Tag Archive: axes

Early Minoan hieroglyphic roundels and seals may lend some insight into the later development of the Linear A syllabary:

Minoan hieroglyphic writing


As illustrated above, early Minoan hieroglyphic roundels and seals may lend some insight into the later development of the Linear A syllabary. Notice that the the hieroglyphic for an axe or labrys looks remarkably like the Linear A and Linear B syllabogram for A, while the Y shaped hieroglyphic, whatever it is supposed to represent (and no one knows what), is similar to the Linear A syllabogram for SA. So it is conceivable, however remotely, that this hieroglyphic seal may actually read asa or saa, whichever way you read it (not that we have any idea what that is supposed to mean).Then we have the hieroglyphic marked with an asterisk (*). This looks very much like a vase, amphora or flask to hold wine, water or possibly even olive oil. There is another one which looks like a fish. That should not be too surprising, given that the ideogram for fish does appear on at least one extant Linear A fragment from Phaistos, as we have witnessed in a recent previous post. Finally, on the bottom line, the seal marked (f) bears a hieroglyphic which looks like a bat, and this in turn may very well be the antecedent to the Linear A syllabogram MA. But this hieroglyphic is not that of a bat, but rather of a cat, which we can see from the beautiful seal on the top left of the illustration. This is substantiated by the some of the variations in the scribal hands for Linear A MA, which indeed look like the visage of a cat, as we see here:

Linear A scribal hands for MA = cat

So I guess it is a cat.

RESEARCH paper: Supersyllabograms in the agricultural sector of the Mycenaean economy, by Rita Roberts academia.edu:

This essay constitutes Rita Robert’s first foray into major research in ancient Mycenaean linguistics on academia.edu. Rita has composed this highly scholarly article as the major component of her mid-term examination in her second year of university, exactly half way to her degree. Keeping up this pace, she is bound to perform outstandingly in her final essay of her second year, and in her third year thesis paper, which will be considerably more demanding than this study, and about twice as long.

I strongly recommend you to download this study here:

supersyllabograms in agriculture in Linear B academia.edu

It makes for engaging reading in ancient linguistics research.

You can reach Rita’s academia.edu account here to view her other papers:

rita roberts academia.edu


Partial decipherment of Linear A inscription PH 1 (Arkalochori Axe):

Linear A tablet PH 1 Arkalochori Axe

My decipherment is partial. The only candidate for Mycenaean derived vocabulary is the word uro = entire, whole, i.e. total, a synonym of kuro = reaching, attaining, i.e. total.
The  word jaku obviously refers to the cargo. 

Is the Minoan Linear A labrys inscribed with I-DA-MA-TE in Minoan or in proto-Greek? PART B: OR is it in proto-Greek?What?” I hear you asking, “... is that even even remotely possible?” The keyword here is remotely. Remotely, yes, but only remotely. Recall that in the last post, in which I postulated that the four consecutive supersyllabograms ID + DA + MA + TE might conceivably stand for the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of 4 consecutive Minoan Linear A words, though which ones among God knows how many possibilities it is exceedingly difficult to determine.

On the other hand, the four consecutive supersyllabograms ID + DA + MA + TE might conceivably stand for the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of 4 consecutive proto-greek Greek words, most likely proto-Mycenaean. If that is the case — and, mark  my words, it is far more likely than not that it is not the case — we are once again confronted with a myriad of combinations and permutations of proto-Greek words which have the potential, however thin, of standing in for the 4 consecutive supersyllabograms I + DA + MA +TE. So be forewarned. The putative decipherment of these 4 supersyllabograms into the one possible decipherment I have arbitrarily posited among hundreds is just  that, putative and tentative, and nothing more.

The tentative decipherment I have come up with runs as follows when the Mycenaean Greek of which it is the apparent forerunner is Latinized:

The supersyllabograms in turn might conceivably mean (but only as a long shot):

I = iyereya (feminine nominative singular), meaning “priestess”
DA =  Damateroyo (feminine genitive singular), meaning “of Damater”
MA =  Matereteiyai (feminine dative singular, meaning “to Mater Thea (the Divine Mother” 
TE = temenoi (masculine dative or locative singular), meaning “(in) the temple”

yielding this Latinized decipherment (which is but one possibility out of 100s): 

iyereya Damateroyo ... matereteiyai (eni) temenoi

... which roughly translates as:

The priestess of Damater... (is making offerings -or- sacrificing to) Mater  Thea (i.e. the Divine Mother) (in) the temple.

