Tag Archive: chariots


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

Troullos tablet TL Za 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I rest my case.

T. Farkas’ brilliant decipherment of Linear B tablet KN 894 Nv 01:

Knossos tablet KN 984 Nv 01

Linear B transliteration

Line 1. ateretea peterewa temidwe -ideogram for wheel, SSYL ZE for set or pair tablet broken off (i.e. right truncated)

Line 2. kakiya -ideogram for wheel, SSYL ZE for set or pair 1. kakodeta -ideogram for wheel, SSYL ZE for pair or set tablet broken off (i.e. right truncated)

Line 3. kidapa temidweta -ideogram for wheel, SSYL ZE for set or pair 41 tablet broken off (i.e. right truncated)

line 4. odatuweta erika -ideogram for wheel, SSYL ZE for set or pair 40 to 89 tablet broken off (i.e. right truncated)

Translation (my knowlege of Greek grammar is not sufficient at present to write out proper sentences [NOTE 1] but I have looked up and know the Greek equivalents for the Linear B words which I will write here.)

Line 1. Pair/set of inlaid/unfinished? elmwood chariot wheel rims

Οn your blog you have translated ateretea as “inlaid” from the Greek ἀιτh=ρeς. I found these words ατελείωτος , ατελεις … that means “unfinished” Do you think that could work? Either way I get that ateretea is an adjective that describes the wheel rims [2].

α)τερεδέα/ατελείωτος πτελεFάς τερμιδFέντα ζευγάρι a1ρμοτα, (sorry for the mishmash Greek [3]).

Line 2. 1 Copper [4] set or pair of wheel fasteners , bronze set or pair of wheel fasteners

I looked around the net and some say copper was used as a band or even as a tire and as leather tire fasteners on bronze age chariot wheels.

Since the deta on kakodeta refers to bindings perhaps this line is refering to sets of types of fasteners of both copper and bronze for wheels? (hubs, linch pins, nails, etc…) [Richard, YES!]

χαλκίος ζευγάρι α1ρμοτα, χαλκοδέτα ζευγάρι α1ρμοτα

Line 3. 41 Sets or pairs of “kidapa” chariot wheel rims

Looked around the net didn’t find and words to match kidapa…I did take note that you think ― like L.R. Palmer ― that it means ash-wood.

κιδάπα τερμιδFέντα ζευγἀρι α1ρμοτα

Line 4. 40 to 89 ? sets of toothed/grooved willow-wood chariot wheels.

Ive looked at many diagrams and pictures of chariot wheels… but none that I could find were clear enough to really understand what might be meant by toothed [5]… Ι even watched a documentary where an Egyptian chariot is built. It is called building Pharaoh’s Chariot. Perhaps one day I’ll happen upon some chariot wheels somewhere and finally understand what is meant.

ο0δατFέντα ε0λικα ζευγἀρι α1ρμοτα 40 -89 ?

Comments by our moderator, Richard Vallance Janke:

This is absolutely brilliant work! I am astounded! 100 % hands down. This is one of the most difficult Linear A tablets to decipher. I too take kidapa to mean ash wood, as it is a tough wood. It is also probably Minoan, since it begins with ki, a common Minoan prefix:

kidapa OM = ash wood? (a type of wood) Appears only on Linear B tablet KN 894 N v 01
kidaro MOSC NM1 kidaro ke/dron = juniper berry-or- kedri/a = oil of cedar Cf. Linear B kidaro
kidata OM = to be accepted or delivered? (of crops) Cf. Linear B dekesato de/catoj

See my Comprehensive Linear A lexicon for further details I imagine you have already downloaded the Lexicon, given that at least 16 % of Linear A is Mycenaean-derived Greek. This decipherment alone of an extremely difficult Linear B tablet entitles you to a secondary school graduation diploma, which I shall draw up and send to you by mid-August.

