Tag Archive: coriander



Mycenaean Linear B units of dry measurement:

Linear B units of dry measurement

This chart speaks for itself. Notice that at least 4 of these dry units of measurement in Linear A have counterparts in Linear A.


Linear A tablet dealing with spices (unknown provenance): coriander or delivery


Linear a tablet spices numerics


Linear a tablet spices numericsB&W

The word ti?redu on the left hand side of the top line of this Linear A tablet of unknown provenance dealing with spices may mean either “coriander” or “delivery”, but my bet is on the latter, since the word “coriander” is almost certainly pre Indo-European, and therefore probably existed in the Minoan language as well, along with the three words cited on the Linear A tablet above. I cannot for the life of me figure out what the second syllabogram on this tablet is. If there is anyone out there who can clinch it for me, please do so.

Compare the text on this tablet in Linear A with those on Linear B tablets Kn 415 Lc 01, KN 4176 L c 01 & KN 418 Lc 11 below for the reason why I prefer the translation “delivery” over “coriander”. 


measurment-of-coriander-in-linear-b-on-3-tablets-from-scripta-minoa

3 Linear B tablets on coriander, 1 from Knossos, 1 from Lykinthos, 1 from Surimos:

measurmenrt-of-coriander-in-linear-b-on-3-tablets-from-scripta-minoa

These 3 tablets on coriander are the final 3 to be posted here. I actually posted them back in 2015, but I am reposting them with additional comments. The first tablet, KN 415 L c 01, is quite straight-forward, simply mentioning the spice shaker with 6 grams of coriander from Lykinthos. The second, KN 417 L c 01, informs us of the person who has (or owns) the spice shaker. His name is Qamos. The spice shaker contains 3 (grams) of coriander. The tablet is partially illegible.  The adjective “crimson” pops up, and presumably refers to the colour of the coriander, which seems to be in powder form. The last tablet, KN 418 L c 11, is double sided. The recto side, which is again partially illegible, again deals with delivery of coriander. On the verso side, we have the adjective “purple”. I am not sure what purple is supposed to refer to, as I am unsure whether or not powderized coriander can be purple. Perhaps someone visiting our blog can enlighten me on this point.  The top refers to coriander, the amount of which is equivalent to 2 X 6 grams, on the bottom we have 7 grams. The verso of the tablet appears to indicate that all of the coriander there is from Surimo.


Knossos tablet KN 421 K m 12, delivery of coriander:

KN 421 K m 12 apudosi koriyadono delivery of coriander

Well, I dare say those Minoans at Knossos and Mycenaeans certainly knew wonderful spices when they saw them. Coriander is one of the most delicious spices there are. It is fantastic on salads. I wonder what sort of dishes they served coriander with. Notice that this tablet deals with delivery of coriander (to market). They did a lot of that. Folks must have gathered in the open air markets at Knossos and Amnisos, its fabulous port, and bought the stuff by the bagfulls!


Coriander in Linear B. How does it measure up? Big time! Click to ENLARGE

measurmenrt of Coriander in Linear B on 3 tablets from Scripta Minoa

The translation of these three sequential * tablets is a straightforward affair ( * sequential because I have already translated KN 416). As I mentioned in a previous post, the Minoans & Mycenaeans at Knossos, Phaistos Lykinthos, Surimos, Pylos, Mycenae and elsewhere were crazy about coriander, because that is all they ever talk about on their inventory tablets referencing spices. The only thing that perplexed me at the outset on these tablets was the reference to crimson on tablets KN 417 L e 01 & KN 418 L e 11. I simply could not figure out why the total no. of grams for crimson were at variance with those for coriander. It is obvious to any experienced cook or chef that I know next to nothing about spices. This is unquestionably the reason why initially I could not figure out what the totals for crimson and coriander meant. I strongly suspected that the colour, crimson, was an instance of synecdoche, a literary device where the part represents the whole, in other words, the scribe is referring to a spice which is crimson coloured. Since coriander is green, the crimson spice must be another. That spice must be saffron, since saffron is vividly crimson in colour. So it appears our little conundrum is resolved. I freely admit I had to look these spices up on Google, then Wikipedia, just to confirm my suspicions, and thankfully, they turned out to be right.

So the two spices referenced on these tablets are coriander and saffron.

This is the last of our posts on the metric style measurement system used by the Linear B scribes at all of the locales mentioned above, and others besides.

