. They are very archaic Mycenaean. Neither term appears in Chris Tselentis’ excellent Linear B Lexicon. I ransacked the Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary for latter day Classical Greek words that might conceivably correspond to these bizarre words, but came up empty handed. So there is no use banging my head against a wall trying to figure out what they mean. No one does know their meaning, and no one ever will. However, the supersyllabograms TE and ZE make perfect sense in context. You will note that the supersyllabogram TE is oncharged onto the ideogram for wheel. This is the one and only instance in the entire Linear B repertoire where a supersyllabogram is directly oncharged onto the outer circumference of the ideogram, all the more reason why it must mean temidwete, i.e. the rims of wheels. Since ZE always refers to “a pair of”, in this case “(a set of) wheels on axle”, the translation is clearly “wheels with rims on axle.”

Supersyllabograms in the Military Sector of Mycenaean Linear B

Supersyllabograms in the Military Sector of Mycenaean Linear B:

supersyllabograms for the military sector small

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.


dapu = double axe
kito = chiton
mono = single, spare
qero (ouisia) * = (wicker) shield
qeqinomeno = made by twisting, woven


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”

* 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.

SSYLS military actual

PS This is for you, Rita!

Linear B tablet Knossos KN 797 T e 01 & the supersyllabogram WI = leather undertunic or chiton + vase & WI

Linear B tablet Knossos KN 797 T e 01 & the supersyllabogram WE = leather undertunic or chiton + vase & WI:

In our previous post, I stated that I had never seen any occurrence of the supersyllabogram WI incharged in the ideogram for “hide”. Immediately after, I discovered not one, but two, examples of this supersyllabogram (WI), one on tablet Knossos KN 797 T e 01

Linear B Knossos tablet KN 797 T e 01 leather hide or undertunic

& the second on a multi-image illustration,


with the text on one Linear B tablet from Knossos (top), which we have previously translated, the second (left) on a Linear B fragment, the third (bottom left) with the Linear B word, “apudosi” = delivery on a fragment, and the fourth (right), being a vase with Linear B on it. Since the Linear B syllabograms -tawa– are left-truncated, we cannot guess at what the word is for which they are the last two syllabograms or syllables. The second word on this vase is clearly the name of the artisan who manufactured it: Kethereous.