Tag Archive: amphorae



Rita Roberts’ decipherment of Linear B tablet KN 669 K j 21 (Knossos) on grains and saffron:

Rita Roberts decipherment Linear B KN 669 K j 21 Knossos

This is the latest in the most recent run of Linear B tablets deciphered by Rita Roberts, who is in her second term, second year of university. The tablets she must now decipher are much more challenging than anything she has ever encountered before. Given that she is up against tablets that get progressively more and more difficult, her progress towards total mastery of Linear B is nothing short of first rate. Because she forgot to provide a free translation of Line 2, Rita scored 90 % on this tablet. But that is, as we say in French, un petit péché.


What do all those supersyllabograms in Linear B associated with the ideogram for “saffron” mean?

In response to a recent query by a research colleague of mine regarding the use of 4 key supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B (A, TI, RO & WE) related to the harvesting and production of saffron, I am reposting this table:

ssyls-in-linear-bassociated-with-saffron

It is clear that each of these 4 supersyllabograms functions in its own unique way. I sincerely hope that this reposting clears up any ambiguities that may have previously persisted.


Symbaloo/Google search ranks Minoan Linear A, Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae as fourth largest on the Internet:

search-minoan-linear-a-mycenaean-linear-b-major-sites-sept-13-2016

Since this is a Boolean AND search, if we omit sites dealing with only Minoan Linear A or only Mycenaean Linear B, which do not fulfill this requirement, our site ranks fourth. But since the site, Linear A and Linear B script: Britannica.com is a minor site, we actually rank third.

Also, our PINTEREST board is ranked fifth (actually fourth). We have over 1.7 K Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B translations, photos, maps & images on our PINTEREST board, Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B, Progressive Grammar and Vocabulary. Click the banner to visit and join if you like!


Minoan Linear A Linear B


   

The 70 Minoan Linear A terms MAXIMUM I shall be featuring in my article on the partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A in Vol. 12 (2016) of Archaeology and Science: 

Here is a list of the 70 out of 106 Minoan Linear A terms I shall be zeroing in on in my article in Vol. 12 (2016), “Pylos tablet Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris), the ‘Rosetta Stone’ to Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada) vessels and pottery” of the prestigious international annual, Archaeology and Science ISSN 1452-7448 (release date spring 2018), to be submitted by Nov. 15, 2016.

In an article of this nature, which is to be the first of its kind in the world ever to deal with the partial (by no means definitive) decipherment of Minoan Linear A, I must of necessity focus on those Minoan Linear A words which offer the greatest insight into the vocabulary of the language. It is, of course, impossible to decipher the Minoan language, and anyone who dares claim he or she has done so is skating on very thin ice, actually, no ice whatsoever. All we can hope to do at the present juncture is to decipher some of the vocabulary, that and nothing else. This is possible because the syllabary has already been deciphered, though as far as I know, no researchers or decipherers to date have taken any note of this vital factor. It is precisely because the syllabary itself has been deciphered that we have any access at all to Minoan vocabulary. We must recall that for Michael Ventris, the decipherment of Mycenaean Linear B was far more difficult at the outset, because no-one in the world, including himself, knew what the Linear B syllabic signs signified. It took him two years or so to figure them out and he never actually got them until he realized that Linear B was a very early form of Greek, which we now know as Mycenaean Greek.

But the situation is far different with Minoan Linear A. We can read the syllabary. We can “read” the words, but we cannot understand what they mean... at least to date. I have taken upon myself to decipher, more or less accurately (probably more often less than more) as many Minoan Linear A words as I possibly can. Even after months of strenuous travail, I have only been able to extrapolate the potential meanings of 106 Minoan Linear A words from a lexicon of about 510 intact Linear A words in John G. Younger’s Lexicon. These terms I have managed to decipher more or less accurately thus amount to only 20 % of the complete lexicon. But 20 % is far more than anyone else has managed to decipher  to date.  

Here then are the 70 terms (MAXIMUM) excerpted from my complete Glossary of Minoan Linear A:           
 
p-glossary

KEY:

Minoan Linear A words deciphered with certainty (90% - 100%) are in BOLD.
Minoan Linear A words deciphered with a reasonable degree of certainty (75% - 85%) are in italics.

All terms in Minoan Linear A and in Mycenaean Linear B have been Latinized for ease of access to persons not familiar with these syllabaries. 


Terms to which I shall assign special treatment are followed by an asterisk (*). 

