truly awful summer haiku – not even trains = même les trains n’ont pas

truly awful summer haiku – not even trains = même les trains n’ont pas 

not even trains have
five-seven-five wheel ratios 
when summer is hot

... unlike this awful haiku with 5-7-5 syllables. Yuck!

not even trains620

même les trains n’ont pas
les roues cinq-sept-cinq de suite
quand l’été est chaud

...  à la différence de cet haiku affreux avec ses syllabes 5-7-5. Beurk !

Richard Vallance

T. Farkas’ brilliant decipherment of Linear B tablet KN 894 Nv 01

T. Farkas’ brilliant decipherment of Linear B tablet KN 894 Nv 01:

Knossos tablet KN 984 Nv 01

Linear B transliteration

Line 1. ateretea peterewa temidwe -ideogram for wheel, SSYL ZE for set or pair tablet broken off (i.e. right truncated)

Line 2. kakiya -ideogram for wheel, SSYL ZE for set or pair 1. kakodeta -ideogram for wheel, SSYL ZE for pair or set tablet broken off (i.e. right truncated)

Line 3. kidapa temidweta -ideogram for wheel, SSYL ZE for set or pair 41 tablet broken off (i.e. right truncated)

line 4. odatuweta erika -ideogram for wheel, SSYL ZE for set or pair 40 to 89 tablet broken off (i.e. right truncated)

Translation (my knowlege of Greek grammar is not sufficient at present to write out proper sentences [NOTE 1] but I have looked up and know the Greek equivalents for the Linear B words which I will write here.)

Line 1. Pair/set of inlaid/unfinished? elmwood chariot wheel rims

Οn your blog you have translated ateretea as “inlaid” from the Greek ἀιτh=ρeς. I found these words ατελείωτος , ατελεις … that means “unfinished” Do you think that could work? Either way I get that ateretea is an adjective that describes the wheel rims [2].

α)τερεδέα/ατελείωτος πτελεFάς τερμιδFέντα ζευγάρι a1ρμοτα, (sorry for the mishmash Greek [3]).

Line 2. 1 Copper [4] set or pair of wheel fasteners , bronze set or pair of wheel fasteners

I looked around the net and some say copper was used as a band or even as a tire and as leather tire fasteners on bronze age chariot wheels.

Since the deta on kakodeta refers to bindings perhaps this line is refering to sets of types of fasteners of both copper and bronze for wheels? (hubs, linch pins, nails, etc…) [Richard, YES!]

χαλκίος ζευγάρι α1ρμοτα, χαλκοδέτα ζευγάρι α1ρμοτα

Line 3. 41 Sets or pairs of “kidapa” chariot wheel rims

Looked around the net didn’t find and words to match kidapa…I did take note that you think ― like L.R. Palmer ― that it means ash-wood.

κιδάπα τερμιδFέντα ζευγἀρι α1ρμοτα

Line 4. 40 to 89 ? sets of toothed/grooved willow-wood chariot wheels.

Ive looked at many diagrams and pictures of chariot wheels… but none that I could find were clear enough to really understand what might be meant by toothed [5]… Ι even watched a documentary where an Egyptian chariot is built. It is called building Pharaoh’s Chariot. Perhaps one day I’ll happen upon some chariot wheels somewhere and finally understand what is meant.

ο0δατFέντα ε0λικα ζευγἀρι α1ρμοτα 40 -89 ?

Comments by our moderator, Richard Vallance Janke:

This is absolutely brilliant work! I am astounded! 100 % hands down. This is one of the most difficult Linear A tablets to decipher. I too take kidapa to mean ash wood, as it is a tough wood. It is also probably Minoan, since it begins with ki, a common Minoan prefix:

kidapa OM = ash wood? (a type of wood) Appears only on Linear B tablet KN 894 N v 01
kidaro MOSC NM1 kidaro ke/dron = juniper berry-or- kedri/a = oil of cedar Cf. Linear B kidaro
kidata OM = to be accepted or delivered? (of crops) Cf. Linear B dekesato de/catoj

See my Comprehensive Linear A lexicon for further details I imagine you have already downloaded the Lexicon, given that at least 16 % of Linear A is Mycenaean-derived Greek. This decipherment alone of an extremely difficult Linear B tablet entitles you to a secondary school graduation diploma, which I shall draw up and send to you by mid-August.