In this partial sentence, the phrase  (is making offerings -or- sacrificing to) and the preposition eni = “in” do not appear in the original supposed proto-Greek text, which I have extrapolated forward to Mycenaean Greek to make it fully accessible. Although these words are in fact absent from the original putative proto-Greek, they be supplied  with relative ease to fill in the gaps.

This proto-Greek translation is neatly encapsulated in this chart:


On closer examination, it turns out that, although this decipherment is only one among 100s of possible candidates, it is nevertheless one of the most plausible decipherments, for the following reasons:

1. If as I have pointed out in the previous post, Idamate is an actual Minoan word, as well as being in addition a series of 4 supersyllabograms. Thus, in the Minoan language it may very well mean something along the lines of Damate in Mycenaean Linear B: in other words, Idamate in the Minoan language may be the approximate equivalent of Damate in Mycenaean Linear B and of Demeter in ancient Greek. And if that is the case, the second supersyllabogram (DA) in my parallel proto-Greek translation, which I have deciphered as Damate, almost perfectly matches the Minoan word. This co-incidence, if co-incidence it is, is far too great to be ignored, and it lends a great deal of credence to my proto-Greek translation extrapolated forward to Mycenaean Greek of the second supersyllabogram DA in idamate.
2. But there is more, much more. As it so turns out, there is a sacred cave dedicated to Zeus on Mount Ida, which is very close to the Minoan site of Phaistos. Another co-incidence? The name of the cave dedicated to Zeus on Mount Ida is the “Dictaean Cave”, as illustrated here:


3. It is nothing short of a remarkable co-incidence that Idamate, as inscribed on the labrys, may very well signify “Mount Ida”, as I have clearly indicated  in the previous post. But what does that imply?  I have to wonder whether or not there was a Minoan peak sanctuary on the summit of Mount Ida. This is what a Minoan peak sanctuary probably looked liked:


And if there was, it was of course a temple. Referencing our proto-Greek translation of Idamate, we find that the last supersyllabogram, TE, may readily and realistically rendered as temeno, which in Mycenaean Greek means “a temple”. How fascinating!

Does this imply that the priestess to Damater might have been sacrificing to Mater Thea in a temple or peak sanctuary which may possibly have existed on the summit of Mount Ida? The correlation is truly tempting. However, I must sound a strong note of caution. Such an interpretation of  the last supersyllabogram of Idamate = TE, as the putative Mycenaean word, temeno = “a temple” as being a peak sanctuary is nothing less than a real stretch of the imagination. So it must be taken with a huge grain of salt. Nevertheless, it is possible, however remotely, that the temple in which the priestess of Damater is worshipping just might have been a peak sanctuary. But  I wouldn’t bet my bottom dollars on it.  It is thus remotely possible that Idamate signifies both “Mount Ida” in Minoan and “Mater Thea” in proto-Greek extrapolates forward to later Mycenaean Greek. Further credence is possibly lent to this decipherment by the fact that Mount Ida is clearly visible in the near distance behind the ancient site of Phaistos, as illustrated here and on map below:



But we must be extremely skeptical of such an interpretation. Why so? Just as Pavel Serafimov and Anton Perdith erroneously read proto-Slavic into Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada), thereby grossly misinterpreting it, my own attempt to superimpose proto-Greek on the 4 supersyllabograms I + DA + MA +TE may amount to the same genre of fundamental (and gross) inaccuracy in the putative decipherment into proto-Greek of a Minoan Linear A text, in this case, of the word idamate inscribed on the labrys. So we must exercise extreme caution in hypothesizing that the 4 supersyllabograms  I + DA + MA +TE are the first syllabograms, i.e. the first syllables of the 4 consecutive proto-Greek words I have arbitrarily assigned to them. So the fact remains that these 4 supersyllabograms are far more likely to be the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of 4 consecutive Minoan words than of proto-Greek words. I cannot stress this enough. 

Is the Minoan Linear A labrys inscribed with I-DA-MA-TE in Minoan or in proto-Greek? PART A: Is it in the Minoan language?

