Tag Archive: cultivation



After 117 years, the Linear A vocabulary for 3 major grains (bran, wheat, barley) and for flax is conclusively deciphered:

Although decipherment of Linear A vocabulary for the primary Minoan grains has seemed beyond reach for the past 117 years, I believe that I may have actually cracked the vocabulary for at least 3 major Minoan grain crops, kireta2 (kiretai)/kiretana (attributive) = barley, dideru = einkorn wheat, kunisu = emmer wheat and for sara2 (sarai) = flax, while concurrently tackling 3 more grain crops, rumata(se), pa3ni (paini)/pa3nina (painina) (attributive), which I may or may not have managed to accurately identify. More on this below.

How did I manage to accomplish this feat? My first breakthrough came with the code-breaker, Linear A tablet HT 114 (Haghia Triada), on which appears the word kireta2 (kiretai). It just so happens that this is a match with the ancient Greek word, kritha(i) for barley, here Latinized:

Minoan Linear A tablet HT 114 Haghia Triada

Armed with this invaluable information, I then devised a procedure to extract the names of the other 2 major grains, dideru (Linear B equivalent, didero), and kunisu and for sara2 (sarai) from all of the Haghia Triada tablets. I selected the tablets from Haghia Triada because they mention grains far more often than any other extant Linear A tablets do, regardless of provenance, with the sole exception of Zakros ZA 20, which is a very close match with the many Linear A tablets from Haghia Triada dealing with grains.

The procedure I have adopted is tagged cross-comparative extrapolation (CCE). I scanned every last word related to grain on every last Linear A tablet from Haghia Triada, HT 1 – HT 154K on Prof. John G. Youngers Linear A texts in phonetic transcription HT (Haghia Triada) for the recurrence and numerical frequency of each of these words. It strikes me as very odd that no one in the past 117 years since the first discovery of Linear A tablets at Knossos has ever thought of this or a similar cross-comparative procedure. While it is practically useless to try and extrapolate the meaning of each and every grain merely by examining them in context on any single Linear A tablet, regardless of provenance, because even in single tablet context, and even in the presence of other words apparently describing other type(s) of grain, we get absolutely nowhere, the outcome from cross-correlating every last one of these words on every last tablet from Haghia Triada paints an entirely different picture, a picture which is both comprehensive and all-embracing. Clear and unambiguous patterns emerge for each and every word, including the total incidence of all statistics for them all. The result is astonishing. The table below makes this transparently clear:

Minoan ancient grains

We see right off the top that all of the Haghia put together mention akaru, which means field, the equivalent of Linear B akoro, no fewer than 20 times! Additionally, the generic word for wheat, situ, corresponding to Linear B sito, surfaces 5 times. But this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Cross-comparative extrapolation of the next 4 grains has proven to be much more fruitful. The first of these is of course kireta2 (kiretai) kiretana (attributive) for “barley”, which appears 149 times (!) on all of the Linear A tablets from Haghia Triada. I was definitely on to something big.

But the preliminary step I needed to take, before I actually attempted to identify the next 2 most common grains cultivated in the pre-Mycenaean and Mycenaean Minoan era, was to conduct a Google search on the 2 most common grains after barley grown in Minoan Crete. These are einkorn and emmer respectively. Returning to my cross-comparative extrapolative scan, I discovered the words dideru and kunisu recurring 40 times each. It just so happens that one previous researcher (whose name unfortunately escapes me for the time being, but whom I shall fully acknowledge when I publish my summary data on academia.edu) has accurately identified both of these types of wheat. As can be seen from the table above, these are dideru for “einkorn” and kunisu for “emmer” wheat respectively.

Moving on, fully realizing that sara2 (sarai) runs rampant on the Haghia Triada Linear A tablets, I discovered that this word recurs no less than 1321 times. Astonishing! But what does it mean? The answer was not long coming. The next most common crop the Minoans cultivated was flax, for the production of linen. Flax is not a grain, but is derived from flax flowers and seeds. This fully explains why sara2 (sarai) recurs with such astonishing frequency. Unlike the aforementioned grains, which would have been grown on a relatively restricted number of plots, in this case not exceeding 4o each, the number of flax flowers required to produce a sufficient flax harvest would have had to be very high… hence 1321. These stunning frescoes illustrate a male Minoan flax flower and a female flax seed gatherer:

Minoan flax gatherers

Even from these 2 frescoes, we can easily see that the flax gatherers were kept busy picking what was required, a large flax crop, in this case running to 1321 flax seeds and flowers. No surprise here.

As a result of my exhaustive cross-comparative extrapolation of the first four Minoan crops, I have been able to define 3 of them for certain as grains, kireta2 (kiretai), dideru and kunisu, and one of them, sara2 (sarai) as flax. It is practically certain that all 4 definitions are correct. Hence, I have managed to isolate for the first time in 117 years the actual names of 4 major Minoan crops, barley, einkorn wheat, emmer wheat and flax.

