Tag Archive: hieroglyphics



CRITICAL POST: Ancient words from 3,000 – 1,200 BCE in modern English:

First the ancient words in modern English, and in the next two posts, how words infiltrate from earlier to diachronically close later languages. These posts are real eye-openers, explaining how words from earlier languages trickle into later, e.g. Akkadian and Sanskrit into Linear A (Minon) and Linear B (Mycenaean) + how all of the ancient words here infiltrate English.

Akkadian/Assyrian (3,000 BCE):

Akkadian

babel babilu = Babylon; gate of God (Akkadian)

bdellium budulhu = pieces (Assyrian)

canon, canyon qanu = tube, reed (Assyrian)

cumin kumunu = carrot family plant (Akkadian)

natron sodium (Akkadian)

myrrh murru (Akkadian)

sack saqqu (Akkadian)

shalom = hello sholom/shlama = hello (also Hebrew)

souk saqu = narrow (Akkadian)

Semitic (2,000-1,000 BCE):

arbiter arbiter (Latin from Phoenician)

byssus bwtz = linen cloth, to be white (Semitic)

chemise gms = garment (Ugaritic)

deltoid dalt (Phoenician)

fig pag (paleo-Hebrew)

iotacism iota (Phoenician)

map (Phoenician)

mat matta (Phoenician)

shekel tql (Canaanite)

Egyptian (2690 BCE):

Egyptian-Papyrus 19k BCE

http://www.egyptologyforum.org/AEloans.html

adobe

alabaster

alchemy

ammonia

baboon 5

barge, bark, barque, to embark

basalt

behemoth

bocal

chemistry 10

copt, coptic

desert

Egypt

ebony

endive 15

gum

gypsy

ibis

ivory

lily 20

oasis

obelisk

manna

mummy

myth 25

papyrus

paper

pharaoh

pharmacy

phoenix 30

pitcher

pyramid

sack See also saqqu (Akkadian)

sash

Susan(na), Phineas, Moses, Potiphar, Potiphera 35

sphinx

stibium = eye paint

tart

uraeus (emblem on the headdress of the pharaoh)39

Sanskrit (2,000 BCE):

Sanskrit

aniline nili (Sanskrit)

Aryan aryas = noble, honourable

atoll antala

aubergine vātigagama = eggplant, aubergine

avatar avatara = descent

bandana bandhana = a bond

banyan vaṇij = merchant

basmati vasa

beryl vaidūrya (Sanskrit, Dravidian)

bhakti bhakti = portion

candy khaṇḍakaḥ, from khaṇḍaḥ = piece, fragment

cashmere shawl made of cashmere wool

cheetah chitras = uniquely marked

chintz chitras = clear, bright

cot khatva

cobra kharparah = skull

crimson krmija = red dye produced by a worm

crocus kunkunam = saffron, saffron yellow

datura dhattūrāh = a kind of flowering plant

dinghy dronam = tiny boat

ginger srngaveram, from srngam “horn” + vera = body

guar gopali = annual legume

gunny goni = sack

guru gurus = bachelor

jackal srgalah = the howler

Java/java = island/coffee Yavadvipa= Island of Barley, from yava

= barley + dvipa =island

juggernaut jagat-natha-s = lord of the world

jungle jangala = arid

jute jutas = twisted hair

karma karman = action

kermes kṛmija = worm-made

lacquer lākṣā

lilac nila = dark blue

loot lotam = he steals

mandala mandala = circle

mandarin mantri = an advisor

mantra mantras = holy message or text

maya maya = illusion

Mithras mitrah = friend

mugger makara = sea creature, crocodile

musk mus = mouse

nard naladam = nard

nirvanas nirvanas = extinction, blowing out (candle)

opal upalah = opal

orange narangas = orange tree

pal bhrata = brother

palanquin palyanka = bed, couch

panther pāṇḍara = pale

pepper pippali = long pepper

punch pancha = drink from alcohol, sugar, lemon, water,

tea or spices

pundit paṇdita =learned

rajah rajan = king

rice vrihi-s = rice, derived from proto-Dravidian

rupee rūpyakam =silver coin

saccharin sarkarā

sandal wood candanam = wood for burning incense

sapphire sanipriya = sacred to Shani (Sanskrit) = Greek,

Saturn

sari sati = garment

shawl sati = strip of cloth

sugar sharkara = ground sugar

swami svami = master

tank tadaga-m =pond, lake pool, large artificial

container for liquid

thug sthaga = scoundrel

tope stupah

yoga yogas = yoke, union

yogi yogin = one who practices yoga, ascetic

zen dhyana = meditation

Linear A (1,800-1,500 BCE):

linear a tablet kh5 khania

cedar keda = cedar

cumin kuminaqe = and cumin See also Linear B kumino

kumi/non Cf. kumunu = carrot family plant

(Akkadian)

lily rairi (also Egyptian) -or- nila = dark blue

(Sanskrit)

pimento			pimata = pimento
rose				rosa  = rose 
sack				saka sa/kka  <- sa/kkoj = coarse cloth of hair from 
				goats; sackcloth -or- sa/ka <- sa/koj a shield made
				of wicker See also saqqu = sack (Akkadian)