Specific notes:

[1] Thalassa Farkas declares that … my knowlege of Greek grammar is not sufficient at present to write out proper sentences… , but the actual point is that it is not really possible to write out Greek sentences in Mycenaean Greek, in view of the fact that sentences are almost never used on Linear B tablets, given that these are inventories. Grammar is not characteristic of inventories, ancient or modern. So it is up to us as decipherers to reconstruct the putative “sentences which might be derived from each of the tabular lines in an inventory. So long as the sentences and the ultimate paragraph(s) make sense, all is well.

[2] wheel rims is an acceptable reading.

[3] This is hardly mishmash Greek. It is in fact archaic Greek, and archaic Greek in the Mycenaean dialect, absolutely appropriate in the context.

[4] In Line 2, kakiya (genitive singular of kako) might mean copper, but is much more likely to mean “(made of) bronze” (gen. sing.), given that copper is a brittle metal, more likely to shatter under stress than is bronze. Copper tires would simply not hold up. Neither would pure bronze ones. Either would have to be re-inforced, and in this case by kidapa = ash-wood. That is the clincher, and that is why the word kidapa appears on this tablet.

[5] In Line 5, temidweta does not mean with teeth, but the exact opposite, with grooves” or “with notches. After all, if we invert teeth in 3 dimensions, so that they are inside out, we end up with grooves. This can be seen in the following illustration of a Mycenaean chariot in the Tiryns fresco of women (warrior) charioteers:

Tiryns fresco women charioteers

On the other hand, scythes, which are after all similar to teeth, were commonplace on ancient chariots, including Egyptian, a nice little clever addition to help cut or chop up your enemies. Still, it is unlikely that Mycenaean chariots would be reinforced by scythes, in view of the fact that there are far too many of them even on fresco above. That is why I take temidweta to mean indentations” or “notches”. But temidweta could refer to “studs”, which like notches, are small, even though they stick out.




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.

Linear B tablet 04-39 N u 10 from the Knossos “Armoury” illustrating the SSYLS ZE & MO

Linear B tablet 04-39 N u 10 from the Knossos “Armoury” illustrating the SSYLS ZE & MO

Linear B tablet k 04-39 N u 10 from Knossos wheel 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:

composite of 4 Mycenaean chariots

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.

Knossos tablet 04-38 from the Knossos “Armoury”

Knossos tablet 04-38 from the Knossos “Armoury”

wheel ZE 04.38

Knossos tablet 04-38 from the Knossos “Armoury” illustrates the use of the supersyllabogram ZE = “zeukesi” = a pair of, in other words, when it comes to wheels, a set of wheels (on axle)... certainly not off axle! Since there are 15 sets of wheels made of willow inscribed on this tablet, it is clear that the tablet describes the construction of sets of chariot wheels only, and not of the chariots to which they are eventually to be attached. Except for a rather large patch of scratches on the top left side of the tablet, it is completely intact. This inventory of the construction of wheels alone, and not of the chariots to which they are to be affixed, strengthens my previous hypothesis that some chariots were fully assembled without their wheels already on axle. In other words, any such chariot would have been delivered to its buyer without its wheels on axle, most likely because he wanted the wheels custom made to his specifications, and then fitted afterwards to the chariot in question. Otherwise, why would there be several Linear B tablets from Knossos and Pylos describing wheel manufacturing only?

Linear B tablets K 04.30 and 04.33 from the Knossos “Armoury” illustrating the use of the supersyllabogram ZE

Linear B tablets K 04.30 and 04.33 from the Knossos “Armoury” illustrating the use of the supersyllabogram ZE

wheel ZE 04.30

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.


