Archive for August, 2017

The third example of Cretan ideograms/logograms, Malia label Mu MA/M Hf, possibly decipherable:

Cretan label Malia Quartier Mu MA M Hf

Click on the label, FRAGRANTICA, for more information about saffron as an ancient aromatic.

This is the third example of Cretan ideograms/logograms, Malia label Mu MA/M Hf. Surprising as it is, this label may be largely decipherable. It is subdivided into 3 sections. The first S1 is blank. The second, S2, appears to spill over from the first side to the second, while the third, S3, is found on the second side alone. The first ideogram in S2 (section 2) is probably the one for “saffron”, while the second is still indecipherable. The third is clearly some sort of representation of a woman. The X, which is indecipherable, is followed by the number 100. S2 continues on side 2, which begins with what is clearly the ideogram for “textiles/cloth”, followed by what appear to be 3 ideograms for “sword(s)”. If these 3 ideograms in fact designate “swords”, they are practically identical to those for “swords” in Linear B. Section 3 (S3) begins with what appears to be an ideogram for “garment(s)”, followed once again by textiles, and followed in turn by an indecipherable ideogram, which might possibly relate to cutting, S3 ending with the number 100.

A partial decipherment might read: aromatic saffron + ? + a weaver or weavers (all weavers were women) weaving 100 rolls of cloth, 3 of which serve to wrap 3 swords in + 100 garments of some kind of (cut) textiles (saffron dyed?).

Tablet, Malia Palace MA/P Hi 02 in so-called Cretan hieroglyphs, dealing with crops and vessels (pottery):

Cretan tablet Malia Palace MAP hi 02

Tablet, Malia Palace MA/P Hi 02 in so-called Cretan hieroglyphs, which are not hieroglyphs at all, but rather ideograms and logograms, is highly intriguing. Actually, this tablet is partially decipherable. The front side definitely deals with the produce of olive trees, i.e. olive oil and also with wheat crops. If anyone is in any doubt over the meaning of the logogram 5. TE, which looks exactly like the Linear A and Linear B syllabogram TE, this doubt can easily be swept away by mere comparison with the logogram/ideogram for wheat in several ancient scripts, some of which are hieroglyphic, such as Egyptian, others which are cuneiform and yet others which bear no relation to either hieroglyphs or cuneiform, or for that matter, with one another, as for instance, the Harrapan and Easter Island exograms.

comparison of Cretan TE with symbol for wheat or barley in various ancient scripts

In fact, the recurrence of an almost identical ideogram/logogram across so many ancient scripts is astonishing. It is for this reason that I am in no doubt over the interpretation of 5. TE as signifying what in the Cretan script.

Next up, we have 3a. & 3b., which I interpret, and probably correctly, as signifying “ewe” and “ram” respectively. In fact, the resemblance of 3b. to a ram’s head is uncanny. What is passingly strange is this: the ram’s head figures so prominently on the second side of the tablet, being much larger than any other ideogram/logogram on the tablet. Why is this so? There simply has to be a reason. But for the time being, I am stumped. Since 3a. & 3b. Relate to sheep, it stands to reason that 6. is another type of livestock. My money is on “pig”. 7. and 9. are both vessels, 7. probably being either a wine or water flask and 9. being a spice container, as it is strikingly similar to the Linear B ideogram for the same. 8. looks like some kind of grain crop, and so I take it to be so.

As for the rest of the ideograms/logograms, they are still indecipherable.

The first two examples of so-called Cretan hieroglyphs appear to be 4 separate palm-leaf tablets, but are in fact one 4 sided-bar:

Knossos 4 sided bar in Cretan hieroglyphics or not

The first two examples of so-called Cretan hieroglyphs appear to be 4 separate palm-leaf tablets, but are in fact one 4 sided-bar from Knossos. This is of great significance, because if I am right and the text is sequential, from start to finish, and runs dextrograde on each side (which it almost certainly does) then a clear pattern emerges. 5 distinct links are found on the four sides. These are clearly marked on the facsimile of this 4 sided bar (Knossos Hh (04) 03). Consequently, we can assume that this bar tallies contents, for which 5 key ideograms recur, signifying that there is a distinct coherence to the contents they tag. The four-sided bar appears to inventory not only agricultural items, namely, the produce of olive trees (olive oil) and some kind of grain crop, symbolized by the logogram which looks like the Linear A & B syllabogram ZU, but military ones as well. The ideogram for adze or labrys, which is the origin of the syllabogram A in Linear A and B, appears on face 1. Then we have what looks like a helmet on face 2 and a boars tusk helmet (L5) on face 4. (the latter the precursor, it would seem, of the Linear A & B syllabograms for E). Finally, we find an ideogram (L4) which looks like some kind of animal, and my bet is that it is a horse. All of these ideograms and logograms lend credence to a military interpretation.

So-called Cretan hieroglyphs are not hieroglyphs at all. Example 2

Cretan symboic writing ideograms b

These 2 palm-leaf tablets incised with Cretan symbols are the second example of why so-called Cretan hieroglyphs are not hieroglyphs at all. We note right off the top that there are only 12 symbols, all of which are in fact ideograms or logograms. The numeric symbols, 20, 60 and 100 on the fist tablet do not conform to Linear A and B standards.