Linear A & Linear B (1,800-1,200 BCE):

Linear B tablet with ideogram

agriculture akara/akaru a1kra (arch. acc.) – or – = end, border

+ akaru a0gro/j = field Cf. Linear B akoro a0gro/j

democracy		dima/dimaru dh=maj <- dh=moj = land, country;
				people Cf. Linear B	damo = village da=moj
				Mother goddess of Mount Ida	Idamate/Idamete
				  0Idama/te
Rhea, goddess of Mount Ida Idarea  0Idar9ea 
healer			ijate i0a/ter = doctor, physician Cf. Linear iyate
				i0a/ter
calligraphy		karu = ka/llu <- ka/lloj = beautiful, fine,
				ornamental
copper			kaki/kaku xalku/ <- xalko/j = copper, bronze
crimson			punikaso funi/kasoj = crimson, red (of wine)
				Cf. Linear B ponikiya ponikiyo foini/kioj
				= crimson Cf. krmija = red dye produced by a
				worm (Sanskrit)
crocus			kuruku kro/koj = crocus, saffron Cf. crocus
				kunkunam = saffron, saffron yellow (Sanskrit)
Lykinthos			Rukito Cf. Linear B Rukito Lu/kinqoj
minth			mita mi/nqa = mint Cf. Linear B mita 
nard				naridi na/ridi <- na/rdoj = with nard. See also
				naladam (Sanskrit)
new				nea ne/a (feminine) = new Cf. Linear B ne/#a = new     
pistachio-nut		pitakase/pitakesi pista/kesi = with pistachio-nuts
				(instr. pl.) 
Phoenician		punikaso funi/kasoj = crimson, red (of wine)
				Cf. Linear B ponikiya ponikiyo foini/kioj
				= crimson Cf. krmija = red dye produced by a
				worm (Sanskrit)
Phaistos			Paito Faisto/j Cf. Linear Paito 
Rhea			rea r9e/a = goddess, Rhea
sack				saka sa/kka (arch. acc.) <- sa/kkoj = coarse cloth of
				hair from goats; sackcloth -or- sa/ka <- sa/koj
				a shield made of wicker Cf. See also
				saqqu (Akkadian)
sesame			sasame sasa/me = sesame Cf. Linear B sasa/ma
terebinth tree		tarawita = terebinth tree Cf. Linear B kitano 
				ki/rtanoj & timito ti/rminqoj 
thalassian		tarasa = sea Cf. Linear B tarasa qa/lassa
thorax			toraka  qw/rac  = breastplate, cuirass = Linear B
				toraka
throne			turunu qo/rnoj = throne Cf. Linear B torono
				qo/rnoj
wine 			winu  #i/nu = wine Cf. Linear B wono = wine, vine
				#oi/noj
wine dedicated to Mother Earth winumatari NM #i/numa/tari = wine
				dedicated	to Mother Earth
yoked			zokutu zogutu/ <- zogwto/j = yoked, with a cross-		
				bar 
zone				zuma zw=ma girdle, belt; girded tunic 

Mycenaean Linear B (1,600-1,200 BCE):

aeon eo e0wn = being

anemometer anemo a0ne/mwn = wind

angel akero a0ngge/loj = messenger

agora akora a0gora/ = market

axles akosone a1conej = axles

amphorae aporowe a0mfore#ej

armaments amota a3rmo/ta = chariot

anthropology atoroqo a0nqrw/poj = man, human being

aulos (musical instrument)auro a0ulo/j = flute, musical instrument

cardamon kadamiya kardami/a = cardamon

celery serino se/linon = celery

chiton kito xitw/n = chiton

circular kukereu kukleu/j = circle

coriander koriyadana koli/adna

cumin kumino kum/minon Cf. kumunu = carrot family plant

(Akkadian)

curator korete kore/ter = governor

cypress kuparo ku/pairoj

divine diwo Di/#oj = Zeus

duo dwo du#o/ = two

elephant erepa e0le/faj = ivory (in Mycenaean)

eremite eremo e1remoj = desert

foal poro pw/loj = foal

gynecology kunaya gunai/a = woman

heterosexual hatero a3teroj e3teroj = other

hippodrome iqo i3ppoj = horse

labyrinth dapuritoyo = labyrinth laburi/nqoj

linen rino li/non

lion rewo le/#wn = lion

mariner marineu marineu/j = sailor, mariner

maternal matere ma/ter = mother

Mesopotamia Mesopotomo Mesopota/moj = Mesopotamia

metropolis matoropuro matro/puloj = mother city

nautical nao nau/j = ship

non-operational noopere nwfe/lioj = useless

operation opero o1feloj = operation

paternal pate pa/ter = father

paramedic 		para para\ = beside, from beside, by the side of,
				beyond etc.
pharmaceutical	pamako fa/rmakon = medicine
polypod			porupode polu/pode polu/pouj = octopus
progressive		poro pro\ = in front of 
purple			popureyo pofurei/a = purple
quartet			qetoro tetta/rej = four

schinus kono skoi/noj (flowering pepper)

strategic tatakeu startageu/j = general

stylobate			tatamo staqmo/j = standing post, door post
temenos			temeno (piece of land assigned as an official
				domain (to royalty)
theological		teo qe/oj = god
trapeze			topeza to/rpeza tra/peza = table
tripod			tiripode tri/pwj = tripod
vision			wide #ei/de = to see 
xenophobic		kesenuwiyo ce/n#ioj = stranger