Linear B tablet K 04.03 from the Knossos “Armoury”

Linear B tablet K 04.03 from the Knossos “Armoury”


Linear B tablet Knossos K 04.03 translation

The text of this tablet is longer than on most tablets on chariot construction. This makes for more chances for error(s) in the original text, depending on the scribe’s hand (which in this case is sloppy) in the final literal and free translations. The notes on the tablet above make it quite clear where the scribe’s writing leaves something to be desired. So the translator is left to his or her own devices to come up with the best possible interpretation under the circumstances. For instance, the word – opa – apparently is archaic Mycenaean. It had fallen out of use by the time of Homer. It is a bit difficult to determine exactly what it means, but Chris Tselentis has it as – workshop –, which makes sense in the context. Once again, by context, I mean not only textual context but the most likely translation for the real world context of the Mycenaean vocabulary describing chariot construction. I am convinced that in this case Tselentis has ventured the best possible translation, which by exception I accept without question. My normal practice is to call into doubt any word on any tablet which has no equivalent in later ancient Greek, Homeric or Classical. But sometimes we have to throw in the towel when faced with no other reasonable alternative for the translation of archaic Mycenaean Greek or possibly even Minoan words. There is nothing unusual at all in the phenomenon of cross-linguistic transfer of certain words from a former, more archaic, language (in this case Minoan Linear A). Lord knows, English is full of such words, the vast majority inherited from Latin, Greek and medieval and early Renaissance French. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

The scribe, whose hand is admittedly quite sloppy, appears to have inscribed – araromo-pa-mena – for – araromo-te-mena –, by omitting one of the horizontal bars on the syllabogram. Translators of Linear B must always be on the ball and on the lookout for scribal errors in orthography on any tablet whatsoever, regardless of provenance – Knossos, Pylos, Mycenae etc.  After all, people make spelling mistakes often enough today, just as they always have throughout history. No surprise there.

Finally, there is the sticky question, why would a scribe inventory a fully assembled chariot without wheels on axle, when – fully assembled – implies that the damn thing has to have its wheels on axle. Compare this with the manufacture of cars nowadays. No one in their right mind would call a car fully assembled, unless it had its wheels on axle. However, it is conceivable that Linear B scribes inventorying fully assembled chariots might sometimes be obliged to list the chariot(s) in question  – here there are 3 of them – as still not having their wheels on axle, because they are inventorying them at the very end of the current fiscal year. On the other hand, chariots might sometimes have been delivered without the wheels on axle, if the new owner wished to design and construct his own wheels, only attaching them after delivery has been received. There is no reason why this might not have been the case in some instances. But we shall never know, because we were not there when the scribes tallied chariots without wheels on axle. There must have been some method in their madness after all.

Linear B tablets KN 235 N j 41 & KN 236 N j 42 on chariots from the Knossos “Armoury”

Linear B tablets KN 235 N j 41 & KN 236 N j 42 on chariots from the Knossos “Armoury”

armour chariot aplate xxviii

235 Nj POAISIDO armour chariot with wheels 800

chariot bplate xxviii KURUMENO

236 Nj' KURUMENO chariot withwheels 800

These two tablets were perhaps the easiest I have had to translate. No further comments are necessary. Since there is so little text on these tablets, I did not bother translating the Linear B into archaic Greek. 

Translation of tablets K 04.40 N u 03 & K 04.41 from the Knossos “Armoury”

Translation of tablets K 04.40 N u 03 & K 04.41 from the Knossos “Armoury”
04.40 amota kedomena pteweya odakweta

04.41 erika odakweta kedomena

While the translation of these two tablets is quite straightforward, there is a little problem with the second  one, since it is unsure whether or not the chariot body or the chariot wheels are made of willow. However, I prefer the first translation over the second, given that on almost all other Linear B tablets from the Knossos “Armoury” are made of elm. On the same tablet (04.41), it is obvious to the observant translator that we may be dealing with anywhere from 50 to 59 sets of wheels on axle, ergo, 50 to 59 chariots.

POST 1,000! Linear B tablets K 04-31 N u 07 & 04-37 N u 04 in the Knossos “Armoury”

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. 

Two more chariot tablets from the Knossos “Armoury”, K 05-35 N u 12 & K 04-39 N u 10:

Two more chariot tablets from the Knossos “Armoury”, K 05-35 N u 12 & K 04-39 N u 10

Here we see two more tablets from the Knossos “Armoury”. Once again, the translations are relatively straightforward, except that in the first tablet, the words -ore- and -e- are truncated on the right. The only plausible translation I could come up with for the word beginning with -ore- is the name Orestas, which I found in Chris Tselentis’ Linear B Lexicon and not in L.R. Palmer’s, The Interpretation of Mycenaean Greek Texts (1963), in spite of the fact that Palmer’s glossary of Mycenaean Linear B vocabulary is far the most complete to be found anywhere. The translation of the truncated word beginning with -e- on the second line of the first tablet (K 05-35 N u 12) below is obvious. The word is -erika- in Linear B, i.e. willow.


