Tag Archive: chariot



Linear B tablet K 04.5 from the Knossos Armoury: the redoubtable challenges for translation

04.5 iqiya piriniyo opoqo keryapi opiiyapi

 Linear B tablet K 04.5 from the Knossos Armoury: the redoubtable challenges for translation

While some of the military tablets from the Knossos Armoury dealing with the construction and design of chariots pose a few problems in the translation of certain words which yield at least two or possibly even three different possible meanings, others are much more of a challenge to the translator. Some vocabulary in the more challenging tablets proves to be much more fractious. There are several reasons for this phenomenon when we are dealing with Mycenaean Greek vocabulary, let alone that of any truly archaic ancient language, such as Babylonian and Assyrian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphics. These are:

1 Some words in Mycenaean Greek may closely or somewhat resemble their later counterparts in Homeric Greek or Classical Greek, conveying the same or a similar meaning. Such is the case with – wanax – = “king” in Mycenaean Greek.
2 Some of the words in Mycenaean Greek may closely or somewhat resemble their later counterparts in Homeric Greek, and yet not convey precisely the same meaning or might even mean something more remotely associated, such as – qasireu – , which does not mean the same thing as “basileus” = “king” in Homeric Greek. A – qasireu – in Mycenaean Greek is merely a local leader of a town, citadel, redoubt or similar small centre and nothing more.   A king in Mycenaean Greek is a – wanax – , for which there is an almost exact match in Homer’s Iliad.  
3 Some words in Mycenaean Greek may look like variants of later Homeric or Classic Greek words, although they are spelled in a fashion alien to the latter, never appearing in them. 
4 Some of the words in Mycenaean Greek may closely or somewhat resemble their later counterparts in Classical Ionic or Attic Greek, and yet convey an entirely different meaning.
5 Some vocabulary in Mycenaean Greek may be archaic Greek which later fell entirely out of use even prior to Homeric Greek, in which case it may be next to impossible to confirm that such words are even archaic Greek at all.
6 Some vocabulary in Mycenaean Greek may possibly be proto-Greek or even more ancient proto Indo-European, but we can never be certain of this at all.
7 Some vocabulary in Mycenaean Greek may possibly or even likely be Minoan or of Minoan origin. Such is the case with the word – kidapa – on tablet KN 894 N v 01, the very first tablet I translated in this series of tablets on chariots. L.R. Palmer assumes this word refers to a kind of wood, and I agree. This assumption is based on the fact that two other kinds of wood are referenced on the same tablet, i.e. elm and willow. With this evidence in hand, I have gone even further than L. R. Palmer and have taken the calculated risk to identify this word as meaning “ash (wood)”, a wood which Homer uses for weapons.
8 Just as is the case with Classical Greek, in which a few thousand words are not of Indo-European origin, Mycenaean Greek contains a fair proportion of such vocabulary. Words such as – sasama –  (sesame) & – serino –  (celery) come to mind.

This is the scenario which confronts us in the translation of at least two of the words on this tablet, namely, – piriniyo – and – mano –, both of which are certainly open to more than one possible interpretation. The first word - piriniyo – meets the criteria outlined in 1 & 3 above. It probably means “an ivory worker”, but we cannot be sure of this. Since the latter – mano – may not have any relation to later Homeric or Classical Greek at all, it is a crap shoot to try and translate it. This word meets the criteria in 1,2 and 4 above. But I took the chance (as I always do), on the assumption, however fanciful, that – mano – may be related to the Classical Greek word – manos – , meaning “thin”, as defined in Liddell & Scott.

And what applies to Mycenaean vocabulary on this and all other tablets dealing with chariots, whether or not they originate from Knossos, equally applies to all of the vocabulary on each and every tablet in the military sector of the Mycenaean economy. By extension, this principle must also apply to all of the vocabulary on Linear B tablets, regardless of provenance (Knossos, Pylos, Mycenae, Thebes etc.) and regardless of the sector of the Mycenaean economy with which they are concerned. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. In short, the 8 criteria outlined above must be applied on an equal footing, through the procedure of cross-comparative extrapolation, to all of the vocabulary of Mycenaean Greek.