Specific notes:

[1] Thalassa Farkas declares that … my knowlege of Greek grammar is not sufficient at present to write out proper sentences… , but the actual point is that it is not really possible to write out Greek sentences in Mycenaean Greek, in view of the fact that sentences are almost never used on Linear B tablets, given that these are inventories. Grammar is not characteristic of inventories, ancient or modern. So it is up to us as decipherers to reconstruct the putative “sentences which might be derived from each of the tabular lines in an inventory. So long as the sentences and the ultimate paragraph(s) make sense, all is well.

[2] wheel rims is an acceptable reading.

[3] This is hardly mishmash Greek. It is in fact archaic Greek, and archaic Greek in the Mycenaean dialect, absolutely appropriate in the context.

[4] In Line 2, kakiya (genitive singular of kako) might mean copper, but is much more likely to mean “(made of) bronze” (gen. sing.), given that copper is a brittle metal, more likely to shatter under stress than is bronze. Copper tires would simply not hold up. Neither would pure bronze ones. Either would have to be re-inforced, and in this case by kidapa = ash-wood. That is the clincher, and that is why the word kidapa appears on this tablet.

[5] In Line 5, temidweta does not mean with teeth, but the exact opposite, with grooves” or “with notches. After all, if we invert teeth in 3 dimensions, so that they are inside out, we end up with grooves. This can be seen in the following illustration of a Mycenaean chariot in the Tiryns fresco of women (warrior) charioteers:

Tiryns fresco women charioteers

On the other hand, scythes, which are after all similar to teeth, were commonplace on ancient chariots, including Egyptian, a nice little clever addition to help cut or chop up your enemies. Still, it is unlikely that Mycenaean chariots would be reinforced by scythes, in view of the fact that there are far too many of them even on fresco above. That is why I take temidweta to mean indentations” or “notches”. But temidweta could refer to “studs”, which like notches, are small, even though they stick out.




PINTEREST boards of interest related to Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B:

This is a reasonably comprehensive directory of PINTEREST boards of interest related to Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B. To visit each board, simply CLICK on its banner, and sign up, if you like:  


Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B: Progressive Grammar & Vocabulary (Click BANNER to visit): 

Minoan Linear A Linear B

Knossos & Mycenae, Sister Civilizations

Knossos & Mycenae sister

Cultura Minoica

Cultura minoica

Antiche scritture

Antiche scritture



Minoan | Mycenaean

Minoan Mycenaean

SCR Lineare prealfabetica

SCR Lineare

Minoan: the Art and Culture of Knossos, Crete

Minoan Art and Culture

Archaeology  – Minoan

Archaeology Minoan

Minoan Civilization

Minoan Civilization

Minoan & Mycenaean Arts & Architecture

Minoan & Mycenaean Arts & Architecture

Mycenaean, Minoan, Hittite

Mycenaean Minoan Hittite

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
Leather = wirino
Reins = aniya
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

Rita Roberts has written a brilliant essay on  THE CONSTRUCTION OF A MYCENAEAN CHARIOT,

Mycenaean rail chariot

for which she has attained a mark of 94 % out of 100 %. Her essay is to be published in toto on her academia.edu account. Congratulations, Rita. Rita has completed her first year of university for her 3 year Bachelor of Arts in Linear B (BALB). She is well on her way! Let us all wish the highest commendation for achievement she so richly deserves.

Are there any Minoan Linear A words in Mycenaean Greek? Of course!

Consider the word kidapa on the third line of Mycenaean Linear B tablet KN 894 N v 01:

Knossos tablet KN 894 N v 01 original text Latinized and in archaic Greek

which is certainly not an ancient Greek word, not in any ancient Greek dialect from the earliest, Mycenaean, to the latest, Attic and Hellenic. But if it is not Greek, then what on earth is it? Before we answer that question, let us review just a few other terms which appear both in the Minoan language and in Mycenaean Greek, as follows: sedina (Minoan) & serino (Mycenaean) = celery/orada (Minoan) & rodo (Mycenaean) = rose/araiwa (Minoan) & erawo (Mycenaean) = olive (oil) and finally kanaka (Minoan) & kanako (Mycenaean) = saffron. All of these terms are firmly deciphered in the Minoan language and fully translated in Mycenaean Greek, let alone in the later ancient Greek dialects. But none of them are Indo-European.