The second tablet (K 04-39 N u 10) poses only one problem, and that is the question of how to translate -amota- which in Classical Greek would clearly mean “chariot”, except that the spelling is different (Latinized Greek = harmata) in the latter.

04.39 amota erika temidweta

The Mycenaean word could have meant “chariot”, except for the fact that on all Linear B tablets dealing with chariots, the word “chariot” is never spelled out. Instead, the ideograms for “a chariot with wheels” and “a chariot without wheels” are always used. Note that the ideograms for chariot appear on neither of these tablets, which seem concerned only with the construction and the total number of wheels on axle + the spare wheel.

Here you see two more chariot tablets from the Knossos “armoury”

Here you see two more chariot tablets from the Knossos “armoury”

KN 04-34 N u 08


The first deals with 2 chariots, not 1, since the number 2 after the ideogram for “wheel” cannot conceivably mean that one chariot has two sets of wheels on axle! Given that the supersyllabogram MO refers to “a single”, it would appear that there is at least a single spare wheel on hand. But that is not necessarily the case, because the tablet is right truncated. It makes more sense that there would be two spares for two chariots. Folks back in the late Minoan and Mycenaean era kept spares on hand too, though they did not carry the spare around with them. They would have to go back to the workshop to get a spare for a broken wheel. A bit of a pain in the butt. Still, there is nothing new under the sun. Chariots, cars, six of one, half a dozen of the other.

KN 04.38 N u 11

04.38 erika wozomena

The second one deals with the eventual delivery of 15 chariots made of elm wood with their wheels already on axle presently under construction. Their translation is quite straightforward. The supersyllabogram ZE, when paired with the ideogram for “wheel” always means “with (2) wheels” or to put it more succinctly, “with its wheels on axle”.

Knossos tablet KN 894 N v 01 (Ashmolean) as a guide to Mycenaean chariot construction and design

Knossos tablet KN 894 N v 01 (Ashmolean) as a guide to Mycenaean chariot construction and design

KN 894 An1910_211_o.jpg wheel ZE

In spite of my hard gained experience in translating Linear B tablets, the translation of this tablet on chariot construction and design posed considerable challenges. At the outset, several of the words descriptive of Mycenaean chariot design eluded my initial attempts at an accurate translation. By accurate I not only mean that problematic words must make sense in the total context of the descriptive text outlining Mycenaean chariot construction and design, but that the vocabulary entire must faithfully reconstruct the design of Mycenaean chariots as they actually appeared in their day and age. In other words, could I come up with a translation reflective of the actual construction and design of Mycenaean chariots, not as we fancifully envision them in the twenty-first century, but as the Mycenaeans themselves manufactured them to be battle worthy?

It is transparent to me that the Mycenaean military, just as that of any other great ancient civilization, such as those of Egypt in the Bronze Age, of the Hittite Empire, and later on, in the Iron Age, of Athens and Sparta and, later still, of the Roman Empire, must have gone to great lengths to ensure the durability, tensile strength and battle worthiness of their military apparatus in its entirety (let alone chariots). It goes without saying that, regardless of the techniques of chariot construction employed by the various great civilizations of the ancient world, each civilization strove to manufacture military apparatus to the highest standards practicable within the limits of the technology then available to them.

It is incontestable that progress in chariot construction and design must have made major advances in all of the great civilizations from the early to the late Bronze Age. Any flaws or faults in chariot construction would have been and were rooted out and eliminated as each civilization perceptibly moved forward, step by arduous step, to perfect the manufacture of chariots in their military. In the case of the  Mycenaeans contemporaneous with the Egyptians, this was the late Bronze Age. My point is strictly this. Any translation of any part of a chariot must fully take into account the practicable appropriateness of each and every word in the vocabulary of that technology, to ensure that the entire vocabulary of chariot construction will fit together as seamlessly as possible in order to ultimately achieve as solid a coherence as conceivably possible. 

