Tag Archive: decipherment of Linear B

How circular language in the movie, Arrival, determines the aspacial/atemporal nature of logograms throughout the ages:

In the movie, Arrival (2016), which chronicles the arrival on earth of 12 mysterious ships, apparently from outer space, the following statements leap out at us:

parsing the language of the heptapods in the movie, Arrival

1. Unlike all written languages, the writing is semiseriographic. It conveys meaning. It doesn't represent sound. Perhaps they view our form of writing as a wasted opportunity.  
2. How heptapods write: ... because unlike speech,  a logogram is free of time. Like their ship, their written language has forward or backward direction. Linguists call this non-linear orthography, which raises the question, is this how they think? Imagine you wanted to write a sentence using 2 hands, starting from either side. You would have to know each word you wanted to use as well as much space it would occupy. A heptapod can write a complex sentence in 2 seconds effortlessly.

The key to all of this is the phrase a logogram is free of time. Allow me to illustrate. Logograms are also often called ideograms, and that is what I prefer to call them. Another word to describe them is icon. When we examine ancient Linear A and B ideograms and compare them with modern ones, the results are astonishing, to wit:




All of the aforementioned examples make it quite clear that ideograms, whether they be as ancient as those in Linear A and Linear B (i.e. about 3,400 years old) or modern ... or for that matter, neolithic or even earlier, all bear a striking resemblance to one another. Take for instance the Linear A ideogram for “scales” and compare it with just one modern one (among so many others), and we see immediately that they are extremely similar. Now take the Linear B ideograms for man” and “woman” and compare these with the washroom symbols for the same and once again the similarity is almost too good to be true. Then there is the Linear B ideogram for a four-spoke wheel compared with a modern one for an eight-spoke wheel. The number of spokes is not relevant to this discussion, only the fact that the ancient Linear B ideogram for “wheel” is practically identical to the modern one.

The implications for the decipherment of ideograms in any language, ancient or modern (let alone Linear A and Linear B) versus those in any modern language are staggering. We can be sure that the ancient ideograms varied little from one language to another, let alone between Minoan and Mycenaean. In fact, the syllabogram TE, which sometimes represents wheat, in Linear A and Linear B is almost identical to the same ideograms in cuneiform!

It is patently obvious that since the distinction between the ancient ideograms and their modern equivalents enumerated above is so thin, all of these ideograms (or logograms or icons) are not only time independent (atemporal) and spatially independent (aspatial), they are also language independent. This is a stunning phenomenon.

The implications for the further decipherment of Linear A are simply overwhelming.

And this is why in the movie, Arrival, the heptapods assert, “There is no time.”

Earth-shattering linguistic data from the Movie, Arrival (2016)


Not too long ago, I had the distinct pleasure of watching what is undoubtedly the most intellectually challenging movie of my lifetime. The movie is unique. Nothing even remotely like it has ever before been screened. It chronicles the Arrival of 12 apparent UFOs, but they are actually much more than just that. They are, as I just said, a unique phenomenon. Or more to the point, they were, are always will be just that. What on earth can this mean? 

The ships, if that is what we want to call them, appear out of thin air, like clouds unfolding into substantial material objects ... or so it would appear. They are approximately the shape of a saucer (as in cup and saucer) but with a top on it. They hang vertically in the atmosphere. But there is no motion in them or around them. They leave no footprint. The air is undisturbed around them. There is no radioactivity. There is no activity. There are 12 ships altogether dispersed around the globe, but in no logical pattern.

A famous female linguist, Dr. Louise Banks  (played by Amy Adams), is enlisted by the U.S. military to endeavour to unravel the bizarre signals emanating from within. Every 18 hours on the mark  the ship opens up at the bottom (or is it on its right side, given that it is perpendicular?) and allows people inside. Artificial gravity and breathable air are created for the humans. A team of about 6 enter the ship and are transported up an immense long black hallway to a dark chamber with a dazzlingly bright screen. There, out of the mist, appear 2 heptapods, octopus-like creatures, but with 7 and not eight tentacles. They stand upright on their 7 tentacles and they walk on them. At first, the humans cannot communicate with them at all. But the ink-like substance the heptapods squirt onto the thick window between them and the humans always resolves itself into circles with distinct patterns, as we see in this composite:

Eventually, the humans figure out what the language means, if you can call it that, because the meanings of the circles do not relate in any way to the actions of the heptapods.  Our heroine finally discovers what their mission is, to save humankind along with themselves. They tell us... There is no time. And we are to take this literally.

circular language from the movie Arrival 2016

I extracted all of the linguistic data I could (which was almost all of it) from the film, and it runs as follows, with phrases and passages I consider of great import italicized.   

