Tag Archive: double axes



Minoan Linear A qajo = Mycenaean Linear B dapu = labrys or double-edged axe:

Kafkania-pebble is double axe qajo

Sometimes the best strategy is to accept what is staring us in the face. On the Kafkania Pebble (Middle Helladic, ca. 1700 BCE?) the term qajo is inscribed immediately below the image of a double-edged axe, which in Mycenaean Linear B is called dapu, or labrys in English, as seen here:

Akosono dapu dapuritoyo axes temple-of-the-double-axes

Compare these with an actual Minoan Linear A double-edged sword, on which is inscribed with the word idamate, which in a previous post I deciphered as meaning either “King” ( wanaka in Mycenaean Greek ) or the name of the King, “Idamate” or “god” (diwo) in Linear B:

Idamate labrys = king or god

This brings the number of Minoan Linear A words deciphered more or less accurately to 66.


Linear A labrys with inscribed Idamate = king? or god (Zeus)? no. 29:

IDAMATE labyrs

Does the inscription on the Linear A labrys with inscribed with Idamate simply mean that this labrys (double axe) is dedicated to a Minoan potentate at Knossos whose name is Idamate? Perhaps. But there are two other more cogent decipherments, and these are either (a) idamate = Linear B wanaka = “king” or just as convincingly (b) idamate = Linear B diwo = “god” or “Zeus.” I am far more inclined to the either of the latter two.

Pylos tablet Py Ta 711 (Chris Tselentis) may lend some credence to the decipherment “king”. Certainly the King  (Idamate or Wanaka) of Knossos would be highly deserving of such an honour. But so for that matter would Zeus, whose immortal power would certainly be strikingly symbolized by this inscription on a Minoan labrys!

PY TA ta  711 Chris Tselentis


Recall the great importance the Minoans and Mycenaeans alike at Knossos imputed to the double axe or labrys. The Hall of the Double Axes is decorated with a whole series of them, one after another, on a magnificently painted frieze, so typical of the masterful artistry of the Minoans at Knossos.

Hall of the Double Axes Knossos ca 12450 BCE


More photos from Knossos (upper Agora, Hall of the Double Axes):

Knossos third palace late Minoan III upper courtyard

 

Knossos Hall of the Double Axes b

 

Knossos Hall of the Double Axes a

 


Linear B tablet KN 755 A e 01, The 14 Temple Door Guards: 
Linear B tablet KN 755 A c 01 the doorkeeper

The Mycenaean Linear B word turateu is very similar to the ancient Greek word. It is clear (at least to me) that such door guards, in this case 14 of them, would have been responsible for guarding the doors of sacred temples, such as the Hall of the Double Axes, Knossos (if it was one). I have added the genitive, temenoio, which means “of a temple” to indicate that these 14 are temple guards. Notice the double doors to the Hall of the Double Axes (double doors, double axes, probably intentional). These are the kinds of door that would have been  guarded at major ceremonies, such as for the King (wanaka) and the Queen (wanakasa).

hall of the double axes

Supersyllabograms in the Military Sector of Mycenaean Linear B:

supersyllabograms for the military sector small

The Table above illustrates all of the supersyllabograms in the military sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy. These are identified in Linear B first, then in archaic Greek, and then translated into English. The Linear B Latinized names for each of the supersyllabograms follow, starting TOP DOWN with the left column and then the right.

LEFT COLUMN:

dapu = double axe
kito = chiton
mono = single, spare
qero (ouisia) * = (wicker) shield
qeqinomeno = made by twisting, woven

RIGHT COLUMN:

rino = linen
rousiyewiya = a part of the reins made of leather
perekeu ** = axe
wirineo = leather
zeukesi = a pair of, a set of wheels, a team of horses (derived from the Greek zeugos for “yoke”

NOTES:
* The supersyllabogram is simply QE, but it stands for qero ousiya = “a wicker shield”
** The supersyllabogram is actually WE, which may not seem to make much sense, given that the word it represents is perekeu = “an axe”, but there you have it. That is what it is.

And these are the actual supersyllabograms in the military sector.

SSYLS military actual

PS This is for you, Rita!


