Cross-Correlation of Linear A with Linear B Syllabograms. Does it all add up or not? What is Linear A? What if? We need to take a long hard look at this.

Let’s take a look at this cross-comparative table of Linear A “syllabograms” which look (almost) identical to their Linear B counterparts, and let’s generously assume that they all have the same phonetic values in both syllabaries. Why not? Almost everyone has anyway. Click to ENLARGE:

LinearA01-120 CF LinearB

Still, ever since I first started comparing the Linear A with the Linear B syllabary, I found myself seriously questioning how and, more significantly, why most ancient language linguists specializing in these two scripts have assumed that, just because deciphered syllabograms in Linear B all bear a specific phonetic value, consequently the so-called “syllabograms” - if indeed all are just that, syllabograms – ought to or, if we push the envelope, must have the same values in Linear A. But, being the doubting Thomas I am, I have serious reservations about the hypothetical premises underlying such a tailor-made assumption. 

My reasons are several:

1. Since the Minoan language is completely undeciphered, and contains considerably more syllabograms, logograms & ideograms (or whatever else) than Linear B, how can we be reasonably sure that even those characters (whatever they are) in Linear A, which look (almost) identical to their Linear B counterparts, are in fact identical? Given that the Minoan language has stubbornly evaded any attempt whatsoever at decipherment, what is plainly unproven is just that, and nothing more. The fundamental assumption almost all researchers espouse, who posit value for equal value in both scripts as being unquestionably “correct”, is open to serious cross-examination. In the face of lack of scientific evidence, supportive or even partially supportive, this cannot possibly be confirmed with any degree of reasonable accuracy. I for one simply cannot accept on faith alone the hypothesis that comparison of specific values of a known syllabary should inevitably lead to the conclusion that in all instances A=A, B=B etc. Far from it. This is not to say that there is still a high probability that what strongly looks like a syllabogram in Linear A exactly corresponding to a known syllabogram in Linear B is in fact the same syllabogram in both scripts. I am more than willing to concede that in all probability A in Linear A is A in Linear B etc. But there is simply no way of proving this; so we have to take the whole matter with a grain of salt.

2. Now if it ever turns out that evidence can be forwarded that even a few of the so-called “syllabograms” in Linear A which look exactly like their counterparts in linear B are in fact syllabograms, but with entirely different phonetic values or, in the worst case scenario, not syllabograms at all, such a turn of events would throw a huge wrench into the fundamental premise, widely espoused by the community of linguists specializing in Linear A and Linear B taken together, that they form a contiguous continuum. And that would be very bad news for future attempts at deciphering the Minoan language. Again, I stress, I am not at all saying that the current widely espoused theory is in essence wrong. In fact, it is probably I who am wrong, possibly even completely out of step. But there still remains a possibility, however slim (and I for one do not think it is that slim), that there are likely to be real problems with cross-correlation of Linear A characters (whatever they are) with their so-called counterparts in Linear B. In the meantime, I am more than willing to reserve judgement on this question, and to follow the herd, with this caveat, that I remain and shall always remain the doubting Thomas, until and unless I can be even somewhat assured that the presumed cross correlations can stand the acid test as they are.

3. Now what really makes me wonder what on earth is going on with “everything is fine just as it is, so why reinvent the wheel?” is this. Some researchers already assign different phonetic values to the “same” characters in Linear A. That is worrisome in and of itself. Take for instance that the so-called syllabograms TE, TU & SI appear in more than one way in Linear A. Yes, it is true that the one version of TE looks a lot like the other. But when we come to TU & SI, things get positively messy. To illustrate my point, take a look at this chart: Click to ENLARGE

Linear-A-base Minoan Language Blog

Yes, a great many researchers delving into Linear A will say, “Well, that is to be expected. The script was bound to evolve over such a long period of time – more than a millennium.” Fair enough. But the difficulty remains that, whereas Linear A was apparently in use from ca. 2500-1500 BCE, neither Linear B nor Linear C evolved in any real sense, even though the former was in continual use from ca. 1600-1200 BCE & the latter from 1100-400 BCE (a much longer period!).

Given the considerably longer timeline for Linear A, it is more than likely that the appearance and possibly even the phonetic values of certain characters was bound to change. This sort of scenario falls neatly in line with the significant changes Egyptian hieroglyphics underwent over their long history. The fact that Linear A is a much earlier script than either Linear B or Linear C lends further credence to its apparent fluidity. After all, the English alphabet changed dramatically over a relatively shorter timeline (ca. 700 AD – 1500 AD), some 300 years less. On the other hand, Linear C did not change at all over 700 years, almost as long as the evolution of the English alphabet. So I am not quite sure what to make of all this, except to say, once again, I remain the doubting Thomas.