Thus, if a practicably working translation of any single technical term for the manufacture of chariots detracts rather than contributes to the structural integrity, sturdiness and battle worthiness of the chariot, that term must be seriously called into question. Past translators of the vocabulary of chariot construction and design who have not fully taken into account the appropriateness of any particular term descriptive of the solidity and tensile strength of the chariot required to make it battle worthy have occasionally fallen short of truly convincing translations of the whole (meaning here, the chariot), translations which unify and synthesize its entire vocabulary such that all of its moving and immobile parts alike actually “translate” into a credible reconstruction of a Bronze Age (Mycenaean) chariot as it must have realistically appeared and actually operated. Even the most prestigious of translators of Mycenaean Linear B, most notably L.R. Palmer himself, have not always succeeded in formulating translations of certain words or terms convincing enough in the sense that I have just delineated. All this is not to say that I too will not fall into the same trap, because I most certainly will. Yet as we say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.      

And what applies to the terminology for the construction and design of chariots in any ancient language, let alone Mycenaean Linear B, equally applies to the vocabulary of absolutely any animate subject, such as human beings and livestock, and to any inanimate object in the context of each and every sector of the economy of the society in question, whether this be in the agricultural, industrial, military, textiles, household or pottery sector.

Again, if any single word detracts rather than contributes to the actual appearance, manufacturing technique and utility of said object in its entire context, linguistic as well as technical, then that term must be seriously called into question. 

When it comes down to brass tacks, the likelihood of achieving such translations is a tall order to fill. But try we must.

A convincing practicable working vocabulary of Knossos tablet KN 894 N v 01 (Ashmolean):

While much of the vocabulary on this tablet is relatively straightforward, a good deal is not. How then was I to devise an approach to its translation which could conceivably meet Mycenaean standards in around 1400-1200 BCE? I had little or no reference point to start from. The natural thing to do was to run a search on Google images to determine whether or not the results would, as it were, measure up to Mycenaean standards. Unfortunately, some of the most convincing images I downloaded were in several particulars at odds with one another, especially in the depiction of wheel construction. That actually came as no surprise. So what was I to do? I had to choose one or two images of chariots which appeared to me at least to be accurate renditions of actual Mycenaean chariot design. But how could I do that without being arbitrary in my choice of images determining terminology? Again a tough call. Yet there was a way through this apparent impasse. Faced with the decision of having to choose between twenty-first century illustrations of Mycenaean chariot design - these being the most often at odds with one another - and ancient depictions on frescoes, kraters and vases, I chose the latter route as my starting point. 

But here again I was faced with images which appeared to conflict on specific points of chariot construction. The depictions of Mycenaean chariots appearing on frescoes, kraters and vases unfortunately did not mirror one another as accurately as I had first supposed they would. Still, this should come as no real surprise to anyone familiar with the design of military vehicles ancient or modern. Take the modern tank for instance. The designs of American, British, German and Russian tanks in the Second World War were substantially different. And even within the military of Britain, America and Germany, there were different types of tanks serving particular uses dependent on specific terrain. So it stands to reason that there were at least some observable variations in Mycenaean chariot design, let alone of the construction of any chariots in any ancient civilization, be it Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece throughout its long history, or Rome, among others.

So faced with the choice of narrowing down alternative likenesses, I finally opted for one fresco which provided the most detail. I refer to the fresco from Tiryns (ca 1200 BCE) depicting two female charioteers.

This fresco would go a long way to resolving issues related in particular to the manufacture and design of wheels, which are the major sticking point in translating the vocabulary for Mycenaean chariots.

Turning now to my translation, I sincerely hope I have been able to resolve most of these difficulties, at least to my own satisfaction if to not to that of others, although here again a word of caution to the wise. My translation is merely my own visual interpretation of what is in front of me on this fresco from Tiryns. Try as we might, there is simply no escaping the fact that we, in the twenty-first century, are bound to impose our own preconceptions on ancient images, whatever they depict. As historiography has it, and I cite directly from Wikipedia:      

Questions regarding historicity concern not just the issue of "what really happened," but also the issue of how modern observers can come to know "what really happened."[6] This second issue is closely tied to historical research practices and methodologies for analyzing the reliability of primary sources and other evidence. Because various methodologies categorize historicity differently, it's not possible to reduce historicity to a single structure to be represented. Some methodologies (for example historicism), can make historicity subject to constructions of history based on submerged value commitments. 

wikipedia historicity
The sticking point is those pesky “submerged value commitments”. To illustrate even further, allow me to cite another source, Approaching History: Bias:

approaching history

The problem for methodology is unconscious bias: the importing of assumptions and expectations, or the asking of one question rather than another, by someone who is trying to act in good faith with the past. 

