Tag Archive: cypress



Rita Roberts’ translation of Knossos tablet KN J 1 f 01, her last tablet for her second year of university:

Linear B tablet KN 1 J f 01 priestess of the winds

Line 1: Deukijojo = month name + temeno = shrine. The damaged first syllabogram looks like TO. The actual word temeno =temple” does not appear on the first line of this tablet, since it appears that the the scribe has made a scribal error, which actually happens quite often on Linear B tablets. The writing is messy, and appears to read teno, which would explain the scribal error, i.e. he missed on one syllabogram. Deukijojo could either be a month name, in which case it means “the tenth month” or more properly in this content, “of the tenth month” or it could simply be a persons name. If it refers to the tenth month, then it follows that the entire tablet refers to this month.

Line 2:

Wakatanujo – or- Dukatanayo = name + newejo = “of something new” + 3 units (probably bales) of barley. Hence the line refers to 3 new units (probably bales) of barley from Wakatanujo – or- Dukatanayo

Line 3:

Padarejode = a place hame, which is a sanctuary = hence, olive oil from Dardare and 2 units (probably bales) of barley.

Line 4:

Pade = name plus olive oil and 1 unit (probably a bale) of barley

Line 5:

Pasiteoi = “to all gods” barley and 1 unit of olive oil

Line 6:

olive oil and barley for Qerasiya = goddess Artemis, with numerals absent because of right truncation.

Line 7:

1 unit of barley to all the gods at Aminiso = Amnisos

Line 8:

2 units (probably pithoi) of olive oil for the goddess Erinu. Note that Erinu references one of the Furies (Erynies) in Greek. So it would appear that the scribe tells us that there was a sacrifice to at least one of or probably all of the Furies to appease them so that crops would thrive.

Line 9:

Gold and olive oil and 1 cyperus plant, probably dedicated to the priestess of the winds in Line 10.

Line 10:

4 cyperus plans dedicated to Anemo Ijereja = to the priestess of the winds

Line 11:

Blank and truncated.

Line 12:

3 units (probably pithoi) of olive oil and 2 units of barely plus 2 cyperus trees (also probably dedicated to the priestess of the winds)

Line 13:

Blank and truncated.

COMMENT:

This is the very last tablet Rita Roberts is to translate for her second year of university, and it is by far the most challenging she has ever been confronted with to date. Congratulations to Rita! She is now about to take her final examination for her second year, which is to consist of 25 questions in increasing level of difficulty, the last 5 of which are to be translations of tablets, plus her second year thesis paper, What did the Minoan agricultural sector contribute to the Mycenaean Empire? This paper must be at least 25 pages long, inclusive of the bibliography but excluding illustrations, which will add to the page length of her thesis. Since this thesis paper is much more difficult than her first year thesis, I am allotting her three months to complete it, i.e. Feb. 15 – May 15. However, she must complete the rest of the examination in just 2 weeks (Feb. 15 – March 1 2018).

In the next post, I shall re-inscribe the entire tablet in archaic Greek from the Mycenaean.

 


A convincing contextualized decipherment of Linear A tablet HT 1 (Haghia Triada):

Linear A tablet HT 1 Haghia Triada

While decipherment of Linear A tablet HT 1 (Haghia Triada) appears at first sight beyond reach, this may not actually be the case. Of the 6 words on this tablet, only 3 are likely to be Mycenaean-derived, qera2u (qeraiu), kiro and kupa3nu (kupainu), while the other 3, zusu, didizake and aranare, are almost certainly Old Minoan, i.e. written in the original Minoan language. As I have pointed out over and over, a number of Linear A tablets appear to be inscribed in a combination of the Mycenaean-derived superstratum and of the Minoan substratum, as is almost surely the case here.

But even if 3 of the words on this tablet are probably Mycenaean-derived, 2 of them, qera2u (qeraiu) and kupai3nu (kupainu) require further analysis. How can it be that qeraiu is derived from gerron (Greek Latinized) = shield and kupainu from kuparissinos (Greek Latinized) = made of cypress word”, when the orthography of the Mycenaean-derived words diverges from the original Greek, especially in the case of kupainu, which does not exactly appear to resemble kuparissinos? But there is an explanation and it is this. The orthography of the Greek words must be adjusted to meet the dictates of Minoan spelling in each and every case in which Mycenaean-derived words are imported into the Minoan language.