However, when it comes to the next 5 crops, we run up against inescapable semiotic problems. What does each of these signifiers signify? There is no easy answer. On the other hand, I would have been remiss were I not to make a stab at extrapolating the names of these crops as well. It just so happens that the next most common grains after barley, einkorn and emmer cultivated by the Minoans were millet and spelt. And the next two words I extrapolated were rumata(se) and pa3ni (paini)/pa3nina/painina (attributive). But if one of them appears to be millet, the other is spelt, or vice versa. That is the conundrum. But the problem is compounded by the mystifying cumulative total statistics for each of these words, 1039 for rumata(se) and 1021 for pa3ni (paini)/pa3nina/painina (attributive). Why on earth are there so many recurrences of these 2 crops, when there are only 40 instances of dideru and kunisu? It does not seem to make any sense at all. Yet there is a possible explanation. While dideru and kunisu reference einkorn and emmer crops as crops per se, it would appear that rumata(se) and pa3ni (paini)/pa3nina/painina (attributive) refer to the seeds derived from the crops. It is the only way out of this impasse. However, it is not necessarily a satisfying answer, and so I have to reserve judgement on these definitions, which are interchangeable at any rate.

Next we have the ligatured logograms dare and kasaru, either of which might refer to the next most common crops, durum and lentils. But there is no way for us to corroborate this conclusion with any certainty. The verdict is out. Finally, the last word, kuzuni, might refer to 2 other, less common Minoan crops, either sesame or vetch for fodder. But once again, which one is which? Your guess is as good as mine.

Conclusions:

Nevertheless, one thing is certain. Every last one of these words identifies a Minoan crop. While most of them are grains, three of them are certainly not. One of them is clearly flax (sara2/sarai) The other two may or may not be lentils or sesame. But they probably are one or the other, if they are not on the other hand durum or vetch. In short, there several permutations and combinations for the last 5. Yet the circumstantial evidence for the first 4 appears quite solid enough to justify the definitions we have assigned, barley, einkorn, emmer and flax. So at least this constitutes a major breakthrough in the identification of these 4 for the first time in 117 years.

I shall eventually be publishing a much more comprehensive draft paper on this very subject on my academia.edu account, either this summer or autumn. I shall keep you posted.


Credible decipherment of several grains mentioned on of Linear A tablet HT 10 (Haghia Triada):

Linear A tablet HT 10 Haghia Triada dealing with several grain crops

After several abortive attempts at realizing a relatively convincing decipherment of Linear A tablet HT 10 (Haghia Triada), I believe I have finally managed to come through. This has to be one of the most challenging Linear A tablets I have ever been confronted with. Any credible decipherment eluded me for months on end, until it finally struck me that all I needed to do was to identify the grain crops most commonly cultivated in the Neolithic and Bronze Age Mediterranean. And this is precisely what I have just done.  

Neolithic and Bronze age grains cultivated in the Mediterranean during the Neolithic and Bronze Age eras (the most common italicized):

barley (sara2/sarai?) *
einkorn (dideru) *
emmer (kunisu) *
flax (sara2/sarai?) *
freekeh (sara2/sarai?) *
and
bran (less common)
bulgur (less common)
groats (less common)
lentils (less common)
millet (dare -or- kasaru)
spelt (dare -or- kasaru)
vetch for fodder (less common)

Now it strikes me that if we find any of these grains recurring on several Linear A tablets, and we do, these grains must be the most common cultivated then. As it so happens, the 3 grain crops most frequently referenced in Linear A tablets are dideru, kunisu and sarai2 (sarai). They appear over and over and in abundant quantities on several Linear A tablets from Haghia Triada (HT 8 HT 10 HT 28 HT 85-68 HT 91 HT 93 HT 95 HT 114 HT 121 & HT 133), on HM 570, on Khania KH 10, Kophinas KO Za 1 and on Zakros ZA 20. We now know for certain that dideru means “einkorn (wheat)” and kunisu “emmer (wheat)”. It is also highly likely that sara2 (sarai) references “barley”, “flax” or “freekah”. Which one we cannot be sure, but it almost certainly has to be one of these. In addition, we also find dare and kasaru on HT 10. It stands to reason that, by elimination, dare and kasaru are probably either “millet” or “spelt” or vice versa. I have eliminated bran, bulgur, groats, lentils and vetch, as these crops appear to have been relatively less common. 

Free translation of HT 10:

emmer wheat on 4 hills + PA? + 16 1/2 bushel-like units of another type of grain (millet or spelt) *333? + RO + 6 *u325 + 14 bushel-like units of groats (?) + 2 1/2  of *301 (whatever that is), all stored in 8 vases, of which 2 are pithoi (very large) and also stored in 1 vessel of another type + 2 bushel-like units of bran, flax, millet or spelt & 16 young shoots of grain + 6 /12 of *312 TA ? & 6 bushel-like units of millet or spelt, of which 9 1/4 units were lost to death (i.e. never matured)...

My preliminary research into the types of grains cultivated in the Neolithic and Bronze Age Mediterranean has clearly facilitated this plausible decipherment of HT 10, and has moreover confirmed my even more accurate translations of several other Linear A tablets dealing with grain, almost all of them co-incidentally from Haghia Triada.