Yet the problem inherent to any modern approach is that it is simply impossible for any historian or historical linguist today to avoid imposing not only his or her own innate unconscious preconceived values but also the values of his own national, social background and civilization, let alone those of the entire age in which he or she lives. “Now” is the twenty-first century and “then” was any particular civilization with its own social, national and political values set against the diverse values of other civilizations contemporaneous with it, regardless of historical era.

If all this seems painfully obvious to the professional historian or linguist, it is more than likely not be to the non-specialist or lay reader, which is why I have taken the trouble to address the issue in the first place.  

How then can any historian or historical linguist in the twenty-first century possibly and indeed realistically be expected to place him— or herself in the sandals, so to speak, of any contemporaneous Bronze Age Minoan, Mycenaean, Egyptian, Assyrian or oriental civilizations such as China, and so on, without unconsciously imposing the entire baggage of his— or -her own civilization, Occidental, Oriental or otherwise? It simply cannot be done.

However, not to despair. Focusing our magnifying glass on the shadowy mists of history, we can only see through a glass darkly. But that is no reason to give up. Otherwise, there would be no way of interpreting history and no historiography to speak of. So we might as well let sleeping dogs lie, and get on with the task before us, which in this case is the intricate art of translation of an object particular not only to its own civilization, remote as it is, but specifically to the military sector of that society, being in this case, the Mycenaean.

So the question now is, what can we read out of the Tiryns fresco with respect to Mycenaean chariot construction and design, without reading too much of our own unconscious personal, social and civilized biases into it? As precarious and as fraught with problems as our endeavour is, let us simply sail on ahead and see how far our little voyage can take us towards at least a credible translation of the Tiryns chariot with its lovely belles at the reins, with the proviso that this fresco depicts only one variation on the design of Mycenaean chariots, itself at odds on some points with other depictions on other frescoes. Here you see the fresco with my explanatory notes on the chariot parts:


as related to the text and context of the facsimile of the original tablet in Linear B, Linear B Latinized and archaic Greek, here:

Knossos tablet KN 894 N v 01 original text Latinized and in archaic Greek
This is followed by my meticulous notes on the construction and design of the various parts of the Mycenaean chariot as illustrated here:

Notes on Knossos tablet 894 N v 01 Wheel ZE

and by The Geometry of chariot parts in Mycenaean Linear B, to drive home my interpretations of both – amota - = - (on) axle – and – temidweta - = the circumference or the rim of the wheel, referencing the – radius – in the second syllable of – temidweta - ,i.e. - dweta - , where radius = 1/2 (second syllable) of – temidweta – and is thus equivalent to one spoke, as illustrated here:

The only other historian of Linear B who has grasped the full significance of the supersyllabogram (SSYL) is Salimbeti, 

The Greek Age of Bronze chariots

whose site is the one and only on the entire Internet which explores the construction and design of bronze age chariots in great detail. I strongly urge you to read his entire study in order to clarify the full import of my translation of – temidweta – as the rim of the wheel. The only problem remaining with my translation is whether or not the word – temidweta – describes the rim on the side of the wheel or the rim on its outer surface directly contacting the ground. The difficulty with the latter translation is whether or not elm wood is of sufficient tensile strength to withstand the beating the tire rim had to endure over time (at least a month or two at minimum) on the rough terrain, often littered with stones and rocks, over which Mycenaean chariots must surely have had to negotiate.  

As for the meaning of the supersyllabogram (SSYL)TE oncharged directly onto the top of the ideogram for wheel, it cannot mean anything other than – temidweta -, in other words the circumference, being the wheel rim, further clarified here:

wheel rim illustration

Hence my translation here:

Translation of Knossos tablet KN 984 N v 01 Wheel ZE

Note that I have translated the unknown word **** – kidapa – as – ash (wood). My reasons for this are twofold. First of all, the hardwood ash has excellent tensile strength and shock resistance, where toughness and resiliency against impact are important factors. Secondly, it just so happens that ash is predominant in Homer’s Iliad as a vital component in the construction of warships and of weapons, especially spears. So there is a real likelihood that in fact – kidapa – means ash, which L.R. Palmer also maintains. Like many so-called unknown words found in Mycenaean Greek texts, this word may well be Minoan. Based on the assumption that many of these so-called unknown words may be Minoan, we can establish a kicking-off point for possible translations of these putative Minoan words. Such translations should be rigorously checked against the vocabulary of the extant corpus of Minoan Linear A, as found in John G. Younger’s database, here:

Linear A texts in transciption

I did just that and came up empty-handed. But that does not at all imply that the word is not Minoan, given that the extant lexicon of Linear A words is so limited, being as it is incomplete.