Knossos tablet KN 498 O a 07 and the ideogram for DAPU = labrys:

Knossos tablet KN 498 O a 07 & the ideogram = dapu = labrys

It is notable that, unlike the previous tablets we have just posted, all of which contain the ideogram and the supersyllabogram DA for DAPU = labrys, this tablet has only the ideogram. It may have the ideogram and the supersyllabogram DA on the second line, but we can never know as it is right-truncated. This tablet can be readily translated, as illustrated above, but only if the scribe made two spelling mistakes, and the chances of that are extremely remote. However, I have ventured this translation, as it just might be the `correct one. You never know.

This is the last of the Knossos tablets directly dealing with the DAPU, labrys or the double-axe in the hierarchy of the Minoan/Mycenaean religion in the military sector.


Knossos tablet KN 497 O a 06 & the supersyllabogram DA = labrys = double axe:

Knossos tablet KN 497 O a 06 supersyllabogram DA = labrys = double axe

There isn’t much I can say about this tablet, apart from the fact that it inventories 6 double axes. The text on the left side is unintelligible, being left truncated. The importance of the labrys or double axe in the Minoan/Mycenaean religion cannot be over-stressed. This repetitive motif appears the whole length of the Hall of the Double Axes at Knossos – which I personally saw in May 2012 and which is a magnificent work of art. A nearly identical motif re-appears on frescoes at Mycenae. The presence of the labrys is all-pervasive in the Minoan/Mycenaean religious symbolism of the military. It is uncertain whether the religious or the military aspect predominates in such art, but I am inclined to say that it is the religious, since religious symbolism is rampant in the Minoan/Mycenaean pantheon. Moreover, their religion is primarily matriarchal, and not patriarchal. It is to be expected that religious mythology would trump military in matriarchal societies such as this.


Knossos tablet KN 496 O x 04 and the supersyllabogram da = labrys:

Knossos tablet KN 496 O x 04 and the supersyllabogram DA = labrys

It is simply impossible to determine the meaning of the first word on this tablet, “tanopada”, left truncated, for which the previous syllabogram is probably “a”. In addition, there may be more than one syllabogram before the left truncation. Whatever the word it is, it appears not to be Greek. It may possibly be Minoan. As explained on the illustration of the tablet (above), it is also not possible to determine whether the number 3 refers to both the labrys and the small swords, in which case there would be 3 of each, or whether there is only 1 labrys and there are 3 small swords. My preference is for the latter. In addition, the mark following the number 3 cannot be 10, since the format for 13 is the reverse. It appears simply to a scratch.


The supersyllabogram DA = dapu = “double axe” in Mycenaean Linear B:

Knossos tablet KN 495 O a 03 supersyllabogram DA double axes

This unusual supersyllabogram appears on only 3 Linear B tablets from Knossos... unusual not only because it is rare, but also because it is either oncharged or supercharged onto the syllabogram for “double axe”. This would imply that the supersyllabogram DA is an associative, not attributive supersyllabogram, given that attributive supersyllabograms are otherwise without exception incharged in their ideograms. This leaves us in a bit of a quandary, because we should expect that DA is attributive and not associative. Its position (supercharged or oncharged) on this tablet and the other 2 like it indicates that it should be associative. But a double axe can neither be associated with itself nor be an attribute of itself. That is a contradiction in terms. So what are we to make of this bizarre positioning of the supersyllabogram DA onto the ideogram for the double axe?  I can come up with no explanation other than that the supersyllabogram DA is neither attributive nor associative, but is simply itself per se. What is even more astonishing is the fact that the ideogram and the supersyllabogram are essentially one and the same thing. Was the scribe at a bit of a loss in his attempt to “describe” the double axe as a supersyllabogram? Actually, I don't think so. What he was doing in this particular instance was emphasizing or, if you like, stressing the fact that he was focused on the double axe.  In this context, it appears that the ideogram for “double axe” coupled with its supersyllabogram must take precedence over the rest of the text on this tablet. The tablet is focused sharply on the inventory of the double axe, which takes precedence over any other consideration. At least that is my take on it.

Here we have two illustrations highlighting the conspicuous symbolism of the double axe in Minoan/Mycenaean iconography:   

Hall of the Double Axes Knossos

pottery-and-shield-of-the-labrys-or-double-axe-museum-mycenae-may-3-2012

 


Linear B tablet 04-81 N a 12 from the Knossos “Armoury”

04-81WIRINEO O n KAKEYAPI OPI Greek & translation 

While most of the Linear B tablets from the Knossos “Armoury” we have translated so far this month have posed few problems of any significance, and a few occasional problems of some significance,  this tablet stubbornly defies an accurate translation, for the following reasons:

1 the literal word order on the first line is so jumbled up that it is almost impossible to determine what adjectives modify what nouns. So I have had to come up with at least two alternate interpretations of this line in my free translation.  We are saddled with the burning question – 

1.1 Is the chariot equipped with straps and bridles made of leather and horse blinkers made of copper?
OR
1.2  Is the chariot equipped with straps and horse blinkers made of leather and bridles made of copper?
OR
1.3 even some other probable concatenation?

