Linear B System of Enumeration (counting & accounting):

This post illustrates how the Mycenaean numeric system functions.  You can easily see that the system is quite straightforward, so much so in fact that it was simpler than both the ancient Greek and  (especially!) the clumsy Roman system of enumeration. This makes perfect sense, since the Linear B tablets were primarily used for palatial record keeping at Knossos, Mycenae, Pylos and other Mycenaean centres. Here is a sample of a simple Linear B tablet which lists a total of 8,640 swords (CLICK to enlarge): This post also introduces the concept of the Ideogram. An Ideogram is defined as “a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept”.  See Wikipedia, Ideogram: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideogram. We must carefully distinguish between a Syllabogram, which is essentially a combination of a consonant + a vowel (DA,DE,KE,KI,MI,MO,SO,SU etc.), and an Ideogram, which is merely a symbol for an entire word.  While Linear B is comprised primarily of Syllabograms (some 100 in all), there are also scores of Ideograms, which are frequently used on Linear B tablets to replace entire words, in other words, as a sort of shorthand.  This makes perfect sense in an accounting system, which is what Linear B is all about, using clay tablets to inscribe accounts, ledgers and lists of all sorts. Since clay tablets  were small, it was necessary not to waste valuable space. So the Linear B scribes frequently resorted to a standardized formulaic system of ideograms universally applied at all Mycenaean-Minoan sites.  The Linear B scribes developed  a logical and coherent accounting system which worked for them, and they applied it rigorously.

Finally, we must not forget the 5 alphabetic characters, the vowels A E I O & U.

Thus, Linear B is comprised of:

1. some 100 syllabograms + 2. scores of ideograms + 3. 5 alphabetic letters, the 5 vowels.

Richard