On another footing, it is notable that, in Minoan, a significant proportion of the terms we have managed to decipher to date, more or less accurately, begin with the letter K. Referencing our Glossary of 75 Minoan Linear A words, we find that at least 15/75 or 20% begin with K. This is rather striking, in light of the fact that a correspondingly large number of words in ancient Greek begin with K, even though the two languages are in no way related. In other words, since kidapa begins with K, that is another reason to conjecture that it might possibly be Minoan.  

Finally, I feel obliged to make the observation, however transparent it may seem to some of us, that all languages, ancient and modern, inherit thousands upon thousands of words from ancestral languages, and in a great many cases, the words inherited are not even of the same class of language (for instance, Indo-European). English is notorious for this. While most of the hundreds of thousands of words in English which are not strictly English are Indo-European, having been lifted in droves from ancient Greek, Latin and French, great many are not Indo-European. Examples are: ketchup, chai (tea) from Sino-Tibetan; chile, poncho from Arawak (Andean) & anchovy and jingo from Basque, to cite a very few.

So if all languages, ancient or modern, can and do borrow vocabulary from previous languages not in in their class, then Mycenaean Greek, which is Indo-European, must also have done the same with respect to Minoan.

However, since I have been unable to find kidapa on any Minoan Linear A tablet or fragment, there is absolutely no way I can confirm it is Minoan. Nevertheless, for the reasons I have enumerated above, there stands a good chance that it may very well be Minoan. Thus, although I intend to add it and other bizarre and unaccountable words in Mycenaean Greek, which are clearly not of Indo-European origin, to my Glossary of Minoan Linear A words, I shall do so under the subtitle, “Words in Mycenaean Greek of putative Minoan origin”, but I shall not add any of these words to the total number of Minoan words I have already deciphered more or less accurately.

Finally, how did I come to the conclusion, tentative as it is, that kidapa may very well mean “ash”, even if it is not Minoan and even though it is certainly not Greek? It all boils down to the methodology I resort to over and over, namely, cross-correlative analysis. If the words for elm and willow respectively appear on lines 1. and 4., then it is reasonable to assume that kidapa on line 3. should also be a type of wood. Carrying this assumption one step further, we may reasonably deduce that the type of wood kidapa is supposed to be is supposed to be is also a species of hardwood, like the other two (elm and willow). Homer mentions ash as the preferred wood used for the construction of ships in the Iliad; so it is quite feasible that kidapa is indeed “ash”. But there is absolutely no way of verifying this assumption. 

This tablet is held at the Ashmolean Museum, British Museum:

Asmolean Museum An1910_211_o

The composite supersyllabograms E & KO with the ideogram for horse in Linear B:

KN 226 N j 21 composite SSYLS E KO

This is one of only two tablets in the entire corpus of Mycenaean Linear B tablets, on which two (2) supersyllabograms modify their ideogram, in this case, the one for horse. It is particularly intriguing that these two supersyllabograms are framed on each side with the numeral 1. If this looks peculiar at first sight, I can hardly blame you. Yet there is an explanation which is more than likely sound. We note that there is only 1 chariot. This would mean that there has to be a team of 2 horses. Yet it appears that this factor is not taken into account. In fact, far from it. The scribe has in fact written the number 2, one 1 one on each side of the two supersyllabograms. This would seem to imply that the scribe is referring to 2 sets of a part of the harness, probably the bridle and of the cross-bar. This in turn implies that there is a team of horses to whom these parts are assigned. Even though the supersyllabogram ZE = a team of horses does not appear on this tablet, it looks very much like that is what the scribe intends us to understand, given that there are two sets of the parts assigned, this appears to confirm that there is a team of horses.