As for the ideograms, they all appear to be indecipherable, but it is perhaps possible to assign meanings to a few of them. 2., which looks like Linear B ZU, may be a grain crop, possibly barley. 4. looks like some kind of animal, possibly a horse. 5. and 6. could be separate logograms, or put together, the could constitute one, in which case it could be a scythe. 7 is perhaps another kind of crop. 8 is probably an olive tree. 10. looks a great deal like 4., and may be the same ideogram. 11. looks like the Linear A syllabogram PA3 (PAI), but is indecipherable. 12 appears to be somewhat like the Linear A vowel E, and it may be a boars tusk helmet, but there is no way of telling for certain.

So-called Cretan hieroglyphs are not hieroglyphs at all. Example 1

Cretan symbolic writing ideograms a

These 2 palm-leaf tablets incised with Cretan symbols are the first example of why so-called Cretan hieroglyphs are not hieroglyphs at all. We note right off the top that there are only 6 symbols, all of which are in fact ideograms or logograms. The numeric symbols, 40 and 100 on the fist tablet and 50, 10 & 80 on the second, do not conform to Linear A and B standards. In Linear A & B, decimals to the tens (10…90) are represented by horizontal bars, 1 for 10, 2 for 20, 8 for 80 etc. It appears instead that the dots on these tablets represent decimals to the tens. This is partly because the figure for 100 on the first tablet accords with Linear A & B practice, making it more likely that the dots are indeed in the tens.

Some other symbols are clearly identifiable. No. 1. is definitely the ideogram for an adze or labrys, which in Linear A and B is metamorphosed into the syllabogram for the vowel A. 2. is more likely to represent olive tree(s) rather than olive(s), for reasons which will become apparent in upcoming examples. 5. is very likely the ideogram for helmet, because it is very similar to same ideogram in Linear B.

So what are these palm-leaf tablets about? The first appears to be primarily military, te second primarily agricultural, with the sole exception of the ideogram for helmet, which appears out of place. But perhaps it is not. Perhaps the olive tree crops are being defended by the military. We shall never know.

How can so-called Cretan hieroglyphs be hieroglyphs when there are only 45 of them?

Until now most researchers have simply assumed that the 45 Cretan symbols (by my count), exclusive of numerics, must be hieroglyphs. But the evidence appears to gainsay this hypothesis. As the table below makes quite clear, there are only 45 Cretan symbols, to which

only 27 may possibly/probably/definitely be assigned meanings.

possible or probable or definite known Cretan hieroglyphs

The significance of the remaining 18 are currently beyond the bounds of decipherment:

ALL unknown Cretan seal symbols

So this lands us with a total of only 45 Cretan symbols. If and when we compare this number with the approximately 1,000 Egyptian hieroglyphs, the whole notion that the Cretan symbols are hieroglyphs comes apart at the seams and is shattered.

sample of 1000 Egyptian hieroglyphs

And that is not the end of it. There are anywhere between 600 and 1,000 symbols in Cuneiform.


So once again, the massive proliferation of symbols, i.e. hieroglyphs, in Egyptian, and of symbols in Cuneiform make a mockery of the notion that the Cretan symbols are hieroglyphs. But if they are not hieroglyphs, what are they? It would appear that they are ideograms or logograms on seals and nodules which serve to tag the contents of the (papyrus) documents they seal. This hypothesis makes a lot of sense, since almost all Cretans and Minoans, administrators, merchants and consumer, were illiterate. These people were probably able to master the minimal number of 45 ideograms and logograms which we find on 100s of surviving seals. But while the illiterate hoy polloi could not read the script on the sealed papyrus (or leaf tablets sometimes), the scribes most definitely could. This leaves us open to yet another hypothetical question? What is the script of the texts? How many symbols or syllabograms (if the latter yet existed) would have been required to write the papyrus or inscribe the leaf tablets? Was this script, if script it was, an early form of Linear A, such as Festive Linear A? Or was it actually Linear A? This question or hypothesis demands further investigation.

RE Cretan “hieroglyphs”: Brewminate: a Bold Blend of News & Ideas: We're Never Far from Where we Were:
Form Follows Function: Writing and its Supports in the Aegean Bronze Age 
by Dr. Sarah Finlayson, Archaeologist/Historian
Posted March 29 2017


form follows function writing in the Aegean Bronze Age

Excerpta from the source with COMMENTS by Richard Vallance Janke inserted where necessary:

...a starting point from which to unpick the complex and changing relationships between writing and its material supports during the Aegean Bronze Age, [is] the basic hypothesis that the shape of objects which bear writing, the Bronze Age ‘office stationery’ so to speak, derives from the use to which they, object + writing, are put and the shape changes as this purpose changes. 


The shapes of incised objects (exograms) derive from the uses to which they are put. In other words, if the exograms, which, contrary to popular belief, are not hieroglyphs, change not only their form (i.e. shape) but have specific shapes tailored to the functions they perform. For this reason, among others, I cannot accept the hypothesis that they are hieroglyphs. They appear rather to be ideograms and logograms specifically designed to represent the contents of “packages” or “official documents”, sometimes apparently written on papyrus, and therefore subsequently lost due to the climate of Crete which as not conducive to the preservation of papyrus. What the exograms were which were inscribed on the lost documents for which the clay forms served as content indicators we shall never know, but chances are that the papyrus contents were written in Linear A. The incised objects, and I quote, “noduli, flat-based sealings, cones, medallions, labels, three- and four-sided bars, and tablets” specifically served as incised “subject headings” for the contents on papyrus which they represented. Since most people in the palace administration in the Minoan era in which Linear A was the standard syllabary were illiterate, the so-called Cretan “hieroglyphs”, of which there only 45 by my count, exclusive of numerics, served as ideogrammatic guideline markers for the contents of the documents which were once attached to them. Illiterate people could “read” ideograms; they could not read Linear A.  (all italics mine throughout this post)

Finlayson continues:      

The clay documents comprise crescents (all terms are defined below), noduli, flat-based sealings, cones, medallions, labels, three- and four-sided bars, and tablets (Olivier and Godart 1996: 10–11; Younger 1996–1997: 396). There are also substantial numbers of direct object sealings, which show seal impressions but no incised writing (Krzyszkowska 2005: 99).


