Tag Archive: goddess



Linear A haiku: the saffron goddess, her crimson dress adorned with ivy:

Minoan Linear A haiku sea sarai the saffron goddess

In this haiku, all of the words except sarai = “flax or saffron” (the latter in this context) are Mycenaean-derived New Minoan (NM1). The onomatopoeia of the 3 phrases rolls off the tongue. Not only is her dress adorned with ivy, apparently she is as well.


							

Linear A rock crystal vase IO Za 10 from Iouktas:

Linear A IO Za 10 crystal rock vase Iouktas

The finely chiselled Linear A rock crystal vase IO Za 10 from Iouktas appears to bear an inscription along the lines of, “the peak sanctuary or shrine of the goddess of healing and health”. I came to this conclusion in the following manner. The word zudisika appears to be a composite Linear A word, of which the first two syllables, zudi, are Old Minoan (OM), while the last two syllables, sika, are almost certainly Mycenaean-derived New Minoan (NM1). Linear A sika corresponds neatly with archaic Greek sika, which is arch. accus. for sikos (Latinized), meaning “a sacred precinct or shrine”. It is a historical fact that there were numerous peak sanctuaries in the Minoan eras. So it strikes me that zudi may very well mean, “summit or peak”, hence our decipherment, which after all is said is done, makes perfect sense. 

This decipherment is strongly corroborated by the fact that Juktas (Iouktas)is indeed a Middle Minoan peak sanctuary! Click to visit:

Middle Minoan Juktas Peak Sanctuary

Iouktas Peak Sanctuary, Crete



Linear A fragment from Phaistos with a fish remarkably resembling the ancient Christian-like iconography of the fish:

Phaistos Linear A tablet with fish Christian-like iconography

This Linear A fragment from Phaistos, which was found in the same cache as PH 7, is remarkable insofar as we find on it the sole occurrence of the ideogram for fishon any Linear A tablet anywhere, regardless of provenance.

This symbol is remarkable for two reasons. First, it is clearly a reflection of the inscription on Phaistos fragment PH 7, which reads as follows, “(illumined by) the firebrand of the goddess of healing, the bread of healing with water from a cup”. If this is not reminiscent of the Christian communion, I do not know what is. But we can go even further. The resemblance between the fish ideogram on this Linear A fragment from Phaistos to the fragment bearing an anchor, fish and Greek chi ro symbols from the Catacombs of Saint Sebastian

chi-rho fish anchor fragment from catacombs of saint sebastian

is so striking that one is left wondering how this can possibly be. However, there may be less of a mystery here than we might otherwise imagine. It is a well known historical phenomenon in ancient religions that a later religion frequently borrows its iconography from a former.

Additional critical  highly relevant commentary by Daniel Rocha:

It is true that later religions borrow from older religions, but it seems that these symbols kind of run in parallel to Judaism, as far as I know. In any case, the symbols you are mentioning are linked to the worship of Atargatis. This deity used to be the wife of God in the very primitive versions of Judaism. If what you are pointing is true, it seems that the worship of Mary is justified, since she would be the wife of God. But, as far as I know, this cult among Jews did not exist in the 1st century CE.

But look here: “It has also been proposed that the element -gatis may relate to the Greek gados “fish”.[14] (For example, the Greek name for “sea monster” or “whale” is the cognate term ketos. So Atar-Gatis may simply mean “the fish-goddess Atar”.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichthys

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atargatis

Atargatis

But it could be like gados mana, fish food or something along these lines: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manna#Origin

Plus an additional comment by Richard Vallance Janke:

The Linear A word keta/kete, which very much appears to be the same word, first in the accusative of aspect (keta) and secondly in the instrumental sing. (kete, meaning “with fish”), of which the masculilne singular in Linear A would have been keto, and which is the equivalent of ancient Greek gados. If this is the case, then the fish ideogram on this fragment from Phaistos echoes even more closely the text of Phaistos PH 7, which as we have already seen is a religious ceremony involving a libation of water along with the bread of healing. If all of this rings true, then the relationship between these two fragments is so striking it simply cannot be ignored. Moreover, the Hebrew, manna (grains, bread), interpreted in Christianity as the bread of Heaven, also appears in Linear A as mana, another astonishing co-incidence.

Richard

Linear A fragment PH 7 (Phaistos) which is definitely a religious incantation:

PH 7 linear-a-phaistos-a religious incantation

Linear A fragment PH 7 (Phaistos), entirely inscribed in Mycenaean-derived New Minoan, is definitely a religious incantation. It is fascinating to note that the incantation is highly reminiscent of the Christian mass or communion, call it what you will. The priestess pours water, udiriki (instr. sing.), from a cup, dipaja (gen. sing.) and offers jatimane or the blessed bread of healing to her suppliants, while the whole ceremony, apparently conducted in a small shrine, is illumined by a firebrand. What a lovely, intimate picture of a scared religious ceremony this draws!


