Are there “adjuncts” a.k.a. Supersyllabograms in Minoan Linear A? Apparently so... at least in the pottery and vessels sector of the Minoan economy. But what do they mean?

Part A: Preamble

I recently searched Google for as many Minoan Linear A tablets as I could find which might conceivably support the phenomenon I refer to as supersyllabograms, a.k.a as “adjuncts” in the research literature on Mycenaean Linear B, and to my utter surprise and astonishment I discovered one rather long intact Linear A tablet fitting the bill. There are on it what appear to be several “incharged adjuncts”, which is a contradiction in terms when you stop to think about it, since an adjunct, an element adjacent to an ideogram in either Mycenaean Linear B or (possibly) Minoan Linear A cannot be bound inside said ideogram, because if it were so, it would no longer be an adjunct, i.e. adjacent. Among other reasons, this is why I have chosen to refer to so-called “adjuncts” in Linear B as supersyllabograms. I have defined this term over and over on our blog, and if you wish to learn what a supersyllabogram is, I urge you to go to the section, Supersyllabograms, flagged here at the top of our blog. Just click on the word to jump to that section: Click to ENLARGE


LBKM menu
Now if we turn our attention to supersyllabograms in the pottery and vessels sector alone in Mycenaean Linear B, here is what we find: Click to ENLARGE
10 Supersyllabograms in the Vessels Sector of Mycenaean Linear B
Without our delving nto details re. the specific meaning of each and every one of these 10 supersyllabograms out of a total of 35 which I have discovered to date in all sectors of the  Minoan-Mycenaean economy, we can still see that each one clearly delimits the actual type of vessel with which the incharged supersyllabogram is concerned. For instance, the syllabogram di incharged in the ideogram for a two-handled kylix indicates that this is a libation vessel either to Poseidon or Potnia, two major Minoan/Mycenaean gods, whole so incharged in its vessel would in all probability indicates that this is a funerary urn.

Now when turn to we examine the Minoan Linear A you see illustrated here: Click to ENLARGE: 

Linear A Ay. Nikolaos Mus
from the site: Study Questions: Biers, Chapter 1: "Archaeology in Greece" and Biers, Chapter 2: "The Minoans" , which you can visit here:

site with tablet


we at once see that it too contains a total of 6 syllabograms, all of which are incharged in the ideograms for pottery or vessels which they represent. By “incharged” I mean that the supersyllabogram is bound inside the ideogram with which it is associated. In Mycenaean Linear B at least, all incharged supersyllabograms without exception are attributive, that is to say, they describe an actual (adjectival) attribute of the ideogram within which they are found.

The question is, what do they mean? In other words, (a) how does each of these incharged syllabograms delimit the vessel they are attributes of to one and one only specific type of vessel? This leads us directly to the next obvious question, (b) what can each of these incharged supersyllabograms mean? Can we glean from each of them the actual meaning, i.e. the type of vessel with which they are concerned? — because if there is even a chance that we can, then we shall have discovered for the first time ever the actual meanings of  a possible maximum of 6 Minoan words, and that would constitute a breakthrough, however minimal, in the decipherment of the Minoan language, which has to date resisted all attempts whatsoever at decipherment.

Two of the characters, 2 and 5 on this tablet may not be Linear A syllabograms. I am unable to identify them as such. 1 appears to be the syllabogram su, but I cannot be sure. 3 is definitely the syllabogram for the vowel u, while 4 appears to be that for po. 6 is definitely the syllabogram for  the vowel a. Even though this syllabogram clearly signifies an amphora in Mycenaean Linear B, no such conclusion can be safely drawn for Minoan Linear A, since the language is not Greek — unless the word for amphora is pre-Greek, which is highly unlikely. But the question remains, what kinds of vessels do the Minoan syllabograms su & po (which are tentative on this tablet), and u and a, which are certain, signify?  With reference to the so-called certainty of the syllabograms a in u in Minoan Linear A, we of course have to rely on the premise that all or at least the vast majority of syllabograms in Minoan Linear A are either  identical or nearly identical to their Mycenaean Linear B counterparts. But unfortunately even that is not so certain, although most linguists and researchers into Minoan Linear A believe this to be the case. For the sake of uniformity and consistence with the prevailing views on the actual phonemic value of each Minoan Linear A syllabogram, let us assume this is the case. If this scenario is indeed tenable, I propose in the next 3 posts to unravel the putative meanings of a maximum of 4 types of vessels as found on the Minoan Linear A tablet illustrated above, down to a minimum of one, the word for “tripod” in Linear A, perhaps the only one for which the definition would appear to be sound.

Richard