1. Language is the foundation of which the glue holds civilization together. It is the first weapon that draws people into conflict – vs. - The cornerstone of civilization is not language. It is science.
2. Kangaroo... means “I don't understand.” (Watch the movie to figure this one out!)
3. Apart from being able to see them and hear them, the heptapods leave absolutely no footprint.
4. There is no correlation between what the heptapods say and what they write.
5. Unlike all written languages, the writing is semiseriographic. It conveys meaning. It doesn't represent sound. Perhaps they view our form of writing as a wasted opportunity.  
6. How heptapods write: ... because unlike speech,  a logogram is free of time. Like their ship, their written language has forward or backward direction. Linguists call this non-linear orthography, which raises the question, is this how they think? Imagine you wanted to write a sentence using 2 hands, starting from either side. You would have to know each word you wanted to use as well as much space it would occupy. A heptapod can write a complex sentence in 2 seconds effortlessly.
7. There is no time.
8. You approach language like a mathematician.
9. When you immerse yourself in a foreign language, you can actually rewire your brain. It is the language you speak that determines how you think.
10. He (the Chinese general) is saying that they are offering us advanced technology. God, are they using a game to converse with... (us). You see the problem. If all I ever gave you was a hammer, everything is a nail. That doesn't say, “Offer weapon”, (It says, “offer tool”). We don't know whether they understand the difference. It (their language) is a weapon and a tool.  A culture is messy sometimes. It can be both (Cf. Sanskrit).
11. They  (masses 10Ks of circles) cannot be random. 
12. We (ourselves and the heptapods) make a tool and we both get something out of it. It's a compromise. Both sides are happy... like a win-win. (zero-sum game). 
13. It (their language) seems to be talking about time... everywhere... there are too many gaps; nothing's complete. Then it dawned on me. Stop focusing on the 1s and focus on the 0s. How much of this is data, and how much is negative space?... massive data... 0.08333 recurring. 0.91666667 = 1 of 12. What they're saying here is that this is (a huge paradigm). 10Ks = 1 of 12. Part of a layer adds up to a whole. It (their languages) says that each of the pieces fit together. Many become THERE IS NO TIME. It is a zero-sum-game. Everyone wins.
NOTE: there are 12 ships, and the heptapods have 7 tentacles. 7X12 = 84. 8 +4 =12. 
14. When our heroine is taken up into the ship in the capsule, these are the messages she reads: 1. Abbott (1 of the 2 heptapods) is death process. 2. Louise has a weapon. 3. Use weapon. 4. We need humanity help. Q. from our heroine, How can you know the future? 5. Louise sees future. 6. Weapon opens time.
15. (her daughter asks in her dream). Why is my name Hannah? Your name is very special. It is a palindrome. It reads the same forward and backward. (Cf. Silver Pin, Ayios Nikolaos Museum and Linear A tablet pendant, Troullous).
16. Our heroine says, * I can read it. I know what it is. It is not a weapon. It is a gift. The weapon (= gift) IS their language. They gave it all to us. * If you learn it, when your REALLY learn it, you begin to perceive the way that they do. SO you can see what’'s to come (in time). It is the same for them. It is non-linear. WAKE UP, MOMMY!

Then the heptapods disappear, dissolving into mere clouds, the same way they appeared out of nowhere in clouds, only in the opposite fashion. There is no time. They do not exist in time.

The implications of this movie for the further decipherment of Linear A and Linear B (or for any unknown language) are profound, as I shall explain in greater detail in upcoming posts.


Translation of a very tricky Linear B tablet, Knossos KN 913 D k 01 by Rita Roberts:

Knossos tablet KN 913 D k 01 translation by Rita Roberts

The decipherment of this tablet is far from clear-cut, and all because of 1 word, paro, the first on both lines 1 and 2. This word very likely corresponds to the ancient Greek pa/loj (palos) = a lot (cast), meaning a lot cast by one or more people to decide who is obliged to do something, and in this case, which is apparently a religious context, that something is the sacrifice of a billy goat and a she goat. Etowono got the lot for the ram, probably the long stick, if that is what it was, given that we are dealing with a ram here. Komawete got the short one for the she goat. It kind of makes sense, and in fact there would seem to be no other rational interpretation of this tablet. It is one of the trickiest I have ever assigned to Rita, and this aroused her suspicions in the first place. Because she could not possibly have recognized the (archaic or ancient) Greek for paro, I had to delve into that word. Otherwise, her translation is highly commendable, and deserves a full 100 %.


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.






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