Haghia Triada roundels & noduli:

Linear A nodulae with syllabogram SI from Haghia Triada

From: The Haghia Triada administrative documents:

http://www.aegean-museum.it/musint2/en/crete/documents.inc.php

Descriptions from this site (quoted):

Although the writing has not been deciphered neither the language has been interpreted (sic, poor grammar) various data may be obtained from the tablets. First of all, a list of Linear A signs may be hypothesized, which, with its 97 symbols, reveals a syllabic script of a simple typology (consonant + vowel and vowels): the signs are, in fact, too many, to represent a complex syllabic system (as the Near Eastern Cuneiform and the Aegyptian Hieroglyph). To these syllabic signs a long series of "logograms", representing each one a word, are added. 

Types of seals represented:

nodulae and roundels from Haghia Triada

Roundels:

The roundel is a characteristic document of the Neopalatian Minoan [1] administration, beside the tablet. It is a round clay disk (classified as Wc) with seals impressions along the edge - from one to six impressions - and, on most cases, one inscription on one or both sides. Frequently the inscription consists of a logogram, sometimes also of a sign-group. It seems to represent the last act [2] of an administrative transaction and probably functioned as a receipt. 

The seals stamped on roundels fully coincide with seals stamped on the other different documents. At Haghia Triada 22 roundels have been found, one of them being without (an) inscription. 

Nodules:

It is (sic, They are) the most widespread Aegean Bronze Age document, both geographically and chronologically. These clay small object (sic, objects) (defined as noduli by J. Weingarten) were not always inscribed but only sealed. They appear in two shapes: dome (classified as We) (fig. 4) and disk (classified as Wf) (fig. 5).  At Haghia Triada 54 noduli have been found, in dome shape, and only 7 are inscribed. 

Types:
1 Flat-based nodule:
This type of document is rarely inscribed but regularly sealed. Its characteristic is the negative impression on its reverse (or base) which shows that it had been placed upon a folded piece of parchment around which a thin thread was wound which was also wound into the clay. It appears in two different shapes: standing (fig. 6) or recumbent (fig. 7) (both classified as Wb). At Haghia Triada 76 flat-based nodules have been found, only 2 having a carved inscription. 

2 Hanging nodule [3]:

This small clay piece is characterized by string holes which show that it was fastened to another object by a string. They may present one or two holes. 
Those with two holes (classified as Wd) have an elongated shape (fig. 8), while those with one hole (classified as WA) present five slightly different shapes: pendant, pyramid, cone, dome, pear (fig. 9) [4]. At Haghia Triada 936 single-holes have been found, 851 being inscribed, and 11 two-hole, only 2 being inscribed. 

Comments by Richard Vallance:

[1] Neo-palatial Minoan administration: This is the Minoan administration at Haghia Triada dating from the Middle Minoan MM ca. 1750-1550 BCE & Late Minoan LM1A, ca. 1550-1500 BCE. Documents in Linear A inscribed during the LM1A period may have been inscribed in Mycenaean-derived New Minoan.  
[2] “the last act”. This is ambiguous English. Does it refer to the “the most recent” of the Haghia Triada administration? And if so, does this mean the act or acts date from the Late Minoan LM1A period?  And if so, are these acts inscribed in Mycenaean-derived New Minoan?
[3] The nodules illustrated in my decipherment of Figure 9 above are hanging nodules.
[4] See my 3 decipherments in Figure 9 at the outset of this post. If the syllabogram SI is the first syllable of a Mycenaean-derived New Minoan word, it could represent any of the 3 decipherments I have proposed. If on the other hand, SI represents any Old Minoan word, it is indecipherable.  

Haghia Triada pianta genrale

Under the syllabogram RE in Minoan Linear A, there appears to be only one word of possible proto-Greek origin and it is...

minoan-word-rea-of-possible-proto-greek-origin

This table is self-explanatory.


Is the Minoan Linear A labrys inscribed with I-DA-MA-TE in Minoan or in proto-Greek? PART A: Is it in the Minoan language?

In my previous post on the Minoan Linear A labrys inscribed with I-DA-MA-TE, I postulated that the word Idamate was probably either the name of the king or of the high priestess (of the labyrinth?) to whom this labrys has been ritually dedicated. But in so doing I was taking the path of least resistance, by seeking out the two most simplistic decipherments which would be the least likely to prove troublesome or controversial. In retrospect, that was a cop-out.

No sooner had I posted my two alternate simplistic translations than I was informed by a close colleague of mine in the field of diachronic historical linguistics focusing on Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B that at least two other alternative decipherments came into play, these being:

1. that the term Idamate may be the Minoan equivalent of the Mycenaean Linear B Damate, which is apparently an early version of the ancient Greek, Demeter, who was the goddess of cereals and harvesting:

demeter-ceres-greco-roman-marble-statue-state-hermitage-museum-st-petersburg

linear-b-lexicon-damate-demeter

2. that the term Idamate may be Minoan for Mount Ida, in which case, the word Mate = “mount”, such that the phrase actually spells out  “Ida mount(ain)” :

mount-ida-psiloritis

Since both of these decipherments make eminent sense, either could, at least theoretically, be correct.
 