© by Richard Vallance Janke 2017


Cretan pictograms – the first 14: the origins of syllabograms:

syllabary like Cretan pictograms

Cretan pictograms – the first 14: the origins of syllabograms:

There are 14 Cretan syllabary-like pictograms, most of which look like primitive syllabograms in Linear A, but almost certainly are not syllabograms. But all of them but one (the crescent moon on its side) are (almost) identical to the Linear A syllabograms A, DA, DI, NI, NU, RU, QE, SE, TA, TE and TU. But it is without a shadow of a doubt a mistake to identify any of them as syllabograms as such. They are the primordial templates of the latter.

In my previous posts on Cretan pictograms, I asserted that there were only 45 of them. That was a grievous mistake. I was way off the mark. Upon close examination of all of the Cretan pictograms so meticulously identified by Sir Arthur Evans in Scripta Minoa (1909, 1952), I discovered to my amazement that there are around 200 of them, exclusive of numerics, which have been successfully deciphered by Evans. From here on in, all posts on Cretan pictograms, whether (possibly/probably/definitely) known or unknown, i.e indecipherable, will be numbered sequentially until the absolute total of them all is reached. As we can see, the first 14 are those which look like Linear A syllabograms. In the next post, I shall introduce the Cretan pictograms for crops, which number sequentially from 15 to 23. Subsequent posts will identify Cretan pictograms from 24 onward.

In spite of the fact that many researchers call Cretan pictograms hieroglyphs, they simply cannot be, since 200 is far too small a figure for hieroglyphics or for scripts like Cuneiform. Both of the latter contain at least 1,000 figures or characters. This clearly disqualifies Cretan pictograms as hieroglyphs. In 1909 Sir Arthur Evans correctly identified them as pictograms right from the outside, and his conclusions are sound.


How can so-called Cretan hieroglyphs be hieroglyphs when there are only 45 of them?

Until now most researchers have simply assumed that the 45 Cretan symbols (by my count), exclusive of numerics, must be hieroglyphs. But the evidence appears to gainsay this hypothesis. As the table below makes quite clear, there are only 45 Cretan symbols, to which

only 27 may possibly/probably/definitely be assigned meanings.

possible or probable or definite known Cretan hieroglyphs

The significance of the remaining 18 are currently beyond the bounds of decipherment:

ALL unknown Cretan seal symbols

So this lands us with a total of only 45 Cretan symbols. If and when we compare this number with the approximately 1,000 Egyptian hieroglyphs, the whole notion that the Cretan symbols are hieroglyphs comes apart at the seams and is shattered.

sample of 1000 Egyptian hieroglyphs

And that is not the end of it. There are anywhere between 600 and 1,000 symbols in Cuneiform.

akkadianpersiansumeriancuneiform1kto600

So once again, the massive proliferation of symbols, i.e. hieroglyphs, in Egyptian, and of symbols in Cuneiform make a mockery of the notion that the Cretan symbols are hieroglyphs. But if they are not hieroglyphs, what are they? It would appear that they are ideograms or logograms on seals and nodules which serve to tag the contents of the (papyrus) documents they seal. This hypothesis makes a lot of sense, since almost all Cretans and Minoans, administrators, merchants and consumer, were illiterate. These people were probably able to master the minimal number of 45 ideograms and logograms which we find on 100s of surviving seals. But while the illiterate hoy polloi could not read the script on the sealed papyrus (or leaf tablets sometimes), the scribes most definitely could. This leaves us open to yet another hypothetical question? What is the script of the texts? How many symbols or syllabograms (if the latter yet existed) would have been required to write the papyrus or inscribe the leaf tablets? Was this script, if script it was, an early form of Linear A, such as Festive Linear A? Or was it actually Linear A? This question or hypothesis demands further investigation.


RE Cretan “hieroglyphs”: Brewminate: a Bold Blend of News & Ideas: We're Never Far from Where we Were:
Form Follows Function: Writing and its Supports in the Aegean Bronze Age 
by Dr. Sarah Finlayson, Archaeologist/Historian
Posted March 29 2017

Brewinmate


form follows function writing in the Aegean Bronze Age

Excerpta from the source with COMMENTS by Richard Vallance Janke inserted where necessary:

...a starting point from which to unpick the complex and changing relationships between writing and its material supports during the Aegean Bronze Age, [is] the basic hypothesis that the shape of objects which bear writing, the Bronze Age ‘office stationery’ so to speak, derives from the use to which they, object + writing, are put and the shape changes as this purpose changes. 