Note that the ideogram for armour follows that for one (1) chariot and precedes the two supersyllabograms E & KO. This is the standard formulaic position for the ideogram for armour. This ideograms does not imply that the chariot is armoured, but rather that the driver of the chariot is armoured, hence my translation.

Prior to my discovery of this phenomenon of composite supersyllabograms, no researcher past or present has ever before identified it.

Linear B tablet 04-39 N u 10 from the Knossos “Armoury” illustrating the SSYLS ZE & MO

Linear B tablet k 04-39 N u 10 from Knossos wheel ZE MO

While the translation of this tablet is relatively straightforward, there are a few points worthwhile mentioning. The first is that the supersyllabogram MO, appearing  for the first time on this tablet, is the first syllable of the Linear B word – mono - , meaning – one, single (i.e. spare). Secondly, since the tablet is right-truncated, we do not know how many spare wheels (MO) the scribe has inventoried, but my bet is that there is a spare wheel for each set of wheels on axle. Given that there are 3 sets of wheels on axle, that would mean that there would be 3 spare wheels. Lastly, and significantly, there is absolutely no mention of a chariot on this tablet (nor is there on well over a dozen other tablets), leading me to the all but inescapable conclusion that a considerable number of chariots were fully assembled without their wheels, the wheels being separately manufactured. But why? 

There are three discreet sets of tablets discussing the construction of chariots and their wheels (on axle):

(a) The first set of tablets inventory fully assembled chariots with their wheels on axle and their spare wheel (if present);
(b) The second is comprised of tablets for fully assembled chariots without their wheels on axle and;
(c) The third details the construction of wheels on axle, usually along with spare wheels, with no mention of chariots. Now this third set of tablets raises the inescapable question: why do so many tablets refer to the construction of wheels (both wheels on axle and spares), with no mention whatsoever of the chariots for which they are destined?

The most plausible explanation for these discrepancies is that the privileged functionary who has ordered his chariot does not want it delivered with its wheels already on axle [set (b) above], because he wishes to have the wheels separately manufactured according to his own specifications. We can be reasonably certain that VOPs such as the wanax (King) or the rawaketa (Commander-in-Chief) were the only supernumeraries who could possibly afford to have chariot wheels manufactured to their exacting specifications. Here you see a composite of four different styles of Mycenaean chariot wheels:

composite of 4 Mycenaean chariots

Such highly placed aristocrats would probably have been terribly fussy about the style and decoration of the wheels they wanted mounted. So the wheels on axle would have been manufactured separately from the chariots, which neatly explains why numerous tablets speak of wheel construction alone, while others refer to chariots without their wheels attached destined for the same elite customers. In fact, these two types of tablets appear to run in tandem with each other, there being one tablet referring to the chariot fully assembled without wheels on axle and a corresponding one detailing the manufacture of the wheels on axle (and most of the time of the spare wheel), but with no mention of the chariot itself. The difficulty is which Knossos tablet dealing with a particular fully assembled chariot without wheels is to be paired with which corresponding tablet describing the manufacture of wheels on axle (and most often a spare wheel to boot)? That is a question we shall never know the answer to, but the plausibility of this method of dual (or paired) construction of chariots without wheels in tandem with the separate manufacture of wheels makes sense.

Linear B tablets K 04.30 and 04.33 from the Knossos “Armoury” illustrating the use of the supersyllabogram ZE

wheel ZE 04.30

K04.33, being a mere fragment, can be translated in the blink of an eye as  “one set of wheels on axle”, although we can be certain that the lost part of  this fragment dealt with chariot construction and design. What on earth else?

