Tag Archive: frescos

Egypt says 4,400-year-old tomb discovered outside Cairo: Sat., Feb. 3, 2018

Wall paintings depict high-ranking official Hetpet observing different hunting and fishing scenes

Egypt_Ancient_Tomb 4440 BCE

CBC News: Science and Technology: (Click all graphics for each article)

CBC News Egyptian tomb 4400 years old

ABC News: High-ranking female official's 4,400-year-old tomb discovered outside Cairo

ABC News Egyptian tomb 4400 years old

Washington Post:

Egypt says 4,400-year-old tomb discovered outside Cairo

Washington Post Egyptian tomb 4400 years old

This image taken from video on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018, shows wall paintings inside a 4,400-year-old tomb near the pyramids outside Cairo, Egypt. Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry announced the discovery Saturday and said the tomb likely belonged to a high-ranking official known as Hetpet during the 5th Dynasty of ancient Egypt. The tomb includes wall paintings depicting Hetpet observing different hunting and fishing scenes. (APTN/Associated Press) 


CAIRO — Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered a 4,400-year-old tomb near the country’s famed pyramids at the Giza plateau just outside Cairo, the Antiquities Ministry said Saturday, the latest discovery that authorities hope will help revive the country’s staggering tourism sector.

The tomb was found in a wider area of Giza’s western necropolis, which is known to be home to tombs from the Old Kingdom.

It likely belonged to a woman known as Hetpet, who archaeologists believe was close to ancient Egyptian royals of the 5th Dynasty.

The tomb, unveiled to the media on Saturday, is made of mud brick and includes wall paintings in good condition depicting Hetpet observing different hunting and fishing scenes.

Other scenes also depict a monkey — in pharaonic times, monkeys were commonly kept as domestic animals — picking fruit. Similar scenes have been found in other tombs belonging to the later 12th dynasty, according to the ministry’s statement. Another scene shows a monkey dancing before an orchestra.

According to the ministry, the archaeological mission behind the discovery started excavation work last October. Archaeologists have been making discoveries near the site since the 19th century, and Mostafa al-Waziri, who led the mission, believes there is still more to be found.This is a very promising area. We expect to find more,” Al-Waziri told reporters at the site. “We have removed between 250-300 cubic meters of layers of earth to find the tomb.”What we see above the earth’s surface in Egypt doesn’t exceed 40 percent of what the core holds,” he added.

Al-Waziri believes Hetpet had another tomb in Giza’s western necropolis and said that excavation work is underway to find that one too.

Hetpet is a previously known figure in Egyptian antiquity though her mummy has not been discovered yet. Fragments of artefacts belonging to Hetpet were found in the same area back in 1909, and were moved to a museum in Berlin at the time, Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani said Saturday, speaking at the site to reporters and Western diplomats.

Despite all the discoveries already made about ancient Egypt, experts say they hope to find much more — in part thanks to modern technology — treasures still buried under the vast desert.

The area of the latest discovery is close to a new museum under construction that will house some of Egypt’s most unique and precious artifacts, including many belonging to the famed boy King Tutankhamun.

The first phase of Grand Egyptian museum is expected to be opened later this year while the grand opening is planned for 2022.

In January, Egypt placed the ancient statue of one of its most famous pharaohs, Ramses II at the museum’s atrium, which will include 43 massive statues.
Throughout 2017, the Antiquities Ministry made a string of discoveries across Egypt — including some in the southern city Luxor known for its spectacular temples and tombs spanning different dynasties of ancient Egyptian history.

Comment by moderator:
The discovery of ancient artifacts and monuments is a never-ending story. We have barely scratched the surface. This amazing discovery holds out hope that more Linear A and Linear B tablets will be unearthed in the near future (2018-2035)

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.




Linear A roundel pendant, Titisutisa, the name of a princess?

Linear a roundel Titisutisa onomastics

This Linear A roundel bears what is ostensibly a personal name ending in a. If indeed the feminine nominative singular ends in a in the Minoan language, as it does in most Indo-European occidental languages. However, since there are no genders in Basque, a language isolate, it is possible that there are none in Minoan, provided that it too is a language isolate. But even if it is, that does not necessarily imply that there are no genders.   

2 more haiku in Mycenaean Linear B, ancient Greek, English & French, this time about silence in the temple…



The full range of marvelous, rich colours the Minoans at Knossos used on their stunning frescoes!


