Tag Archive: cracks

winter haiku d’hiver – shifting snow drifts = congères mouvantes

shifting snow drifts
around a run-down barn – 
light drifts through cracks 

run-down barn 620

congères mouvantes
autour d’une grange délabrée – 
fentes illuminées

Richard Vallance

A few cracks in the Berlin Wall of Linear A. How far can we decipher it?

Berlin Wall of Minoan Linear A

Even if I have have made a few small cracks in the Berlin Wall of Linear A, the burning question remains, “How far can we decipher it?” The short answer and the long answer are both, “If you think you can decipher Minoan Linear A, you have another think coming!” (including yours truly). The bulk of the vocabulary of Minoan Linear A remains a closed door, firmly nailed shut and locked with padlocks.  The following tablets make this all too painfully obvious:


I haven’t the faintest idea what they mean.

Unless we are able to apply at least one of the 5 principles applicable to even a minimal decipherment of a very few Minoan Linear A words (we have managed to decipher 30 so far – more or less – and it was like extracting teeth in most of the cases!), there is simply no way we can ever make any real progress towards deciphering the majority of Linear A words. It is just out of the question... at least for the foreseeable future. What the more distant future will bring no one knows.

The 5 principles for the decipherment of even a minimal cross-section of Minoan Linear A are:

1. (The so-called negative factor). Do not attempt to correlate the Minoan language with any other ancient language  except for the Linear B syllabary and indirect derivation from Mycenaean Greek terms (2. below).   
2. Basing our technique on that of the French philologist, Jean-François Champellion, who deciphered the Rossetta Stone in 1822, cross-correlate words in the Minoan Linear A syllabary with parallel words in the Linear B syllabary on strikingly similar tablets in Mycenaean Greek, squarely taking into account the meanings of such words in the latter script and their potential adaptation to vocabulary in a very similar context on Minoan Linear A tablets.  
3. Take direct cues from parallel ideograms on reasonably similar Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B tablets.

4. Turn to reliable archaeological evidence where this is available and finally;

5. (the most important principle of all). It is critical to understand that Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B both dealt with inventories and the process of inventorying livestock, crops, military matters and commodities such as vessels and pottery and textiles. 

Even if we rigorously apply these 5 principles, either singly or much better, jointly (the more principles we can call up the better), there is no guarantee that our decipherments a.k.a. Translations are accurate or even correct. While some are indisputably right on the mark, for instance, Linear A puko definitely means “tripod” and most of the Minoan Linear A words for plants and spices are on the money, as for the rest of the words I have attempted to decipher to date, some are more or less accurate, and some are wide open to academic dispute. This is as it should be in an imperfect world, especially in light of the fact that my attempts at decipherment constitute what I sincerely hope is the first rational approach to the decipherment of Minoan Linear A.

As far as I am concerned, even managing to (more or less) decipher 30 Minoan Linear A words is a fine start, but this small vocabulary amounts to little more than a few cracks in the Berlin Wall of Minoan Linear A.    

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