The “substantial numbers of direct object sealings” are seal impressions without incised writing because the contents, probably written and not incised on papyrus, which they seal have been lost forever. Thus, the script in which the actual sealed documents has been lost. But what was that script? Was it more of the same? ... Cretan “hieroglyphs”? I very much doubt that, because not a single Cretan seal can be read as syllabic text in a syllabary. What script was the writing on papyrus of the sealed documents? That is the whole point, and the whole mystery. Could it have been an early version  of Linear A, a.ka. as Festive Linear A? Quite possibly.

Finlayson continues:      

Easier to understand are the gable-shaped hanging nodules (Figure 3d). These sealings are carefully shaped around a knotted string, and carry a seal impression on one face (Krzyszkowska 2005: 280). The majority are uninscribed (only 22 out of the 164 sealings from Pylos carry an inscription), but on those examples with incised text, an ideogram is usually written over the seal impression, and additional sign-groups can appear on the other faces (Palaima 2003: 174; Krzyszkowska 2005: 280). Analysis of the cache of 60 nodules from Thebes, 56 of which have inscriptions, has enabled a convincing reconstruction of their use. The gable shape of the nodules results from the way the clay is held between the fingers while impressing the seal and writing the inscription (Piteros et al. 1990: 113). This shape, together with its suspension cord, give (sic) a small, solid, virtually indestructible and very portable document (Piteros et al. 1990: 183). In this instance, form does not strictly follow function, but rather the two aspects are intertwined in a more complex way. A key part of these documents’ function is their portability, and this governs their very small size, which in turn means only the most important information is recorded, namely the seal impression, the ideogram which identifies the goods, and, rarely, a small amount of additional data, such as anthroponyms, toponyms, transactional terms (Piteros et al. 1990: 177). The formula ‘personal name (here represented by the seal impression) + object + toponym / second personal name’ is equivalent to that recorded on the ‘palm-leaf ’ tablets. Numerals are rare, because that information is supplied by the object itself. It is suggested that each nodule accompanies a single item, mostly livestock in the Theban examples, from the hinterland into the palatial centre, with the nodule acting as a primary document, recording the most crucial information about its object, the sex of the animal, for example, and also certifying or authenticating, by the seal impression, who is responsible for it (probably in the sense of ‘owing’ the item to the palace; Piteros et al. 1990: 183–184). 

It is important to note, however, that, except at Thebes, there are considerably fewer inscribed than uninscribed nodules. Sealings of this type would therefore seem to be primarily recording instruments within transactions that do not require the use of writing (Palaima 2003: 174), although this is not incompatible with their being primary documents as described above.

So few noduli survive that it is difficult to understand how they functioned (Krzyszkowska 2005: 284). I discuss this form below as they are significantly more common in LA administration. (Italics by Richard Vallance Janke)

Roundels (Figure 2c) are clay disks with one or more seal impressions around their rim, and usually with a LA inscription on one or both faces, but with no trace of having been hung from or pressed against another object (Hallager 1996: 82). The number of seal impressions on the rim probably specifies the quantity of the commodity recorded in the inscription (livestock, agricultural produce, cloth, vessels and so on), with each impression representing one unit (Hallager 1996: 100–101, 113). Analysis of impressions and inscriptions suggests that at least two people made a roundel, one wielding the seal and another, the stylus (Hallager 1996: 112). These two factors have led to the interpretation of these documents as receipts, created and held by the central administration to record goods disbursed; the seal user would be the recipient, certifying with his or her impression the quantity of goods received (Hallager 1996: 116). Significantly, the physical limitations of these documents necessarily restrict the size of transactions, with 15 units being the largest amount attested (Palaima 1990: 92).

COMMENT on the sentence “a roundel, one wielding the seal and another, the stylus (Hallager 1996: 112). These two factors have led to the interpretation of these documents as receipts, created and held by the central administration to record goods disbursed; the seal user would be the recipient, certifying with his or her impression the quantity of goods received...”

In other words, the actual contents of the documents (apparently written with a stylus on papyrus) to which these seals were affixed may have been administrative receipts or possibly even inventories, in which case the contents of the documents were probably not written in so-called Cretan hieroglyphs, limited as these are to 45. And by 45 I mean 45 ideograms and logograms + additional numerics and nothing more than that. Given that these 45 signs never form any legible sentence or phrase, it is highly unlikely they would have been used for the writing of the contents on papyrus for which they serve as seals.