4. Is the Linear A Syllabary strictly a syllabary, or does it contain Hieroglyphics as well?

Linear A has considerably more characters (syllabograms, homophones, logograms and ideograms, if indeed all of these are just those) than Linear B, which again raises the question, which characters are syllabograms, which homophones, which logograms and which ideograms. There is simply no way to substantiate which are which. Again, the monster rears its ugly head. Since there are quite a few more “ideograms” - if that is what they really all are – in Linear A than in Linear B, what on earth can the ideograms in Linear A which have no counterparts in Linear B possibly mean? And I have to ask out loud, are they even all ideograms, or could some of them even be hieroglyphics? This is no idle matter. Let us not conveniently “forget”, or more to the point, blithely brush aside the fact that the Linear A syllabary was immediately preceded by an even earlier Minoan script with one particularly telling characteristic: 

AncientScripts.com logo
Most early writing systems have their origins in iconographic systems and likewise Cretan Hieroglyphs most likely evolved out of non-linguistic symbols on seal stones from the late 3rd and early 2nd millennium BCE. Cretan Hieroglyphs was the first writing of the Minoans and predecessor to Linear A.

And again:

AncientGreece.org Logo

The first written scripts of the Minoans resemble Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Phaistos Disk which is now exhibited in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum and dates back to 1700 BC, is an example of such (a) script.

And again:

Athena Review
Minoan Hieroglyphic Scripts: The earliest Minoan writing is the Cretan hieroglyphic script used on seal stones and clay accounting documents (Packard 1974). This early syllabic script evolved by 1900 BC during the Middle Minoan period, and was used through the destruction of the Minoan palaces ca.1450 BC.

Oh, and for your enlightenment – and mine too, here are a few examples of early Cretan-Minoan hieroglyphics: Click to ENLARGE

Comparison of Cretan hieroglyphics with Linear A Characters

Now isn’t this just a mind-bender? One of the Cretan-Minoan hieroglyphics [2] is identical to its Linear A counterpart (whatever it is), while the first Cretan-Minoan hieroglyphic [1] is flipped right side up in Linear A. The other two [3] & [4] are (almost) identical, except for degree orientation. But the most astonishing thing is that [3] = the syllabogram DA in Linear A & B and TA in Linear C, lasting with very little change for 2,100 years! (2,500 BCE – 400 BCE). In other words, what began as a Cretan-Minoan hieroglyphic gradually transformed into a syllabogram, at least in the later development of Linear A, and again as a syllabogram in both Linear B & Linear C. TA in Linear C is in fact the exact same syllabogram as DA in Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B, since Arcado-Cypriot Linear C has no D+vowel series.

Now, let’s just carry my novel hypothesis to its all but inexorable conclusion. What if just a few of the hieroglyphics in the pre-Linear A hieroglyphic scripts just happened to slip into Linear A, without anyone caring much either way? If the earliest Linear A scribes still found it convenient to continue using even a few of the earlier Cretan-Minoan hieroglyphics, why wouldn’t they? After all, when the Linear B scribes devised their syllabary for Mycenaean Greek, they swiped scores and scores of characters, syllabograms and ideograms lock-stock-and-barrel from Linear A without even thinking twice of it.  So here is my hypothesis, for what it is worth – and that may very well be something – what if... again, I say, what if some of the Linear A characters are still hieroglyphic? Well, there is one sure way to test this hypothesis, and that is to directly compare, i.e. cross-correlate, every last character in the Linear A syllabary with the hieroglyphics in its immediate predecessor, the Cretan-Minoan hieroglyphs... which is exactly what I intend to do. But it does not even end there. 
 
Has anyone ever bothered to compare the total number of Linear A characters – whatever they are – with the total number of Egyptian hieroglyphics, though there are plenty of the latter? If not, why not? Well, don’t worry, because I intend to do just that as well.  Now, if even two or three Linear A characters turn out to look (almost) exactly like certain Egyptian hieroglyphics, of which the phonetic values and the meaning are already known to us, we may be onto something, though I hasten to add that this does not at all mean that the Minoan language is related in any way to the Egyptian, or even that the similar characters in Linear A are still hieroglyphics. Dangerous assumption.... though of course they very well may be. Confused? That’s OK too, since confusion is the first step towards scepticism, and scepticism in turn the next step on the path to investigation.


Richard