Linear B tablets on wheat: KN 849 K j 72:

Knossos KN 849 K j  72 wheat

This tablet is rather more challenging. The Linear word beginning with pera on the first line is right-truncated; so we do not know what word or phrase it is supposed to represent. Upon consulting Chris Tselentis’ excellent Linear B Lexicon, I discovered only one Linear B word which fit, and that is peraakoraiya, which means “in the further provinces”. It is plausible, I suppose, but rather unlikely. However, it is possible, even likely, that Linear B pera is not truncated at all, and that it is therefore the preposition for “beyond”... but beyond what? It just so happens that, as with everything else in the agricultural sphere, the Minoans and Mycenaeans raised their sheep and livestock and cultivated their crops on Linear B kitimena = “plot(s) of land”. So a better translation would be, “Wheat is being cultivated beyond the confines of this particular plot of land”, in other words, in an adjacent plot. That makes quite a lot of sense to me. 


Measurement of Wheat Crop Yields in Mycenaean Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

Mycenaean Linear B wheat yields Kn 849 KN 850

In the case of these two tablets from Knossos, apart from the fact that we do not know what the base unit for the measurement of wheat crop yields was in Mycenaean Greek, the numeric totals are very easy to translate. As I have said before, in previous posts, I am convinced that their measurement system was metric, to keep it in line with their metric base-10 counting system. So whatever the base unit for the measurement of wheat crop yields was, it was mostly likely metric. The best yardstick we have is, I suppose, the Imperial measurement of a bushel, but there is absolutely no way of telling what real value the Mycenaean base unit had, so there is no point wasting our time trying to figure it out... except that we can be sure that 130 or more units of wheat crop yield was a lot of wheat.

The First Tablet: KN 849 K j 72 

The real problems with any attempted translation of these two tablets, however valiant, lies in the fragmentation of the tablets themselves, resulting in the unfortunate loss of (right-truncated) text in the first tablet, and (left-truncated) text in the second. It is a lot easier to reconstruct or retrieve right-truncated text, especially in the case of the first tablet, in which the missing syllables of the last word almost leap at us. Immediately after the phrase “cultivated estates” we see the preposition “pera”, which in this case is almost certainly not the simple preposition, but the prefix “pera” of a longer Mycenaean Linear B word.  In Chris Tselentis’ fine Linear B Lexicon, we immediately happen upon a word which fits the bill to a T, peraakoraiya = the further provinces, more properly translated as, the outer provinces. So far, so good.

But where on earth did I dig up the word, kotona = plot of land -or- estate? How can I possibly justify the insertion of a word that is not on the tablet? The adjective putariya = cultivated is the give-away. If we are saying that something is cultivated, that something has to be a field, plot of land, estate ... whatever. Now since our scribe is referencing lands in the outer provinces, which are at quite a geographic distance from Knossos (presumably at Mycenae, Tiryns or even Thebes), these lands must be of great enough importance to merit such close scrutiny. The actual wheat yield of 130-139 basic units of wheat, makes it all the more likely that the scribe means to say estate, because that is quite a lot of wheat. Once again, the Mycenaean scribal practice of not explicitly writing out what is implicitly understood by all of the scribes as a guild rears its head. Once again, to save space on the tablets, minuscule as they were. After all, if the adjective cultivated is already spelled out on the tablet, then we know for certain that the scribe is referring to land. It is that simple. Simple in a sense, since we still have to come up with the most appropriate translation for the kind of land the scribe is talking about. Since we were not there when the scribe wrote this tablet, or for that matter, when any scribe wrote other tablets with the almost identical formula on them, we can never be certain that we have assigned the right word to the generic concept of land. But, as is always the case with myself, I am not loathe to venture at a sensible translation... ergo.

The Second Tablet: KN 850 K j 31

Here we run up against the opposite scenario. The tablet is left-truncated, meaning of course that the syllablograms masiyo are the last three syllables of some Mycenaean Linear B word. But what word? Your guess is as good as mine.  The translation goes on to read, “at the same time (as)” followed by the totals for wheat yield. But we are left up in the air concerning what other crop(s) if any are being tabulated “at the same time as” the wheat crop yield. In other words, the yields for at least one other crop (the other likely being barley) is tabulated here together with wheat yields, as being harvested “at the same time”. Beyond this we can go no further, because all else is speculation. So any attempt to reconstruct the missing parts of this tablet is an exercise in futility. I merely wanted us to be aware that there assuredly is missing text on this tablet, probably on the right as well as on the left.  As for masiyo, I hazard a guess that this is the name of the person who was accountable for the crops. But even this is uncertain.

We are still left with one last problem. Why does the tablet report 132 units of wheat and then add (almost as an afterthought) the syllabogram TO, which just so happens to be the supersyllabogram for toso (so much, so many, i.e. a total of), and then add another figure, 5? 5 what? What is going on here? Why does the scribe give us a total of 132 units of wheat, and then go on to reference 5 units? What are these units?  What do they have to do with the 132 units (cf. bushels) of  wheat? Here is my take on it. It appears that there were a total of 5 separate crops of wheat harvested, yielding a total of 132 units in all, or approximately 42 units per harvest. It is a good try, if nothing else.

Richard

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