This phenomenon is analogous to the imposition of the Norman French superstratum on English pursuant to the Norman conquest of England in 1066 CE. The Mycenaean conquest of Knossos and Crete or, failing that, of their all but absolute suzerainty over these territories ca. 1500-1450 BCE appears to have had a similar outcome, namely, that much of the vocabulary of the source language of the invaders, the Mycenaeans, found its way into the target or original language, Minoan. But in so doing, the originally Mycenaean vocabulary would have had to be adjusted to standard Minoan orthography.

Allow me to illustrate this through comparison with the influx of some 10,000 French words into English between ca. 1100 & 1450 CE. The French vocabulary could not be assimilated into English without undergoing a metamorphosis in orthography permitting the original French vocabulary to be adjusted to the dictates of English spelling. Examples running into the thousands abound. So we should not be at all surprised at this metamorphosis of orthography from the superstratum (Mycenaean derived vocabulary) to the substratum (Minoan vocabulary derived from the Mycenaean superstratum). After all, when superstratum French words are imported into English, their orthography undergoes the same metamorphosis. For instance, we have:

French to English:

albâtre = alabaster
amical = amicable
bénin = benign
ciprès (from Old French cipres) = cypress (See below for Minoan kupainu)
cloître = cloister
dédain = disdain
dédoublé = doubled up
doute = doubt
entrée = entrance
fanatique = fanatic
gobelet = goblet
jalousie = jealousy
loutre = otter
maître = master
plâtre = plaster
retenir = retain
soldat = soldier
similitude = similarity

and on and on ad nauseam. This phenomenon applies to every last substratum language upon which a superstratum from another language is imposed. So in the case of Old Minoan, it is inevitable that the orthography of any single superstratum Mycenaean derived word has to be adjusted to meet the exigencies of Minoan orthography.

The most striking example of this metamorphosis is the masculine singular. Mycenaean derived words in Minoan must have their singular ultimate adjusted to u from the Mycenaean o. There are plenty of examples:

Akano to Akanu (Archanes)
akaro to akaru (field)
kako to kaku (copper)
kuruko to kuruku (crocus/saffron)
mare (mari) to maru (wool)
Rado to Radu (Latos)
simito to simitu (mouse)
suniko to suniku (community)
Winado to Winadu (toponym)
woino to winu (wine)
iyero to wireu  (priest)

And on this particular tablet we find the Mycenaean-derived Minoan spellings:

qera2u (qeraiu), which if Latinized would be gerraiu, from Greek gerron and

kiro, which if Latinized, is kilon, almost the exact equivalent of the Greek keilon. And kupa3nu (kupainu), Latinized = kupainu (kupaino) at least approximates the Greek kuparissinos, but with the the syllables rissi dropped. Compare this last entry with French-English similitude = similarity and you can see at once that orthographic metamorphoses even as divergent as these are possible. So chances are that kupainu may in fact be equivalent to kuparissinos, although there is no way to verify this with any certainty, except for one thing. Context.

Since we know from line 1 that we are dealing with 192 shields and lances * (i.e. arrow shafts *), it is not too much of a stretch to conjecture that kupainu does correspond to the Greek kuparissinos, because we know from archaeological and historical evidence that Minoan and Mycenaean shields were of wicker work. And it is well within the realm of reason to suppose that such wicker shields were constructed of flexible, pliant cypress wood. Cypress wood is smooth grained and lightweight and has natural built in preservatives or oils that make cypress long lasting and resistant to water damage. It could be combined with bronze and leather on Mycenaean and ancient Greek warrior shields. And according to Wikipedia, The word cypress is derived from Old French cipres, which was imported from Latin cypressus, Latinized from the Greek κυπάρισσος (kuparissos). Ergo.