adureza = unit of dry measurement (grain, wheat, barley, flour)
aka = wineskin (two syllabograms overlaid)
akii = garlic
darida = large vase *  
daropa = stirrup jar = Linear B karawere * 5
datara = grove of fig trees *
datu = olives See also qatidate = olive trees = Linear B erawa *
daweda = medium size amphora with two handles
dikise = a type of cloth = Linear B any number of types of cloth
ditamana = dittany (medicinal herb) 10
dureza = unit of measurement (unknown amount)*
kanaka = saffron = Linear B kanako
kapa = follower or (foot) solder = Linear B eqeta *
karopa3 (karopai) = kylix (with two handles & smaller than a pithos) *
kaudeta = to be distributed (fut. part. pass.) approx. = Linear B, epididato = having been distributed (aorist part. pass.)15 
keda = cedar
kidema*323na = type of vessel (truncated on HT 31) *
kidapa = (ash) wood, a type of wood. On Linear B tablet KN 894 N v 01 *
kireta2 (kiritai) = delivery = Linear B apudosis
kiretana = (having been) delivered (past participle passive) = Linear B amoiyeto 20
kireza = unit of measurement for figs, probably 1 basket *
kiro = owed = Linear B oporo = they owed
kuro = total             
kuruku = crocus
maru = wool (syllabograms superimposed) = Linear B mari/mare 25
mitu = a type of cloth 
nasi = a type of cloth
nere = larger amphora size *
nipa3 (nipai) or nira2 (nirai) = figs = Linear B suza *
orada = rose 30
pazeqe = small handle-less cups = Linear B dipa anowe, dipa anowoto *
puko = tripod = Linear B tiripode *
qapa3 = qapai = large handle-less vase or amphora *
qatidate = olive trees See also datu = olives = Linear B erawo *
qareto = Linear B onato = “lease field” * 35
quqani = medium size or smaller amphora *
ra*164ti = approx. 5 litres (of wine)
rairi = lily 
reza = 1 standard unit of measurement *
sajamana = with handles = Linear B owowe * 40
sara2 (sarai) = small unit of measurement: dry approx. 1 kg., liquid approx. 1 litre 
sata = a type of cloth
sedina = celery
supa3 (supai) = small cup = Linear B dipa mewiyo *
supu = very large amphora * 45
tarawita = terebinth tree
tejare = a type of cloth
teki = small unit of measurement for wine @ 27 1/2 per tereza *
tereza = larger unit of liquid measurement (olive oil, wine) *
tesi = small unit of measurement * 50
tisa = description of pot or pottery = Linear B amotewiya/yo
udimi = a type of cloth 
uminase = harbour (cf. French “Le Havre”), famous Atlantic port in France * 
usu = a type of cloth

Eponyms:

Sirumarita2 = Sirumaritai 55
Tateikezare
Tesudesekei
Turunuseme

Toponyms:

Almost all the toponyms do not require decipherment as they are either identical or almost identical in Mycenaean Linear B:

Akanu = Archanes (Crete)
Dikate = Mount Dikte 60
Idaa = Mount Ida
Idunesi
Kudoni = Kydonia
Meza (= Linear B Masa)
Paito = Phaistos ( =Linear B) * 65
Radu = Lato (= Linear B Rato)
Setoiya = Seteia (= Linear B) 
Sukirita/Sukiriteija = Sybrita
Uminase = Linear B Amnisos * 
Winadu = Linear B Inato 70

COMMENTARY:

This Glossary accounts for 20 % of all intact Minoan Linear A terms.

The principle of cross-correlative cohesion operates on the assumption that terms in Minoan Linear A vocabulary should reflect as closely and as faithfully as possible parallel terms in Mycenaean Greek vocabulary. In other words, the English translations of Minoan words in a Minoan Linear A Glossary such as this one should look as if they are English translations of Mycenaean Greek terms in a Linear B glossary. I have endeavoured to do my best to achieve this goal, but even the most rational and logical approach, such as I take, does not and cannot guarantee reciprocity between Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B terms. It is precisely for this reason that I have had to devise a scale of relative accuracy for terms in this Linear A Glossary, as outlined in KEY at the top of it.

The best and most reliable Linear B Lexicon is that by Chris Tselentis, Athens, Greece. If you wish to receive a  copy of his Lexicon, please leave a comment in Comments, with some way for me to get in touch with you.

Are there any words in Mycenaean Greek of putative Minoan origin? It should surely not strike us as so surprising that there are. After all,  

kidapa = ash? (Linear B tablet KN 894 N v 01)

Several Minoan Linear A words very likely survived into Mycenaean Linear B. The problem is, if they did, we do not know which ones did.... except perhaps kidapa, which has a distinctly Minoan feel to it. Cf. kidata = to be accepted (for delivery to) = Linear B dekesato



Rita Robert’s brilliant essay, The Construction of the Mycenaean Chariot:

The Construction of a Mycenaean Chariot

Even though we have examples shown on frescoes and pottery vessels depicting chariots, it is difficult to say for sure how a Mycenaean chariot was constructed.

These examples however, only give us mostly a side view, which presents a problem. What we really need to find, is an example which shows all angles, for us to get a better understanding of the Mycenaean chariots construction.

It is hard to visualize these chariots as they actually appeared in Mycenaean times, 1400- 1200 BC. But they were certainly built for battle worthiness when needed.

It is to be noted that the Mycenaean military, as that of other ancient civilizations, such as those of Egypt in the Bronze Age, the Hittite Empire, the Iron Age of Athens and Sparta, and later still, of the Roman Empire, most certainly would have gone to great lengths in manufacturing all parts of the chariots to be battle worthy, strong and resistant to wear, and of the highest standards within the limits of technology available to them in Mycenaean times.

The chariot, most likely invented in the Near East, became one of the most innovative items of weaponry in Bronze Age warfare. It seems that the Achaeans adopted the chariot for use in warfare in the late 16th century BC, as attested to on some gravestones as well as seals and rings.

It is thought that the chariot did not come to the mainland via Crete, but the other way around, and it was not until the mid 15th century BC that  the chariot appears on the island of Crete, as attested to by seal engravings and the Linear B Tablets.

The Achaean chariots can be divided into five main designs which can be identified as, “box chariot”,  “quadrant chariot”, “rail chariot” and “four wheeled chariot.” None completely survived, but some metallic parts and horse bits have been found in some graves and settlements, also chariot bodies, wheels and horses are inventoried in several Linear B tablets.

The “rail chariot” was a light vehicle which featured an open cab and was more likely used as a means of transport than as a mobile fighting vehicle.  The “four wheeled chariot,” used since the 16th century BC, was utilized throughout the late Helladic time. Both the “rail chariot”, and the “ four- wheeled chariot “ continued to be used after the end of the Bronze Age.