Richard




Minuscule Units of Measurement & yet Another Major Breakthrough in Supersyllabograms in Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

Minuscule Units of Measuerment for spices saffron etc
Upon close examination of the syllabogram WE in the context of dry weight in Mycenaean Linear B, in this particular instance, dry weight of saffron, I have come to the conclusion that the line(s) transversing the syllabogram WE at an approximate angle of 105 - 110 º are actually equivalent to the tens (10 & 20), while the black circles in the upper and lower portions of WE are equivalent to the 100s (100 & 200) in the Linear B numeric system. Once again, the scribes would never had added these lines and circles to the syllabogram, unless they had good reason to. And they surely did. There is a striking resemblance between the approximately horizontal lines to the 10s, and of the black circles to the 100s in that system, as can be seen from the actual placement values for 10s and 100s immediately above the syllabogram WE. As if this is not impressive enough, there is even more to this syllabogram.

It is in fact a supersyllabogram. Its meaning is identical to the same SSYL for crops in the agricultural sector, namely; WE is the first syllable of the Mycenaean Linear B word weto, which literally means “the running year”, in other words “the current fiscal year”. This makes perfect sense, since the scribes at Knossos, Phaistos, Mycenae, Pylos, Thebes and other Mycenaean locales only kept records for the current fiscal year, never any longer. The most astonishing feature of this supersyllabogram is that it combines itself as a SSYL with the Linear B numeric system, meaning that it alone of all the SSYLS refers to both the number of minusucle items (in this case, saffron, but it could just as easily refer to coriander or other spices) and the total production output of the same items for the current fiscal year. The Linear B scribes have truly outdone themselves in this unique application of the supersyllabogram, distilling it down to the most microscopic level of shorthand, thereby eliminating much more running text from the tablet we see here than they ever did from any other tablet, including all of those sporting “regular” supersyllabograms. In this instance alone (on this and the few other tablets on which it appears), this unique “special” SSYL is a supersyllabogram with a specific numeric measurement value at the minuscule level, something entirely new, and seen nowhere else in all of the extant Linear B literature.

Quite amazing, if you ask me.

NOTE: the assignment of a value approximating 1 gram for the single unit, i.e. the simple syllabogram WE with no traversing lines or black circles, is just that, nothing more than an approximation. I had to correlate the single unit with something we can relate to in the twenty-first century, so I chose the gram as an approximate equivalent. One thing is certain: the unit WE is very small, indicating as it does minuscule dry measurement weight.  

Richard


Mycenaean Linear B Units of Dry Measure, Knossos Tablet KN 406 L c 02: Click to ENLARGE

KN 416 L c 02 akareu paito spice total

The translation of this tablet from Knossos into English is relatively straightforward. The problem is that no one really knows what exactly the unit of measure designated by the Linear B symbol that looks like a T means. My best guess is that the 9 shakers of coriander (I say, shakers, because the ideogram looks like a shaker & it is most likely folks used shakers back in the good old days in Knossos, just as we do nowadays). However, the problem remains, how do 9 shakers of coriander add up to only 2 units. My best guess is that the shakers were boxed, 5 units per box. So 9 shakers would have filled one box and most of another... something along those lines.

Andras Zeke of the Minoan Language Blog gives a value of approx. 3 kilograms per unit, meaning we would end up with about 5 kg. or so for 9 shakers of coriander. They would have had to be really huge shakers! No one could have held them. So it is quite apparent that the measured value Andras Zeke has assigned to our wee little T is in fact way off the mark, if we are to believe our eyes. On the other hand, that T might very well have been divisible by 10 or even 100, given that the Mycenaean numeric system is based on units of 10, just like our own. So it is conceivable that we are dealing with some kind of metric system here. Given that the Mycenaean numeric is base 10, that would make sense. So we could be dealing with something like 50 grams and not 5 kilograms of coriander... that would make a hell of a lot of sense.  But since we were not there to see how the scribes allocated the spice jars into so-called units, we shall never really know. Still, there is no harm in speculating.