We notice right away that the colours they had at their disposal ran from various shades of yellows (saffron) and oranges to blues and various shades of purple. The Minoans at Knossos, Pylos, Thera (Thira, Santorini) and elsewhere were unable to reproduce green pigment.  This minor drawback had little or no perceptible effect on the splendid results they almost invariably came up with in their breathtaking frescoes, the likes of which were not reproduced anywhere else in the Occidental ancient world, except perhaps by the Romans, especially at Pompeii. The Romans were able to reproduce greens. 

Two lovely frescoes from Pompeii:




Beautiful photos of some of the magnificent frescoes at Knossos, taken by Richard while he was there on May 1 2012:





All new photos of the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, Santorini, by Thalassa Farkas, Canada, 2016: Part B

More beautiful frescoes:




All new photos of the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, Santorini, by Thalassa Farkas, Canada, 2016: Part A

The entrance to the museum:


Some of the magnificent frescoes:




PINTEREST boards of interest related to Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B (NEWEST Boards):

This is a reasonably comprehensive directory of PINTEREST boards of interest related to Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B. To visit each board, simply CLICK on its banner, and sign up, if you like: 


1900 – 1600 BC Ancient Greek/Minoan Pottery (Click BANNER to visit):

1900-1600 BC
Ancient Mycenaean Culture

ancient mycenaean culture

Bronze Age

Bronze Age
Civiltà egea
civilita egea
Homer’s Bronze Age
Homer's Bronze Aage

Minoan Fashion

Minoan fashion



Micenic_bronze age

Micenic bronze age

Richard Vallance — Linear Scripts, Superhero

PINTEREST superhero

Minoan Costume History synopsis: a wonderful site!

Minoan Costume History synopsis: a wonderful site!

Minoan costume history

You simply have to check this site out! I have never seen such an in-depth study on Minoan costume, female and male alike, on the Internet. Here is just a small excerpt:

An era of great development, contemporaneous with the civilization of ancient Egypt and Phoenicia, and which may be dated about 2000-1500 B.C., had preceded the civilization that came from Asia Minor into Crete and Greece. Such fragments of Cretan culture as have come down to us reveal a beauty of technique and a delicate sense of form to which no contemporaneous civilization provides any parallel. (italics mine). It is certainly true that the Minoans were far more style-conscious than people of any other contemporaneous civilization, such as the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians and Hittites. No question about it.

Owing to the lack of written records, the processes and methods of manufacture are still wrapped in obscurity, but although we are thus reduced to surmise regarding the materials used, the dress of that time is of the highest interest in view of its connexion with the costumes of other peoples. Our attention is especially attracted by the dress worn by the women. The slim, wiry figures of the men are clothed almost universally with a loincloth, richly patterned and splendidly decorated. Here and there we see wide cloaks that clothe the whole body, giving it a large appearance. Women also, it would seem, wore the short loincloth, but we find them wearing in addition skirts put together in an almost fantastic manner that betrays a highly developed knowledge of the technique of dressmaking. These skirts are constructed in tiers, separated by strips of rich ornamentation. 

Illustrations from this site (there are many more, just as striking as these!)

Minoan loving cup

male saffron gatherer

Minoan seated ladies in grandstand

Minoan fountain

Rita Robert’s brilliant essay, The Construction of the Mycenaean Chariot:

The Construction of a Mycenaean Chariot

Even though we have examples shown on frescoes and pottery vessels depicting chariots, it is difficult to say for sure how a Mycenaean chariot was constructed.

These examples however, only give us mostly a side view, which presents a problem. What we really need to find, is an example which shows all angles, for us to get a better understanding of the Mycenaean chariots construction.

It is hard to visualize these chariots as they actually appeared in Mycenaean times, 1400- 1200 BC. But they were certainly built for battle worthiness when needed.

It is to be noted that the Mycenaean military, as that of other ancient civilizations, such as those of Egypt in the Bronze Age, the Hittite Empire, the Iron Age of Athens and Sparta, and later still, of the Roman Empire, most certainly would have gone to great lengths in manufacturing all parts of the chariots to be battle worthy, strong and resistant to wear, and of the highest standards within the limits of technology available to them in Mycenaean times.

The chariot, most likely invented in the Near East, became one of the most innovative items of weaponry in Bronze Age warfare. It seems that the Achaeans adopted the chariot for use in warfare in the late 16th century BC, as attested to on some gravestones as well as seals and rings.

