The Wisconsin U.S.A. Tablet — Is it Minoan? PART A: Comparison with 4 Ancient Northern Mediterranean Scripts

A Thorough Linguistic Analysis of the Wisconsin Tablet (Click to ENLARGE):

A symbols and syllabograms early Cretan Linear A Linear B Linear C

When I first saw the Wisconsin Tablet, which our friend, E.J. Heath, posted here on our blog, I stood amazed. Staring me in the face were 3 symbols, 2 of which which looked uncannily like 2 syllabograms (B, C&F) common to Linear A & B, and one of which (H) looked like the number 20, again in common with Linear A & B. Well now, that’s a real find, or so it would appear.

But my wonderment quickly faded as I began to closely, then more meticulously, examine its symbols, discovering as I did that only 1 other symbol looked anything like symbols in any early (pre-historic) Northern Mediterranean scripts, that being symbol A on the Wisconsin Tablet, which is identical to the same symbol in the early Cretan script, and closely resembles 2 similar symbols, called syllabograms, in Linear C, the latter being the vowels a & e in that script. But Linear C is a far later historical Greek script, in use continually from ca. 1100 BCE to 400 BCE, alongside the ancient Greek alphabet. And that period is more than likely to be much later than the Wisconsin Tablet. As for the rest of the symbols on the Wisconsin tablet, they bear little or no resemblance at all to the symbols in early Cretan (an undeciphered pictographic or ideographic script), or to the syllabograms in Linear A (which, though undeciphered, shares a great many of its syllabograms in common with deciphered Linear B, or at least shares some features of these), to the 200 or so syllabograms and ideograms in Linear B or yet again to any syllabograms other than the vowels a & e in deciphered Cypro-Minoan Linear C.  

All this leaves me at a complete impasse, and opens a real can of worms. Questions, which are not hypothetical, but historically pregnant, pop up left, right and centre. For instance:

1. How on earth can a tablet unearthed in the north-western U.S.A. reasonably be considered to be Minoan, when its shares symbols in common with 4 different ancient scripts, 2 of them similar to one another (Linear A &  B), but one being undeciphered and the other decidedly Greek (Mycenaean), and the other two completely dissimilar, not only to one another, but also to Linear A & B. Even granted that the 2 symbols (and only 2), and the apparent “number 20” which I can clearly see on the Wisconsin Tablet, which apparently look like their Linear A & B counterparts, are, for the sake of argument, actually those very syllabograms in Linear A & B, this raises another thorny question, how can we be even remotely sure that this is in fact the case, when all of the other symbols on the Wisconsin – I repeat – bear no resemblance with any syllabograms or ideograms in either Linear A or B (and that means 100s of them!). We have landed in a real quagmire. In short, we cannot decipher it under these conditions.  Here is a chart summarizing my findings (Click to ENLARGE):

Early Cretan Linear A B and C

Here are two Linear A tablets, which shed further light on the issue of the Wisconsin tablet sharing (or not) symbols with Linear A syllabograms (Click to ENLARGE):

Linear A numeric & ss reversed

Refer back to the Wisconsin Tablet above for 2 of the symbols highlighted with the same letters (E & H) on both it and these two Linear A tablets.  

2. On the other hand, if we take the stance that the 3 so-called “Minoan” symbols on the Wisconsin Tablet are not Linear A or B syllabograms or numerics – which is a perfectly reasonable assumption to proceed from – then what on earth are they? Are they even syllabograms or numerics? Or are they any one of the following: pictographs, such as we see in the famous Peterborough Pictographs, unearthed near Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, some time ago, or perhaps hieroglyphics, or yet again logographic, ideogrammatic, syllabogrammatic or even, as far fetched as it may seem (and it is) alphabetic? This stretches my poor imagination and my powers of reason almost beyond bearing.

3. When was the Wisconsin Tablet composed? This is an absolutely critical question, because, failing any knowledge of even the approximate date of its composition, the whole thing remains a complete mystery. There are, of course, two tried-and-tested archaeological approaches to getting closer to resolving this vital question, at least to some extent. First of all, has the Wisconsin Tablet been carbon-dated? If it has not, the mystery remains just that, and nothing more. If it has (which apparently seems not to be the case, but hopefully E.J. Heath can enlighten me on this matter), then the carbon-dating is entirely capable of determining whether or not it falls at least somewhere near or within the historical timeline of both Linear A and Linear BC together, i.e. 1,800 – 1,200 BCE. If the carbon-dating proves this to be the case, then at least our friend has a leg to stand on, however shaky. On the other hand, if the carbon-dating should prove that the Wisconsin tablet pre-dates or post-dates the Minoan/Mycenaean era (ca. 1,900 – 1,200 BCE), then it is, even in the very best scenario, highly unlikely that the Wisconsin Tablet is composed in anything like or near to Linear A or B, and the whole hypothesis falls apart like a house of cards. 

4. Another way of establishing the approximate timeline of the Wisconsin tablet is to submit it to as many as possible eminently qualified North American, as well as European and Mediterranean, archaeologists, and eventually to draw up a team of archaeologist to address this sticky issue head on, by which I mean in conference or in writing and online or better still, all. All this would take considerable time, conceivably close to a decade. 

It goes entirely without saying that both of these approaches to attempting to establish the approximate dating of the Wisconsin tablet are absolutely essential to the process of identifying in any way what it is, and can in no wise be omitted. I leave it to our friend E.J. Heath to get in touch with at least a few archaeologists in the field (pardon the pun!) in the U.S.A, first and foremost at the University of Wisconsin itself, to establish the credentials of the Wisconsin Tablet, as it were.