As far as K 04.30 is concerned, we have to wonder why the scribe set the word “newa” = “new” so far to the right of the phrase “Komoda opa”.  I believe there is tenable explanation for this. We notice that the word “newa” is closer to the ideogram for a set of wheels on axle = ideogram for wheel + ZE. So this may indicate that the scribe probably wishes to draw our attention more to the fact that this set of wheels is “new” than to the other parts of the chariot.

But that still begs the question, why? Scribes often separate single syllabograms or words from phrases to the right or left of the phase each is related to. As I have often said before, on this blog and in my published papers, no scribe or writer uses any linguistic device in any language whatsoever, unless that linguistic device plays a specific mandatory role in context, the function of which cannot be substituted by any other textual approach. This is the case here. The scribe is surely stressing that this set of wheels on axle is not just new but brand new. But again, why on earth would anyone do that, when it is apparent to the reader that the entire chariot is new? Or is it? Appearances can be deceiving. The emphasis on the newness of the set of wheels on axle leads me to believe that this chariot is to some extent constructed with spare or used parts. Consequently, we may assume that many other chariots inventoried on tablets are also partially constructed from spare or used parts. If that is the case, then the fact that the set of wheels is brand new takes precedence over the condition of the other parts in the construction of this chariot in particular makes perfect sense, at least to me.

This explanation is sound.  Given that the same ploy pops up on a considerable number of tablets, and not just in the military sector of the economy, we have to ask ourselves why the scribe has resorted to this approach in each and every case where similar dispositions of syllabograms are separated from the text they appear in on tablets, regardless of economic sector.  In other words, the praxis of the separation of (a single) syllabogram (s) from the rest of the text on the same line is never effected as a recurring linguistic practice without good reason. We shall discover that this is so over and over in the discussion of supersyllabograms in Linear B, again regardless of economic sector.


Linear B tablet K 04.03 from the Knossos “Armoury”


Linear B tablet Knossos K 04.03 translation

The text of this tablet is longer than on most tablets on chariot construction. This makes for more chances for error(s) in the original text, depending on the scribe’s hand (which in this case is sloppy) in the final literal and free translations. The notes on the tablet above make it quite clear where the scribe’s writing leaves something to be desired. So the translator is left to his or her own devices to come up with the best possible interpretation under the circumstances. For instance, the word – opa – apparently is archaic Mycenaean. It had fallen out of use by the time of Homer. It is a bit difficult to determine exactly what it means, but Chris Tselentis has it as – workshop –, which makes sense in the context. Once again, by context, I mean not only textual context but the most likely translation for the real world context of the Mycenaean vocabulary describing chariot construction. I am convinced that in this case Tselentis has ventured the best possible translation, which by exception I accept without question. My normal practice is to call into doubt any word on any tablet which has no equivalent in later ancient Greek, Homeric or Classical. But sometimes we have to throw in the towel when faced with no other reasonable alternative for the translation of archaic Mycenaean Greek or possibly even Minoan words. There is nothing unusual at all in the phenomenon of cross-linguistic transfer of certain words from a former, more archaic, language (in this case Minoan Linear A). Lord knows, English is full of such words, the vast majority inherited from Latin, Greek and medieval and early Renaissance French. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

The scribe, whose hand is admittedly quite sloppy, appears to have inscribed – araromo-pa-mena – for – araromo-te-mena –, by omitting one of the horizontal bars on the syllabogram. Translators of Linear B must always be on the ball and on the lookout for scribal errors in orthography on any tablet whatsoever, regardless of provenance – Knossos, Pylos, Mycenae etc.  After all, people make spelling mistakes often enough today, just as they always have throughout history. No surprise there.

Finally, there is the sticky question, why would a scribe inventory a fully assembled chariot without wheels on axle, when – fully assembled – implies that the damn thing has to have its wheels on axle. Compare this with the manufacture of cars nowadays. No one in their right mind would call a car fully assembled, unless it had its wheels on axle. However, it is conceivable that Linear B scribes inventorying fully assembled chariots might sometimes be obliged to list the chariot(s) in question  – here there are 3 of them – as still not having their wheels on axle, because they are inventorying them at the very end of the current fiscal year. On the other hand, chariots might sometimes have been delivered without the wheels on axle, if the new owner wished to design and construct his own wheels, only attaching them after delivery has been received. There is no reason why this might not have been the case in some instances. But we shall never know, because we were not there when the scribes tallied chariots without wheels on axle. There must have been some method in their madness after all.