Now, as for my translation of the ideogram for a spice container (spice shaker), I have translated it specifically as a “a coriander spice shaker”, since on every single every tablet, bar none, from Knossos mentioning spice containers, it is always coriander that is spelled out. The folks at Knossos must have been crazy about coriander!  Since there are only 2 or 3 tablets which do not mention coriander outright, that leaves us with around 95 % of all tablets referring to spices which do spell it out. Linear B scribes were very fussy about having to spell out the names of spices, or for that matter, anything on Linear B tablets which could be easily represented, i.e. symbolized by an ideogram. The ideogram appears on this tablet, but the word does not. This is practically beside the point. It appears that the scribe simply did not bother writing it, for some reason or another. The practice of spelling out the name of any item on a Linear B tablet which can easily be illustrated with an ideogram is very unusual. The scribes were sticklers for saving space at all costs on what is admittedly a very small medium, rarely more than 30 cm. wide by 15 cm. deep, and more often than not, even smaller than that!  So the fact that the scribes generally did spell out coriander as the spice of choice for Minoan Knossos seems to imply that the king, queen, princes and the palace attendants prized it very highly. 

Another point: almost all of the tablets mentioning koriyadana = coriander also use the word apudosi = delivery, i.e. they tabulate the actual delivery of so many units of coriander to the palace. So this tablet can be translated any of these ways:

Achareus delivers to Phaistos 9 shakers of coriander for a total of 2 units
or
Achareus delivers for deposit at Phaistos 9 shakers of coriander for a total of 2 units.
or even
Achareus delivers for deposit at the palace of Phaistos 9 shakers of coriander for a total of 2 units.

These are all valid translations, since after all everyone who was anyone, meaning the scribes, the nobility and the wealthy businessmen) knew perfectly well that such precious commodities as coriander could only be consumed by the well-to-do, and that these folks all lived – you guessed it – in the palace! There was absolutely no need in the minds of the scribes, meaning, in practice, for them to write out what was obvious to everyone. This is precisely why nowadays we need to learn to read out of the tablets what the scribes were actually inventorying, rather than trying to read into them. If this sounds like a tough slog, you bet it is. But it is far better to aim at getting the actual gist of the message on the tablet (whether or not spelled out in text, or simply with logograms and ideograms) than to strip down your translation to the point where it becomes unintelligible.

This is all the more true in light of the fact that at least 800 of 3,000 tablets I meticulously consulted from the Scripta Minoa from Knossos contain very little if any text at all, and rather a lot of supersyllabograms (single syllabograms), ideograms and logograms. The reason for this is obvious: in order to save as much space as humanly possible, the Linear B accountants (scribes) never wrote out what was obvious to them all as a guild. In other words, Mycenaean Linear B, as an inventory and statistical accounting language – which is what it basically is – combines two notable features: (a) the language is highly formulaic & (b) the greater part of it is shorthand for Mycenaean Greek text inferred but rarely explicitly spelled out. If this sounds peculiar to us nowadays, we need only recall that this is exactly how modern shorthand functions. All too many Linear B translators have completely overlooked this fundamental characteristic of Mycenaean Linear B, which in large part explains its almost total uniformity over a wide geographic area, from Knossos to Phaistos and other Mycenaean sites on the island to Crete itself to Pylos on the opposite coast, all the way to Mycenae and Tiryns on the far side of the Peloponnese and even as far away as Thebes in Boeotia, which was a key Mycenaean centre and which has been continually occupied from then on right through to today. Click on the map to ENLARGE:

Thebes Boetia

All of this further implies that, while Linear B, the accounting and inventorying language for Mycenaean Greek, was homogeneous, uniform and formulaic to the teeth, the actual Mycenaean dialect may very well have not been. In fact, I sincerely doubt it was, since it is symptomatic of all ancient Greek dialects, even those which are closely related (such as the Ionic and Attic) to diverge and go their own merry way, regardless of the structure, orthography and grammatical quirks of their closest relatives. Since that was surely the case with every ancient Greek dialect with which we are familiar – and God knows it was! - then it must have also been the case with Mycenaean Greek and with its closest, kissing cousin, Arcado-Cypriot Greek, the latter written in Linear C or in the quirky Arcado-Cypriot alphabet. Even though no other ancient Greek dialects were as closely related as were Mycenaean and its kissing cousin, Arcado-Cypriot, these dialects were somewhat different. What is more, it is almost certain that there were notable variations within each of these dialects, the further afield you went. In other words, the Mycenaean Greek spoken at Knossos and Phaistos, which would have been much more influenced by its forbear, the Minoan language, was a little different from that spoken at Pylos, and doubtless even more from the Mycenaean Greek at Mycenae, Tiryns and especially Thebes.

But spoken Mycenaean Greek and the Mycenaean Linear B accounting and inventorying language are not the same beast. The latter is a homogeneous, formulaic and largely shorthand subset of the former. I shall have a great deal more to say about this extremely important distinction between the two in future.

Richard
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