But there is a third alternative, and it is far more controversial and compelling than either of the first two. 

3. It is even possible that the four syllabograms I DA MA & TE are in fact supersyllabograms, which is to say that each syllabogram is the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of a word, presumably a Minoan word. But if these 4 supersyllabograms represent four consecutive Minoan words, what on earth could these words possibly signify, in light of the fact that we know next to nothing about the Minoan language. It appears we are caught in an irresolvable Catch-22.

Yet my own recent research has allowed me to tease potential decipherments out of 107 or about 21 % of all intact words in Prof. John G. Youngers Linear A lexicon of 510 terms by my own arbitrary count. Scanning this scanty glossary yielded me numerous variations on 3 terms which might conceivably make sense in at least one suppositious context. These terms (all of which I have tentatively deciphered) are:

1. For I: itaja = unit of liquid volume for olive oil (exact value unknown)

2. FOR DA: either:
daropa = stirrup jar = Linear B karawere (high certainty)
or
datara = (sacred) grove of olive trees
or
data2 (datai) = olive, pl. date = Linear B erawo
or
datu = olive oil
or
daweda = medium size amphora with two handles

3. For TE:
tereza = large unit of dry or liquid measurement
or
tesi = small unit of measurement

But I cannot find any equivalent for MA other than maru, which seemingly means “wool”, even in Minoan Linear A, this being the apparent equivalent of Mycenaean Linear B mari or mare.  The trouble is that this term (if that is what the third supersyllabogram in idamate stands in for) does not contextually mesh at all with any of the alternatives for the other three words symbolized by their respective supersyllabograms.

But does that mean the phrase is not Minoan? Far from it. There are at least 2 cogent reasons for exercising extreme caution in jumping to the conclusion that the phrase cannot be in Minoan. These are:    
1. that the decipherments of all of the alternative terms I have posited for the supersyllabograms I DA & TE above are all tentative, even if they are more than likely to be close to the mark and some of them probably bang on (for instance, daropa), which I believe they are;
2. that all 3 of the supersyllabograms I DA & TE may instead stand for entirely different Minoan words, none of which I have managed to decipher. And God knows there are plenty of them!  Since I have managed to decipher only 107 of 510 extant intact Minoan Linear A words by my arbitrary count, that leaves 403 or 79 % undeciphered!  That is far too great a figure to be blithely brushed aside. 

The > impact of combinations of a > number of Minoan Linear A words on their putative decipherment:

combinations-with-repetition-and-their-impact-on-the-decipherment-of-minoan-linear-a-terms

To give you a rough idea of the number of undeciphered Minoan words beginning with I DA & TE I have not been able to account for, here we have a cross-section of just a few of those words from Prof. John G. Younger’s Linear A Reverse Lexicon:
which are beyond my ken:

linear-a-reverse-lexicon

For I:
iininuni
ijadi
imetu
irima
itaki

For DA:
dadana
daini
daki
daku
daqaqa

For MA:
madadu
majasa
manuqa
masuri

For TE:
tedatiqa
tedekima
tenamipi
teneruda

But the situation is far more complex than it appears at first sight. To give you just a notion of the enormous impact of exponential mathematical permutations and combinations on the potential for gross errors in any one of a substantial number of credible decipherments of any given number of Minoan Linear A terms as listed even in the small cross-section of the 100s of Minoan Words in Prof. John G. Younger’s Reverse Linear A Lexicon, all we have to do is relate the mathematical implications of the  chart on permutations to any effort whatsoever at the decipherment of even a relatively small no. of Minoan Linear A words:

CLICK on the chart of permutations to link to the URL where the discussion of both permutations and combinations occurs:

permutations-and-the-decipherment-of-minoan-linear-a

to realize how blatantly obvious it is that any number of interpretations of any one of the selective cross-section of terms which I have listed here can be deemed the so-called actual term corresponding to the supersyllabogram which supposedly represents it. But, and I must emphatically stress my point, this is just a small cross-section of all of the terms in the Linear B Reverse Lexicon beginning with each of  the supersyllabograms I DA MA & TE in turn.

It is grossly obvious that, if we allow for the enormous number of permutations and combinations to which the supersyllabograms I DA MA & TE must categorically be  subjected mathematically, it is quite out of the question to attempt any decipherment of these 4 supersyllabograms, I DA MA & TE, without taking context absolutely into consideration. And even in that eventuality, there is no guarantee whatsoever that any putative decipherment of each of these supersyllabograms (I DA MA & TE) in turn in the so-called Minoan language will actually hold water, since after all, a smaller, but still significant subset of an extremely large number of permutation and combinations must still remain incontestably in effect.