 
5. On yet another level, I am forcibly struck by the curious absence of any other tablet(s), especially in light of the fact that the Minoan scribes writing in both Minoan Linear A and in Mycenaean Greek in Linear B, were completely obsessed with record-keeping, inventories and statistics. While there is a dearth of Linear A tablets still in existence compared with Linear B tablets, there are still plenty enough of them. We can only assume that those Linear A tablets which have disappeared in the maelstrom of history have done so for various reasons bearing on lack of archaeological findings or evidence, which may nevertheless may be corrected, at least to some degree, by potential findings in the future. But there can be no assurance of this. So if we have a few hundred Linear A tablets at our disposal, why is there only 1 single tablet to be found in Wisconsin, when we know perfectly well that the Linear A and Linear B scribes were concerned with one thing and one thing only, keeping exhaustive records, inventories and statistics on absolutely anything and everything that affected their economy?  This surely begs the question: why has only 1 and one only so-called “Minoan” tablet been unearthed in Wisconsin? If as E.J. Heath claims, this tablet is likely to be just that, Minoan, then surely at least a few, if not a few scores of other tablets, or ideally hundreds just like it, should have been unearthed with it.  Since none have, the question is why – and it is a question that must eventually bear answering in some way or another, sooner or later.  

On the other hand, there are literally 1,000s of Linear B Tablets (close to 6,000 at last count), and we can read them! Even if the 3 so-called Linear A & B look-alikes on the Wisconsin Tablet were in fact either Linear A or Linear B, we would still be stuck in the mud, right where we are. Since Linear A is undeciphered, even if 2 of the symbols on the Wisconsin Tablet are in Linear A (which I highly doubt), they too remain undecipherable (with the possible exception of the so-called number 20. For more in this, see infra).

If on the other hand, these are Linear B symbols, i.e. the 2 syllabograms ZO (B) and NO (C& F), along with the apparent numeric = 20?, the tablet is still undecipherable, because we can make no sense of any of the other symbols on it, and in order to decipher it, we must place the apparent Linear B ZO & NO strictly in context with all of the symbols immediately preceding and following them, if indeed these other symbols are syllabograms (which I highly doubt). Remember what I said above, that the symbols on the Wisconsin tablet must all either be pictographics, hieroglyphics, ideograms or (very unlikely) syllabograms, and almost inconceivably letters, but never an admixture of any one of the above, with the possible sole exception of syllabograms and ideograms, which do in fact co-exist happily in Linear A & B. At least we can admit of that. Yet, even with this single exception at our disposal, we will have practically backed ourselves up against a solid brick wall, given that there is a substantial likelihood of the symbols on the Wisconsin Tablet being either pictographs or hieroglyphics.

6. As for that presumed number 20, even if it is a number, is it the number 20, i.. in the tens, or is it a single digit, i.e. 2?  This is no small matter. In several of the ancient and not so ancient scripts, single digit numbers are either denoted by parallel horizontal lines, in which case the tens are designated by parallel vertical lines (if at all), or vice versa, i.e. single digits are vertical parallels and 10s horizontal. The easiest way to illustrate this is by invoking the numbers 1, 2 & 3 in (ichi, ni & san) in Japanese Kanji, which are the exact reverse of the paradigms for numerics in Linear A & B. Whereas Linear A & B denote single digits with vertical parallel lines and 10s with horizontal, Japanese Kanji resorts to the horizontal for single digits, as seen here:

Kanji ichi ni san

All this still leaves us with one unanswered question, which is very much moot. Are these 2 parallel horizontal lines on the Wisconsin tablet either the number 20 or the number 2, or are they numbers at all? Pending decipherment, we can never really know.

To Summarize:

Given all the issues I have raised with respect to the Wisconsin Tablet, I sincerely doubt that it is composed in Linear A or Linear B, or anything remotely like that. This leaves the tablet not only undecipherable, but for now highly resistant to any attempt at decipherment. On the other hand, its discovery is significant. Writing as such, if indeed this is writing we have here on the Wisconsin Tablet, is almost unheard of in the annals of North American aboriginal tribes. Pictographs, such as the Peterborough Pictographs, occasionally appear, and they do contribute to the continuing search for symbolic evidence of North American aboriginal settlements. What strikes me about this particular tablet is that it does not appear to be composed of simple pictographs, but of something – I cannot imagine what – more sophisticated... hieroglyphics or ideograms or... heavens no what? In this light, I greatly encourage E. J. Heath and any and all researchers or aficionados of ancient scripts to pour their efforts into attempting to figure out the nature of the symbols on this fascinating tablet, if not to decipher it outright.

In the next post, I shall raise even more issues and concerns I have with the Wisconsin tablet, or for that matter with any tablet in any undeciphered language anywhere in the ancient pre-historic world. To do so, I shall have recourse to the 417 symbols of the ancient Harappan script of the Indus Valley civilization, which considerably predates by several centuries – ca. 2,600 to ca. 2,000 BCE -all four of the scripts we have held under consideration here (early Cretan, Linear A, Linear B and the historical Greek script, Arcado-Cypriot Linear C). What we will discover with this script is bound to increase, not decrease, the shock we all to often encounter, however valiantly we struggle to decipher any undeciphered ancient pre-historic script, let alone the Wisconsin Tablet.

That said, the fact that the Wisconsin Tablet remains a baffling mystery warrants more than its fair share of attention (whatever that might be), and so I applaud E. J. Heath for posting it here on our blog, and I invite him to counter each of the issues and objections I have raised here, and more of which I shall raise again in the next post, as he feels inclined.

Richard