COMMENT:

The shapes of incised objects (exograms) derive from the uses to which they are put. In other words, if the exograms, which, contrary to popular belief, are not hieroglyphs, change not only their form (i.e. shape) but have specific shapes tailored to the functions they perform. For this reason, among others, I cannot accept the hypothesis that they are hieroglyphs. They appear rather to be ideograms and logograms specifically designed to represent the contents of “packages” or “official documents”, sometimes apparently written on papyrus, and therefore subsequently lost due to the climate of Crete which as not conducive to the preservation of papyrus. What the exograms were which were inscribed on the lost documents for which the clay forms served as content indicators we shall never know, but chances are that the papyrus contents were written in Linear A. The incised objects, and I quote, “noduli, flat-based sealings, cones, medallions, labels, three- and four-sided bars, and tablets” specifically served as incised “subject headings” for the contents on papyrus which they represented. Since most people in the palace administration in the Minoan era in which Linear A was the standard syllabary were illiterate, the so-called Cretan “hieroglyphs”, of which there only 45 by my count, exclusive of numerics, served as ideogrammatic guideline markers for the contents of the documents which were once attached to them. Illiterate people could “read” ideograms; they could not read Linear A.  (all italics mine throughout this post)

Finlayson continues:      

The clay documents comprise crescents (all terms are defined below), noduli, flat-based sealings, cones, medallions, labels, three- and four-sided bars, and tablets (Olivier and Godart 1996: 10–11; Younger 1996–1997: 396). There are also substantial numbers of direct object sealings, which show seal impressions but no incised writing (Krzyszkowska 2005: 99).

COMMENT:

The “substantial numbers of direct object sealings” are seal impressions without incised writing because the contents, probably written and not incised on papyrus, which they seal have been lost forever. Thus, the script in which the actual sealed documents has been lost. But what was that script? Was it more of the same? ... Cretan “hieroglyphs”? I very much doubt that, because not a single Cretan seal can be read as syllabic text in a syllabary. What script was the writing on papyrus of the sealed documents? That is the whole point, and the whole mystery. Could it have been an early version  of Linear A, a.ka. as Festive Linear A? Quite possibly.

Finlayson continues:      

Easier to understand are the gable-shaped hanging nodules (Figure 3d). These sealings are carefully shaped around a knotted string, and carry a seal impression on one face (Krzyszkowska 2005: 280). The majority are uninscribed (only 22 out of the 164 sealings from Pylos carry an inscription), but on those examples with incised text, an ideogram is usually written over the seal impression, and additional sign-groups can appear on the other faces (Palaima 2003: 174; Krzyszkowska 2005: 280). Analysis of the cache of 60 nodules from Thebes, 56 of which have inscriptions, has enabled a convincing reconstruction of their use. The gable shape of the nodules results from the way the clay is held between the fingers while impressing the seal and writing the inscription (Piteros et al. 1990: 113). This shape, together with its suspension cord, give (sic) a small, solid, virtually indestructible and very portable document (Piteros et al. 1990: 183). In this instance, form does not strictly follow function, but rather the two aspects are intertwined in a more complex way. A key part of these documents’ function is their portability, and this governs their very small size, which in turn means only the most important information is recorded, namely the seal impression, the ideogram which identifies the goods, and, rarely, a small amount of additional data, such as anthroponyms, toponyms, transactional terms (Piteros et al. 1990: 177). The formula ‘personal name (here represented by the seal impression) + object + toponym / second personal name’ is equivalent to that recorded on the ‘palm-leaf ’ tablets. Numerals are rare, because that information is supplied by the object itself. It is suggested that each nodule accompanies a single item, mostly livestock in the Theban examples, from the hinterland into the palatial centre, with the nodule acting as a primary document, recording the most crucial information about its object, the sex of the animal, for example, and also certifying or authenticating, by the seal impression, who is responsible for it (probably in the sense of ‘owing’ the item to the palace; Piteros et al. 1990: 183–184). 

It is important to note, however, that, except at Thebes, there are considerably fewer inscribed than uninscribed nodules. Sealings of this type would therefore seem to be primarily recording instruments within transactions that do not require the use of writing (Palaima 2003: 174), although this is not incompatible with their being primary documents as described above.

So few noduli survive that it is difficult to understand how they functioned (Krzyszkowska 2005: 284). I discuss this form below as they are significantly more common in LA administration. (Italics by Richard Vallance Janke)


Roundels (Figure 2c) are clay disks with one or more seal impressions around their rim, and usually with a LA inscription on one or both faces, but with no trace of having been hung from or pressed against another object (Hallager 1996: 82). The number of seal impressions on the rim probably specifies the quantity of the commodity recorded in the inscription (livestock, agricultural produce, cloth, vessels and so on), with each impression representing one unit (Hallager 1996: 100–101, 113). Analysis of impressions and inscriptions suggests that at least two people made a roundel, one wielding the seal and another, the stylus (Hallager 1996: 112). These two factors have led to the interpretation of these documents as receipts, created and held by the central administration to record goods disbursed; the seal user would be the recipient, certifying with his or her impression the quantity of goods received (Hallager 1996: 116). Significantly, the physical limitations of these documents necessarily restrict the size of transactions, with 15 units being the largest amount attested (Palaima 1990: 92).

COMMENT on the sentence “a roundel, one wielding the seal and another, the stylus (Hallager 1996: 112). These two factors have led to the interpretation of these documents as receipts, created and held by the central administration to record goods disbursed; the seal user would be the recipient, certifying with his or her impression the quantity of goods received...”