Linear B tablets KN 235 N j 41 & KN 236 N j 42 on chariots from the Knossos “Armoury”

armour chariot aplate xxviii

235 Nj POAISIDO armour chariot with wheels 800

chariot bplate xxviii KURUMENO

236 Nj' KURUMENO chariot withwheels 800

These two tablets were perhaps the easiest I have had to translate. No further comments are necessary. Since there is so little text on these tablets, I did not bother translating the Linear B into archaic Greek. 

Linear B tablet Sd 4401 from the Knossos “Armoury”, a fully assembled chariot:

Knossos tablet SD 4401

Apart from the very first tablet on chariots we posted this month, namely, Linear B tablet Kn 894 N v 01, here:

Link to Knossos tablet Kn 894 N v 01

This is one of the most detailed of the Linear B tablets from the Knossos “Armoury”, zeroing in on more parts of a Mycenaean chariot than can be found on any of the other tablets we have already translated on the same subject, apart from Linear B tablet Kn 894 N v 01. There are a couple of peculiarities in the Linear B text of this detailed tablet which require clarification. The first is that the ideogram for chariot on the right side of the tablet is right truncated; so we do not know whether or not the chariot is equipped with a set of wheels. But common sense tells us that it is almost certain that this is a chariot equipped with wheels on axle, since the scribe explicitly states that the chariot is fully assembled. Secondly, the word for chariot on the second line = - iqiya – is feminine, which is quite strange, given that all of the modifying attributes following this word are in the masculine. This leads me to confidently conclude that the scribe meant to inscribe – iqiyo - = a double chariot, i.e. a chariot for two drivers, rather than – iqiya -. Otherwise, the grammatical constructs on the second line do not jibe.

As we have already noted in our translations of at least a few of the other chariot tablets, the scribes are prone to make errors, usually in case agreement or in orthography. But that is nothing unusual, given that writers past and present are prone to the same liability. After all, we are only human.

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

Translation of tablets K 04.40 N u 03 & K 04.41 from the Knossos “Armoury”
04.40 amota kedomena pteweya odakweta

04.41 erika odakweta kedomena

While the translation of these two tablets is quite straightforward, there is a little problem with the second  one, since it is unsure whether or not the chariot body or the chariot wheels are made of willow. However, I prefer the first translation over the second, given that on almost all other Linear B tablets from the Knossos “Armoury” are made of elm. On the same tablet (04.41), it is obvious to the observant translator that we may be dealing with anywhere from 50 to 59 sets of wheels on axle, ergo, 50 to 59 chariots.

POST 1,000! Linear B tablets K 04-31 N u 07 & 04-37 N u 04 in the Knossos “Armoury”

Yes, we have finally hit 1,000 posts on Linear B, Knossos and Mycenae, in its slightly less than three years of existence.


While the translation of both of these tablets is relatively straightforward, I do have a few comments to make. In the first place, it is becoming more than obvious by this point (after seeing several Linear B tablets on the design and construction of chariots already posted here) that not only is the vocabulary for chariots completely standardized, i.e. formulaic in the extreme, but that words referencing the parts of the chariot almost always appear in a minimally variable order on the tablets.  It is to be noted that the generic words for the largest parts always appear first, followed by (characteristics of) their smaller components. Thus:

1 EITHER if it is mentioned, – amota – (with wheels) or – anamota – (without wheels) almost always appears in the first position. If the reference to wheels is the first on the tablet, it is apparent that the scribe is squarely placing emphasis on the (construction of the) wheels over all other parts of the chariot.
OR if it is mentioned, – iqiyo – (for a single dual chariot for two people and NOT for the dual, 2 chariots!) or – iqiya – (for a chariot or chariots) almost always appears in the first position. If the reference to the chariot is the first on the tablet, it is apparent that the scribe is squarely placing emphasis on the construction of the chariot over all other concerns.