In my previous post on the Minoan Linear A labrys inscribed with I-DA-MA-TE, I postulated that the word Idamate was probably either the name of the king or of the high priestess (of the labyrinth?) to whom this labrys has been ritually dedicated. But in so doing I was taking the path of least resistance, by seeking out the two most simplistic decipherments which would be the least likely to prove troublesome or controversial. In retrospect, that was a cop-out.

No sooner had I posted my two alternate simplistic translations than I was informed by a close colleague of mine in the field of diachronic historical linguistics focusing on Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B that at least two other alternative decipherments came into play, these being:

1. that the term Idamate may be the Minoan equivalent of the Mycenaean Linear B Damate, which is apparently an early version of the ancient Greek, Demeter, who was the goddess of cereals and harvesting:



2. that the term Idamate may be Minoan for Mount Ida, in which case, the word Mate = “mount”, such that the phrase actually spells out  “Ida mount(ain)” :


Since both of these decipherments make eminent sense, either could, at least theoretically, be correct.
But there is a third alternative, and it is far more controversial and compelling than either of the first two. 

3. It is even possible that the four syllabograms I DA MA & TE are in fact supersyllabograms, which is to say that each syllabogram is the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of a word, presumably a Minoan word. But if these 4 supersyllabograms represent four consecutive Minoan words, what on earth could these words possibly signify, in light of the fact that we know next to nothing about the Minoan language. It appears we are caught in an irresolvable Catch-22.

Yet my own recent research has allowed me to tease potential decipherments out of 107 or about 21 % of all intact words in Prof. John G. Youngers Linear A lexicon of 510 terms by my own arbitrary count. Scanning this scanty glossary yielded me numerous variations on 3 terms which might conceivably make sense in at least one suppositious context. These terms (all of which I have tentatively deciphered) are:

1. For I: itaja = unit of liquid volume for olive oil (exact value unknown)

2. FOR DA: either:
daropa = stirrup jar = Linear B karawere (high certainty)
datara = (sacred) grove of olive trees
data2 (datai) = olive, pl. date = Linear B erawo
datu = olive oil
daweda = medium size amphora with two handles

3. For TE:
tereza = large unit of dry or liquid measurement
tesi = small unit of measurement

But I cannot find any equivalent for MA other than maru, which seemingly means “wool”, even in Minoan Linear A, this being the apparent equivalent of Mycenaean Linear B mari or mare.  The trouble is that this term (if that is what the third supersyllabogram in idamate stands in for) does not contextually mesh at all with any of the alternatives for the other three words symbolized by their respective supersyllabograms.

But does that mean the phrase is not Minoan? Far from it. There are at least 2 cogent reasons for exercising extreme caution in jumping to the conclusion that the phrase cannot be in Minoan. These are:    
1. that the decipherments of all of the alternative terms I have posited for the supersyllabograms I DA & TE above are all tentative, even if they are more than likely to be close to the mark and some of them probably bang on (for instance, daropa), which I believe they are;
2. that all 3 of the supersyllabograms I DA & TE may instead stand for entirely different Minoan words, none of which I have managed to decipher. And God knows there are plenty of them!  Since I have managed to decipher only 107 of 510 extant intact Minoan Linear A words by my arbitrary count, that leaves 403 or 79 % undeciphered!  That is far too great a figure to be blithely brushed aside. 

The > impact of combinations of a > number of Minoan Linear A words on their putative decipherment:


To give you a rough idea of the number of undeciphered Minoan words beginning with I DA & TE I have not been able to account for, here we have a cross-section of just a few of those words from Prof. John G. Younger’s Linear A Reverse Lexicon:
which are beyond my ken:


For I:

For DA:

For MA:

For TE:

But the situation is far more complex than it appears at first sight. To give you just a notion of the enormous impact of exponential mathematical permutations and combinations on the potential for gross errors in any one of a substantial number of credible decipherments of any given number of Minoan Linear A terms as listed even in the small cross-section of the 100s of Minoan Words in Prof. John G. Younger’s Reverse Linear A Lexicon, all we have to do is relate the mathematical implications of the  chart on permutations to any effort whatsoever at the decipherment of even a relatively small no. of Minoan Linear A words:

CLICK on the chart of permutations to link to the URL where the discussion of both permutations and combinations occurs:


to realize how blatantly obvious it is that any number of interpretations of any one of the selective cross-section of terms which I have listed here can be deemed the so-called actual term corresponding to the supersyllabogram which supposedly represents it. But, and I must emphatically stress my point, this is just a small cross-section of all of the terms in the Linear B Reverse Lexicon beginning with each of  the supersyllabograms I DA MA & TE in turn.