Based on some hunting scenes and armed charioteer representations on pottery vessels and Linear B tablets, there is no question that the chariots were used in warfare as a platform for throwing javelins (or thrusting long spears), as a means of conveyance  to and from battle and,  on fewer occasions, as a platform for a bow-armed warrior. These warriors could have fought as cavalry or a force of mounted infantry, particularly suited to responding to the kind of raids that seem to have been occurring in the later period.

Some thoughts on the construction of the Mycenaean chariot:

As we cannot be absolutely sure how the Mycenaean chariot was constructed, we have to use pictorial examples, leaving us little choice, other than that of resorting to a close examination of the pottery vessels and frescoes depicting them, and whatever other sources are available. So I have chosen the beautiful “Tiryns Fresco” 1200 BC as an example of the construction and design of the Mycenaean chariot, although some points differ in other depictions on various other frescoes.

The Mycenaean chariots were made to be drawn by two horses attached to a central pole. If two additional horses were added, they were attached on either side of the main team by a single bar fastened to the front of the chariot. The chariot itself consisted of a basket with a rail each side and a foot board” for the driver to stand on. The body of the chariot rested directly on the axle connecting the two wheels. The harness of each horse consisted of a bridle and reins, usually made of leather, and ornamented with studs of ivory or horn. The reins were passed through collar bands or yoke, and were long enough to be tied around the waist of the charioteer, allowing him to defend himself when necessary.

The wheels and basket of the chariot were usually of wood, strengthened in places with bronze, the basket sometimes covered with wicker wood. The wheels had four to eight spokes.

Most other nations of this time the, “Bronze Age,” had chariots of similar design to the Greeks, the chief differences being the mountings.

Source: Chariots of Greece

chariots in Greece

The components needed to build a chariot:

Chariot  =  iqiya
Axle = akosone
Wheels = amota
Rims of Wheels = temidweta
Willow wood = erika
Elm wood = pterewa
Bronze = kako
Spokes
Leather = wirino
Reins = aniya
Pole
Rivets
Studs
Spokes
Ivory = erepato
Horn = kera
Foot board = peqato
Gold = kuruso
Silver= akuro

Tiryns fresco
The lovely Tiryns Fresco

Pylos fresco
Chariot Fresco from Pylos

Mycenaean rail chariot
Bronze Age Chariot

Bronze Age war chariot
Bronze Age War Chariot

vase with Mycenaean chariot
Amphora depicting Bronze Age chariot

box chariots
Achaean Small Box Chariots with an example of the horse harness

The cabs of these chariots were framed in steam bent wood and probably covered with ox-hide  or wicker work, the floor consisting more likely of interwoven raw-hide thongs. The early small box-chariots were crewed either by one single man or two men, a charioteer and a warrior. The small box-chariot differ in terms of design from the Near Eastern type. The four spoke wheels seem to be standard throughout this period.


Rita Roberts, Haghia Triada, Crete


Cretan hieroglyphic seals (Middle Minoan I & II, ca. 2100-1700 BCE):

Cretan hieroglyphic seals

On the first of these seals there appear 4 ideograms (?) which appear to be precursors of Minoan Linear A syllabograms, but there is no way of knowing whether or not this is the case.



The first ever complete translation of a Linear A tablet in toto, HT 31 (Haghia Triada), vessels & pottery:

Linear A tablet HT 31 vessels

Here you see the first ever full translation of a Linear A tablet, HT 31 (Haghia Triada), vessels & pottery. Today I was finally able to break through the last barriers to the complete translation of this tablet, one of the most complete in Linear A, and the only one with so many ideograms, in this case, all of them standing for various types of vessels. The tablet explicitly names the type of each vessel by superimposing the Linear A name of it over its ideogram. What a windfall!

It just so happens that HT 31 exhibits so many parallels with Mycenaean Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) that it almost defies credulity... so much so that we can even consider the latter to be the long overdue “Rosetta Stone” for the former. Not only are they written in two syllabaries which are almost the same, Minoan Linear A for HT 31, and its successor, Mycenaean Linear A for Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris), but even the contents (the text) of each of these tablets closely mirrors that of the other. That is one truly amazing co-incidence. And it is precisely because the similarity between these two tablets is so striking that I have been able to decipher the integral text of Minoan Linear A HT 31 (Haghia Triada) in toto, with the exception of a few signs (syllabograms, ideograms and numerals) which are pretty much illegible. This is the first time in history that anyone has managed to decipher a Minoan Linear A tablet in its entirety.

Compare the translation of HT 31 with the text of Mycenaean tablet  Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) on which I have overlaid the equivalent cross-correlated Linear A vocabulary, and it instantly becomes clear that the two tablets deal with almost exactly the same range of vessels:

Pylos Tablet 641-1952 Ventris with Minoan Linear A term superimposed

The methodology followed in the comparative analysis of any Linear A tablet which appears similar to any Linear B counterpart is called cross-correlated retrogressive extrapolation of a Linear A tablet (A) with an equivalent Linear B tablet (B), where:

CCRE (cross-correlated retrogressive extrapolation) stipulates that A = B (closely or approximately), in this case closely. 

I welcome any and all comments on this hard-fought and hard-won breakthrough in the decipherment of Minoan Linear A. Please also tag this post with 4 to 5 stars if you like it (hopefully 5!) 


Russet Minoan Linear A tablet on amphorae with the new word tesi = a small unit of measurement:

russet Minoan Linear A tablet

While I have already deciphered, more or less accurately, the following words on this russet Minoan Linear A tablet on amphorae, daweda = medium size amphora, pa3ni or paini = amphora for the storage of grain, daru = scales?, Kudoni = Kydonia & reza = standard unit of measurement, there is one new word on it, tesi = a small unit of measurement (as is attested by its small number = 3.5).