While all of this might seem a little overwhelming at first sight, once we have taken duly into account the most convincing translation of each and every one of the words on this tablet in its textual and real-world context, I believe we can attain such a translation, however constrained we are by our our twenty-first century unconscious assumptions. As for conscious assumptions, they simply will not do. 

In conclusion, Knossos tablet KN 894 N v 01 (Ashmolean) serves as exemplary a guide to Mycenaean chariot construction and design as any other substantive intact Linear B tablet in the same vein from Knossos. It is my intention to carry my observations and my conclusions on the vocabulary of Mycenaean chariot construction and design much further in an article I shall be publishing on sometime in 2016. In it I shall conduct a thorough-going cross-comparative analysis of the chariot terminology on this tablet with that of several other tablets dealing specifically with chariots. This cross-comparative study is to result in a comprehensive lexicon of the vocabulary of Mycenaean chariot construction and design, fully taking into account Chris Tselentis’ Linear B Lexicon and L.R. Palmer’s extremely comprehensive Glossary of military terms relative to chariot construction and design on pp. 403-466 in his classic foundational masterpiece, The Interpretation of Mycenaean Texts.

So stay posted. 

Conference, “Thinking Symbols”, Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, University of Warsaw (June 30-July 2 2015)

Thinking Symbols”, Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, University of Warsaw (June 30-July 2 2015):

Thinking Symbols Koryvantes 640

Table of All 32 Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B for my Presentation at the Conference: Click to ENLARGE

Table of SSYLS in Mycenaean Linear B

As of spring 2015, I have discovered, isolated and classified a total of 32 supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B, having found no new ones since autumn 2014. Let us review supersyllabograms, what they are, the 2 different types & how they are classified & sub-classified.

What Supersyllabograms are:

In Mycenaean Linear B, a supersyllabogram is almost always the first syllabogram only, in other words, the first syllable only of a Mycenaean Greek word or phrase. There are only three (3) exceptions to this operative principle. The 32 supersyllabograms account for more than 50 % of all syllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B. That this is a very significant subset of this discrete set of syllabograms goes without saying.  

The 2 types of Supersyllabograms:

There are only two types of supersyllabograms:

(1) Independent supersyllabograms (i):

An independent supersyllabogram is one which stands alone, all by itself, on any Linear B tablet. There is just the one syllabogram, with nothing preceding or following it, except whenever several of them appear in a series, as on Linear B tablet Heidelburg HE Fl 1994. And even then, strictly speaking, they still stand alone, each one being a discrete entity naming only one thing, a city or settlement name. 

Most independent supersyllabograms were deciphered,

(a) first by Prof. John Chadwick, who deciphered the syllabograms NI = suko (figs) & SA = rino (flax), and the homophone RAI = kanako (crocus or saffron) in his ground-breaking book, The Decipherment of Linear B (1959,1970), in which he divulged to the world the arduous road over several years to the decipherment of Linear B in 1952 by the brilliant cryptographer, Michael Ventris.

It is essential to realize that these three independent supersyllabograms alone are the only ones for which the single syllabogram symbolizing the Mycenaean Greek word they each replace is not the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of that word, as we can clearly see with NI, SA & RAI. This being the case, the remaining 29 supersyllabograms of a total of 32 are, by default, the first syllabogram of the Mycenaean word or phrase each of them represents.

(b) The second person to identify independent supersyllabograms was Prof. Thomas G. Palaima, in his superb translation of Heidelburg tablet HE Fl 1994, here:

Heidelburg HE Fl 1994 800

In this case, all 5 of the independent supersyllabograms, KO, ZA, PA, PU & MU are the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of a Minoan or Mycenaean city or settlement name. While these 5 independent SSYLS appear in sequence, each one should and must be interpreted as standing alone in its own right.

