Knossos Tablet KN 1171 E k 232, “A foal and sheep at Phaistos” by Rita Roberts: Click to ENLARGE

KN 1171 E k 232
The difficulty in any translation of this famous Linear B tablet lies solely with the rôle the foal plays, i.e. with his relationship to the sheep inventoried here at Phaistos. The key to this relationship might lie in the supersyllabogram PA preceding the ideogram for sheep (8) on the second line of the tablet. The problem with the SSY PA is that, even though it is attested (A) on several Linear B tablets dealing with sheep husbandry, there exists no translation for it in any current Mycenaean Greek-English glossary or lexicon, either online or off. Thus, although the SYY PA itself is attested (A), its meaning is lost to us, i.e. unattested. The only way to recover it, if this is even possible, is to attempt to derive it. I went to great lengths to try and decipher the SSY PA last year, but I came up with mixed results. I tried finding a Homeric Greek word which might fill the bill, but I could not. I tried to ferret out a correlative word in Linear C and in alphabetic Arcado-Cypriot, but again I could not. Finally, I had no choice but to have recourse to Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon (1986), in which I found several possible candidates for a complete Mycenaean word beginning with the syllabogram PA, of which the supersyllabogram might the first syllable. You can read the results of my exhaustive research on this elusive supersyllabogram in this post here:

In that post, I deduced that there could only be 6 possible meanings for the supersyllabogram PA, and of these, only 3 really looked like what the linear B scribes must have meant it to stand for. The problem is that we do not know which meaning (if any of these 6 at all) the scribes actually assigned to the SSY PA. In fact, none of the potential meanings I assigned to PA in the original post can possibly account for the relationship between the foal and the sheep on this tablet, which in turn can only mean one of two things: either (a) since the meaning of PA with respect to the foal on this particular tablet cannot be determined, this casts doubt on the 3-6 meanings I assigned last year or (b) there is another meaning which can be assigned that suitably correlates “foal” with “sheep”. But even in the latter case, we are still left high and dry, reverting to the first option (a). Thus, I am forced to conclude that the meaning of the supersyllabogram PA must remain unconfirmed until further notice, or until such time as a Linear B tablet is unearthed with confirms with certainty the semantic value of the SSY PA.

The other difficulty with the SSY PA which haunts me is the fact that it appears on the second line of this tablet, at some remove from the word PORO or “foal”. This may very well imply that the scribes did not intend that there should be any direct relationship between the little foal and the sheep on this tablet. I am more inclined to this hypothesis than to attempt to force the word PORO to relate to the sheep in this context. If this is the case, then one of the the putative meanings I assigned to the SSY PA in 2014 may eventually still very well stand the test for validity. It is vital to understand that all supersyllabograms can mean one thing and one thing only in any particular context on Linear B tablets. We shall just have to wait and see whether or not future finds of Linear B tablets will yield the actual semantic value of PA. But even if we did know what the SSY PA meant in the context of sheep husbandry, this would still leave us high and dry with respect to the rôle played by the foal, because of its physical distance from the SSY PA on this tablet. So the mystery remains sealed.

It is therefore pointless to attempt to try to translate the supersyllabogram PA on this tablet or on any other Linear B tablet on which it is found – and there are several. However, I must emphasize again: the Linear B scribes all knew perfectly well what the SSY PA meant. It is only we who do not.