It is thought that the chariot did not come to the mainland via Crete, but the other way around, and it was not until the mid 15th century BC that  the chariot appears on the island of Crete, as attested to by seal engravings and the Linear B Tablets.

The Achaean chariots can be divided into five main designs which can be identified as, “box chariot”,  “quadrant chariot”, “rail chariot” and “four wheeled chariot.” None completely survived, but some metallic parts and horse bits have been found in some graves and settlements, also chariot bodies, wheels and horses are inventoried in several Linear B tablets.

The “rail chariot” was a light vehicle which featured an open cab and was more likely used as a means of transport than as a mobile fighting vehicle.  The “four wheeled chariot,” used since the 16th century BC, was utilized throughout the late Helladic time. Both the “rail chariot”, and the “ four- wheeled chariot “ continued to be used after the end of the Bronze Age.

Based on some hunting scenes and armed charioteer representations on pottery vessels and Linear B tablets, there is no question that the chariots were used in warfare as a platform for throwing javelins (or thrusting long spears), as a means of conveyance  to and from battle and,  on fewer occasions, as a platform for a bow-armed warrior. These warriors could have fought as cavalry or a force of mounted infantry, particularly suited to responding to the kind of raids that seem to have been occurring in the later period.

Some thoughts on the construction of the Mycenaean chariot:

As we cannot be absolutely sure how the Mycenaean chariot was constructed, we have to use pictorial examples, leaving us little choice, other than that of resorting to a close examination of the pottery vessels and frescoes depicting them, and whatever other sources are available. So I have chosen the beautiful “Tiryns Fresco” 1200 BC as an example of the construction and design of the Mycenaean chariot, although some points differ in other depictions on various other frescoes.

The Mycenaean chariots were made to be drawn by two horses attached to a central pole. If two additional horses were added, they were attached on either side of the main team by a single bar fastened to the front of the chariot. The chariot itself consisted of a basket with a rail each side and a foot board” for the driver to stand on. The body of the chariot rested directly on the axle connecting the two wheels. The harness of each horse consisted of a bridle and reins, usually made of leather, and ornamented with studs of ivory or horn. The reins were passed through collar bands or yoke, and were long enough to be tied around the waist of the charioteer, allowing him to defend himself when necessary.

The wheels and basket of the chariot were usually of wood, strengthened in places with bronze, the basket sometimes covered with wicker wood. The wheels had four to eight spokes.

Most other nations of this time the, “Bronze Age,” had chariots of similar design to the Greeks, the chief differences being the mountings.

Source: Chariots of Greece

chariots in Greece

The components needed to build a chariot:

Chariot  =  iqiya
Axle = akosone
Wheels = amota
Rims of Wheels = temidweta
Willow wood = erika
Elm wood = pterewa
Bronze = kako
Leather = wirino
Reins = aniya
Ivory = erepato
Horn = kera
Foot board = peqato
Gold = kuruso
Silver= akuro

Tiryns fresco
The lovely Tiryns Fresco

Pylos fresco
Chariot Fresco from Pylos

Mycenaean rail chariot
Bronze Age Chariot

Bronze Age war chariot
Bronze Age War Chariot

vase with Mycenaean chariot
Amphora depicting Bronze Age chariot

box chariots
Achaean Small Box Chariots with an example of the horse harness

The cabs of these chariots were framed in steam bent wood and probably covered with ox-hide  or wicker work, the floor consisting more likely of interwoven raw-hide thongs. The early small box-chariots were crewed either by one single man or two men, a charioteer and a warrior. The small box-chariot differ in terms of design from the Near Eastern type. The four spoke wheels seem to be standard throughout this period.

Rita Roberts, Haghia Triada, Crete

Stunning Minoan fresco, Akrotiri, figs & Linear A tablet Zakros ZA 1, kireza = measurement of figs by the basket:

KIREZA 42 ZQ q Zakros KIREZA figs unit of measurement for figs

This stunning fresco from Akrotiri, featuring the typical Minoan “blue monkey” motif, fanciful animals on a celestial backdrop of figs is truly amazing! It is one of my favourite Minoan-style frescoes by far.  Immediately below it we find Linear A tablet Zakros ZA 1, on which the word kireza is inscribed. This word is so strikingly similar to the standard Minoan Linear A units of measurement,

reza = standard unit of (linear) measurement
adureza = standard unit of dry measurement
tereza = standard unit of liquid measurement (e.g. Wine)

that it is rather difficult to imagine it could be anything but a unit of measurement. However, I have only seen it used in conjunction with figs on any Minoan Linear tablet, and in fact, this is the only Minoan Linear A tablet on which kireza appears. Now the question is, what is the base unit of measurement of figs kireza refers to?  Given that the number of kireza on this tablet is 42, it would appear that it is a relatively large standard unit of measurement. And the unit which leaped to my mind was (and is) a basket of figs, by which I mean a basket which can be carried on one’s shoulders.  Additionally, as can be inferred from the Akrotiri fresco, women were tasked with gathering figs.    