The mathematics of the aforementioned equations simply stack up to a very substantial degree against any truly convincing decipherment of any single Minoan Linear A term, except for one small consideration (or as it turns out, not so small at all). As it so happens, and as we have posited in our first two alternative decipherments above, i.e.
1. that Idamate is Minoan for Mycenaean Damate, the probable equivalent of classical Greek Demeter, or
2. that Idamate actually means “Mount Ida”,

these two possible decipherments which do make sense can be extrapolated from the supersyllabograms I DA MA & TE, at least if we take into account the Minoan Linear A terms beginning with I DA & TE (excluding TE), which I have managed, albeit tentatively, to decipher.

However, far too many putative decipherments of the great majority of words in the Minoan language itself are at present conceivable, at least to my mind. Yet, this scenario is quite likely to change in the near future, given that I have already managed to tentatively decipher 107 or 21 % of 510 extant Minoan Linear A words, by my arbitrary count.  It is entirely conceivable that under these circumstances I shall be able to decipher even more Minoan language words in the near future. In point of fact, if Idamate actually does mean either Idamate (i.e. Demeter) or Ida Mate (i.e. Mount Ida), then:
(a) with only 2 possible interpretations for IDAMATE now taken into account, the number of combinations and permutations is greatly reduced to an almost insignificant amount &
(b) the actual number of Minoan Linear A words I have deciphered to date rises from 107 to 108 (in a Boolean OR configuration, whereby we can add either  “Demeter” or “Mount Ida” to our Lexicon, but not both).  A baby step this may be, but a step forward regardless. 


3 alternatives in Minoan Linear A for pasiteoi = “to all the gods” in Mycenaean Greek:

pasiteoi pasi

I rummaged through every last of the scores of Minoan Linear A tablets I have on file, searching for any rendition possible commensurate with the phrase pasiteoi = “to all the gods” in Mycenaean Greek. I have made the assumption, however misplaced, that since this a 5 syllabogram or syllable phrase in Mycenaean Linear B, the cross-correlated phrase in Minoan Linear A should run to approximately the same number of syllabograms or syllables, give or take. I found 3 alternatives. I had little choice, as there is simply no way or knowing whether or not any one of these 3,  iqa*118, dadumata or *47nuraja  corresponds to the Mycenaean phrase, if indeed any of them do. However, the chances are pretty good that one of them does.

So take your pick. I lean towards dadumata, as it looks like it might be plural, though certainly not necessarily neuter plural, corresponding to the ultimate “a”, which imposes itself on any word in the neuter or feminine plural in Mycenaean Greek. One simply cannot transpose the last vowel “a” for the neuter plural in Linear B to Linear A. The same problem obtains with *47nuraja.  On the other hand, transposition of “a” for Greek “ai” in Mycenaean Greek is a (somewhat remote) possibility in Minoan Linear A. But here again we cannot and must not leap to any premature conclusions. 

Each of these terms qualifies as the sixty-ninth (69) term I have deciphered, more or less accuracy, in Minoan Linear A.


Mycenaean Linear B tablets on olive oil dedicated to all the gods as templates for cross-correlation to Minoan Linear A tablets:

Linear B tablets pasi teoi all the gods

These two Mycenaean Linear B tablets and the Mycenaean Greek phrase on olive oil dedicated to all the gods serve as templates for cross-correlation to Minoan Linear A tablets in the same vein. In the last post on the delivery of olive oil, I stated that the immense number of permutations and combinations attributable to activities and terms related to olive oil severely mitigated against the possibility of extracting any real meaning from Minoan Linear A tablets. There is another side to this coin. Wherever the same activity or term is repeated at least 3 times on 3 Mycenaean Linear B tablets versus those terms which appear only once on 1 Linear B tablet (which is the case with all the other Mycenaean Greek terms we shall be posting), the likelihood for successful cross-correlative regressive extrapolation to Minoan Linear A tablets on olive oil rises dramatically. This is because recurrent vocabulary appearing at least 3 times on at least as many tablets in any sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy, agricultural, military, textiles and vessels and pottery, tends to promote the likelihood that said terms might also appear on Minoan Linear A tablets. Nevertheless, cross-correlation of terms recurring at least 3 times is still risky. There is no guarantee that such cross-correlation can or will work in dredging up the “same” tablets in Minoan Linear A.    

We shall see soon enough.


Knossos tablet with all sorts of references to olive oil and barley:

Knossos tablet 1 j olive oil barley etc

This tablet is a real hodgepodge of references to olive oil, olive oil trees and barley, ranging from references the port of Amnisos, to units of dry measurement (which also frequently occur on Minoan Linear A tablets), to all the gods and to the goddess Erinu in particular. Not only that, it also tabulates bales of barley, even down to single units of dry measurement of barley. So this tablet serves as a real cornucopia for olive oil, olive oil trees and barley. Thus, it adds one more reference to every single facet of these commodities. I shall tally the totals for all references to each commodity when I have finished translating as many Linear B tablets as I can referencing olive oil.