Finlayson continues:  

Noduli (Figure 2e), disk- or dome-shaped lumps of clay with a seal impression but no perforation, imprints of objects, or other visible means of fastening (“sealings that do not seal” [Weingarten 1986: 4]) are a very long-lasting document form, found from the early First Palace through to the Late Bronze Age, but they are particularly common in Second Palace Period LA administration, with around 130 examples known (Krzyszkowska 2005: 161; Weingarten 1990a: 17). Only eight have LA inscriptions or countermarks over the seal impression (Hallager 1996: 127). As they are clearly not attached to anything, noduli are independent documents, and their primary purpose seems to be to carry a seal impression, that is to authenticate or certify something. By analogy with Old Babylonian practice, Weingarten (1986: 18) suggests they are originally dockets, receipts for work done, with the seal impression being made by the overseer to authorise ‘payment’; as the form becomes more widespread in the Second Palace Period, they become more like tokens, to be exchanged for goods or services, or as laissez-passer, with the seal impression identifying the carrier as legitimate (Weingarten 1990a: 19–20).


The previous sentence, beginning with “By analogy...” and ending with “as legitimate” gives us a clearer impression the function(s) of the seals as these relate to the contents they seal. Old Babylonian tablets were incised or written in Cuneiform, which is a readable script meant for the eyes of literate scribes only. Note that the inventorial contents of the Babylonian tablets were clearly written out in Cuneiform. Although this practice is at variance with that of the Cretan seals, it still all boils down to the same thing. The actual contents of the documents to which the Cretan seals were affixed were written out in a language, possibly unknown, possibly Linear A. So in either case, the Babylonian or the Cretan, contents appear to be intended for literate scribes. 

Finlayson continues:    

Moving on to the ‘passive’ sealed documents, single-hole hanging nodules (Figure 2g) are roughly triangular clay sealings, formed around a knot at the end of a piece of string or cord (Hallager 1996: 160–161). They have a seal impression on one face, and a single incised LA sign, or very rarely another seal impression, on one of the other faces (Hallager 1996: 161). There are five sub- categories of single-hole nodule, differentiated by shape and position of seal impression or inscription (pendant, pyramid, cone, dome / gable and pear, see Figure 2g) with pendant being by far the most common (Hallager 1996: 162–163). About 13 signs or ligatures are found on these nodules, but it is very difficult to discern their meaning; the restricted range might suggest they are acting as arbitrary symbols, along the lines of ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, rather than as syllabograms (Krzyszkowska 2005: 160). These nodules hang from something, although there is no evidence for what (Krzyszkowska 2005: 160). Hallager has proposed a use similar to that observed in contemporary Egypt, where nodules were hung from rolls of papyrus as identification labels, with their cord threaded through holes in the lower part of the scroll to enable it to be unrolled and read without breaking the cord or sealed nodule (Hallager 1996: 198–199). 


Once again, the practice of Cretan using seals seems to be very similar if not identical to that of contemporary Egyptian hieroglyphic writing on papyrus, with the critical difference being that Egyptian hieroglyphs are writing, while Cretan seal ideograms are not. But the contents of the Cretan documents on papyrus were probably also written in a script, probably a syllabary, and possibly even (Festive) Linear A. But since the Cretan papyri are lost to history, we shall never know. Was there a “Cretan” script for the written documents on papyrus. It is notable that the Egyptian papyrus, once unsealed, was meant to read, again by literate scribes. Was this the Cretan practice too? Quite likely.

Finlayson continues:

The bars (Figure 1a) are usually rectangular, inscribed on all four sides, and sometimes pierced with a hole at one end (Hallager 1996: 33). That the bars could be suspended suggests they might be used as labels attached to objects for transport or storage, but the information on them seems to be much like that on the tablets, and, in fact, the unpierced examples are perhaps best understood as variants of the standard tablet format (Hallager 1996: 33). Olivier (1994–1995: 268–269) offers an intriguing alternative explanation, that the bars are not attached by cords to any object, but instead hang together on some sort of horizontal rod to enable them to be sorted and stored, or taken down when additional data are inscribed on them; he envisions the bars operating like the LB ‘palm-leaf ’ tablets, for compiling basic data. 

Returning now to LA administration, it seems that a link exists between the architectural context of deposits and their composition and function (Schoep 2002b: 25). Although few documents have been found in primary contexts, it is nevertheless possible to identify three commonly occurring groupings (Schoep 1995: 57). “Full combination deposits” always contain single-hole hanging nodules, alongside tablets and other sealings; as the single-hole nodules are postulated to hang from the highest-level records, on perishable materials, these deposits may be ‘archives’ (Schoep 1995: 61).


These (sealed) documents may have been ‘archives’, and if they are, they were probably written out (on papyrus) but not in so-called Cretan hieroglyphs.

Finlayson continues:  

This seems to be supported by their location, in central buildings (including Malia Palace, Zakros House A, and the ‘villa’ at Ayia Triada), usually on an upper floor in residential quarters, clearly separated from storage or work areas, and by their association with valuable objects (Schoep 1995: 61, table 3, 62). ‘Single type deposits’ consist of direct object sealings, tablets or noduli, and most seem to be in the location in which they functioned; the direct object sealings are found in magazines suitable for bulk storage, as at Monastiraki, while tablet or noduli deposits can also occur in smaller-scale storage rooms, for example, Houses I, Chania or FG, Gournia (Schoep 1995: 62–63). “Limited combination deposits” fall somewhere in between; deposits from the ‘villa’ at Ayia Triada and Zakros Palace contain tablets and sealed documents, in workshop or storage areas, while other deposits contain only sealings, ...

In reviewing the evidence for LA use in the Second Palace Period, one gets an impression of a widespread use of writing on several media, and for several purposes, with either the writing support being manipulated to add meaning to the text (as with the clay administrative documents) or the other way around (as might be the case with some of the non-administrative objects).