In other words, the actual contents of the documents (apparently written with a stylus on papyrus) to which these seals were affixed may have been administrative receipts or possibly even inventories, in which case the contents of the documents were probably not written in so-called Cretan hieroglyphs, limited as these are to 45. And by 45 I mean 45 ideograms and logograms + additional numerics and nothing more than that. Given that these 45 signs never form any legible sentence or phrase, it is highly unlikely they would have been used for the writing of the contents on papyrus for which they serve as seals.

Finlayson continues:  

Noduli (Figure 2e), disk- or dome-shaped lumps of clay with a seal impression but no perforation, imprints of objects, or other visible means of fastening (“sealings that do not seal” [Weingarten 1986: 4]) are a very long-lasting document form, found from the early First Palace through to the Late Bronze Age, but they are particularly common in Second Palace Period LA administration, with around 130 examples known (Krzyszkowska 2005: 161; Weingarten 1990a: 17). Only eight have LA inscriptions or countermarks over the seal impression (Hallager 1996: 127). As they are clearly not attached to anything, noduli are independent documents, and their primary purpose seems to be to carry a seal impression, that is to authenticate or certify something. By analogy with Old Babylonian practice, Weingarten (1986: 18) suggests they are originally dockets, receipts for work done, with the seal impression being made by the overseer to authorise ‘payment’; as the form becomes more widespread in the Second Palace Period, they become more like tokens, to be exchanged for goods or services, or as laissez-passer, with the seal impression identifying the carrier as legitimate (Weingarten 1990a: 19–20).

COMMENT: 

The previous sentence, beginning with “By analogy...” and ending with “as legitimate” gives us a clearer impression the function(s) of the seals as these relate to the contents they seal. Old Babylonian tablets were incised or written in Cuneiform, which is a readable script meant for the eyes of literate scribes only. Note that the inventorial contents of the Babylonian tablets were clearly written out in Cuneiform. Although this practice is at variance with that of the Cretan seals, it still all boils down to the same thing. The actual contents of the documents to which the Cretan seals were affixed were written out in a language, possibly unknown, possibly Linear A. So in either case, the Babylonian or the Cretan, contents appear to be intended for literate scribes. 

Finlayson continues:    

Moving on to the ‘passive’ sealed documents, single-hole hanging nodules (Figure 2g) are roughly triangular clay sealings, formed around a knot at the end of a piece of string or cord (Hallager 1996: 160–161). They have a seal impression on one face, and a single incised LA sign, or very rarely another seal impression, on one of the other faces (Hallager 1996: 161). There are five sub- categories of single-hole nodule, differentiated by shape and position of seal impression or inscription (pendant, pyramid, cone, dome / gable and pear, see Figure 2g) with pendant being by far the most common (Hallager 1996: 162–163). About 13 signs or ligatures are found on these nodules, but it is very difficult to discern their meaning; the restricted range might suggest they are acting as arbitrary symbols, along the lines of ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, rather than as syllabograms (Krzyszkowska 2005: 160). These nodules hang from something, although there is no evidence for what (Krzyszkowska 2005: 160). Hallager has proposed a use similar to that observed in contemporary Egypt, where nodules were hung from rolls of papyrus as identification labels, with their cord threaded through holes in the lower part of the scroll to enable it to be unrolled and read without breaking the cord or sealed nodule (Hallager 1996: 198–199). 

COMMENTS:

Once again, the practice of Cretan using seals seems to be very similar if not identical to that of contemporary Egyptian hieroglyphic writing on papyrus, with the critical difference being that Egyptian hieroglyphs are writing, while Cretan seal ideograms are not. But the contents of the Cretan documents on papyrus were probably also written in a script, probably a syllabary, and possibly even (Festive) Linear A. But since the Cretan papyri are lost to history, we shall never know. Was there a “Cretan” script for the written documents on papyrus. It is notable that the Egyptian papyrus, once unsealed, was meant to read, again by literate scribes. Was this the Cretan practice too? Quite likely.

Finlayson continues:

The bars (Figure 1a) are usually rectangular, inscribed on all four sides, and sometimes pierced with a hole at one end (Hallager 1996: 33). That the bars could be suspended suggests they might be used as labels attached to objects for transport or storage, but the information on them seems to be much like that on the tablets, and, in fact, the unpierced examples are perhaps best understood as variants of the standard tablet format (Hallager 1996: 33). Olivier (1994–1995: 268–269) offers an intriguing alternative explanation, that the bars are not attached by cords to any object, but instead hang together on some sort of horizontal rod to enable them to be sorted and stored, or taken down when additional data are inscribed on them; he envisions the bars operating like the LB ‘palm-leaf ’ tablets, for compiling basic data. 

Returning now to LA administration, it seems that a link exists between the architectural context of deposits and their composition and function (Schoep 2002b: 25). Although few documents have been found in primary contexts, it is nevertheless possible to identify three commonly occurring groupings (Schoep 1995: 57). “Full combination deposits” always contain single-hole hanging nodules, alongside tablets and other sealings; as the single-hole nodules are postulated to hang from the highest-level records, on perishable materials, these deposits may be ‘archives’ (Schoep 1995: 61).

COMMENT:

These (sealed) documents may have been ‘archives’, and if they are, they were probably written out (on papyrus) but not in so-called Cretan hieroglyphs.