We shall return to this phenomenon in our article on chariot construction and design, which is to appear on my

 account under the auspices of Koryvantes, the Association of Historical Studies (Athens):

Koryvantes Association of Historical Studies Athens Category Linear B & the Iliad
sometime later this winter.


Linear B tablet K 04-16 N b 01 from the Knossos “Armoury”

04-16 N
There are a couple of oddities in the Linear B on this tablet, as illustrated by the Notes in the illustration of it above.  Since Chris Tselentis lists “reins” as – aniyapi – one would expect the instrumental plural to be – aniyapisi - . But I am not the scribe, and I was not there when he inscribed the tablet. So who knows?

On the other hand, his spelling of – araromotemena – is definitely wrong. He has it as – araromotomena – and that spelling turns up neither in L.R. Palmer, The Interpretation of Mycenaean Texts (1963) nor in Chris Tselentis’ excellent Linear B Lexicon.

Other than that, everything’s cool. So there you have it.


Two more chariot tablets from the Knossos “Armoury”, K 05-35 N u 12 & K 04-39 N u 10

Here we see two more tablets from the Knossos “Armoury”. Once again, the translations are relatively straightforward, except that in the first tablet, the words -ore- and -e- are truncated on the right. The only plausible translation I could come up with for the word beginning with -ore- is the name Orestas, which I found in Chris Tselentis’ Linear B Lexicon and not in L.R. Palmer’s, The Interpretation of Mycenaean Greek Texts (1963), in spite of the fact that Palmer’s glossary of Mycenaean Linear B vocabulary is far the most complete to be found anywhere. The translation of the truncated word beginning with -e- on the second line of the first tablet (K 05-35 N u 12) below is obvious. The word is -erika- in Linear B, i.e. willow.

04-35 AMOTA ODAKUWETA wheel ZE

The second tablet (K 04-39 N u 10) poses only one problem, and that is the question of how to translate -amota- which in Classical Greek would clearly mean “chariot”, except that the spelling is different (Latinized Greek = harmata) in the latter.

04.39 amota erika temidweta

The Mycenaean word could have meant “chariot”, except for the fact that on all Linear B tablets dealing with chariots, the word “chariot” is never spelled out. Instead, the ideograms for “a chariot with wheels” and “a chariot without wheels” are always used. Note that the ideograms for chariot appear on neither of these tablets, which seem concerned only with the construction and the total number of wheels on axle + the spare wheel.


Here you see two more chariot tablets from the Knossos “armoury”

KN 04-34 N u 08

04-34 ERIKA TEMIDWETA wheel ZE

The first deals with 2 chariots, not 1, since the number 2 after the ideogram for “wheel” cannot conceivably mean that one chariot has two sets of wheels on axle! Given that the supersyllabogram MO refers to “a single”, it would appear that there is at least a single spare wheel on hand. But that is not necessarily the case, because the tablet is right truncated. It makes more sense that there would be two spares for two chariots. Folks back in the late Minoan and Mycenaean era kept spares on hand too, though they did not carry the spare around with them. They would have to go back to the workshop to get a spare for a broken wheel. A bit of a pain in the butt. Still, there is nothing new under the sun. Chariots, cars, six of one, half a dozen of the other.

KN 04.38 N u 11

04.38 erika wozomena

The second one deals with the eventual delivery of 15 chariots made of elm wood with their wheels already on axle presently under construction. Their translation is quite straightforward. The supersyllabogram ZE, when paired with the ideogram for “wheel” always means “with (2) wheels” or to put it more succinctly, “with its wheels on axle”.



January 2016 is “chariot” month. So let’s take you for a ride!

Here is the first tablet illustrating a chariot with 2 stallions being driven by a fellow whose name translates something like “longshoreman”, which makes sense if the fellow is a post messenger who frequently drives to and from Knossos and its harbour, Amnisos.

a-kn-sc-230-translation1

Rita Roberts and I shall be posting at least a dozen chariot-related tablets in January.

So keep posted.

Richard


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