Finlayson notes that the the writing may have been manipulated to add meaning to the texts, in this case written on clay documents. She is making a clear distinction between the ideograms and logograms used on the seals themselves and the writing of the texts which they seal.

Finlayson continues:

Although examples of writing are relatively widespread in the landscape, this need not necessarily equate to widespread literacy, not least because it seems likely that writing is principally an elite activity, and furthermore, that restricted contexts of use possibly mean that ordinary, non-writing, people might well interact with only a single kind, or a small range, of documents, creating a sort of sub-category of literacy, where understanding part of a text’s meaning derives largely from the form of its support and context of use.  (all italics by the Commentator, Richard Vallance Janke).


The passage above rams home that fact that literacy was not widespread. Quite the contrary. Only the scribes were literate. On the other hand, the form of the so-called Cretan hieroglyphs were accessible to non-literates, which was everyone except the scribes. That way, non-literate administrators, merchants, distributors of commodities and end users of these could identify what the purpose of what each and every seal represented, without having to be able to read the contents of documents per se.

Finlayson continues:   

Clearly, for some of the sealed document forms, the loss of whatever they were associated with means our understanding of their use cannot, without speculation, extend much beyond inferring that they hung from or were affixed to something. Generally, the taphonomy of writing in the Aegean is problematic, as we depend on it being applied to materials that are preserved archaeologically; in the case of clay documents that were not deliberately fired, this means accidental preservation in a wider burnt context (Bennet 2008: 6). There is then an inevitable risk that, in an effort to make up for the gaps in the evidence, particularly with CH and LA where we cannot read the texts, we rely too heavily on aspects like differences in form, which might be a reflection of our own ‘etic’ analyses rather than of different ancient practices (Bennet 2005: 269). “Classer, c’est interpréter” (Godart and Olivier 1979: xxiv) is a crucial principle for understanding a large and complex database at the macro scale, but runs the risk of misrepresenting, at the micro scale, differences in form that result from regional peculiarities of use, or are a function of the way different individuals form and seal or inscribe each shape, as seems likely, for example, for some of the variation amongst LA single-hole hanging nodules (Krzyszkowska 2005: 159–160). 

While these points must be borne in mind, it is nevertheless reasonable to suggest that the observable changes in document forms point to alterations in the methods of data gathering, processing and storing (Palaima 1984: 305). I would pick out two as particularly significant. The first is the bundle of changes in sealing practices between the First and Second Palace periods (i.e. between CH / limited LA use, and widespread LA use): direct object sealing is abandoned, suggesting, on the one hand, that the security of storerooms and their contents is managed differently, in a less physical way (Weingarten 1990b: 107–108), and, on the other, that direct control of commodities, by means of attaching sealings to them, is replaced by more indirect methods of controlling commodity information with hanging nodules and tablets (Knappett 2001: 86, n. 26). Furthermore, writing, with one exception, no longer appears on seals themselves, but from this point on is incised or painted rather than formed by stamping (Bennet 2008: 9–10). 

What drives these changes is difficult to evaluate, not least because we assume that changes in sealing systems are necessarily tied to changes in writing systems (and possibly language; Bennet 2005: 270).


Key phrase “we assume”. Changes in sealing systems, from simple pictographic seals to seals incised in Cretan “hieroglyphs” and eventually to Linear A & B incised directly on the seals do not at all necessarily reflect any changes in the writing systems in which the actual documents (usually on papyrus) were written. That is a false assumption. Note here that Bennet specifically states that the writing systems sealed by the seals were probably independent of the figures or exograms found on the seals, these often being so-called Cretan hieroglyphs. The written language(s) of the document contents have have changed over time, but not necessarily in tune with the seals themselves. Point well taken.  

Palaima’s suggestion that LA replaces CH because the latter script is inadequate to record increasingly complex economic activities (1990: 94) is a case in point, and this sort of utilitarian motivation underestimates the potential for writing to be used for ideological reasons. The transition from CH to LA, and from LA to LB, can arguably be seen as part of a deliberate construction of new identities, through the manipulation of knowledge resources or material culture, by elite groups (ALL italics by the Commentator), seeking to differentiate themselves from their predecessors, or exclude others from participating in political or economic life (Bennet 2008: 20; Schoep 2007: 59). Knappett’s observation that, in seeking to look through artefacts to see “the people behind them”, and their motivations or choices, there is a tendency for the objects themselves to be reduced to mere ciphers or emblems of human activity (Knappett 2008b: 122), is also pertinent here. He suggests that more attention be paid to the agency of artefacts, to the possibility that things can “take on a life of their own, entangling humans and pushing them along new, previously unrecognised paths” (Knappett 2008b: 122); while ascribing agency to objects is problematic (Morphy 2009: 6), Knappett is nevertheless right to stress the complexity of the relationship between artefacts and their users. 


Much more to follow in the upcoming posts on the uses of pictographs and so-called Cretan “hieroglyphic” seals.


Analysis of strontium isotopes in teeth from Neolithic cattle suggest that early Europeans used different specialized herding strategies, according to a study published July 26, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Claudia Gerling from University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland, and colleagues.

Source: Isotopes in prehistoric cattle teeth suggest herding strategies used during the Neolithic

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Special post for Linear B students: how to convert from Linear B to the ancient Greek alphabet and vice versa:

The following tables illustrate how to convert from Linear B to the ancient Greek alphabet and vice versa.