There are thus a total of 3 + 5 = 8 independent supersyllabograms (i). However, it is absolutely essential to understand that some of these 8 SSYLS are also dependent (d).

I am obliged to point out that neither John Chadwick nor Thomas G. Palaima recognized or identified these 8 supersyllabograms as such, since after all, one of them (Chadwick) discovered only 3 syllabograms which fit this description, while the other (Palaima) hit upon only 5 more. In retrospect, we have to be honest with ourselves and admit that it would be unrealistic, if not downright disingenuous, to expect them to have isolated supersyllabograms in the first place, given that they only just happened to stumble upon these 8, all of which are independent SSYLS, and none of which fit into the default paradigm of the rest of the supersyllabograms, all of which are dependent (d). In a word, neither of them could conceivably have even identified a phenomenon one could call the supersyllabogram, because they did not find any others. And it was the others, of which there are so many, that were, as we say, the real McCoy.

(2) Dependent supersyllabograms(d):

A dependent supersyllabogram (d) is one which always appears as a single syllabogram, but which is also always immediately adjacent to (da) or inside (di) an ideogram. It is the dependent supersyllabogram I discovered early 2014, and which has given true meaning to the term as I have come to define it. The basic formula for the layout of the dependent supersyllabogram on any Linear B tablet is:

SSYLa (left) + ideogram (right) -or-
ideogram (left)+ SSYLb (right) -or-
SSYLc on top of an ideogram -or-
SSYLd under an ideogram -or-
SSYLe inside an ideogram.

If there is only one (1) dependent supersyllabogram (d) adjacent to only one (1) ideogram, that ideogram, upon which that SSYL depends, determines the exact meaning of the SSYL. Change the ideogram, change the meaning. In other words, the meanings of all dependent supersyllabograms (d) are determined by the specific ideogram to which they are adjacent. The meaning of any adjacent dependent SSYL must therefore be strictly contextual (dc).     

More than one dependent supersyllabogram can be adjacent to one or more ideograms, and in any order. However, the order in which the SSYLS & the ideograms appear together is never random. It is always structurally contextual. Change the order, change the meaning.

Sub-classification of Dependent Supersyllabograms:

Dependent supersyllabograms are sub-classified as either associative (as) or attributive (at).

(1) Associative dependent supersyllabograms (as) are those which are immediately adjacent to the ideograms upon which they depend. An associative SSYL is one which informs of us of some external element, for instance, the factor of land tenure relating to the ideogram itself, or one which circumscribes its environment, especially in the livestock raising sub-sector of the agricultural sector. For instance, in the Table of All 32 Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B above, the supersyllabogram O adjacent to 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 O = onato (lease field) is associated with the raising of x no. of sheep.

(2) Attributive dependent supersyllabograms (at) 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.

The first person to identify and correctly translate two of the most frequently occurring supersyllabograms was Chris Tselentis, who deciphered the two SSYLS ZE & MO on Knossos Tablet KN So 4439, in the appendix TEXTS of Linear B tablets of his excellent Linear B Lexicon. On this tablet, which is strictly military, these syllabograms each appear immediately adjacent to the ideogram for chariot wheel, ZE appearing after the ideogram, and MO before it. It was obvious to Chris Tselentis that, in the military context of this tablet, the syllabogram ZE could mean one thing and one thing only, “a pair of (wheels)”, while MO could only mean “a single wheel”. And he was bang on. Unfortunately, he had his hands full just compiling his comprehensive Lexicon, and so he never got around to a thorough examination of a large enough statistically significant cross-section of Linear B tablets, to ascertain whether there were any more like this one.

But there were – plenty more, in fact some 700 of 3,000 Linear B tablets I meticulously poured through from the corpus at Knossos. If it weren’t for Chris Tselentis in particular, or for John Chadwick and Thomas G. Palaima before him, I would never have followed my intuition to ferret out more examples of the same phenomena, only to be so richly rewarded for taking this decisive step in the first place in the winter of 2014. There was no guarantee that anything concrete would come out of my year-long investigations. But it did, to say the very least. The ultimate result of my painstaking search through 3,000 tablets from Knossos, and the meticulous research which ensued were to pay off in droves. The Table you see above is the true fulfillment of a hard-won struggle.     

To read a detailed account of the function of dependent supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B, please refer to this post:

Associative Versus Attributive


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.