This is routinely followed either:

2 (a) by the kind of wood the scribe is referring to, usually either – pterewa –  = elm or – erika –  = willow, then by the designation – temidweta – referring to the rims of the wheel(s),
(b) inversely,  by the designation – temidweta – referring to the rims of the wheel(s) and then usually either – pterewa –  = elm or – erika –  = willow, for the kind of wood the rims are made of; 

3 followed  by – odatuweta –   referring to the grooves in the rims (it makes perfect sense to refer to the rims first and then to the grooves on the rims, rather than the other way around, which would violate common sense) then with a reference to the use of – kako –  = bronze or any variations of it (although this word can sometimes appear in the  first position but only if either of the words –  amota – (with wheels) or – anamota – (without wheels) do not appear on that line;

4 then by the ideogram for wheel + the supersyllabogram ZE = –  zeugesi –  = a pair of wheels, or more properly speaking, (a set of) wheels on axle + the number of sets of wheels (if present) , with the understanding that if more than 1 set of wheels is listed, then more than one chariot is referenced. Thus, if the supersyllabogram (SSYL) ZE is followed by the number 22, the scribe is referring to 22 chariots;
and (if present) by the ideogram for wheel, either preceded or followed by  the supersyllabogram MO = –  mono –  = a single wheel, or more properly = a spare wheel or spare wheels, if a number > 1 appears after MO;

5 and finally (if present) by the ideogram for chariot with wheels or chariot without wheels.

Of course, the word order is not set in stone (nothing ever is), but you get the picture.

In short, the vocabulary appearing on military tablets dealing with chariots is both formulaic and routinely predictable. This is a prime characteristic of all inventories, ancient or modern. 

Translation of Linear B tablet K 04-28 from the Knossos “Armoury”

Knossos tablet 04-28 N a 15

The translation of this tablet is relatively straightforward. The first line speaks for itself. On the second line we have  “opoqo kerayapi opiiyapi”, which could mean either “with horse blinkers of horn with parts of the reins” or “with horse blinkers with horn parts of the reins”,  since the Mycenaean Greek does not make it clear which part of the phrase – kerayapi – = “horn” modifies, the first or the second. Nevertheless, the second makes considerably more sense, since the poor horses might suffer injury if their blinkers were made of horn and they happened to shatter.  Certainly, the reins could be at least partly made of horn. So there you have it.

Finally, we are confronted with the perfect participle passive – metakekumena – . Chis Tselentis takes a wild guess that it means “dismantled?” , though it is quite obvious that he is very unsure of himself, given that his translation is followed by a question mark (?). Besides, when we consider the context of the physical attributes of the chariot in which this word is set, it does not make much sense that anyone would want to dismantle a chariot which has been painted crimson by someone else, as that would simply undo the work  of the painter. Not a pretty scene. The scribe would have had one angry painter on his hands. On the other hand, the translation “(fully) refurbished”, which is practically identical with L.R. Palmer’s, makes a lot more sense. In said case, the scribe and the painter would have gotten along fine with one another. I am not saying that Tselentis’ translation is outright wrong. But the problem is that there exists no ancient Greek verb which fits the orthographic conditions of the perfect participle passive – metakekumena –  . On the other hand, the ancient Greek verb – komizo – is a pretty close match, even though its own perfect participle passive does not match. But – komizo – is Classical Greek, while – metakekumena – is far more archaic Mycenaean Greek. So there really is no way to tell for sure. But since the translation matches up so well with the context of the actual physical appearance of the chariot, I am much more inclined to favour it over that of Chris Tselentis.

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.


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.


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