The co-dependent supersyllabograms KI = kitimena kotona & O = onaton in Linear B:

Knossos tablet KN 930 G a 302 & the supersyllabograms KI & O

The two supersyllabograms KI = kitimena kotona & O = onaton in Linear B are very frequently concatenated on Linear B tablets in the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy. This combination of supersyllabograms KI + O occurs on scores of tablets from Knossos alone. These two supersyllabograms always precede the ideogram they modify, and this ideogram is always either the one for “rams” (most often) or “ewes” and occasionally for “sheep” (the generic ideogram).  When linked together in this fashion they always mean “a usufruct lease field which is a plot of land”, in other words “a usufruct leased plot of land” within the context of a larger “lease field” of which this plot of land is one among several. How many we cannot say, because we were not there when the Minoan/Mycenaean overlords parcelled out their fields to be leased as smaller plots of land to their tenants.

The number of leased plots per lease field may have been as few as 4 or as many as 10 or 20. If the number were to have run to the latter end of the spectrum, that would have meant that the lease fields themselves, which were to have been sub-parcelled into leased plots must have been quite large, even if the size of the separate leased plots might have been as small as approx. 1 hectare. In that scenario, a lease field with 20 leased plots of approx. 1 hectare would be about 20 hectares in size. It is to be clearly understood that we have no yardstick or should I say metric stick by which to determine exactly or even approximately the Minoans at Knossos or Phaistos or the Mycenaeans at Mycenae, Pylos and elsewhere actually measured the size of their fields. The hectare is just an approximation, nothing more. But it will do as well as any measure.

On another count, we note that on this tablet, the land tenant is Siadyweis. He is not the land owner because he is clearly leasing a plot of land on a much larger lease field owned by the overseer.  Also, we note that the person connected with the Minoan Goddess, Potnia, must be her priest, because it is in the masculine. This seems a rather odd arrangement to me, since in almost all other instances where this famous Minoan goddess is mentioned, it is with reference to her Priestess(es) and not her Priest(s). The Minoan religion was substantively matriarchal, not patriarchal. That said, this tablet clearly defines her attendant as her Priest.

Several illustrations of the the Minoan goddess, Potnia:

Potnia Theron Minoan Snake goddess and Artemis

 


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.


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:

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

Richard



The Famous “Dolphin Fresco” at Knossos on Papyrus! Minoan Literature? Did any Exist?

Click to ENLARGE

Replica of the Dolphin Fresco Knossos on papyrus

Here you see a magnificent reproduction of the famous “Dolphin Fresco” at Knossos reprinted on Papyrus, which I purchased for the astonishing price of 10 euros while I was visiting the site on May 2, 2012. The colours on this papyrus version are so vibrant no photograph can fully do justice to them. Nevertheless, the photo turned out wonderfully, and if you would like to use it yourself, please feel free to do so. I even framed it to enhance it.

Papyrus in Minoan/Mycenaean Crete?

The very idea of reprinting one of the amazing Knossos frescoes onto papyrus may seem blasphemous to some, but certainly not to me. It raises the very astute question: did the Minoans, writing in Linear A or in Linear B, ever produce any literature as such? Consent is almost unanimous on the Internet and in print – No! They did not write any literature. But not so fast! It strikes me as peculiar - indeed very peculiar – that a civilization as advanced and sophisticated as that of Knossos, in both the Minoan Linear A eras (Middle Minoan – early Late Minoan) and in the Mycenaean Linear B era (Late Minoan), may very well have had a literature of its own, for these reasons, if none other:

(a) Creation Myths:

Ancient Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, the Hittites and other proto-literate civilizations, at least had a religious literature, whether or not it was composed on papyrus (as with Egypt), here at Wikipedia:

The sun rises over the circular mound of creation as goddesses pour out the primeval waters around it

Egyptian Creation Myth Sunrise_at_Creation 

or on baked clay tablets, as with the Babylonians, here:

The Enûma_Eliš Epic (Creation Myth) ca. 1,000 lines long on 7 tablets: 

Enûma_Eliš Creation Myth

Proemium:

When on high the heaven had not been named,
Firm ground below had not been called by name,
When primordial Apsu, their begetter,
And Mummu-Tiamat, she who bore them all,
Their waters mingled as a single body,
No reed hut had sprung forth, no marshland had appeared,
None of the gods had been brought into being,
And none bore a name, and no destinies determined--
Then it was that the gods were formed in the midst of heaven.
Lahmu and Lahamu were brought forth, by name they were called.


the famous Sumerian Myth of Gilgamesh on 7 Tablets here:

Epic of Gilgamesh

and the Sumerian & Akkadian Myths, including that of Gilgamesh, here:

Akkadian Gilgamesh:

Akkadian cuneiform-gilgamesh

(b) The implications of the astounding achievements of the highly advanced Minoan Civilization for a putative literature of their own:

Just because the Minoans, writing in Linear A or in Linear B, left behind no literature as such on their administrative inventory tablets, does not necessarily mean that they never wrote any literature at all. That strikes me as bordering on nonsensical, since Knossos always had the closest economic and cultural ties with Egypt and with all of the other great civilizations contemporaneous with her. Egypt, above all, set great store on the inestimable value of Knossian, Minoan and Mycenaean artifacts such as gold, in which the Mycenaean artisans were especially gifted, lapis lazuli, of which the finest quality in the entire known world issued from Knossos; Minoan & Mycenaean pottery and wares, which again were of the most splendid designs; Minoan textiles and dyes, again the finest to be found, and on and on. In fact, the Minoans were rightly renowned as the among the very best dyers in the entire known world.