This brings the total number of Linear A words I have deciphered, more or less accurately, to 90.


Yet another Minoan Linear A tablet with 3 words I have already deciphered:

KUKANI deep red wine no. 2

Here you see yet another Minoan Linear A tablet which features not just 1, but 3 Minoan Linear A words I h ave previously deciphered. These are adu = “prefix for measurement”, daweda = “medium size amphora” (see illustration below) and kukani = “deep red wine”. It is gratifying to discover that 3 words I have recently deciphered appear on a second Linear A tablet. It is wide open to speculation  whether or not this confirms my decipherments. Still, a second tablet can do no harm to our cause.  

l-fig-12-minoan-amphora


How did I manage to decipher 17 Minoan Linear A words in 1 month? The 4 principles

That is the burning question. And here are the reasons why. To begin with, it is impossible to decipher any unknown ancient language by relying on its internal structure alone. It simply cannot be done. We must have recourse to certain fundamental principles before we even being to attempt any decipherment. So far, I have been able to isolate four of them. These are:

1. The attempt to correlate Minoan with known ancient language (negative principle or factor):

All too many past researchers and philologists attempting to decipher Minoan Linear A have made the assumption that they had first to determine what class of language it must or may have belonged to before they even began to attempt decipherment. This is, as we shall see, a false premise, a non starter, a dead end.

The very first of these researchers to make such an assumption was none other than Sir Arthur Evans himself, though he could hardly be blamed for doing so, being as he was at the very frontier of the science of archaeology at the outset of the twentieth century, up until the First World War when he had to suspend archaeological work at Knossos (1900-1914). I made this clear in my article, An Archaeologist’ s Translation of Pylos tablet Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris), in Vol. 10 (2014) in the prestigious international journal, Archaeology and Science (Belgrade) ISSN 1452-7448, in which I emphasized and I quote from Evans:

It would seem, therefore, unlikely that the language of the Cretan scripts was any kind of Greek, and probable that it was related to the early language or languages of Western Anatolia – associated, that is, with the archaeological 'cultures’ of Alaja Hüyük I ('proto-hattic’) and of Hissarlik II and Yortan ('Luvian’)...”, and a little further, “Though many of the sign-groups are compounded from distinct elements, usually of two syllables each, there is little trace of an organized system of grammatical suffixes, as in Greek. At most, a few signs are notably frequent as terminals... (italics mine) and this in spite of its great antiquity, given that it preceded the earliest known written Greek, The Iliad and The Odyssey of Homer by at least 600 years! It was a perfectly reasonable and plausible assumption, in view of the then understandable utter lack of evidence to the contrary.

Returning to my own analysis:

Besides, there were no extant tablets in either Minoan Linear A or Linear B with parallel text in another known ancient language, as had conveniently been the case with the Rosetta Stone, which would have gone a long way to aiming for a convincing decipherment of at least the latter script.  Yet Evans was nagged by doubts lurking just
below the surface of his propositions. (pp. 137-138)

So Evans was vacillating between the assumption that the Minoan language may have been related either to Luvian or Hittite (a brilliant assumption for his day and age) and that it was an ancestral form of proto-Greek. Both assumptions were wrong, but if only he had known that Linear B was alternatively the actual version of a very ancient East Greek dialect, namely, Mycenaean Greek, how different would the history of the decipherment of Linear B at least have been. 

To complicate matters, Michael Ventris himself, following in the footsteps of Evans, began by making the same assumption, only this time correlating (italics mine) Linear B with Etruscan, stubbornly sticking with this assumption for almost 2 years before Linear B literally threw in his face the ineluctable conclusion that the script was indicative of Mycenaean Greek (June 1952).

My point is and here I must be emphatic. It is a total waste of time trying to pigeon-hole the lost Minoan language in any class of language, whether Indo-European or not. It will get us absolutely nowhere. So I have concluded (much to my own relief and with positive practical consequences) that it does not matter one jot what class of language Minoan belongs to, and that it serves us best simply to jump into the deep waters without further ado, and to attempt to decipher it on its own terms, i.e. internally.

2. Cross-correlation between Minoan and a known ancient language: 

Notice that in 1. above I italicized the word correlating. This is no accident at all. It is only by the process of cross-correlation with a known language that we can even begin to decipher an unknown one. And of course, the known language with which the Minoan language must be cross-correlated is none other than Mycenaean in Linear B, if not for any reason other than that Linear B uses basically the same syllabary as its predecessor, with only a modicum of changes required by the latter to represent Mycenaean Greek, more or less accurately. This assumption or principle, if you like, is squarely based on the approach used by the renowned French philologist, Jean-François Champellion, who finally deciphered in 1822, 23 years after it was discovered in Egypt in 1799.


Wikipedia Rosetta Stone


Rosetta Stone Champollion 1790-1832


How did he do it? He made the brilliant assumption that the stone, on which was inscribed the identical text in Demotic and ancient Greek, must have the exact same text in Egyptian hieroglyphics on it. And of course, he was right on the money. Here is were the principle of cross-correlation comes charging to the fore. If a given text in an unknown ancient text is on the same tablet as at least one other known language (and in this case two), a truly observant and meticulous philologist cannot but help to draw the ineluctable conclusion that the text of the unknown language must be identical to that of the known. Bingo!
 