Finlayson continues:  

This seems to be supported by their location, in central buildings (including Malia Palace, Zakros House A, and the ‘villa’ at Ayia Triada), usually on an upper floor in residential quarters, clearly separated from storage or work areas, and by their association with valuable objects (Schoep 1995: 61, table 3, 62). ‘Single type deposits’ consist of direct object sealings, tablets or noduli, and most seem to be in the location in which they functioned; the direct object sealings are found in magazines suitable for bulk storage, as at Monastiraki, while tablet or noduli deposits can also occur in smaller-scale storage rooms, for example, Houses I, Chania or FG, Gournia (Schoep 1995: 62–63). “Limited combination deposits” fall somewhere in between; deposits from the ‘villa’ at Ayia Triada and Zakros Palace contain tablets and sealed documents, in workshop or storage areas, while other deposits contain only sealings, ...

In reviewing the evidence for LA use in the Second Palace Period, one gets an impression of a widespread use of writing on several media, and for several purposes, with either the writing support being manipulated to add meaning to the text (as with the clay administrative documents) or the other way around (as might be the case with some of the non-administrative objects).

COMMENT:

Finlayson notes that the the writing may have been manipulated to add meaning to the texts, in this case written on clay documents. She is making a clear distinction between the ideograms and logograms used on the seals themselves and the writing of the texts which they seal.

Finlayson continues:

Although examples of writing are relatively widespread in the landscape, this need not necessarily equate to widespread literacy, not least because it seems likely that writing is principally an elite activity, and furthermore, that restricted contexts of use possibly mean that ordinary, non-writing, people might well interact with only a single kind, or a small range, of documents, creating a sort of sub-category of literacy, where understanding part of a text’s meaning derives largely from the form of its support and context of use.  (all italics by the Commentator, Richard Vallance Janke).

COMMENT:

The passage above rams home that fact that literacy was not widespread. Quite the contrary. Only the scribes were literate. On the other hand, the form of the so-called Cretan hieroglyphs were accessible to non-literates, which was everyone except the scribes. That way, non-literate administrators, merchants, distributors of commodities and end users of these could identify what the purpose of what each and every seal represented, without having to be able to read the contents of documents per se.

Finlayson continues:   

Clearly, for some of the sealed document forms, the loss of whatever they were associated with means our understanding of their use cannot, without speculation, extend much beyond inferring that they hung from or were affixed to something. Generally, the taphonomy of writing in the Aegean is problematic, as we depend on it being applied to materials that are preserved archaeologically; in the case of clay documents that were not deliberately fired, this means accidental preservation in a wider burnt context (Bennet 2008: 6). There is then an inevitable risk that, in an effort to make up for the gaps in the evidence, particularly with CH and LA where we cannot read the texts, we rely too heavily on aspects like differences in form, which might be a reflection of our own ‘etic’ analyses rather than of different ancient practices (Bennet 2005: 269). “Classer, c’est interpréter” (Godart and Olivier 1979: xxiv) is a crucial principle for understanding a large and complex database at the macro scale, but runs the risk of misrepresenting, at the micro scale, differences in form that result from regional peculiarities of use, or are a function of the way different individuals form and seal or inscribe each shape, as seems likely, for example, for some of the variation amongst LA single-hole hanging nodules (Krzyszkowska 2005: 159–160). 

While these points must be borne in mind, it is nevertheless reasonable to suggest that the observable changes in document forms point to alterations in the methods of data gathering, processing and storing (Palaima 1984: 305). I would pick out two as particularly significant. The first is the bundle of changes in sealing practices between the First and Second Palace periods (i.e. between CH / limited LA use, and widespread LA use): direct object sealing is abandoned, suggesting, on the one hand, that the security of storerooms and their contents is managed differently, in a less physical way (Weingarten 1990b: 107–108), and, on the other, that direct control of commodities, by means of attaching sealings to them, is replaced by more indirect methods of controlling commodity information with hanging nodules and tablets (Knappett 2001: 86, n. 26). Furthermore, writing, with one exception, no longer appears on seals themselves, but from this point on is incised or painted rather than formed by stamping (Bennet 2008: 9–10). 

What drives these changes is difficult to evaluate, not least because we assume that changes in sealing systems are necessarily tied to changes in writing systems (and possibly language; Bennet 2005: 270).

COMMENT:

Key phrase “we assume”. Changes in sealing systems, from simple pictographic seals to seals incised in Cretan “hieroglyphs” and eventually to Linear A & B incised directly on the seals do not at all necessarily reflect any changes in the writing systems in which the actual documents (usually on papyrus) were written. That is a false assumption. Note here that Bennet specifically states that the writing systems sealed by the seals were probably independent of the figures or exograms found on the seals, these often being so-called Cretan hieroglyphs. The written language(s) of the document contents have have changed over time, but not necessarily in tune with the seals themselves. Point well taken.  