However, we are still left with the puzzle, what do the Old Minoan words, zusu, didizake and aranare, mean? Once again, context comes to the rescue. It is entirely reasonable to suppose that a Linear A tablet dealing with cypress shields and lances would also cover other military paraphernalia essential to self-defence. The most obvious candidates are spears and swords, for zusu and aranare respectively, though in which order we cannot say for certain. The inclusion of swords as one of the alternatives is well justified, since pakana, i.e. swords, frequently appear on Linear B tablets. As for didikaze, I will not speculate, although it too more likely than not references military apparel, perhaps signifying armour.

Aranare (knives?) is plural, singular = aranarai. Since the word is diminutive feminine, the decipherment knives clearly makes sense in context.
Nevertheless, any decipherment of  zusu, didizake and aranare is by nature problematic. Assumptions are always dangerous, even in the case of a tablet such as this one, where context would appear to support such conclusions. But as I have so often repeated, appearances can be and often are deceptive.

10 Mycenaean Linear B & Minoan Linear A words for plants & spices (grand total = 27):

Linear B and Linear A plants and spices

This chart lists 10 Mycenaean Linear B & Minoan Linear A words for plants & spices, with the Linear B in the left column, its Minoan Linear A in the middle column, and the English translation in the right column. It should be noted that I had to come up with a few Mycenaean Linear B words for plants on my own, because they are nowhere attested on Linear B tablets, regardless of provenance. Nevertheless, the spellings I have attributed to these words are probably correct. See the chart above. While most Mycenaean Linear B words and their Minoan Linear A words are equivalent, some are quite unalike. For instance, we have serino for celery in Mycenaean Greek and sedina in Minoan, and kitano in Mycenaean Greek versus tarawita in Minoan. There is a critical distinction to be made between Minoan Linear A kuruku, which means crocus, from which saffron is derived, and kanako, its diminutive, referring to its derivative, saffron,  which is identical in form and meaning to its Mycenaean Linear B counterpart. The ultimate termination U in Minoan Linear A always refers to larger objects. Hence, kuruku must mean “crocus” while its diminutive, kanako, means “saffron”, just as in Mycenaean Greek. This latter discovery is my own.

I wish to emphasize as strongly as I can that I did not decipher these words in Minoan Linear A. Previous researchers were able to do so by the process of regressive extrapolation in most of the cases. Regressive extrapolation is the process whereby later words in a known language, in this case Mycenaean Greek, are regressively extrapolated to what philologists consider to have been their earlier equivalents in a more ancient language, in this case, the Minoan language, which is the best candidate which can be readily twinned with Mycenaean  Greek. The primary reason why all of these words can be matched up (relatively) closely in the Minoan language and in Mycenaean Greek is that they are all pre-Indo-European. In other words, Mycenaean Greek inherited most of the words you see in this chart from the Minoan language. It is understood that these words are not Greek words at all, not even in Mycenaean Greek. Almost all  of them survived into classical Greek, and are still in use in modern languages. For instance, in English, we have: cedar, celery, cypress, dittany, lily & olive oil, all of which can be traced back as far as the Minoan language (ca. 3,800 – 3,500 BCE), or some 5,800 years ago.

It is to be noted, however, that I am the first philologist to have ever written out these words in both the Linear A and Linear B syllabaries.

This brings the total number of Minoan Linear A words we have deciphered to at least 27.


My translation of Knossos tablet KN 1548 O k 02 (xc) with original and facsimile: Click to ENLARGE

Knossos Tablet KN 1548 O k 02 composite
While the text of this fascinating tablet is largely straightforward, the word “tirisate” at first posed problems for me. But even at first glance, I could see that “tirisate” had the prefix “tiri”, which almost certainly means “three”, and I quickly deduced that the second part of the word, “sate” was a verbal form. Consulting Liddell & Scotts' Greek-English Lexicon (1986), I was rewarded with the translation you see for this word, which I take indeed to be the present participle of the verb, “to arm, furnish, equip”. Hence the translation. This is not the first time I have encountered compound lexemes in Mycenaean Greek, which were rendered into separate components (words) in later ancient dialects in the Greek alphabet.

NOTE: we have now exceeded 900 posts on our blog!

Richard


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