But I hear you protest, there are no media upon which the identical text is inscribed where Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B are concerned. The medium on which texts in both Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B are inscribed is the clay tablet. While it is indisputably true that there exist no tablets on which the identical text is inscribed in Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B, upon close examination, we discover to our amazement that there is at least one tablet in Minoan Linear A which might potentially be very close to another in Mycenaean Linear B, and that tablet is none other than HT 31 from Haghia Triada, on which the text, at least to a highly observant philologist would appear to be very close to a text on a particular Linear B tablet. And that tablet, we discover to our amazement, is none other than Pylos tablet Py TA 631-1952 (Ventris). Armed with this assumption, I forged right ahead and made a direct comparison between the two. And what did I discover? Both tablets mention the (almost) the very same types of vessels in at least 4 instances. Armed with this information, I simply went ahead and found, this time not to my amazement or even surprise, that I was – at least   tentatively – correct.

In the case of at least two words on both tablets, as it turned out, I was right on the money. These are (a) puko = tripod on HT 31 and tiripode = tripod on  Py TA 631-1952 (Ventris). This was the very first word I ever managed to decipher correctly in Minoan Linear A. My translation, as it turns out, is without a shadow of a doubt, correct. My excitement mounted. (b) The second is supa3ra or supaira on HT 31, which would appear to be almost if not the exact equivalent of dipa mewiyo = a small(er) cup on Py TA 631-1952 (Ventris), but without the handles on the latter. And as it turns out, I was again either close to the mark or right on it. Refer to our previous posts on the decipherment of these two words, and you can see for yourselves exactly how I drew these startling conclusions.


Linear A HT 13 tereza additional vocabulary


Pylos 641-1952 Archaeology and Science

3. Parallel ideograms on Linear A and Linear B tablets:

The presence of apparently (very) similar ideograms for vessels on both of these tablets only serves to confirm, at least tentatively for most of the words on vessels I have attempted to decipher, and conclusively for the two words above, that I was well on my way to a clear start at deciphering Minoan Linear A. For lack of space, I cannot give details this post, which is already long enough, but once again, previous posts reveal in much more detail this principle on which my decipherments are founded, and the methodology behind it which lends further credence my translations.

4. Archaeological evidence lends yet further credence to my decipherments of 4 of the largest vessel types on HT 31, namely, karopa3 or karopai, nere, qapai & tetu. The problem here is, which one of the largest is the largest of them all, being approximately equivalent to the Greek pithos? I cannot tell from the tablet. However, since my initial stab at decipherment, I have tentatively concluded that Minoan Linear A words terminating in the ultimate U are masculine singular for the very largest in their class. Hence,  it would appear at least that tetu is the most likely candidate for the equivalent to the ancient Greek pithos. I cannot as yet determine with any degree of certainty that this is so, but it is at least a start.

These four principle form the foundation of the first steps that appear to yield relatively convincing results in the decipherment of the 17 words in Minoan Linear A I have tackled so far. Relying on the application of these four principles, either singly or in combination, we can, I believe, make some real headway in the decipherment of roughly 5% to 10 % of the terms on the Linear A tablets. The greater the number of these principles entering into the equation for the decipherment of any Minoan word in particular, the greater are our chances of  “getting it right”, so to speak. That is a very good start.

On the other hand, at least to date, it is virtually impossible to decipher any Linear A words on any tablet to which any or all of the aforementioned principles cannot be safely applied. This leaves hundreds of Minoan terms virtually beyond our reach. In other words, tablets on which Minoan vocabulary appears, but without any reference or link to the 4 principles mentioned above remain a sealed mystery. But that does not bother me in the least.

In the next post, relying on principles 2. (cross-correlation) and 3. ideograms, I shall decipher the eighteenth Minoan word (18), this time one related to spices.


5 standard units of measurement for wine in Minoan Linear A:

Linear A HT 13 tereza additional vocabulary


Apart from tereza, which I have already tentatively established as the largest standard unit of measurement for wine storage in Minoan Linear A, there appear to be 4 additional standard units for the measurement of wine storage on Linear A tablet Haghia Triada HT 13, and these are, from largest = 1. to smallest = 4. (after tereza itself):

1. teke   
2. nere
3. dawe?da
4. quqani

When we take a good look at the storage magazines at Knossos, we observe the following:


knossosgmagazinesplans

knossosmagazines


As astonishing as it might seem, there are in fact 5 different sizes of storage amphorae in these magazines. Co-incidence with the Minoan Linear A apparent standard storage units for amphorae? I have to wonder.

Notice also that the two largest standard unit sizes for storage of wine end in E (teke & nere), while the medium size ends in A (dawe?da) and the smallest size in I (quqani), indicating that these ultimates may represent size, where E = large (macro), A = medium and I = small (micro).


Minoan Linear A Reza Adureza Tereza. Do they measure up? PART 3 = tereza


Linear A HT 13 tereza kaudeta kuro wine decipherment b

If the root Minoan Linear A for a specific unit of measurement is reza, and the compound unit adureza refers to a specific unit of dry measurement, it follows that tereza, used in combination with the ideogram for “wine” must reference a specific unit of wet measurement. The problem is, what specific unit? Note that the number of specific units of wet measurement on Haghia Triada tablet HT 31 is small, 5 1/2. This would imply that we are not dealing with a whole lot of specific units of small containers of wine, but with a very small number of specific units of (very) large containers of wine. It strikes me as very peculiar that either Minoan Linear A or Mycenaean Linear B scribes would ever bother inventorying scores or even hundreds of small standard units of wine, as it is perfectly obvious that at the Palace of Knossos, at least in Mycenaean times, Late Minoan IIIb, wine was always stored in very large amphorae, known in much later classical Greece as pithoi, as illustrated here:


Giant pithoi from Knossos for storage of olive oil

As for the notion that Linear A or Linear B scribes would ever even bother to inventory 5 1/2 small units, such as say the standard Minoan/Mycenaean small unit approximately equivalent to a standard bottle or a modern litre of wine, it begs credulity! Either the scribes would have polished off those 5 1/2 bottles of wine at day’s end or some of the staff administration or the king or queen would have taken them off their hands the same day. So the only alternative we are left with is to assume (with a reasonable degree of logic and practicality) that what the Minoan Linear A scribes were inventorying on this tablet was the standard large unit for the storage of wine, which would almost certainly have been the standard large amphora size in use at the Middle Minoan II to Late Minoan II Palace of  Knossos, which in and of itself must have been closely if not exactly equivalent to the standard amphora or pithos size at the Late Minoan IIIB Palace of Knossos, when Mycenaean Linear B was the lingua franca of inventories.