Palaima’s suggestion that LA replaces CH because the latter script is inadequate to record increasingly complex economic activities (1990: 94) is a case in point, and this sort of utilitarian motivation underestimates the potential for writing to be used for ideological reasons. The transition from CH to LA, and from LA to LB, can arguably be seen as part of a deliberate construction of new identities, through the manipulation of knowledge resources or material culture, by elite groups (ALL italics by the Commentator), seeking to differentiate themselves from their predecessors, or exclude others from participating in political or economic life (Bennet 2008: 20; Schoep 2007: 59). Knappett’s observation that, in seeking to look through artefacts to see “the people behind them”, and their motivations or choices, there is a tendency for the objects themselves to be reduced to mere ciphers or emblems of human activity (Knappett 2008b: 122), is also pertinent here. He suggests that more attention be paid to the agency of artefacts, to the possibility that things can “take on a life of their own, entangling humans and pushing them along new, previously unrecognised paths” (Knappett 2008b: 122); while ascribing agency to objects is problematic (Morphy 2009: 6), Knappett is nevertheless right to stress the complexity of the relationship between artefacts and their users. 

COMMENT:

Much more to follow in the upcoming posts on the uses of pictographs and so-called Cretan “hieroglyphic” seals.

Early Minoan hieroglyphic roundels and seals may lend some insight into the later development of the Linear A syllabary:

Minoan hieroglyphic writing

 

As illustrated above, early Minoan hieroglyphic roundels and seals may lend some insight into the later development of the Linear A syllabary. Notice that the the hieroglyphic for an axe or labrys looks remarkably like the Linear A and Linear B syllabogram for A, while the Y shaped hieroglyphic, whatever it is supposed to represent (and no one knows what), is similar to the Linear A syllabogram for SA. So it is conceivable, however remotely, that this hieroglyphic seal may actually read asa or saa, whichever way you read it (not that we have any idea what that is supposed to mean).Then we have the hieroglyphic marked with an asterisk (*). This looks very much like a vase, amphora or flask to hold wine, water or possibly even olive oil. There is another one which looks like a fish. That should not be too surprising, given that the ideogram for fish does appear on at least one extant Linear A fragment from Phaistos, as we have witnessed in a recent previous post. Finally, on the bottom line, the seal marked (f) bears a hieroglyphic which looks like a bat, and this in turn may very well be the antecedent to the Linear A syllabogram MA. But this hieroglyphic is not that of a bat, but rather of a cat, which we can see from the beautiful seal on the top left of the illustration. This is substantiated by the some of the variations in the scribal hands for Linear A MA, which indeed look like the visage of a cat, as we see here:

Linear A scribal hands for MA = cat

So I guess it is a cat.


A truly fascinating Cretan hieroglyphic tablet from Phaistos!

Cretan hieroglyphic tablet from Phaistos

I dare say I find this tablet one of the most intriguing I have ever run across. I is just jam packed with information! I have done my best to decipher at least a little of it. .5 is probably the earliest version for the later-to-become ideogram for “roasted einkorn wheat”. Likewise .8 is almost certainly the primordial ideogram for “figs”. I have also provided the translation for the word “figs” in Old Minoan. It is either nire (singular nira2=nirae) or nite (singular nita2=nitai). It can only be one or other of these 2 options. I was the first person ever to successfully decipher the Old Minoan word for “figs” several months ago.


Knossos clay bar P103, Cretan hieroglyphics, predating Linear A:

Knossos clar bar P103 Cretan hieroglyphics

While some of the signs on this clay bar resemble Linear A syllabograms and ideograms, the meaning of almost all of them is entirely a mystery. However, .3 looks like the Linear A & B ideogram for “hide/leather/fleece” .4 probably represents wheat .5 so strongly resembles the Linear A ideogram for “olives/olive tree” that I take it to signify just that. .7 looks like the Linear A ideogram for “bull/ox(en)”. Except for the numerics, the rest is indecipherable. 


Cretan hieroglyphic seals (Middle Minoan I & II, ca. 2100-1700 BCE):

Cretan hieroglyphic seals

On the first of these seals there appear 4 ideograms (?) which appear to be precursors of Minoan Linear A syllabograms, but there is no way of knowing whether or not this is the case.



The path towards a partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A: a rational approach: PART A

Before May 2016, I would never have even imagined or dared to make the slightest effort to try to decipher Minoan Linear A, even partially. After all, no one in the past 116 years since Sir Arthur Evans began excavating the site of Knossos, unearthing thousands of Mycenaean Linear A tablets and fragments, and a couple of hundred Minoan Linear A tablets and fragments (mostly the latter), no one has even come close to deciphering Minoan Linear, in spite of the fact that quite a few people have valiantly tried, without any real success. Among those who have claimed to have successfully deciphered Linear A, we may count:

Sam Connolly, with his book:

Sam Connolly Beaking the Code Linear A

Where he claims, “Has the lost ancient language behind Linear A finally been identified? Read this book and judge for yourself”. 

Stuart L. Harris, who has just published his book (2016):

Sam Harris Linear A decipherment

basing his decipherment on the notion that Minoan Linear A is somehow related to Finnish, an idea which I myself once entertained, but swiftly dismissed,, having scanned through at least 25 Finnish words which should have matched up with at least 150 Minoan Linear A words. Not a single one did. So much for Finnish. I was finished with it.

and Gretchen Leonhardt

Konosos


who bases her decipherments of Minoan Linear A tablets on the ludicrous notion that Minoan Linear A is closely related to Japanese! That is a real stretch of the imagination, in light of the fact that the two languages could not be more distant or remote in any manner of speaking. But this is hardly surprising, given that her notions or, to put it bluntly, her hypothesis underlying her attempted decipherments of Mycenaean Linear B tablets is equally bizarre.