This is the fifty-sixth (56) word in Minoan Linear A I have deciphered more or less accurately.

Fresco of a lovely woman from Phaistos with the outer edge of the Phaistos Disk surrounding it:

fresco image from Phaistos with Phastos disk in background

I recently discovered this lovely image on the internet, and I just have to share it with you. PS, regardless of what anyone claims, the Phaistos disk has not been deciphered to anyone else’s satisfaction.

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



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?
1.2  Is the chariot equipped with straps and horse blinkers made of leather and bridles made of copper?
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

Knossos tablet KN 894 N v 01 (Ashmolean) as a guide to Mycenaean chariot construction and design

KN 894 An1910_211_o.jpg wheel ZE

In spite of my hard gained experience in translating Linear B tablets, the translation of this tablet on chariot construction and design posed considerable challenges. At the outset, several of the words descriptive of Mycenaean chariot design eluded my initial attempts at an accurate translation. By accurate I not only mean that problematic words must make sense in the total context of the descriptive text outlining Mycenaean chariot construction and design, but that the vocabulary entire must faithfully reconstruct the design of Mycenaean chariots as they actually appeared in their day and age. In other words, could I come up with a translation reflective of the actual construction and design of Mycenaean chariots, not as we fancifully envision them in the twenty-first century, but as the Mycenaeans themselves manufactured them to be battle worthy?

It is transparent to me that the Mycenaean military, just as that of any other great ancient civilization, such as those of Egypt in the Bronze Age, of the Hittite Empire, and later on, in the Iron Age, of Athens and Sparta and, later still, of the Roman Empire, must have gone to great lengths to ensure the durability, tensile strength and battle worthiness of their military apparatus in its entirety (let alone chariots). It goes without saying that, regardless of the techniques of chariot construction employed by the various great civilizations of the ancient world, each civilization strove to manufacture military apparatus to the highest standards practicable within the limits of the technology then available to them.

It is incontestable that progress in chariot construction and design must have made major advances in all of the great civilizations from the early to the late Bronze Age. Any flaws or faults in chariot construction would have been and were rooted out and eliminated as each civilization perceptibly moved forward, step by arduous step, to perfect the manufacture of chariots in their military. In the case of the  Mycenaeans contemporaneous with the Egyptians, this was the late Bronze Age. My point is strictly this. Any translation of any part of a chariot must fully take into account the practicable appropriateness of each and every word in the vocabulary of that technology, to ensure that the entire vocabulary of chariot construction will fit together as seamlessly as possible in order to ultimately achieve as solid a coherence as conceivably possible. 

Thus, if a practicably working translation of any single technical term for the manufacture of chariots detracts rather than contributes to the structural integrity, sturdiness and battle worthiness of the chariot, that term must be seriously called into question. Past translators of the vocabulary of chariot construction and design who have not fully taken into account the appropriateness of any particular term descriptive of the solidity and tensile strength of the chariot required to make it battle worthy have occasionally fallen short of truly convincing translations of the whole (meaning here, the chariot), translations which unify and synthesize its entire vocabulary such that all of its moving and immobile parts alike actually “translate” into a credible reconstruction of a Bronze Age (Mycenaean) chariot as it must have realistically appeared and actually operated. Even the most prestigious of translators of Mycenaean Linear B, most notably L.R. Palmer himself, have not always succeeded in formulating translations of certain words or terms convincing enough in the sense that I have just delineated. All this is not to say that I too will not fall into the same trap, because I most certainly will. Yet as we say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.      

And what applies to the terminology for the construction and design of chariots in any ancient language, let alone Mycenaean Linear B, equally applies to the vocabulary of absolutely any animate subject, such as human beings and livestock, and to any inanimate object in the context of each and every sector of the economy of the society in question, whether this be in the agricultural, industrial, military, textiles, household or pottery sector.