But why stop there? Why should such an obviously advanced civilization as the Minoan, with its understanding of the basic principles of hydraulics, quite beyond the ken of any other contemporary civilization, and with its utterly unique airy architecture, based on the the most elegant geometric principles, again quite unlike anything else to found in the then-known world, not have a literature of its own? To me, the idea seems almost preposterous.

(c) If the Minoans & Mycenaeans did write any literature, what medium would they most likely have used for it?

The question remains, if they did have a literature of their own, it too was most likely religious in nature. But on what medium would they have written it down? - certainly not on their minuscule tablets, as these were so tiny as to virtually exclude the composition of any religious literature such as that of the origin of mankind (very much in currency at that era in the other civilizations mentioned above). Again, the Minoan scribes writing in Linear B used their tiny tablets solely for ephemeral annual accounting and inventories. Still, I can hear some of you objecting, “But the Babylonians and other civilizations wrote down their creation myths on tablets!” Fair enough. Yet those tablets were larger, and they were deliberately baked to last as long as possible (and they have!), quite unlike the Minoan & Mycenaean ephemeral administrative tablets, which were never baked.  And, as if it isn’t obvious, one civilization is not necessary like another, not even in the same historical era. This is especially so when it comes to the Minoan civilization – and to a very large extent to its cousin, the Mycenaean, versus all others at the time, since clearly the socio-cultural, architectural and artistic defining characteristics of the former (Minoan/Mycenaean) were largely very much at odds with those of the latter, (Egypt, Babylon, Assyria etc.), much more ostentatious than the Minoans... except for one thing...

We are still left with the question of medium. If the Minoans, writing in Linear A and later in Linear B, did have a literature, and let us assume for the sake of argument that they did, which medium would they have used? Before I get right down to that, allow me to point out the Knossos was, as it were, the New York City of the Bronze Age, the metropolis at the very hub of all international trade and commerce on the Mediterranean Sea. All you need to do is look at any map of the Mediterranean, and you can see at a glance that Knossos was located smack dab in the centre of all trade routes to all other great civilizations of her day and age, as we quite clearly see on this composite map: Click to ENLARGE

Minoan Trade Routes 1600-1400 BCE

Is it any wonder that no-one was particularly bent on attacking her, or any other city on the island of Crete, such as Phaistos, since after all everyone everywhere strictly depended on Knossos as the very nexus of international trade? No wonder the city was never fortified. This pretty much how Knossos looked at her height: Click to ENLARGE

role-of-knossos-in-the-trojan-war-according-to-homer

No walls or fortifications of any kind in evidence! That alone is a very powerful indicator of the critical commercial value of Knossos as the very hub of international commerce in her era. But more than anywhere else, the archaeological evidence powerfully evinces a very close trade relationship between Knossos and Egypt, since Minoan jewelry, textiles, pottery and wares have shown up in considerable amounts – sometimes even hordes - in Egyptian archaeological sites. The Egyptians clearly placed extreme value on Minoan goods, as exquisitely crafted as they were. So what? - I hear you exclaim.

So what indeed. These major trading partners each must have had something to trade with the other that the other was in desperate need of. And in the case of Knossos and the Minoans, the Egyptian commodity they would probably have needed most of all would be, you have it, papyrus. The Cretan climate was not dry enough for them to produce it themselves. So they would have had to rely exclusively on Egypt for what was, after all, one of the most precious commodities of the entire Bronze Age.

If we accept this hypothesis – and I see no reason why we should not at least seriously entertain it – then the Minoans may very well have used papyrus and ink to record their religious literature. There is some evidence, however second-hand and circumstantial, that they may have composed religious texts, and possibly even a religious epic, on papyrus.

This evidence, although only secondary, if we are inclined to accept it as such – is the high incidence of the names of Minoan and Mycenaean deities and priestesses, and even of religious rites, on the Linear B accounting and inventory tablets from Pylos, over all other Minoan/Mycenaean sites. Why on earth even bother mentioning the names of so many gods so frequently on minuscule tablets otherwise dealing almost exclusively with anything as boring – yet naturally economically vital - as statistics and inventories of livestock, crops, military equipment, vases and pottery, and the like? There was nothing economically useful about religious rites or babbling on about deities. So why bother, unless it was a matter of real significance to the Minoans and Mycenaeans? But ostensibly, it was. Chuck economics, at least where religion is concerned, they apparently believed. This cannot come as any surprise in the ancient world, and of course, in the Bronze Age itself, where religions and superstitious beliefs were rampant, playing an enormous and absolutely essential rôle in virtually every civilization, every society, great or small. This composite of Minoan/Mycenaean deities, which were were found in droves on every single Minoan/Mycenaean site, makes this blatantly obvious: Click to ENLARGE 