A: Linear B to ancient Greek:

linear b syllabary with ancient Greek alphabet correspondences

B: ancient Greek to Linear B:

ancient greek alphabet with Liniear B correspondences



Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up…

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Linear B numerals 100, 1k and 10k are atemporal, like those in the movie. Arrival:

It is quite clear from the following illustration of the numbers 1-12 in the Heptapod circular language, which correspond to the number of ships landing on earth, that their numbers, occurring in a circle, are similar to the numerals for 100, 1k and 10k in Mycenaean Linear A. This correspondence reveals an intriguing characteristic of these Linear B numerals, namely, that they can serve as ideograms for extraterrestrial communication. In other words, just as the Heptapod numbers serve to communicate from the extraterrestrials, the Linear B numerals can serve to communicate with them or any other extraterrestrial civilization.

movie Arrival heptapod 12 and Linear B 100 1k 10k


How circular language in the movie, Arrival, determines the aspacial/atemporal nature of logograms throughout the ages:

In the movie, Arrival (2016), which chronicles the arrival on earth of 12 mysterious ships, apparently from outer space, the following statements leap out at us:

parsing the language of the heptapods in the movie, Arrival

1. Unlike all written languages, the writing is semiseriographic. It conveys meaning. It doesn't represent sound. Perhaps they view our form of writing as a wasted opportunity.  
2. How heptapods write: ... because unlike speech,  a logogram is free of time. Like their ship, their written language has forward or backward direction. Linguists call this non-linear orthography, which raises the question, is this how they think? Imagine you wanted to write a sentence using 2 hands, starting from either side. You would have to know each word you wanted to use as well as much space it would occupy. A heptapod can write a complex sentence in 2 seconds effortlessly.

The key to all of this is the phrase a logogram is free of time. Allow me to illustrate. Logograms are also often called ideograms, and that is what I prefer to call them. Another word to describe them is icon. When we examine ancient Linear A and B ideograms and compare them with modern ones, the results are astonishing, to wit:




All of the aforementioned examples make it quite clear that ideograms, whether they be as ancient as those in Linear A and Linear B (i.e. about 3,400 years old) or modern ... or for that matter, neolithic or even earlier, all bear a striking resemblance to one another. Take for instance the Linear A ideogram for “scales” and compare it with just one modern one (among so many others), and we see immediately that they are extremely similar. Now take the Linear B ideograms for man” and “woman” and compare these with the washroom symbols for the same and once again the similarity is almost too good to be true. Then there is the Linear B ideogram for a four-spoke wheel compared with a modern one for an eight-spoke wheel. The number of spokes is not relevant to this discussion, only the fact that the ancient Linear B ideogram for “wheel” is practically identical to the modern one.

The implications for the decipherment of ideograms in any language, ancient or modern (let alone Linear A and Linear B) versus those in any modern language are staggering. We can be sure that the ancient ideograms varied little from one language to another, let alone between Minoan and Mycenaean. In fact, the syllabogram TE, which sometimes represents wheat, in Linear A and Linear B is almost identical to the same ideograms in cuneiform!

It is patently obvious that since the distinction between the ancient ideograms and their modern equivalents enumerated above is so thin, all of these ideograms (or logograms or icons) are not only time independent (atemporal) and spatially independent (aspatial), they are also language independent. This is a stunning phenomenon.

The implications for the further decipherment of Linear A are simply overwhelming.

And this is why in the movie, Arrival, the heptapods assert, “There is no time.”

a must read!



A Bronze Age wooden container found in an ice patch at 2,650m in the Swiss Alps could help archaeologists shed new light on the spread and exploitation of cereal grains following a chance discovery.

Archaeological Service of the Canton of Bern

Original Article:

The team of archaeologists were expecting to find a milk residue left behind in the container — perhaps from a porridge-type meal wolfed down by a hunter or herder making their way through a snowy Alpine pass.

But instead they discovered lipid-based biomarkers for whole wheat or rye grain, called alkylresorcinols.

The team say the discovery of these biomarkers in the residue could be used as a new tool to help archaeologists map and trace the development of early farming in Eurasia.

The domestication of plants, such as wheat, was one of the most significant cultural and evolutionary steps of our species, but direct evidence…

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Earth-shattering linguistic data from the Movie, Arrival (2016)


Not too long ago, I had the distinct pleasure of watching what is undoubtedly the most intellectually challenging movie of my lifetime. The movie is unique. Nothing even remotely like it has ever before been screened. It chronicles the Arrival of 12 apparent UFOs, but they are actually much more than just that. They are, as I just said, a unique phenomenon. Or more to the point, they were, are always will be just that. What on earth can this mean? 

The ships, if that is what we want to call them, appear out of thin air, like clouds unfolding into substantial material objects ... or so it would appear. They are approximately the shape of a saucer (as in cup and saucer) but with a top on it. They hang vertically in the atmosphere. But there is no motion in them or around them. They leave no footprint. The air is undisturbed around them. There is no radioactivity. There is no activity. There are 12 ships altogether dispersed around the globe, but in no logical pattern.