But there is more, much more to this intriguing and possibly highly revealing Minoan Linear A tablet. We know that it deals specifically with the inventorying of wine. And by that I mean that in all probability the entire tablet deals with wine. If that is the case, then at least some of these words: [1] teki [2] quqani [3] re + scales (referring to, guess what, the measurement of wine!) [4] sedu? (if my spelling is right) [5] nere [6] adu = “dry”? [7] si*307* [8] daweda [9] pa2 or pa3+? (effaced) [10] u *306*za [11] daru [12] teke & [13] re = possibly an abbreviation for reza should yield themselves up to decipherment in the near future.

NOTE that, even if all of my decipherments of reza, adureza and tereza are way off the mark, i.e. plain wrong, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I say, be bold and forge ahead! 


Stunning frescoes from Knossos, Third Palace, Late Minoan III b (ca. 1450 BCE) Post 1 of 2

cup bearers fesco Knossos a

cup bearers fresco Knossos c

cup bearers fresco Knossos b


Linear B tablet KN 851 K j 03, olive oil at Knossos:

851 K j 03 A olive oil A

The text on this Linear B tablet is broken off. If indeed epikere means “at the top of a honeycomb”, which is very doubtful (although the word partially fits with the Classical Greek word for “honeycomb”, then whatever the “i” is the termination of in the first line appears to be the vessel in which the honeycomb is stored. Linear B ama is almost the exact equivalent of its Classical Greek counterpart, and in this context means “along with”, indicating that the honeycomb (if that is what it is) is stored along with the wheat (if that is what the syllabogram means) and if not, along with something right-truncated beginning with ZO, but we cannot say what, and finally along with olive oil in 46 amphorae, where the amphorae are almost certainly of the type shown in the illustration above, in other words, huge amphorae or pithoi, which were in widespread use for the storage of olive oil at the Third Palace at Knossos, Late Minoan III, ca. 1450 BCE, just as this tablet makes abundantly clear.

So the running translation goes something like this: something at the top of a honeycomb (?) stored  along with wheat and olive oil in 46+ amphorae. I say 46+ because the number is right-truncated and could be anywhere from 46 to 49.     


A partial Linear B tablet from  Knossos illustrating 542 amphorae or pithoi! 

KN 712 M p 01

This is a partial Linear B tablet from  Knossos illustrating 542 amphorae or pithoi, a staggering number. Since the pithoi at Knossos are all huge, it is impossible that these 542 amphorae an all be pithoi. Far from it. Probably 500 at least were smaller amphorae, and the rest (42 or so) possibly pithoi, but we cannot be sure. I have deduced that teyo to the left side of this partial tablet is the genitive singular of the Linear B word teo = “Zeus” or “a god”, hence in this context it means, “of Zeus” or “of the god”, implying that all of these amphorae and pithoi are the property of said god. 

Here we see a fabulously wrought Minoan bee pendant with what appears to be the image of a Minoan priest or god in the centre.

Minoan bee pendant god ca 1850 - 1550 BCE Aigina

A series of 5 Linear B fragments on vessels (pottery) with 2 beautiful illustrations of amphorae:

5 Linear B fragments on vessels

There can be no surprise that 4 these 5 fragments follow one another serially, while the last one is in the same numeric series (700s). I do not understand why 708b just shows the number 8 but has no framework in which it is supposed to be set (i.e. no fragment).  Fragment 709 M m 01 appears to have  originally been a longer tablet, since there is text (? na) left-truncated prior to the ideogram and right-truncated (ya) after it. It is impossible to recover the “absent” meaning of the word of which these syllabograms a a part. 776a M f 01 is very peculiar.  The “amphora” at the top is clearly unfinished, and even the one on the bottom is rudimentary. This is uncharacteristic of Linear B scribes. Was he alseep at the switch? Was it the end of the day? Was the tablet started, only to be discarded? If so, why? We shall never know.

Examples of exquisite Minoan amphorae from Knossos:

amphoraa

mycenaean-linear-b-aporowewe-amphora-decorated-with-spirals




Example of a Linear B tablet on vessels without supersyllabograms:

Knossos table KN 434 M r 01 vessels

Here you see an example of a Linear B tablet without supersyllabograms from Knossos. The text on the tablet is piecemeal and so much of it defies decipherment. So I did not bother even trying to decipher what was beyond me. For instance, the two words wapi kononipi appear nowhere in any Linear B glossary or lexicon, nor in ancient Greek. So they are probably archaic Mycenaean, and lost to us forever. Still, enough of the original text remains intact for us to make a sensible translation of it.