Then we are confronted with the mysterious Mycenaean word – (ko)nikopa – (if indeed the first syllabogram, which is partially obscured, is in fact – ko – ), leaving me no alternative but  to rummage through an ancient Greek dictionary, in the hope that I just might be able to come up with a word concatenated from two ancient Greek words, and to my slight relief, I found both of the ancient Greek words you see in the illustration of the tablet above, transliterated into Latin script here for those of you who cannot read ancient Greek. These are the words – koniatos – , which means – whitewashed – or – painted white – and – kopis – which means – sword/axe – . See The Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary, pg. 189, for these definitions. But it is quite clear to any ancient Greek linguistic scholar that I am stretching the putative meaning of – (ko)nikopa – just about as far as one can without crossing over into the realm of ridiculous speculation. So please take my translation of this word with a very large grain of salt. I merely took this meaning because the word has to mean something, so why not at least try and take a stab at it? Every one and anyone who knows me is perfectly aware that I am always the first one to take the plunge and to attempt to translate even the most recalcitrant unknown words found on Linear B tablets. Someone has to, and I am a most willing guinea pig.  

Nevertheless, it is still possible, however remotely, that the word may mean just that, especially if we assume (and that is all it is, an assumption) that the chariot builder painted an axe motif onto both sides of the chariot body, just as we find the same motif painted onto frescoes in the Hall of the Double Axes at Knossos. This motif of the double axe, which is dubbed a – labrys  – by the Minoans and Mycenaeans, is characteristic of wall frescoes at both Knossos and Mycenae, as illustrated here:

motif of labrys or double axes common to Knossos and Mycenae

clarified in turn by the illustration below of the ideogram – dapu – for – labrys –  and with a similar ideogram of a labrys incharged with the supersyllabogram WE, which I have as yet been unable to decipher:

Linear B syllabogram B232 DAPU or labrys

Military Ideograms in Linear B for spear, arrow, axe, (long) sword, short sword or dagger, horn, bow & arrow: Click to ENLARGE

Linear B military ideograms for swords, axes & bows

With the exception of the last one on the bottom right, these military ideograms speak for themselves. Mrs. Rita Roberts of Crete and I are of the opinion that her decipherment of B259 comes down to “bow and arrow”, in light of a Linear B seal inscribed with an archer wielding a bow and arrow she recently found on the internet and we posted here, which looks uncannily like the syllabogram itself. The very last ideogram (bottom right), with the arrow pointing at it, is as yet undeciphered.  Mrs. Roberts, Spyros Bakas, in the graduate program for Mycenaean Studies at the University of Warsaw, the Association of Historical Studies (Koryvantes), Athens and I myself are all working together to find a solution for a tenable decipherment of this last ideogram. Should any one of you reading this post have any further suggestions for its decipherment, please feel free to leave a comment on this post.

Richard


Military Syllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B, including 2 newly deciphered:

Here we find 2 illustrations of military syllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B. Just click on each one to ENLARGE it.

Illustrations of a typical Double Axe, Minoan (left) & Mycenaean fresco (right): Click to ENLARGE

Labrys or Double Edged Axe from Knossos and Mycenae

Military Syllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B for the Axe & Double-Axe or Labrys: Click to ENLARGE

Linear B military ideograms for axe

It is questionable whether or not the word dapu for “labrys” is in fact of Mycenaean Greek etymology, since it is somewhat of a stretch to correlate the Linear B spelling dapu with the corresponding ancient Greek orthography labrys. This sort of thing happens often enough in Linear B, making it difficult and sometimes even impossible to interpret a small cross-section of Mycenaean Greek words as Greek words (if that is what they are). Just as there are thousands of words in ancient Greek and modern Greek of non-Greek etymology, there were many of the same in Mycenaean Greek. I need only cite two examples, both of which make perfect sense even in English, but neither of which are of Greek etymology even in Mycenaean Greek, to drive my point home. We have for instance serino for “celery”, obviously the same as the English word, when you take into account that the Mycenaean “r” = Greek & English “l”. So also with sasama for “sesame”, a word which has quite literally been unchanged, apart from minor spelling variations to account for orthographic conventions in various languages, ancient & modern, ever since its first appearance in ancient languages right on down to today in English and other Occidental languages. It may possibly be Minoan. If it can ever be established that even a few of such words in Mycenaean Greek are actually of non-Greek origin, these words might provide a clue to the possible decipherment of the Minoan language, with the proviso that they are in fact Minoan. Unless any of these words actually appear either alone or as part of attested Minoan words from the online database of extant Minoan words in the Linear A texts in phonetic transcription by Professor John G. Younger, here:

John G Younger Linear A Texts in Transcription
we are caught in a vicious circle. Of course, neither serino nor sasama appear in this database. Around and round we go on an endless merry-go-round.    
 
Military Syllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B on Chariots and related ideograms: Click to ENLARGE

Linear B military ideogams chariots etc

More in the next post...

Richard

Photo of the Labrys or double Axe Fresco at Mycenae I took in May 2012 & description of the same by Sir Athur Evans in Scripta Minoa:

Click to ENLARGE:

pottery and shield of the Labrys or Double Axe, Museum Mycenae May 3 2012

The Labrys or Double Axe was common to both Mycenae and Knossos, and indeed there is a large room of the Double Axes which I saw when I was there in May 2012.  

Click to ENLARGE:

description of Labrys or double axe from Scripta Minoa Sir Arthur Evans

The text of this entry in Scripta Minoa is really fascinating. This statement in particular caught my eye.

The diameter of this huge labrys (double axe) is 7 MC (1.20 m.). the 7 and especially 7-1, have been used in the geometry of many ancient monuments (see, for example, the geometry of the Parthenon and Stonehenge.)    

Richard


Linear B Show & Tell # 3:  Axes & (Temple of the) Double Axes & their Relgious Symbolism: (Click to ENLARGE)

A akosono dapu dapuritoyo axes (temple of the) double axes

If anything, the symbolism if the “axe” and especially of the “double axe” is one of the major underpinnings of Minoan/Mycenaean religion. We find axes and double axes all over the place on Minoan and Mycenaean frescoes, regardless of site, Knossos, Mycenae, Pylos etc.  If ever you visit Knossos, you will see for yourself the famous Temple of the Double Axes. Although the lower story is sealed off, if you look down, you will see a lovely frieze of horizontal double axes on the back wall of the lower story. To this day, no-one really knows the true significance of the symbol of the axe or double axe in Minoan or Mycenaean mythology. They pose a real dilemma. Since the Minoans at Knossos were a peaceable people, why would they plaster double axes all over the walls of a building which we take to be the Temple of the Double Axes (erroneously or not)?

In Mycenae, however, the symbol of the axe or double axe makes perfect sense, as the Mycenaeans were a warlike people. The simplest explanation I can come up with is that the Mycenaeans exported the axe and double axe to Knossos after their conquest or occupation of the city. And no-one is quite sure if the Mycenaeans actually did conquer Knossos, or whether the two “city states” allied in order to greatly strengthen their hand as a unified Empire in the economic and trading affairs of the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean seas ca. 1500-1200 BCE. Of course, Knossos (Late Minoan III Palatial Period) itself fell sometime around 1450-1400 BCE, but the great Mycenaean Empire persisted until ca. 1200 BCE, after which the Nordic Dorians invaded the entire Greek peninsula, the Peloponnese, leaving the Mycenaean “city states” in ruins. It is entirely probable that the Minoan-Mycenaean Empire ca. 1500-1400 BCE rivalled the Egyptian Empire in the scope of its power. Almost certainly the Mycenaeans were actively trading with civilizations along the East coast of Greece and inland, Athens and Thebes (the latter being a Mycenaean stronghold) and with the city of Troy and the inhabitants along the West coast of what we now know as Turkey. What is particularly fascinating and (highly) revealing in the historical perspective of the rise of ancient Greece is that the new Greek colonies which spread all over the Aegean in the 7th. and 6th.  centuries BCE flourished in precisely the same places where the Mycenaeans had carried on such extensive trade some 6 to 10 centuries earlier! There is more to this than meets the eye, as we shall eventually discover in key posts on this blog later this year or sometime in 2015.

Other omnipresent religious symbols included the Horns of Consecration at Knossos, and the Snake Goddess & the goddess Pipituna at both Knossos and Mycenae.

Richard

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