A famous female linguist, Dr. Louise Banks  (played by Amy Adams), is enlisted by the U.S. military to endeavour to unravel the bizarre signals emanating from within. Every 18 hours on the mark  the ship opens up at the bottom (or is it on its right side, given that it is perpendicular?) and allows people inside. Artificial gravity and breathable air are created for the humans. A team of about 6 enter the ship and are transported up an immense long black hallway to a dark chamber with a dazzlingly bright screen. There, out of the mist, appear 2 heptapods, octopus-like creatures, but with 7 and not eight tentacles. They stand upright on their 7 tentacles and they walk on them. At first, the humans cannot communicate with them at all. But the ink-like substance the heptapods squirt onto the thick window between them and the humans always resolves itself into circles with distinct patterns, as we see in this composite:

Eventually, the humans figure out what the language means, if you can call it that, because the meanings of the circles do not relate in any way to the actions of the heptapods.  Our heroine finally discovers what their mission is, to save humankind along with themselves. They tell us... There is no time. And we are to take this literally.

circular language from the movie Arrival 2016

I extracted all of the linguistic data I could (which was almost all of it) from the film, and it runs as follows, with phrases and passages I consider of great import italicized.   

1. Language is the foundation of which the glue holds civilization together. It is the first weapon that draws people into conflict – vs. - The cornerstone of civilization is not language. It is science.
2. Kangaroo... means “I don't understand.” (Watch the movie to figure this one out!)
3. Apart from being able to see them and hear them, the heptapods leave absolutely no footprint.
4. There is no correlation between what the heptapods say and what they write.
5. Unlike all written languages, the writing is semiseriographic. It conveys meaning. It doesn't represent sound. Perhaps they view our form of writing as a wasted opportunity.  
6. How heptapods write: ... because unlike speech,  a logogram is free of time. Like their ship, their written language has forward or backward direction. Linguists call this non-linear orthography, which raises the question, is this how they think? Imagine you wanted to write a sentence using 2 hands, starting from either side. You would have to know each word you wanted to use as well as much space it would occupy. A heptapod can write a complex sentence in 2 seconds effortlessly.
7. There is no time.
8. You approach language like a mathematician.
9. When you immerse yourself in a foreign language, you can actually rewire your brain. It is the language you speak that determines how you think.
10. He (the Chinese general) is saying that they are offering us advanced technology. God, are they using a game to converse with... (us). You see the problem. If all I ever gave you was a hammer, everything is a nail. That doesn't say, “Offer weapon”, (It says, “offer tool”). We don't know whether they understand the difference. It (their language) is a weapon and a tool.  A culture is messy sometimes. It can be both (Cf. Sanskrit).
11. They  (masses 10Ks of circles) cannot be random. 
12. We (ourselves and the heptapods) make a tool and we both get something out of it. It's a compromise. Both sides are happy... like a win-win. (zero-sum game). 
13. It (their language) seems to be talking about time... everywhere... there are too many gaps; nothing's complete. Then it dawned on me. Stop focusing on the 1s and focus on the 0s. How much of this is data, and how much is negative space?... massive data... 0.08333 recurring. 0.91666667 = 1 of 12. What they're saying here is that this is (a huge paradigm). 10Ks = 1 of 12. Part of a layer adds up to a whole. It (their languages) says that each of the pieces fit together. Many become THERE IS NO TIME. It is a zero-sum-game. Everyone wins.
NOTE: there are 12 ships, and the heptapods have 7 tentacles. 7X12 = 84. 8 +4 =12. 
14. When our heroine is taken up into the ship in the capsule, these are the messages she reads: 1. Abbott (1 of the 2 heptapods) is death process. 2. Louise has a weapon. 3. Use weapon. 4. We need humanity help. Q. from our heroine, How can you know the future? 5. Louise sees future. 6. Weapon opens time.
15. (her daughter asks in her dream). Why is my name Hannah? Your name is very special. It is a palindrome. It reads the same forward and backward. (Cf. Silver Pin, Ayios Nikolaos Museum and Linear A tablet pendant, Troullous).
16. Our heroine says, * I can read it. I know what it is. It is not a weapon. It is a gift. The weapon (= gift) IS their language. They gave it all to us. * If you learn it, when your REALLY learn it, you begin to perceive the way that they do. SO you can see what’'s to come (in time). It is the same for them. It is non-linear. WAKE UP, MOMMY!

Then the heptapods disappear, dissolving into mere clouds, the same way they appeared out of nowhere in clouds, only in the opposite fashion. There is no time. They do not exist in time.

The implications of this movie for the further decipherment of Linear A and Linear B (or for any unknown language) are profound, as I shall explain in greater detail in upcoming posts.


My article, Lexicon of Chariot Construction in Mycenaean Linear B, has been accepted in advance by the international historical journal, Epohi/Epochs:

Epohi Epochs historical journal

I shall be submitting it to the editor-in-chief, Stefan Iordanov of the Faculty of History of St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo (hence forward referred to as UVT), Bulgaria. The editorial board consists of highly prestigious researchers:

Executive Editor:

Stefan Yordanov, Associate Prof., Ph.D., St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo


Ivan Tyutyundjiev, Prof., Dr. Hab., St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo

Deputy Editors in Chief:

Plamen Pavlov, Prof., Ph.D., St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo

Nikolay Kanev, Associate Prof., Ph.D., St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo


Acad. Vasil Gyuzelev, Prof., Dr. Hab., Member of the Bulgarian Academy of science and President of the Association of Byzantinists and Medievalists in Bulgaria

Demetrios Gonis, Dr. Hab., Professor Emeritus of University of Athens (Greece)

Mirosław Jerzy Leszka, Prof., Dr. Hab., University of Lodz (Poland)

Tatyana Leontyeva, Prof., Dr. Hab., State University of Tver (Russia)

Milko Palangurski, Prof., Dr. Hab., St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo

Petko Petkov, Проф. д-р Петко Петков, St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo

Rumen Yankov, Prof., Dr. Hab., St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo

Mariya Ivanova, Prof., Dr. Hab., St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo

Dan Dana, Chargé de recherche de 1ère classe, Ph.D., Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique – Paris (France)

Issue editors:

Nikolay Kanev, Associate Prof., Ph.D.