Minoan goddesses TOP Mycenaean goddesses B

(d) The implications of a putative Minoan & Mycenaean military literature in The Catalogue of Ships in Book II of the Iliad: 
  
Given this scenario, I am seriously inclined to believe that not only did the Minoan and Mycenaean scribes writing in Linear B (leaving Minoan Linear A aside for the time being) keep track of religious rites, and possibly even compose a creation myth of their own on papyrus, but that they may very well have also written down a stripped down written version of their oral military epic, their own story of the Trojan War, and if so, the most accurate version of the events of that war. Their original history of the Trojan war would have almost certainly been much more factual than the version of The Catalogue of Ships in Book II of The Iliad, which must have been derived from it, had it existed. This would go a long way to explaining why the Greek of The Catalogue of Ships in Book II of The Iliad is written in the most archaic, and the most-Mycenaean like Greek in the entire Iliad – not to say that Mycenaean Greek does not appear elsewhere in both the Iliad and the Odyssey, because, surprise, surprise, it most certainly does.  

There is one passage in The Catalogue of Ships which really brings this sort of scenario to the fore. I refer specifically to lines 645-652, which read as follows in the original Greek and in my translation: Click to ENLARGE

Iliad II Catalogue of Ships Role of Knossos and Crete in the Trojan Wariliad-2-615-652 (1)

It is passingly strange that Homer bluntly states, in no uncertain terms, that Knossos and Crete were major contributors to the Achaean fleet in the Trojan War, since everyone these days, archaeologists and literati alike, assume without question that Knossos fell long before the Trojan War (ca. 1450-1425 BCE). So who is right?  Homer? - us? -anyone? How on earth can we resolve the blatant discrepancy? We cannot, nor shall we ever. But the fact remains that this extremely important passage in The Catalogue of Ships in Book II of The Iliad leaves me quite unsettled. Since Homer is obviously convinced that Knossos and some 100(!) Cretan cities did figure prominently in the Trojan War, where on earth did he get his information from? I for one believe it is quite conceivable that rewrites on papyrus of some Minoan documents from Knossos and possibly even Phaistos may still have been in existence when Homer wrote the Iliad, or that at least stories of their prior existence were still in circulation. If you think correlatively as I always do, this hypothesis cannot simply be dismissed out of hand.

For my in-depth discussion of this very important question, please refer to this post:

RipleyBelieveitorNot Knossos in the Trojan War

(e) If the Minoans and Mycenaeans wrote some sort of religious and/military literature of their own on papyrus, there is absolutely no evidence that they did! 

This leaves us with only one final consideration. If the Minoans and Mycenaeans actually did compose documents on papyrus, where are they all? The answer to that stares us in the face. While the scribes would have taken great pains to assiduously preserve documents on papyrus in dry storage while the city of Knossos was still flourishing, these same documents would all have rotted away entirely and in no time flat, once Knossos and the Minoan civilization had collapsed. Crete was not Egypt. Egypt’s climate was bone dry; the climate of Crete was, and still is, Mediterranean. Ergo, the whole argument against the Minoans and Mycenaeans ever having had a literature of their own, composed on papyrus scrolls is de natura sua tautological, as is the argument they did. 50/50. Take your choice. But since I am never one to leave no stone unturned, I much prefer the latter scenario.

NOTE: This post took me over 8 (!) hours to compile. So I would appreciate if at least some of you would tag it LIKE, comment on it, or better still, reblog it!
For all the intense work Rita and I put into this great blog of ours, it often shocks me that so few people seem to take much interest in some of our most compelling posts. I am merely letting you know how I feel. Thanks so much. 


Richard

  


CONTEST QUIZ & LOVELY BOOK PRIZES! Are these statuettes of the Mistress of the Hunt, Zeus & the Priestess of the Winds? Click to ENLARGE:

Potnia Theron Diwo Anemoieriya
NOTE that this POST is classified under the heading MEDIA at the top of this blog. If you click on MEDIA, you will find it much faster than if you simply try scrolling through the hundreds of posts on our blog.

It is quite possible that these 3 statuettes are, from left to right, (a) Potnia Theron (Mistress of the Hunt), (b) DIWO (in Mycenaean Greek) or ZEUS & (c) ANEMOIYEREA (The Minoan Mycenaean Priestess of the Winds). For more on the Priestess of the Winds, click on this BANNER:
 
POST Anemoiyerea
But they may not be. Who is to say, if not you yourself? So why not tell us, and we will let you know if you are right. Moreover, if you get the answer EXACTLY right, you will win FIRST PRIZE of a fine edition of W. Ceram’s Gods, Graves and Scholars, and if you get the closest answer to the FIRST PRIZE winning answer, your SECOND PRIZE is another fine book on The Minoans. See below for details.

HOW TO ENTER THE CONTEST: It is simple. Answer any of questions (a) to (d) below as you see fit.