Translation of Pylos tablet TN 996, the famous “bathtub” tablet:

Pylos TN 996 linear-b-showing-numbers-of-bath-tubs-and-other-vessels

This was a rather difficult tablet to translate, for several reasons:
1. It is difficult to ascertain whether or not the first word on the first line is a personal name, but it certainly appears to be so.
2. Two of the words on this tablet appear to refer to some type of vessel or pottery, but they appear in no Linear B lexicon (not even Tselentis). The first is pinera in line 2 & the second pokatama in line 4.
3. Some of the words are definitely archaic Mycenaean Greek, but most of these are translatable. For instance, Linear B rewotereyo = (archaic) Greek “leuterios” in line 1 begins with an abbreviated form of the Greek word “leukos”, which means “white”  or “bright” or “light”. So I take this word to mean “a lamp-lighter”, which makes eminent sense in the context.
4. The ideogram is for “bathtub” = asamito in line 1, while the one on line 2 appears to be a variant on the same, but it may mean a “large watering can” to pour warm or hot water into the bathtub.
5. See the comment on po? in the illustration above. The translation “octopi”, meaning “decorated with octopi”, appears solid enough, especially in line 3 where it is paired with the word for “jug”. The translation is less tenable in line 4, where it is paired with “an oil lamp”.



Supersyllabograms for olive oil in the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy:

Recently, I ran several posts on Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae, in which as it turns out I erroneously claimed that the supersyllabograms which these posts represented were centred on saffron. I could not have gone more wrong! So I have had to delete all these posts. And if anyone of you who are into Linear B or who are specializing in the syllabary have relied on these posts or have used them as references for your own research, you should at once discard these references, as they are all completely invalid!

As it turns out, while I was busy researching PDF documents for my references and notes and for the bibliography for my next major article, The Decipherment of Supersyllabograms in Linear B, which is to be published in Archaeology and Science, Vol. 11 (2015), to be released in the spring of 2017, I discovered to my horror, and then to my huge relief, that the prestigious Linear B scholar, José L. Melena,  had already deciphered both of the supersyllabograms, A & TI 42 years ago in 1974, I had grossly miscalculated to be related to saffron as actually being related specifically to olive oil. I was suspicious of my own decipherments all along, and I should have listened to my intuition, my “gut feelings”. The problem is that the ideogram for olive oil and that for saffron look so much alike that they can easily mislead the unwary, meaning in this particular case, me.  So I have had to go back to the drawing board, and start from scratch.   

To add insult to injury (though I scarcely let that bother me, as I try my damnedest not to be too egotistical), I found out that not only had Melena deciphered the SSYLS A & TI for olive oil, but he had deciphered 4 more as well! These are KU, PA, SI & WE. Boy, had I ever been sloppy, or more to the point, woefully unobservant.  Such is life. But all's well that ends well, as Shakespeare says.

My own decipherments of all 6 supersyllabograms for olive oil in the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy follow:

Table 7 fb Supersyllaograms for olive oil in Myenaean Linear B

As it turns out, Melena himself,  in spite of his remarkable insight into the workings of the more esoteric points of Linear B (including notwithstanding supersyllabograms), made a  few rather gauche errors in his attempts at deciphering some of these supersyllabograms. This is because, to my mind at least, he overstretched himself by seeking out putative meanings which, to be blunt, were much to complex and far-fetched to suit the recipe. For instance, he assigned the meanings TI = tithasos =  “domestic” and A = agrios =  “wild” to the supersyllabograms A & TI, which he typified as referring “probably to distinct kinds or qualities of olives.”  But this notion stretches ones belief. Why anyone would bother cultivating wild olives, which would be difficult to grow under the best of circumstances I cannot imagine. So my alternate decipherments are, for A = aporowewe =  “an amphora (of olive oil)”, which makes eminently more sense, as the Minoans at Knossos and the Mycenaeans at Pylos always stored their olive oil in enormous amphorae or pithoi. For TI I combine TI =  timito = “the terebinth tree” with the ideogram for olive oil. But why would I do that, I hear you ask? It is really quite simple. Since the terebinth tree produces pistachio, I reasoned that the Minoans and Mycenaeans had a sweet tooth for olive oil and pistachio paste. Et voilà! Makes sense.

Moving on to PA, I agree wholeheartedly with Melena’s interpretation, but I take it one step further than he does. He deciphers PA as parayo in Linear B = palaios in ancient Greek, meaning “old”. Old olive oil? Yuk! Methinks not. What the scribes are clearly referring to is vintage olive oil, like vintage wine. Now that makes a lot more sense. As for his decipherment of SI with olive oil, he is way off the mark, once again because he unnecessarily complicates matters by looking for love in all the wrong places. Taking his cue from the Linear B word for a pig (!) = siaro, he bizarrely concludes that SI adjoined with the ideogram for olive oil references a gooey unguent comprised of pig fat and olive oil. OMG! No no no! SI clearly refers to Linear B siton, which means “wheat”, which when milled with olive oil yields none other than olive bread. Olive oil bread was in the distant past and is today a staple of the Greek diet. His interpretation of the SSYL WE as weto = “this year’s crop or harvest or harvest” is of course correct, referring to the harvesting of olive oil. The other interprration wetoiwetoi is also feasible, but less so. But we are all far from perfect, Melena and myself being right there in the pack, as this post so abundantly makes clear. We make the best with what we have by way of intellectual resources, and consequently hope for the best. Just because I have deciphered all 36 supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B does not mean that I necessarily have all of them, let alone 80% to 85 % of them “right”. Besides, there is no way of our ever knowing as philologists, no matter who we are, what the Linear B scribes at Knossos, Pylos etc. actually intended ALL of these supersyllabograms to mean. We can be certain of a only a few. We can establish with probability that a number of them are quite likely to be what we ascertain them to be. But we can and must be less certain of others, and even very doubtful of a few which, for all intents and purposes, practically defy any really convincing decipherment. And there lies the perennial conundrum. 

