The Wisconsin U.S.A. Tablet – Is it Minoan? PART B: Cross-Linguistic Comparison with the Indus Valley Harappan Script, 2,600 BCE

Firmly keeping in mind, and if at all possible, downloading and displaying my annotated version of the Wisconsin Tablet, so that you can view it alongside my annotated illustration of the Harappan script, I urge you to carefully consider the points I raise below, with reference to them both, as well as yet again to the early Cretan script, and to Linear A, B & C, allowing for a cross-comparative symbolic linguistic analysis of a total of no less than 6 ancient scripts, of which 3 are syllabic, 2 are in ancient Greek (Linear B and C), and 4 are undeciphered, the Wisconsin Tablet, the Harappan ad early Cretan scripts and the Linear a syllabary, all of which span an enormous historical timeline of 2,200 years, from ca. 2,600 – ca 400 BCE. Before we proceed any further, let us take a good close look at the Harappan script (Click to ENLARGE):

Harappan Wisconsin Tablet and Mediterranean Scripts

which predates all of the other scripts, except for the Wisconsin Tablet, which itself apparently is not even approximately dated for a timeline, by at least 500 years (from 2,600 BCE onwards), the early Cretan script running as it does from ca 1,900 – ca. 1,600 BCE. I have resorted to invoking the Indus Valley or Harappan script for precisely this reason, that I wanted to be certain that we end up dealing with various scripts and syllabaries spanning a huge timeline of some 2,200 years, making it literally impossible to correlate the symbols or syllabograms in any of these scripts, including the Wisconsin, in any meaningful fashion, without trapping ourselves in a quagmire of irresolvable contradictions and in a blatant reductio ad absurdum. It is abundantly clear that all 6 of these scripts share at least a couple of symbols, if not several, in common, while at the same time, these very same symbols are totally undecipherable in 4 of the scripts, the Wisconsin, Harappan, early Cretan scripts, and in the Linear A syllabary, for which we know most of the values, these being either close to identical or identical to those in Linear B, at least where they overlap. And that is not always, given that Linear A has considerably more syllabograms and ideograms than Linear B. Unfortunately, this means that a large portion of Linear A is not only undecipherable, but that many of its syllabograms and ideograms are still totally impermeable to us at the present juncture.

Of course, all of this amounts to, shall we say, one hell of a mess, given that even where the some of symbols, syllabograms and ideograms in any of these 6 scripts either closely resemble one another or are identical to one another, they are either completely undecipherable and beyond our ken, or have been almost completely deciphered (with a few queer exceptions in the 2 Greek scripts, Mycenaean Linear B, ca. 1500 – 1200 BCE, and its closest historical cousin or offspring, if you will, Arcado-Cypriot, written in Linear C from ca. 1100 – ca. 400 BCE). My point is simply this, that it is very nearly impossible arrive at any reasonable correlation of any of these symbols or syllabograms in any of these 6 scripts, even when they match up perfectly, with the sole exception of Linear A & B, which after all were employed by one and the same civilization, the Minoan, without a perceptible break, from ca. 1,800 to ca. 1,200 BCE, i.e. over 600 years, and – get this! - even though though they actually overlap, undeciphered Linear A being in continual use from ca. 1,800 – ca. 1,400 BCE, and Linear B, which was the syllabary for the earliest East Greek dialect, Mycenaean Greek, from ca. 1,500 – ca. 1,200 BCE, making for a century or so when they were in bed together.

This throws yet another wrench into our linguistic equation. Since it makes perfect sense for the Minoan scribes to continue using a simpler variant of Linear A in Linear B, why on earth would the same scribes continue to resort to Linear A alongside of Linear B for a period of at least a century (1,500 – 1,400 BCE)? This might appear to be a flat contradiction in terms, but in fact, it is highly doubtful that it is, since after all, nowadays we use the Latin script for many European languages, some of which held sway over all the others for considerable periods, for instance, Italian from ca. 1200 – ca. 1550 AD, French from ca. 1500 to ca. 1700 AD (again overlapping), and English, from ca. 1500 AD to the present, once again overlapping with Italian and French. In other words, all three of these modern languages held the ascendancy in tandem with at least one other at the same time, while English has been at the top of the heap since at least the beginning of the 20th. century.  

Likewise, there were eminently practical reasons for Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B to have been in use concomitantly for about 100 years or so, since after all, they used pretty much the same script, even if the former is undeciphered today, and I emphasize today. However, There can be no doubt whatsoever that the Minoan scribes were perfectly bilingual in this period of about a century, when the two scripts overlapped, and it is perfectly reasonable to assume that the Minoans and Mycenaeans clearly understood one another’s language, which they surely must have. Otherwise, why continue using Linear A alongside Linear B for at least a century? There was no question of their having to decipher the Minoan language, because there was nothing to decipher. The language was then a known one, spoken and written, all during that period. Some scribes and some literates must have not only been familiar with both languages, but perfectly bilingual in both. What a shame we have lost the Minoan language to the Lethe of history, while our dear genius Michael Ventris succeeded, against all odds, in deciphering Linear B as Greek!

