One Small leap for Syllabograms, One Giant Leap for Linear B: the Last Stage before Liftoff!
Thomas G. Palaima's Translation of Linear B Tablet FL 1994: Click to ENLARGE

Linear B Heidelberg HE FL 1994 Palaima 

Until now, students, scholars and researchers in the field of Linear B, including myself of course, have assumed that syllabograms are syllabograms are syllabograms, as a rose is a rose is a rose.

Likewise, and to no one's surprise, 2 or 3 syllabograms superimposed one over the other, can express Linear B words in a very concise manner, as illustrated here: Click to ENLARGE:

mycenaean-linear-b-ideograms-formed-by-combinatioins-of-syllabograms
These syperimposed syllabograms I chose to refer as Logograms, because to my mind, that is what they are.

Yet, to my utter astonishment, I have only recently discovered, upon minute examination of 100s of linear B fragments and a few tablets from pages 140-169 of Sir Arthur Evans' Scripta Minoa, that there is something going on with syllabograms which has evaded our notice until today. What I have discovered, and what has filled me with excitement, are the following things:

1. that single syllabograms, all alone, recur far more frequently on the hundreds of Linear B tablets from Knossos I have so far put under the microscope of my insatiable thirst for a greater understanding of Linear B; and that
2. almost all of these single syllabograms pop up, and with remarkable frequency, immediately after a Linear B ideogram (whether it has been deciphered or not) and that;
3 I have also discovered at least 4 or 5 new Linear B logograms never before even identified, which recur often enough on the hundreds of Linear B fragments I have so far examined... at least 3 times in this little trove... that I feel duty bound to bring these new ideograms to the immediate attention to Linear B scholars and researchers world-wide. Moreover, the “meaning” of one of these previously un-investigated, hence, of course, unknown and undeciphered ideograms I was able to instantly recognize the moment I fell upon it, not once or twice, but 6 times on 2 tablets and fragments! At least its “meaning” is obvious to me, although I am certain several Linear B scholars and researchers are bound to contest my interpretation of it... which I wholeheartedly welcome.  But there is more, far more.
4. Finally, and here lies the crunch of the matter, upon close examination of even the first 100 or so of the hundreds of fragments and tablets from Knossos, I discovered to my even greater astonishment, that (and I must stress this emphatically) in the case of at least 4 or 5 ideograms we already know the meaning of beyond any reasonable doubt, I found, again immediately following them, a syllabogram which popped up over and over.

The most striking example of this phenomenon is the ideogram for IQO (horse), which was followed no less than seven (7!) times by one single syllabogram, and that syllabogram is ZE, on as many fragments and tablets within 3 pages of each other on the Scripta Minoa as to practically rule out the chances that this was mere happenstance.  This discovery immediately lead me to an entire Linear B word which began with the syllabogram ZE and which, surprise, surprise, surprise!... can only be used with any sense or practical, experiential meaning in the specific context of the ideogram for horse (IQO) and horse alone, and always in the same, invariable order: ideogram for horse first, immediately and invariably followed by the syllabogram ZE. In other words, we have here, just as in the Iliad, a formulaic expression, in short, a vocabulary formula in Mycenaean Greek. It seems that Homer was merely carrying on the tradition of formulaic vocabulary, which it appears the Mycenaeans, and not he himself, “invented”. If this is true, once again, the implications for the further decipherment of considerable chunks of Linear B texts are far-reaching and profound.  

And when the light came on, it flashed on instantly. “EUREKA!” I told myself. The syllabogram ZE, in this context, and in this context alone, in the precise order specified, is not merely a syllabogram, but what I choose to call a “Supersyllabogram”, by which I mean a syllabogram which is in fact the first syllable of the complete Linear B word, which if spelled out with all of the syllabograms of which it is comprised, yields precisely the meaning I would have expected from it, in this case, none other than the word, “halter”, which I must emphatically stress, is nowhere spelled out on any Linear B fragment or tablet. But there it is, staring us right in the face. The meaning is, by simple induction, clear as the nose on my face.

The next post, which serves to illustrate this new phenomenon in the decipherment of single syllabograms, which are very liberally peppered throughout the Knossos fragments, and hitherto defied decipherment, are now wide open to rational interpretation and, indeed, to perfectly reasonable decipherment.

But there is more, far far more.

I have discovered, not just one example of such formulaic phrases on the hundreds of Linear B fragments and tablets from the Scripta Minoa I have examined to date (i.e. from pages 140-169), but several, and they all follow the precise same order: ideogram  + syllabogram(s) – 1 or more, always in the same order, and, would you believe, even 2 ideograms always following one another in the same exact order, and even, 2 ideograms in the same order followed by syllabogram(s) – 1 or more, always in the same order. This happens frequently enough to reinforce my new thesis propounding the existence of the Ideologogram, a term I have had to coin, simply because there is no other way to put it.

Allow me to express my profound gratitude and thanks to Thomas G. Palaima, whose carefully reasoned, ingenious translation of Heidelberg Tablet FL 1994, made this discovery even possible. When I first stumbled on the PDF file of his masterful translation of the tablet, and had read it through a few times, it suddenly dawned on me that, with his remarkable insight into the “meaning” of those 5 syllabograms KO, ZA, PA, PO and MU, he had suggested to me, albeit unconsciously for the most part, with only a glimmer of consciousness, that here was something new, something unheard of and, I stress once again, never before even recognized, let alone sufficiently explained, until Thomas G. Palaima “got it” in the specific context of this particular tablet. It only remained for someone to extrapolate his findings, and to cross-correlate them in principle and in practice to as many Linear B fragments and tablets as possible to confirm or discount the possibility that Linear B syllabograms could in fact be more than merely syllabograms, but in fact logograms.

I strongly urge you to read Prof. Palaima's first-rate translation of Linear B Heidelberg Tablet FE 1994.

Remember that I have only ploughed through a few hundred of the Linear B fragments and tablets in the Scripta Minoa, from pages 140-160, and that I have yet to wrestle with the remaining fragments from page 170-258, i.e. 88 pages, amounting to at least 1,000 tablets, if not indeed double that. And, with the assistance and thoroughness of my trusty sidekick, Rita Roberts, archeologist in Crete, and my Linear B star student, who is presently at Level 3 (Intermediate) of her Linear B course, I – that is to say, we - intend to just that over the coming year or so, trust me.

I have also to express my profound gratitude and love of Michael Ventris, who is my true hero, and whom Rita too profoundly admires, because without his astounding achievement in 1952 of single-handedly deciphering Linear B, none of this would even be remotely possible. I am utterly convinced that Michael Ventris' spirit is in mine, and that he is my guardian angel. I am also convinced that he is cheering me on, or to adapt from Dante Gabriel Rossetti's “The Blessed Damozel”:

The blessed Michael Ventris leaned out/From the gold bar of Heaven;... and shines his everlasting light on us all.            

Watch for the next post, because with it, I burst the dams wide open.

Oh, and I just realized it. I chose to post this on May 8, which just happens to be the 69th. anniversary of VE Day, the end of World War II in Europe. Leave it to me to think of that!


Richard Vallance