Tag Archive: farming

Article, Linear B Lexicon for the Construction of Mycenaean Chariots just published on academia.edu:

Click on the TITLE to view and download the article:

aEpochs title

just uploaded to my academia.edu account at the link above. To download it, click the green DOWNLOAD button on the right side of the document.

Illustrations from the article:

bNew Kingdom chariot

c4 spoke chariots

dcomposite parts Mycenaean chariots

eMycenaean Chariots Lexicon

gKnossos tablet KN 894

This Lexicon is the only one of its kind in the entire world. To date, no one has ever published a Linear B Lexicon on a subject as focused as the Construction of Mycenaean Chariots.

This article has just been published in the prestigious European journal, Epohi (Epochs), Vol. 25, Issue 2 (2017), published bi-annually by the Department of History of St. Cyril and St. Methodius, University of Veliko, Tarnovo, Bulgaria. I have been invited by the Editor-in-Chief, Stefan Iordanov, to publish new papers in the near future (sometime in 2018) and again in 2019. Considering that the Editor-in-Chief, Stefan Iordanov, solicited me to submit this article sight unseen, you can be sure I shall submit more papers to the journal.

The supersyllabogram KI kitina in Linear A probably means a border of a plot of land/territory Cf. Linear B kotona kotoina ktoi/na = plot of land?


The supersyllabogram KI kitina NM1 ktoi/na/ktoina/siaj probably means a border of a plot of land/territory Cf. Linear B kotona kotoina ktoi/na = plot of land. There is no way of substantiating this claim. However, it does make sense, given that it appears on all of rhe following Linear A tablets from Haghia Triada (HT), on one from Tylissos (TY) and one from Zakros (ZA):

HT 8 oo HT 9 wi HT 16 oo HT 28 oo HT 44 gr HT 50 oo (x2) HT 91 oo HT 101 oo (x2) HT 116 (x2) HT 125 oo HT 129 oo HT 140 oo (x2) TY 3 (x3) ZA 18 oo

All of these tablets except one apparently deal with olive trees, rather than olive oil. The one exception is HT 44, which deals with grain, another crop which is grown on plots of land.

Decipherment of Haghia Triada tablet HT 11 entirely in Mycenaean derived Greek:

HT 11

If we read this tablet as if it were inscribed in Mycenaean derived Greek, it does actually make sense. While the tablet is partially an inventory, the rest of it is a religious ceremony for (farmed?) land leased out, blessed by 3 priests. It is much more complex than most tablets either in Linear A or in Linear B.

REVISED: Co-op Storage of Olive Oil & Mass Production of Wheat in Linear B: Click to ENLARGE


This tablet has been one of the most fruitful I have ever had the pleasure to translate. Not only did it yield up its contents (meaning) with little effort on my part, it also provided a brand new verb to add to the Mycenaean Greek Linear B lexicon (in the sense of vocabulary), with the prefix ama + the verb, epikere (3rd. person sing.) which, translated literally would mean, “cuts down all together”, or more appropriately “co-operates in cutting down” & in this context better still “co-operates in harvesting”, which in turn can be neatly rendered into English as “the co-operative of (the village of Dawos) harvests...”. I would like to extend my profound thanks to Ms. Gretchen Leonhardt, who has brought to my attention a critical error I made when I first translated this tablet. I had read ama & epikere as a single word, when a mere glance at this tablet clearly shows the words separated by the standard Linear B word divider, a vertical bar. Her vital correction serves to add more weight to my translation. It all makes perfect sense in this context, as it would indeed take an intensive co-operative effort on the part of the entire village of Dawos to harvest such a massive wheat crop. We note that the harvest is approx. 10,000 kilograms at the very least, and, considering the right truncation of this tablet, likely even more, from a minimum of 10K kilograms to 99.99K kilograms, though the upper limit figure is almost certainly way too high. So for the sake of expediency, let us assume the harvest runs to something in the range of 10K – 20K kilograms of wheat, still an enormous intake.

The second line of this tablet presents only one rather peculiar problem, the insertion of the number 1 inside the second ideogram for olive or olive oil, in this case, clearly olive oil, since people store olive oil rather than olives in pithoi or giant amphorae. I am not quite sure what that number 1 inside the second ideogram for olive oil refers to, but I assume it describes 1 type of amphora, as apposed to another, viz. the previous type mentioned on the same line with reference to 70 amphorae of olive oil. However, here again, we are confronted with the same difficulty we always encounter when trying to ascertain quantities in Mycenaean Linear B. The scribes knew perfectly well what an attributive number meant when assigned to an ideogram (here, for olive oil), but we do not and cannot 32 centuries later.

As for the rest of the line, going back to the first reference to olive oil, we find the syllabogram A inside the ideogram for olive oil. In this instance, it is an attributive supersyllabogram, and it clearly means A for aporewe, the Mycenaean Greek plural of amphora = amphorae, in this case the giant pithoi in which the Minoans at Knossos always stored their olive oil and wine.

Since the SSYL A is attributive and not associative (i.e. outside the ideogram), it must mean that the scribe is referring to olive oil which is always stored in pithoi or giant amphorae rather than consumed for immediate use (another attributive but separate value or characteristic for which there appears to be no known sypersyllabogram, since it is never referenced in any extant Linear B tablet). The distinction is subtle, but essential. When we say that a use of an item or commodity is typical, this means that it is an attributive characteristic or that item. The olive oil in this specific context can only be olive oil that is always stored in amphorae for later consumption... and when I say, amphorae, I mean the enormous pithoi or amphorae we encounter when we visit Knossos, as illustrated here: Click to ENLARGE

Giant amphorae or pithoi for sotring olive oil and wine at Knossos



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.


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