Again, if any single word detracts rather than contributes to the actual appearance, manufacturing technique and utility of said object in its entire context, linguistic as well as technical, then that term must be seriously called into question. 

When it comes down to brass tacks, the likelihood of achieving such translations is a tall order to fill. But try we must.

A convincing practicable working vocabulary of Knossos tablet KN 894 N v 01 (Ashmolean):

While much of the vocabulary on this tablet is relatively straightforward, a good deal is not. How then was I to devise an approach to its translation which could conceivably meet Mycenaean standards in around 1400-1200 BCE? I had little or no reference point to start from. The natural thing to do was to run a search on Google images to determine whether or not the results would, as it were, measure up to Mycenaean standards. Unfortunately, some of the most convincing images I downloaded were in several particulars at odds with one another, especially in the depiction of wheel construction. That actually came as no surprise. So what was I to do? I had to choose one or two images of chariots which appeared to me at least to be accurate renditions of actual Mycenaean chariot design. But how could I do that without being arbitrary in my choice of images determining terminology? Again a tough call. Yet there was a way through this apparent impasse. Faced with the decision of having to choose between twenty-first century illustrations of Mycenaean chariot design - these being the most often at odds with one another - and ancient depictions on frescoes, kraters and vases, I chose the latter route as my starting point. 

But here again I was faced with images which appeared to conflict on specific points of chariot construction. The depictions of Mycenaean chariots appearing on frescoes, kraters and vases unfortunately did not mirror one another as accurately as I had first supposed they would. Still, this should come as no real surprise to anyone familiar with the design of military vehicles ancient or modern. Take the modern tank for instance. The designs of American, British, German and Russian tanks in the Second World War were substantially different. And even within the military of Britain, America and Germany, there were different types of tanks serving particular uses dependent on specific terrain. So it stands to reason that there were at least some observable variations in Mycenaean chariot design, let alone of the construction of any chariots in any ancient civilization, be it Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece throughout its long history, or Rome, among others.

So faced with the choice of narrowing down alternative likenesses, I finally opted for one fresco which provided the most detail. I refer to the fresco from Tiryns (ca 1200 BCE) depicting two female charioteers.

This fresco would go a long way to resolving issues related in particular to the manufacture and design of wheels, which are the major sticking point in translating the vocabulary for Mycenaean chariots.

Turning now to my translation, I sincerely hope I have been able to resolve most of these difficulties, at least to my own satisfaction if to not to that of others, although here again a word of caution to the wise. My translation is merely my own visual interpretation of what is in front of me on this fresco from Tiryns. Try as we might, there is simply no escaping the fact that we, in the twenty-first century, are bound to impose our own preconceptions on ancient images, whatever they depict. As historiography has it, and I cite directly from Wikipedia:      

Questions regarding historicity concern not just the issue of "what really happened," but also the issue of how modern observers can come to know "what really happened."[6] This second issue is closely tied to historical research practices and methodologies for analyzing the reliability of primary sources and other evidence. Because various methodologies categorize historicity differently, it's not possible to reduce historicity to a single structure to be represented. Some methodologies (for example historicism), can make historicity subject to constructions of history based on submerged value commitments. 

wikipedia historicity
The sticking point is those pesky “submerged value commitments”. To illustrate even further, allow me to cite another source, Approaching History: Bias:

approaching history

The problem for methodology is unconscious bias: the importing of assumptions and expectations, or the asking of one question rather than another, by someone who is trying to act in good faith with the past. 

Yet the problem inherent to any modern approach is that it is simply impossible for any historian or historical linguist today to avoid imposing not only his or her own innate unconscious preconceived values but also the values of his own national, social background and civilization, let alone those of the entire age in which he or she lives. “Now” is the twenty-first century and “then” was any particular civilization with its own social, national and political values set against the diverse values of other civilizations contemporaneous with it, regardless of historical era.

If all this seems painfully obvious to the professional historian or linguist, it is more than likely not be to the non-specialist or lay reader, which is why I have taken the trouble to address the issue in the first place.  

How then can any historian or historical linguist in the twenty-first century possibly and indeed realistically be expected to place him— or herself in the sandals, so to speak, of any contemporaneous Bronze Age Minoan, Mycenaean, Egyptian, Assyrian or oriental civilizations such as China, and so on, without unconsciously imposing the entire baggage of his— or -her own civilization, Occidental, Oriental or otherwise? It simply cannot be done.