Stefan Yordanov, Associate Prof., Ph.D.


Another Linear A tablet bites the dust… Troullos TL Za 1… horsemanship and hunting:

Troullos tablet TL Za 1

This tablet or nodule completely eluded me for over 2 years. Then tonight, all of sudden, its meaning literally burst wide open. The first hint came when I began to decipher the obvious Linear words, all of which happen to be Mycenaean-derived New Minoan NM1. The most obvious word, which stands out like a sore thumb, is WAJA = #ai/a in Mycenaean-derived Greek, in other words land. The rest of the Mycenaean-derived words were more difficult to extract from the agglutinated text, since in an agglutinative language such as Minoan, words which would otherwise be separate in a fusional or inflected language, such as ancient or modern Greek or German, are simply strung together in long strings. So it is difficult to know where one word ends and another begins … but far from impossible. Because so many words on this tablet are agglutinated, it presents a particularly challenging target for decipherment. But decipher it I did, as you can see below.

If we break apart the agglutinated words, meanings start to surface. For instance, ATAI*301 appears to mean 0astai= from oastei=a, meaning of the town, community.

Moving on, we have QARE0 = ba/lei ba/loj = at the threshold (locative singular). For the time being, I do not know what OSU, which is almost certainly Old Minoan, means but I am confident I shall soon figure it out. If we then decipher the first 2 agglutinated words ATA*301WAJA. OSUQARE, we get something along these lines (OSU being omitted for the time being), on the … threshold of community of town, i.e. on the … outskirts of the community or town

The the next two agglutinated words are UNAKANASI. UNA is Old Minoan. KANASI is instrumental plural Mycenaean-derived New Minoan (NM1) for ka/nnasi (instr. plural) = made of reeds, i.e. wicker. This almost certainly refers to the chariot itself, which like almost all Mycenaean chariots, is probably made of wicker, as illustrated below. If my hunch is correct, given that KANASI means made of wicker, then UNA must necessarily mean chariot, hence a chariot made of wicker. Remember: UNAKANASI is a composite agglutination of 2 words, first Old Minoan (UNA) and the second Mycenaean-derived New Minoan (NM1) = KANASI.

Troullos tablet original with Mycenaean horse and chariot and modern horse halter

IPINAMASIRUTE is another agglutination, this time consisting of 3 words, all of them Mycenaean-derived New Minoan (NM1). The tablet or nodule above provides us with the full translation, which in its actual order reads, with horsemanship + running + (towards) prey. In other words, we have a charioteer, whose name is JASASARAME, clearly a highly skilled charioteer and hunter, whose ridership or horsemanship allows him to run towards his prey, and at a fast pace at that, given that NAMA always refers to something flowing fast, usually a stream, but in this context, clearly horses, 2 of them, of course, since Mycenaean chariots always have two horses.

So the free translation runs along these lines, and very well indeed,

Jasasarame, the hunter-charioteer, in his chariot made of wicker, is exercising his (considerable) ridership skills, by running at break-neck speed (or: running by a stream) towards the wild prey he is hunting on the outskirts of his town (community).

This decipherment, which is almost entirely in Mycenaean-derived New Minoan (NM1) hangs together admirably well. It is a major breakthrough in the ongoing saga of the decipherment of Linear A. It is also buttressed by the fact that the tablet or nodule actually looks like a horses halter. While the word halter appears, at least at first sight, not to figure in the text, this is of little consequence. The tablet itself makes it quite clear enough that here we have two horses (always two with Mycenaean chariots) and that a well-heeled, and most likely aristocratic or warrior-class charioteer, Jasasarame, is at the reins.

I rest my case.

Translation of a very tricky Linear B tablet, Knossos KN 913 D k 01 by Rita Roberts:

Knossos tablet KN 913 D k 01 translation by Rita Roberts

The decipherment of this tablet is far from clear-cut, and all because of 1 word, paro, the first on both lines 1 and 2. This word very likely corresponds to the ancient Greek pa/loj (palos) = a lot (cast), meaning a lot cast by one or more people to decide who is obliged to do something, and in this case, which is apparently a religious context, that something is the sacrifice of a billy goat and a she goat. Etowono got the lot for the ram, probably the long stick, if that is what it was, given that we are dealing with a ram here. Komawete got the short one for the she goat. It kind of makes sense, and in fact there would seem to be no other rational interpretation of this tablet. It is one of the trickiest I have ever assigned to Rita, and this aroused her suspicions in the first place. Because she could not possibly have recognized the (archaic or ancient) Greek for paro, I had to delve into that word. Otherwise, her translation is highly commendable, and deserves a full 100 %.


Translation of Linear B tablet Knossos KN 854 K j 11 by Rita Roberts:

Knossos tablet KN 854 K j 11 by Rita Roberts


Translation of Linear B Knossos tablet KN 355 J b 19 by Rita Roberts:

Knossos tablet KN 355 J b 19 by Rita Roberts


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