It is grossly obvious that, if we allow for the enormous number of permutations and combinations to which the supersyllabograms I DA MA & TE must categorically be  subjected mathematically, it is quite out of the question to attempt any decipherment of these 4 supersyllabograms, I DA MA & TE, without taking context absolutely into consideration. And even in that eventuality, there is no guarantee whatsoever that any putative decipherment of each of these supersyllabograms (I DA MA & TE) in turn in the so-called Minoan language will actually hold water, since after all, a smaller, but still significant subset of an extremely large number of permutation and combinations must still remain incontestably in effect.

The mathematics of the aforementioned equations simply stack up to a very substantial degree against any truly convincing decipherment of any single Minoan Linear A term, except for one small consideration (or as it turns out, not so small at all). As it so happens, and as we have posited in our first two alternative decipherments above, i.e.
1. that Idamate is Minoan for Mycenaean Damate, the probable equivalent of classical Greek Demeter, or
2. that Idamate actually means “Mount Ida”,

these two possible decipherments which do make sense can be extrapolated from the supersyllabograms I DA MA & TE, at least if we take into account the Minoan Linear A terms beginning with I DA & TE (excluding TE), which I have managed, albeit tentatively, to decipher.

However, far too many putative decipherments of the great majority of words in the Minoan language itself are at present conceivable, at least to my mind. Yet, this scenario is quite likely to change in the near future, given that I have already managed to tentatively decipher 107 or 21 % of 510 extant Minoan Linear A words, by my arbitrary count.  It is entirely conceivable that under these circumstances I shall be able to decipher even more Minoan language words in the near future. In point of fact, if Idamate actually does mean either Idamate (i.e. Demeter) or Ida Mate (i.e. Mount Ida), then:
(a) with only 2 possible interpretations for IDAMATE now taken into account, the number of combinations and permutations is greatly reduced to an almost insignificant amount &
(b) the actual number of Minoan Linear A words I have deciphered to date rises from 107 to 108 (in a Boolean OR configuration, whereby we can add either  “Demeter” or “Mount Ida” to our Lexicon, but not both).  A baby step this may be, but a step forward regardless. 

Minoan Linear A labrys inscribed with the word Idamate... what does it mean?

Revisiting the Minoan Linear A labrys inscribed with the word Idamate, I believe I may have managed to decipher it the second time around. Previously, it just stumped me. However, as can be seen in the illustration of this labrys below, I believe that the term Idamate can be interpreted in one of three (3) ways:


Compare this labrys with  the Minoan Linear B term for labrys, illustrated here:


Minoan Linear A qajo = Mycenaean Linear B dapu = labrys or double-edged axe:

Kafkania-pebble is double axe qajo

Sometimes the best strategy is to accept what is staring us in the face. On the Kafkania Pebble (Middle Helladic, ca. 1700 BCE?) the term qajo is inscribed immediately below the image of a double-edged axe, which in Mycenaean Linear B is called dapu, or labrys in English, as seen here:

Akosono dapu dapuritoyo axes temple-of-the-double-axes

Compare these with an actual Minoan Linear A double-edged sword, on which is inscribed with the word idamate, which in a previous post I deciphered as meaning either “King” ( wanaka in Mycenaean Greek ) or the name of the King, “Idamate” or “god” (diwo) in Linear B:

Idamate labrys = king or god

This brings the number of Minoan Linear A words deciphered more or less accurately to 66.

More photos from Knossos (upper Agora, Hall of the Double Axes):

Knossos third palace late Minoan III upper courtyard


Knossos Hall of the Double Axes b


Knossos Hall of the Double Axes a


Linear B tablet KN 755 A e 01, The 14 Temple Door Guards: 
Linear B tablet KN 755 A c 01 the doorkeeper

The Mycenaean Linear B word turateu is very similar to the ancient Greek word. It is clear (at least to me) that such door guards, in this case 14 of them, would have been responsible for guarding the doors of sacred temples, such as the Hall of the Double Axes, Knossos (if it was one). I have added the genitive, temenoio, which means “of a temple” to indicate that these 14 are temple guards. Notice the double doors to the Hall of the Double Axes (double doors, double axes, probably intentional). These are the kinds of door that would have been  guarded at major ceremonies, such as for the King (wanaka) and the Queen (wanakasa).