However, not to despair. Focusing our magnifying glass on the shadowy mists of history, we can only see through a glass darkly. But that is no reason to give up. Otherwise, there would be no way of interpreting history and no historiography to speak of. So we might as well let sleeping dogs lie, and get on with the task before us, which in this case is the intricate art of translation of an object particular not only to its own civilization, remote as it is, but specifically to the military sector of that society, being in this case, the Mycenaean.

So the question now is, what can we read out of the Tiryns fresco with respect to Mycenaean chariot construction and design, without reading too much of our own unconscious personal, social and civilized biases into it? As precarious and as fraught with problems as our endeavour is, let us simply sail on ahead and see how far our little voyage can take us towards at least a credible translation of the Tiryns chariot with its lovely belles at the reins, with the proviso that this fresco depicts only one variation on the design of Mycenaean chariots, itself at odds on some points with other depictions on other frescoes. Here you see the fresco with my explanatory notes on the chariot parts:


as related to the text and context of the facsimile of the original tablet in Linear B, Linear B Latinized and archaic Greek, here:

Knossos tablet KN 894 N v 01 original text Latinized and in archaic Greek
This is followed by my meticulous notes on the construction and design of the various parts of the Mycenaean chariot as illustrated here:

Notes on Knossos tablet 894 N v 01 Wheel ZE

and by The Geometry of chariot parts in Mycenaean Linear B, to drive home my interpretations of both – amota - = - (on) axle – and – temidweta - = the circumference or the rim of the wheel, referencing the – radius – in the second syllable of – temidweta - ,i.e. - dweta - , where radius = 1/2 (second syllable) of – temidweta – and is thus equivalent to one spoke, as illustrated here:

The only other historian of Linear B who has grasped the full significance of the supersyllabogram (SSYL) is Salimbeti, 

The Greek Age of Bronze chariots

whose site is the one and only on the entire Internet which explores the construction and design of bronze age chariots in great detail. I strongly urge you to read his entire study in order to clarify the full import of my translation of – temidweta – as the rim of the wheel. The only problem remaining with my translation is whether or not the word – temidweta – describes the rim on the side of the wheel or the rim on its outer surface directly contacting the ground. The difficulty with the latter translation is whether or not elm wood is of sufficient tensile strength to withstand the beating the tire rim had to endure over time (at least a month or two at minimum) on the rough terrain, often littered with stones and rocks, over which Mycenaean chariots must surely have had to negotiate.  

As for the meaning of the supersyllabogram (SSYL)TE oncharged directly onto the top of the ideogram for wheel, it cannot mean anything other than – temidweta -, in other words the circumference, being the wheel rim, further clarified here:

wheel rim illustration

Hence my translation here:

Translation of Knossos tablet KN 984 N v 01 Wheel ZE

Note that I have translated the unknown word **** – kidapa – as – ash (wood). My reasons for this are twofold. First of all, the hardwood ash has excellent tensile strength and shock resistance, where toughness and resiliency against impact are important factors. Secondly, it just so happens that ash is predominant in Homer’s Iliad as a vital component in the construction of warships and of weapons, especially spears. So there is a real likelihood that in fact – kidapa – means ash, which L.R. Palmer also maintains. Like many so-called unknown words found in Mycenaean Greek texts, this word may well be Minoan. Based on the assumption that many of these so-called unknown words may be Minoan, we can establish a kicking-off point for possible translations of these putative Minoan words. Such translations should be rigorously checked against the vocabulary of the extant corpus of Minoan Linear A, as found in John G. Younger’s database, here:

Linear A texts in transciption

I did just that and came up empty-handed. But that does not at all imply that the word is not Minoan, given that the extant lexicon of Linear A words is so limited, being as it is incomplete.

While all of this might seem a little overwhelming at first sight, once we have taken duly into account the most convincing translation of each and every one of the words on this tablet in its textual and real-world context, I believe we can attain such a translation, however constrained we are by our our twenty-first century unconscious assumptions. As for conscious assumptions, they simply will not do. 

In conclusion, Knossos tablet KN 894 N v 01 (Ashmolean) serves as exemplary a guide to Mycenaean chariot construction and design as any other substantive intact Linear B tablet in the same vein from Knossos. It is my intention to carry my observations and my conclusions on the vocabulary of Mycenaean chariot construction and design much further in an article I shall be publishing on academia.edu sometime in 2016. In it I shall conduct a thorough-going cross-comparative analysis of the chariot terminology on this tablet with that of several other tablets dealing specifically with chariots. This cross-comparative study is to result in a comprehensive lexicon of the vocabulary of Mycenaean chariot construction and design, fully taking into account Chris Tselentis’ Linear B Lexicon and L.R. Palmer’s extremely comprehensive Glossary of military terms relative to chariot construction and design on pp. 403-466 in his classic foundational masterpiece, The Interpretation of Mycenaean Texts.