Supersyllabogram A for amphora with the aromatic and dye saffron UPDATE

Introduction:

The supersyllabogram A for amphora is usually associated with vessels, and in that context it means that the vessel concerned is clearly an amphora, as illustrated below:

vase A  

This, the standard use of A as a supersyllabogram for vessels, is fully documented in my article, An Archaeologist’s translation of Pylos Tablet TA 641-1952 (Ventris), with an introduction to supersyllabograms in the vessels & pottery Sector in Mycenaean Linear B, to be published in the February 2016 issue of Archaeology and Science (Belgrade) ISSN 1452-7448. Following is the text of my discussion of the standard use of the SSYL A for amphora from this article:

Yet the most astonishing characteristic of supersyllabograms in the pottery and vessels sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy is this: the majority of them are attributive, and dependent on the ideograms they qualify. Attributive dependent supersyllabograms always appear inside the ideogram which they qualify, never adjacent to it. They always describe an actual attribute of the ideogram. For instance, the syllabogram a inside the ideogram for a vessel with 2 handles is the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of the Mycenaean word apiporewe, unequivocally identifying the vessel as an amphora. But why even bother noting this, when it is obvious that the ideogram in question is in fact that for an amphora? Again, I repeat, the Mycenaean scribes never used any device without a reason. In this particular case, the reason, I believe, is apparent. Any scribe who places the syllabogram a inside the ideogram for what is probably an amphora anyway, does so on purpose to draw our attention to the fact that he is tagging said vessel as a highly valuable and very likely ornate specialty amphora fashioned specifically for the palace elite, and not any old amphora at all, as we see illustrated here in Figures 12 and 13: click to ENLARGE  

Fig. 12

l fig 12 minoan-amphora

Fig. 13:

m fig 13 MERI amphora

The distinction is crucial. I can conceive of no other reason why any Mycenaean scribe would resort to such a ploy other than to identify the vessel in question as a precious commodity.  Similarly, the simplified and streamlined syllabogram sa inside the ideogram for a vessel on a stand is, in my estimation, almost certainly the supersyllabogram for an unknown pre-Greek, possibly Minoan word for raw flax, the agricultural crop the ancient Greeks called rino = linon, from which linen (being the selfsame word in both Mycenaean and ancient alphabetical Greek) is derived. Both of these supersyllabograms are incharged, a term I have had to coin to describe the presence of syllabograms inside ideograms, given its complete absence in  previous research on so-called  “adjuncts” to Linear B ideograms, in other words, supersyllabograms.

END of discussion

The supersyllabogram A with the ideogram for – saffron:

Yet after my submission of this article to Archaeology and Science, I discovered another use of the same supersyllabogram, the vowel a, this time in conjunction with the ideogram for saffron, as illustrated by these 3 tablets from Knossos: 

saffron

Translations of these tablets:

KN 669 K j 21
Linear B Latinized:
line 1: yo wheat 195 + saffron in amphorae 43 + saffron 45
line 2: (syllabogram truncated right, probably ma for -ama-) yo wheat 143 + danetiyo + wheat 70 + saffron 45

Translation:

line 1: yo? 195 units of wheat + 43 small amphorae filled with saffron & 45 units of saffron harvested (the units being very small)
line 2: ma for -ama? = at the same time, meaning along with yo? 143 units of wheat +  
70 units of wheat on loan + 45 units of saffron (harvested)

NOTE that the amphorae containing saffron would have to be small, very much like perfume bottles, given that saffron threads would not take up much space. 
 
KN 851 K j 03
Linear B Latinized:
line 1: syllabogram truncated right, uncertain, possibly -i- ) yo wheat + epikere  + wheat (right truncated, amount unknown)
line 2: ama
line 3: saffron in small amphorae 46 (or possibly more due to right truncation)

Translation:
line 1: i? yo? uncertain amount of wheat well planted (from the earth) + uncertain amount of wheat
line 2: along with
line 3: 46 (or more) units of saffron in small amphorae

KN 852  K j 01
Linear B Latinized:
line 1: dawo amaepikere + wheat 10,000 (or more, being right truncated)
line 2: saffron in amphorae 70 + saffron 20

Translation:
line 1: i? yo? along with (= ama, prefix of amaepikere) 10,000 units of well planted wheat from Dawos (Dafos)
line 2: 70 units of saffron in small amphorae + 20 units of saffron (harvested)  

This application of the supersyllabogram a for saffron I find truly intriguing. Yet again, it clearly designates an amphora, but in this context a small amphora which contains saffron, which takes up little space. Now since saffron is an aromatic which is usually refined to delicate threads plucked from the flower of the same name, as illustrated here:

saffron-extract-benefits

it naturally follows that, if it is stored in an amphora, represented by the supersyllabogram a, the amphora must be small and capped with a stopper with a handle to prevent the saffron from blowing away. I am not sure how the Minoans and Mycenaeans fabricated the caps with handles for a small amphora filled with saffron, but it strikes me that they (the caps) would have been made of pottery of some kind. The cap with a handle would have had to be fashioned so that it was air tight. It is scarcely any wonder that the Minoans and Mycenaeans would have stored saffron in this fashion, as this extremely precious and expensive aromatic would have been used as a dye or its finely woven threads would have been woven into textiles, often ritually offered to divinities, as well as being used in perfumes, medicines, and body washes. See Wikipedia, Saffron: click to READ:

wikipedia saffron

There exists a stunning fresco the "Saffron Gatherers" fresco of the "Xeste 3" building. According to Wikipedia, this is one of many Minoan style frescoes depicting saffron; they were found at the Bronze Age settlement of Akrotiri, on the Aegean island of Santorini. which illustrates the harvesting of saffron, of which we see here a close up detail: click to ENLARGE

Cueilleuse_de_safran,_fresque,_Akrotiri,_Grèce


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