hall of the double axes

Supersyllabograms in the Military Sector of Mycenaean Linear B:

supersyllabograms for the military sector small

The Table above illustrates all of the supersyllabograms in the military sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy. These are identified in Linear B first, then in archaic Greek, and then translated into English. The Linear B Latinized names for each of the supersyllabograms follow, starting TOP DOWN with the left column and then the right.


dapu = double axe
kito = chiton
mono = single, spare
qero (ouisia) * = (wicker) shield
qeqinomeno = made by twisting, woven


rino = linen
rousiyewiya = a part of the reins made of leather
perekeu ** = axe
wirineo = leather
zeukesi = a pair of, a set of wheels, a team of horses (derived from the Greek zeugos for “yoke”

* The supersyllabogram is simply QE, but it stands for qero ousiya = “a wicker shield”
** The supersyllabogram is actually WE, which may not seem to make much sense, given that the word it represents is perekeu = “an axe”, but there you have it. That is what it is.

And these are the actual supersyllabograms in the military sector.

SSYLS military actual

PS This is for you, Rita!

Knossos tablet KN 498 O a 07 and the ideogram for DAPU = labrys:

Knossos tablet KN 498 O a 07 & the ideogram = dapu = labrys

It is notable that, unlike the previous tablets we have just posted, all of which contain the ideogram and the supersyllabogram DA for DAPU = labrys, this tablet has only the ideogram. It may have the ideogram and the supersyllabogram DA on the second line, but we can never know as it is right-truncated. This tablet can be readily translated, as illustrated above, but only if the scribe made two spelling mistakes, and the chances of that are extremely remote. However, I have ventured this translation, as it just might be the `correct one. You never know.

This is the last of the Knossos tablets directly dealing with the DAPU, labrys or the double-axe in the hierarchy of the Minoan/Mycenaean religion in the military sector.

Knossos tablet KN 497 O a 06 & the supersyllabogram DA = labrys = double axe:

Knossos tablet KN 497 O a 06 supersyllabogram DA = labrys = double axe

There isn’t much I can say about this tablet, apart from the fact that it inventories 6 double axes. The text on the left side is unintelligible, being left truncated. The importance of the labrys or double axe in the Minoan/Mycenaean religion cannot be over-stressed. This repetitive motif appears the whole length of the Hall of the Double Axes at Knossos – which I personally saw in May 2012 and which is a magnificent work of art. A nearly identical motif re-appears on frescoes at Mycenae. The presence of the labrys is all-pervasive in the Minoan/Mycenaean religious symbolism of the military. It is uncertain whether the religious or the military aspect predominates in such art, but I am inclined to say that it is the religious, since religious symbolism is rampant in the Minoan/Mycenaean pantheon. Moreover, their religion is primarily matriarchal, and not patriarchal. It is to be expected that religious mythology would trump military in matriarchal societies such as this.

Knossos tablet KN 496 O x 04 and the supersyllabogram da = labrys:

Knossos tablet KN 496 O x 04 and the supersyllabogram DA = labrys

It is simply impossible to determine the meaning of the first word on this tablet, “tanopada”, left truncated, for which the previous syllabogram is probably “a”. In addition, there may be more than one syllabogram before the left truncation. Whatever the word it is, it appears not to be Greek. It may possibly be Minoan. As explained on the illustration of the tablet (above), it is also not possible to determine whether the number 3 refers to both the labrys and the small swords, in which case there would be 3 of each, or whether there is only 1 labrys and there are 3 small swords. My preference is for the latter. In addition, the mark following the number 3 cannot be 10, since the format for 13 is the reverse. It appears simply to a scratch.