So stay posted. 

Rita Robert’s translation of tablet K 04-01-07 / 04-01 N a 01 from the Knossos Armoury:
To ENLARGE this image or any other image or photo posted on this blog, RIGHT CLICK on it, select VIEW and then SAVE it to your computer:  

Knossos 04 01 N a 01

Rita Robert’s commentary on this tablet:
Line 1 - araruya  aniyapi = equipped with bridles -  wirinijo opoqo = with leather blinkers – kerajapi opiiyapi =  with horn bits -   ideogram 

Line 2 -  iqiyo = chariot – ayameno erepate = decorated with ivory -

araromotemeno = fully assembled – ponikijo = painted crimson.

Due to the truncation on the right hand side of this Linear B tablet it is impossible to state whether there is only one or more chariots listed.

one chariot ?  fully assembled equipped with bridles with leather blinkers and horn bits decorated with ivory inlays and painted crimson.

A dual chariot depicted on this fresco from Pylos. LH lllA/B date around 1340 BCE

Chariot fresco from Pylos

Mycenaean Chariot fresco

Chariot harnessing fro Mycenae

Richard’s comments:

Apart from a single error Rita made in line 2 of this tablet, having misread the second syllabogram as -mu- instead of -qi-, consequently misinterpreting -iqiyo- as -Imuyo- ( a person’s name) instead of – iqiyo - = a chariot, her translation is convincing and elegant, as is to be expected from a Linear B translator of her advanced skills. That error has been corrected in the translation above.

It goes without saying that the right-truncated ideogram for -chariot- to the right of the tablet between lines 1 and 2 must mean a chariot with wheels, as  a chariot without wheels cannot conceivably be fully assembled, equipped and decorated.

While the archaic Greek may appear somewhat difficult or abstruse to linguists who specialize in Classical Greek, it is really not so bizarre after all, since we find many parallels in Homer’s Iliad, especially in The Catalogue of Ships in Book II. Notice that the gender of the word for chariot is fluid, i.e. not yet fixed in Mycenaean Greek. Moreover, this word is archaic in the extreme, having disappeared completely from Homeric and Classical Greek. Nevertheless, its meaning is clear from the context of all tablets on which it appears, since on most of them it is juxtaposed with the ideogram for chariot.

In my notes on the archaic Greek, you will notice that the (second) aspirated a in the Greek for – kerayapi – is aspirated in the archaic Greek. This orthography does not correspond to the spelling on this tablet, but in Chris Tselentis’ excellent Linear B Lexicon the alternate spelling – kerahapi – is  attested as an alternate standard. 


Photos of our vacation in Europe: Prague – the loveliest city in Europe! A

These photos speak for themselves. Prague was Mozart's favourite city. No Wonder!

Click on each photo to ENLARGE:











Wait until you see the photos of Prague in the next two posts!


The Prince of Lilies (Sonnet)

Prince of Lilies fresco Knossos

(Knossos Fresco 1500 BCE)

yZn ,<V wanaka kirino #a&nac xri&nwn

Lilies at his feet, lilies in his hands,

the Prince of Lilies casts his sortilège.

proceeds with friends, with loved ones and his bands

of cuirassiers, and their white manège.

His loin cloth purled in alabaster folds,

a lily chaplet crowns his onyx hair,

a peacock feather glistening with golds

and azures in the fragrant air.

In sea green silk soigné for Royalty,

this way he casts and that his princely glance

the bridegroom incarnates for all to see,

before they commence the epipthalamic dance.

To come and wed his modest virgin bride,

her fine illumined grace he’ll take in stride.

Richard Vallance © 2015

Sonnet revised, previously published in

Sonnetto Poesia, ISSN 1705-4524, pg. 15. Vol. 6 No. 2, spring 2007

2 photos of Frescoes at Mycenae I took in May 2012:

Click to ENLARGE:

fresco horses and cavalry museum Mycenae May 3 2012

Click to ENLARGE:

Mycenaean Fresco of priestess and acolyte, Mycenae Museum May 3 2012


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