But, you are probably asking yourselves, why am I bringing this point up in the first place? Well, it is pretty obvious, I think. We can clearly see that the same syllabary, common to Linear A & B, with minor variations and with a shift to greater simplicity in Linear B, can be used to write two completely unrelated languages, just as the modern Latin script is used for several Indo-European languages, English, French, Spanish, German and so forth, and even some Slavic languages to boot, while at the same time doing perfect service for the Finno-Ugaric languages, Finnish, Estonian, Latvian and Hungarian, which are not Indo-European at all.

On the other hand, as can clearly be observed in our cross-correlation of 6 scripts from Harappan on down to Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, even though a few symbols and syllabograms appear to be in common with at least some of these 6 languages, the pattern is totally haphazard, the result being a meaningless crazy-quilt. The same scenario exists for modern Indo-European languages, of which the majority use the Latin alphabet, while Greek has its own peculiar alphabet predating the Latin, and almost all of the Slavic languages use the Cyrillic (though not all). While the Latin and Cyrillic (accidentally) share some letters in common, Cyrillic has far more in common with Greek. Once again, we find ourselves up against a hodge-podge of alphabets, all of which have some, but scarcely all, letters in common, just as our 6 ancient scripts share some, but scarcely all, of the symbols and syllabograms they – and here again, I lay particular stress on this point – accidentally have in common, with the sole exception of Linear A and Linear B, which form a clear continuum.

Taken to its extreme, this observation leads us to the inevitable conclusion that, regardless or not whether or not any 2 or more languages share the same pictographs, hieroglyphics, ideograms, logograms, syllabograms or alphabets in common, whether almost totally or in more or less part, there is absolutely no guarantee whatsoever that these languages are related in any meaningful way by linguistic family or sub-class. For instance, early Mediterranean, such as early Cretan and Linear A, appear to be closely related, but may very well not be. Meanwhile Linear A, which is used for the Minoan language, remains undeciphered, and in all probability, is in no way related to Greek, including Mycenaean, written in Linear B,even though these scripts are almost identical. We find the same scenario with modern Occidental Indo-European languages versus their Finno-Ugaric counterparts, which are not Indo-European at all, and yet which share the same alphabet, just as Linear A and Linear B share the same syllabary, for all intents and purposes. 

What then does all this imply if not this? - that any and all ancient, including prehistoric, scripts must be deciphered within the ambit of their own hieroglyphics, ideograms, syllabograms or alphabet, whether or not these look (even exactly) like the hieroglyphics, ideograms, syllabograms or alphabet of any other language whatsoever. In other words, forget about the nature of the script in which any undeciphered language is written, whether hieroglyphic, ideogrammatic, syllabogrammatic or alphabetical, and concentrate solely and entirely on endeavouring to decipher it in its own right sui generis, without reference at all to any other language, dead or living. That this is surely the case is made abundantly clear by the co-existence, indeed, entente cordiale, that comfortably existed between the syllabary used for the undeciphered Minoan language written in Linear A and the linguistically completely unrelated language, Mycenaean Greek, written in Linear B, the syllabary which for all intents and purposes was the brain-child of Linear A, which the Minoan scribes clearly adapted to suit their own eminently practical purposes. After all, why re-invent the wheel, and why fix something when it isn’t even broken in the first place? It is precisely for the same reason that the Greek alphabet, which has been in continual use for at least 2,800 years (ca. 800 BCE to the present), the Latin alphabet for at least 2,750 years (from the time of the time of the founding of Rome if not before), and last, but far from least, the much younger Cyrillic alphabet, from the ninth century AD onwards, are all still going gang-busters.

This is precisely why the presence of even a few symbols which look like Linear A or Linear B syllabograms on the Wisconsin Tablet is utterly meaningless.

You could cross-correlate the symbols in God knows how many pre-historic or ancient languages, and still come up with matches or near-matches, but these would be, and in fact, are utterly meaningless, especially where one language dates from as early as 10,000 or 5,000 BCE, having symbols in common with any one or more languages from a (far) later historical period. And they all too frequently do. In a word, the whole exercise of cross-comparing identical, near identical or similar looking symbols, pictographs, hieroglyphics, ideograms, syllabograms or alphabets, whether prehistoric, ancient or modern, is entirely meaningless in determining the nature or linguistic class of any and all of these languages whatsoever.

So any attempt to cross-correlate symbols from one language to another, even where they leap out at us, yelling, hey, I am the “same” symbol in such and such language (for instance that of the Wisconsin Tablet) as in another (for instance, Minoan in Linear A or Mycenaean Greek in Linear B), I regret to say, sadly amounts to a hill of beans, and nothing more.    

Richard