The supersyllabogram DA = dapu = “double axe” in Mycenaean Linear B:

Knossos tablet KN 495 O a 03 supersyllabogram DA double axes

This unusual supersyllabogram appears on only 3 Linear B tablets from Knossos... unusual not only because it is rare, but also because it is either oncharged or supercharged onto the syllabogram for “double axe”. This would imply that the supersyllabogram DA is an associative, not attributive supersyllabogram, given that attributive supersyllabograms are otherwise without exception incharged in their ideograms. This leaves us in a bit of a quandary, because we should expect that DA is attributive and not associative. Its position (supercharged or oncharged) on this tablet and the other 2 like it indicates that it should be associative. But a double axe can neither be associated with itself nor be an attribute of itself. That is a contradiction in terms. So what are we to make of this bizarre positioning of the supersyllabogram DA onto the ideogram for the double axe?  I can come up with no explanation other than that the supersyllabogram DA is neither attributive nor associative, but is simply itself per se. What is even more astonishing is the fact that the ideogram and the supersyllabogram are essentially one and the same thing. Was the scribe at a bit of a loss in his attempt to “describe” the double axe as a supersyllabogram? Actually, I don't think so. What he was doing in this particular instance was emphasizing or, if you like, stressing the fact that he was focused on the double axe.  In this context, it appears that the ideogram for “double axe” coupled with its supersyllabogram must take precedence over the rest of the text on this tablet. The tablet is focused sharply on the inventory of the double axe, which takes precedence over any other consideration. At least that is my take on it.

Here we have two illustrations highlighting the conspicuous symbolism of the double axe in Minoan/Mycenaean iconography:   

Hall of the Double Axes Knossos



Linear B tablet 04-81 N a 12 from the Knossos “Armoury”

04-81WIRINEO O n KAKEYAPI OPI Greek & translation 

While most of the Linear B tablets from the Knossos “Armoury” we have translated so far this month have posed few problems of any significance, and a few occasional problems of some significance,  this tablet stubbornly defies an accurate translation, for the following reasons:

1 the literal word order on the first line is so jumbled up that it is almost impossible to determine what adjectives modify what nouns. So I have had to come up with at least two alternate interpretations of this line in my free translation.  We are saddled with the burning question – 

1.1 Is the chariot equipped with straps and bridles made of leather and horse blinkers made of copper?
1.2  Is the chariot equipped with straps and horse blinkers made of leather and bridles made of copper?
1.3 even some other probable concatenation?

Then we are confronted with the mysterious Mycenaean word – (ko)nikopa – (if indeed the first syllabogram, which is partially obscured, is in fact – ko – ), leaving me no alternative but  to rummage through an ancient Greek dictionary, in the hope that I just might be able to come up with a word concatenated from two ancient Greek words, and to my slight relief, I found both of the ancient Greek words you see in the illustration of the tablet above, transliterated into Latin script here for those of you who cannot read ancient Greek. These are the words – koniatos – , which means – whitewashed – or – painted white – and – kopis – which means – sword/axe – . See The Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary, pg. 189, for these definitions. But it is quite clear to any ancient Greek linguistic scholar that I am stretching the putative meaning of – (ko)nikopa – just about as far as one can without crossing over into the realm of ridiculous speculation. So please take my translation of this word with a very large grain of salt. I merely took this meaning because the word has to mean something, so why not at least try and take a stab at it? Every one and anyone who knows me is perfectly aware that I am always the first one to take the plunge and to attempt to translate even the most recalcitrant unknown words found on Linear B tablets. Someone has to, and I am a most willing guinea pig.  

Nevertheless, it is still possible, however remotely, that the word may mean just that, especially if we assume (and that is all it is, an assumption) that the chariot builder painted an axe motif onto both sides of the chariot body, just as we find the same motif painted onto frescoes in the Hall of the Double Axes at Knossos. This motif of the double axe, which is dubbed a – labrys  – by the Minoans and Mycenaeans, is characteristic of wall frescoes at both Knossos and Mycenae, as illustrated here:

motif of labrys or double axes common to Knossos and Mycenae

clarified in turn by the illustration below of the ideogram – dapu – for – labrys –  and with a similar ideogram of a labrys incharged with the supersyllabogram WE, which I have as yet been unable to decipher:

Linear B syllabogram B232 DAPU or labrys

Military Syllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B, including 2 newly deciphered:

Here we find 2 illustrations of military syllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B. Just click on each one to ENLARGE it.

