REVISED: Co-op Storage of Olive Oil & Mass Production of Wheat in Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

a-kn-852-k-j-01-wheat-1k-olive-oil-a-for-amphora-ideogram

This tablet has been one of the most fruitful I have ever had the pleasure to translate. Not only did it yield up its contents (meaning) with little effort on my part, it also provided a brand new verb to add to the Mycenaean Greek Linear B lexicon (in the sense of vocabulary), with the prefix ama + the verb, epikere (3rd. person sing.) which, translated literally would mean, “cuts down all together”, or more appropriately “co-operates in cutting down” & in this context better still “co-operates in harvesting”, which in turn can be neatly rendered into English as “the co-operative of (the village of Dawos) harvests...”. I would like to extend my profound thanks to Ms. Gretchen Leonhardt, who has brought to my attention a critical error I made when I first translated this tablet. I had read ama & epikere as a single word, when a mere glance at this tablet clearly shows the words separated by the standard Linear B word divider, a vertical bar. Her vital correction serves to add more weight to my translation. It all makes perfect sense in this context, as it would indeed take an intensive co-operative effort on the part of the entire village of Dawos to harvest such a massive wheat crop. We note that the harvest is approx. 10,000 kilograms at the very least, and, considering the right truncation of this tablet, likely even more, from a minimum of 10K kilograms to 99.99K kilograms, though the upper limit figure is almost certainly way too high. So for the sake of expediency, let us assume the harvest runs to something in the range of 10K – 20K kilograms of wheat, still an enormous intake.

The second line of this tablet presents only one rather peculiar problem, the insertion of the number 1 inside the second ideogram for olive or olive oil, in this case, clearly olive oil, since people store olive oil rather than olives in pithoi or giant amphorae. I am not quite sure what that number 1 inside the second ideogram for olive oil refers to, but I assume it describes 1 type of amphora, as apposed to another, viz. the previous type mentioned on the same line with reference to 70 amphorae of olive oil. However, here again, we are confronted with the same difficulty we always encounter when trying to ascertain quantities in Mycenaean Linear B. The scribes knew perfectly well what an attributive number meant when assigned to an ideogram (here, for olive oil), but we do not and cannot 32 centuries later.

As for the rest of the line, going back to the first reference to olive oil, we find the syllabogram A inside the ideogram for olive oil. In this instance, it is an attributive supersyllabogram, and it clearly means A for aporewe, the Mycenaean Greek plural of amphora = amphorae, in this case the giant pithoi in which the Minoans at Knossos always stored their olive oil and wine.

Since the SSYL A is attributive and not associative (i.e. outside the ideogram), it must mean that the scribe is referring to olive oil which is always stored in pithoi or giant amphorae rather than consumed for immediate use (another attributive but separate value or characteristic for which there appears to be no known sypersyllabogram, since it is never referenced in any extant Linear B tablet). The distinction is subtle, but essential. When we say that a use of an item or commodity is typical, this means that it is an attributive characteristic or that item. The olive oil in this specific context can only be olive oil that is always stored in amphorae for later consumption... and when I say, amphorae, I mean the enormous pithoi or amphorae we encounter when we visit Knossos, as illustrated here: Click to ENLARGE

Giant amphorae or pithoi for sotring olive oil and wine at Knossos

Richard