To reply with your answer, you may either:
(a) leave your reply in the Comments section for this post; or
(b) send me your answer to either of my e-mail accounts:

vallance22@gmail.com

OR

vallance22@gmx.com

(Since I must protect myself from spammers, these e-mail links are not live in this post.
You must add my e-mail address to your address book.)

THIS CONTEST QUIZ IS OPEN UNTIL JULY 1 2015.

Good luck!  

HOW I FOUND THESE AMAZING STATUETTES!     

While watching a truly fascinating TV program this morning, I happened to see these three statuettes, which I instantly recognized as quite possibly being dated anywhere from the late Bronze Age to the early Iron Age (ca. 1300-800 BCE). Just one look at them, and you can see for yourselves that they could easily date from within these five centuries. But the question is, do they, and if they do not, what are they? Do not kid yourself, this is an extremely tricky quiz question, because, unless you have actually seen the program yourself and you recognized them flash across the screen, then you cannot possibly know the answer. However, to be fair, I shall give everyone out there, whether or not you are an expert in ancient Greek archaeology, an historian of ancient Greece, or an aficionado of all things ancient, more than an even break to guess the right answer... and there is only one. 

THIS QUIZ IS SO DIFFICULT IT IS OPEN TO EVERYONE, EVEN MY CO-RESIDENT BLOGGER, RITA ROBERTS.

Answer these questions as you see fit:
(a) Are these statuettes genuine ancient Greek artifacts, Minoan, Mycenaean or early Iron Age? OR
(b) If not, are statuettes from another ancient civilization, and if, so, which one? OR
(c) Are these statuettes fake? AND
(d) If they are fake, precisely what are they? If you believe (c) to be true, then you must answer (d) precisely, i.e. you must identify exactly what these statuettes are and the actual name of the program from which they are derived. The only way anyone can get this last option (d) correct is if you have actually seen the program in question, and even then, I my be leading you astray. In other words, either (a) or (b) may be the right answer, or on the other hand (c) and (d). YOU DECIDE.

There are two beautiful prizes to be won:
FIRST PRIZE: for the person who tells me precisely what they are, down to the very last detail, providing the actual names of each statute in turn, AND the name of the TV program where I found them, this magnificent volume:

Ceram, C.W. Gods, Graves, and Scholars: the Story of Archaeology. London: the Folio Society, © 1999. xxx, 528 pp. Illustrated with full colour and black & white plates. Bound in full buckram, printed on Inveresk Wove paper by the Bath Press.
Approximate Value: $80

Ceram Gods Graves and Scholars Folio
 
SECOND PRIZE: for the person who tells me gets the closest to the answer for the first PRIZE, down to the very last detail, providing the actual names of each statute in turn, but missing out on only one or two details, this splendid book: 

Fitton, J. Lesley. The Minoans. London: the Folio Society, © 2004. xix, 392 pp. Illustrated with full colour and black & white plates. Bound in full cloth, printed on Abbey Wove paper by Cambridge University Press. Approximate Value: $65

Fitton Minoans Folio

NOTE: IF YOU STILL HAVE ANY QUESTIONS OR ARE IN ANY WAY UNSURE HOW TO ANSWER THE QUESTION, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME IN COMMENTS HERE ON THE BLOG OR BY E-MAIL.


Richard


2 photos of goddesses & pottery in the museum at Mycenae I took in May 2012:

Click to ENLARGE:

These are of the Mycenaean Earth goddess, possibly also called Pipituna, and possibly equivalent to Erinu = Erinys mentioned in Knossos fragment KN 390J f 21, ERINU, the Avenging Deity:

Mycenaean Earth Goddesses Mycenae Museum May 3 2012


Click to ENLARGE:

Mycenaean pottery pitchers and bowls, Mycenae Museum May 3 2012

Mycenaean pottery, pitchers and bowls

Richard

2 photos of goddesses & pottery in the museum at Mycenae I took in May 2012:

Click to ENLARGE:

Mycenaean Earth Goddesses Mycenae Museum May 3 2012

These are of the Mycenaean Earth goddess, possibly also called Pipituna, and possibly equivalent to Erinu = Erinys mentioned in Knossos fragment KN 390J f 21, ERINU, the Avenging Deity, here:

https://linearbknossosmycenae.wordpress.com/2014/07/29/knossos-tablet-kn-390-j-f-21-erinu-the-avenging-deity-is-she-the-minoan-snake-goddess/   

Click to ENLARGE:

Mycenaean pottery pitchers and bowls, Mycenae Museum May 3 2012

Mycenaean pottery, pitchers and bowls

Richard

A blazing hot summer haiku in Linear B: The golden lion, Potnia Mistress of the Wild and... (Click to ENLARGE):

haikpotniatherolioninthesundeath

I think this ferocity of this haiku speaks for itself.  But who dies, the hunter or the lion? And does Potnia Therion, The Mistress of the Wild Beasts, really care that much who does, any more than any of the other great gods of Olympus were to care in later centuries about humans and their paltry world? She holds two snakes. Death can go either way.

Richard
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