Illustrations of a typical Double Axe, Minoan (left) & Mycenaean fresco (right): Click to ENLARGE

Labrys or Double Edged Axe from Knossos and Mycenae

Military Syllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B for the Axe & Double-Axe or Labrys: Click to ENLARGE

Linear B military ideograms for axe

It is questionable whether or not the word dapu for “labrys” is in fact of Mycenaean Greek etymology, since it is somewhat of a stretch to correlate the Linear B spelling dapu with the corresponding ancient Greek orthography labrys. This sort of thing happens often enough in Linear B, making it difficult and sometimes even impossible to interpret a small cross-section of Mycenaean Greek words as Greek words (if that is what they are). Just as there are thousands of words in ancient Greek and modern Greek of non-Greek etymology, there were many of the same in Mycenaean Greek. I need only cite two examples, both of which make perfect sense even in English, but neither of which are of Greek etymology even in Mycenaean Greek, to drive my point home. We have for instance serino for “celery”, obviously the same as the English word, when you take into account that the Mycenaean “r” = Greek & English “l”. So also with sasama for “sesame”, a word which has quite literally been unchanged, apart from minor spelling variations to account for orthographic conventions in various languages, ancient & modern, ever since its first appearance in ancient languages right on down to today in English and other Occidental languages. It may possibly be Minoan. If it can ever be established that even a few of such words in Mycenaean Greek are actually of non-Greek origin, these words might provide a clue to the possible decipherment of the Minoan language, with the proviso that they are in fact Minoan. Unless any of these words actually appear either alone or as part of attested Minoan words from the online database of extant Minoan words in the Linear A texts in phonetic transcription by Professor John G. Younger, here:

John G Younger Linear A Texts in Transcription
we are caught in a vicious circle. Of course, neither serino nor sasama appear in this database. Around and round we go on an endless merry-go-round.    
Military Syllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B on Chariots and related ideograms: Click to ENLARGE

Linear B military ideogams chariots etc

More in the next post...


Linear B Show & Tell # 3:  Axes & (Temple of the) Double Axes & their Relgious Symbolism: (Click to ENLARGE)

A akosono dapu dapuritoyo axes (temple of the) double axes

If anything, the symbolism if the “axe” and especially of the “double axe” is one of the major underpinnings of Minoan/Mycenaean religion. We find axes and double axes all over the place on Minoan and Mycenaean frescoes, regardless of site, Knossos, Mycenae, Pylos etc.  If ever you visit Knossos, you will see for yourself the famous Temple of the Double Axes. Although the lower story is sealed off, if you look down, you will see a lovely frieze of horizontal double axes on the back wall of the lower story. To this day, no-one really knows the true significance of the symbol of the axe or double axe in Minoan or Mycenaean mythology. They pose a real dilemma. Since the Minoans at Knossos were a peaceable people, why would they plaster double axes all over the walls of a building which we take to be the Temple of the Double Axes (erroneously or not)?

In Mycenae, however, the symbol of the axe or double axe makes perfect sense, as the Mycenaeans were a warlike people. The simplest explanation I can come up with is that the Mycenaeans exported the axe and double axe to Knossos after their conquest or occupation of the city. And no-one is quite sure if the Mycenaeans actually did conquer Knossos, or whether the two “city states” allied in order to greatly strengthen their hand as a unified Empire in the economic and trading affairs of the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean seas ca. 1500-1200 BCE. Of course, Knossos (Late Minoan III Palatial Period) itself fell sometime around 1450-1400 BCE, but the great Mycenaean Empire persisted until ca. 1200 BCE, after which the Nordic Dorians invaded the entire Greek peninsula, the Peloponnese, leaving the Mycenaean “city states” in ruins. It is entirely probable that the Minoan-Mycenaean Empire ca. 1500-1400 BCE rivalled the Egyptian Empire in the scope of its power. Almost certainly the Mycenaeans were actively trading with civilizations along the East coast of Greece and inland, Athens and Thebes (the latter being a Mycenaean stronghold) and with the city of Troy and the inhabitants along the West coast of what we now know as Turkey. What is particularly fascinating and (highly) revealing in the historical perspective of the rise of ancient Greece is that the new Greek colonies which spread all over the Aegean in the 7th. and 6th.  centuries BCE flourished in precisely the same places where the Mycenaeans had carried on such extensive trade some 6 to 10 centuries earlier! There is more to this than meets the eye, as we shall eventually discover in key posts on this blog later this year or sometime in 2015.

Other omnipresent religious symbols included the Horns of Consecration at Knossos, and the Snake Goddess & the goddess Pipituna at both Knossos and Mycenae.


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