I wind up with this apropos observation drawn from Ms. Leonhardt’s site:    If a Minoan version of a Rosetta Stone pops up . . , watch public interest rise tenfold. ‘Minoa-mania’ anyone?”. Glen Gordon, February 2007 Journey to Ancient Civilizations.

Which begs the question, who am I to dare claim that I have actually been able to decipher no fewer than 90 Minoan Linear A words

Minoan Linear A Glossary


since I first ventured out on the perilous task of attempting such a risky undertaking. Before taking even a single step further, I wish to emphatically stress that I do not claim to be deciphering Minoan Linear A. Such a claim is exceedingly rash. What I claim is that I seem to be on track to a partial decipherment of the language, based on 5 principles of rational decipherment which will be enumerated in Part B. Still, how on earth did I manage to break through the apparently impenetrable firewall of Minoan Linear A?  Here is how.

In early May 2016, as I was closely examining Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada),

KURO = total HT 31 Haghia Triada

which dealt exclusively with vessels and pottery, I was suddenly struck by a lightning flash. The tablet was cluttered with several ideograms of vessels, amphorae, kylixes and cups on which were superimposed with the actual Minoan Linear A words for the same. What a windfall! My next step - and this is critical - was to make the not so far-fetched assumption that this highly detailed tablet (actually the most intact of all extant Minoan Linear A tablets) was the magic key to opening the heavily reinforced door of Minoan Linear, previously locked as solid as a drum. But was there a way, however remote, for me to “prove”, by circumstantial evidence alone, that most, if not all, of the words this tablet actually were the correct terms for the vessels they purported to describe? There was, after all, no magical Rosetta Stone to rely on in order to break into the jail of Minoan Linear A. Or was there?

As every historical linguist specializing in ancient languages with any claim to expertise knows, the real Rosetta Stone was the magical key to the brilliant decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics in 1822 by the French philologist, François Champellion

Francois Champellion Rosetta Stone Schiller Institute
        
It is truly worth your while to read the aforementioned article in its entirety. It is a brilliant exposé of Monsieur Champellion’s dexterous decipherment.

But is there any Rosetta Stone to assist in the decipherment of Haghia Triada tablet HT 31. Believe it or not, there is. Startling as it may seem, that Rosetta Stone is none other than the very first Mycenaean Linear B tablet deciphered by Michael Ventris in 1952, Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952.  If you wish to be informed and enlightened on the remarkable decipherment of Pylos Py TA 641-1952, you can read all about it for yourself in my article, published in Vol. 10 (2014) of Archaeology and Science (Belgrade) ISSN 1452-7448 

Archaeology and Science, Vol. 10 (2014), An Archaeologist's Translation of Pylos Tablet 641-1952. pp. 133-161, here: 

Archaeology and Sciene Belgrade

It is precisely this article which opened the floodgates to my first steps towards the partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A. The question is, how? In this very article I introduced the General Theory of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear A (pp. 148-156). It is this very phenomenon, the supersyllabogram, which has come to be the ultimate key to unlocking the terminology of vessels and pottery in Minoan Linear A. Actually, I first introduced in great detail the General Theory of Supersyllabograms at the Third International Conference on Symbolism at The Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, on July 1 2015:

Koryvantes Association of Historical Studies Athens

Role of SSYLs in Mycenaean Linear B

This ground-breaking talk, re-published by Koryvantes, is capped off with a comprehensive bibliography of 147 items serving as the prelude to my discovery of supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B from 2013-2015.

How Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) serves as the Rosetta Stone to Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada):

Believe it or not, the running text of Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada) is strikingly alike that of Mycenaean Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris). So much so that the textual content of the former runs very close to being parallel with its Mycenaean Linear B counterpart. How can this be? A few preliminary observations are in order. First and foremost, Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) cannot be construed in any way as being equivalent to the Rosetta Stone. That is an absurd proposition. On the other hand, while the Rosetta stone displayed the same text in three different languages and in three different scripts (Demotic, Hieroglyphics and ancient Greek), the syllabary of Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada) is almost identical to that of Mycenaean Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris). And that is what gives us the opportunity to jam our foot in the door of Minoan Linear A. There is not point fussing over whether or not the text of HT 31 is exactly parallel to that of Pylos Py TA 641, because ostensibly it is not! But, I repeat, the parallelisms running through both of these tablets are remarkable.

Allow me to illustrate the cross-correlative cohesion between the two tablets right from the outset, the very first line. At the very top of HT 31 we observe this word, puko, immediately to the left of the ideogram for “tripod”, which just happens to be identical in Minoan Linear A and in Mycenaean Linear B. Now the very first on Mycenaean Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) is tiripode, which means “tripod”. After a bit of intervening text, which reads as follows in translation, “Aigeus works on tripods of the Cretan style”, the ideogram for “tripod”, identical to the one on Haghia Triada, leaps to the for. The only difference between the disposition of the term for “tripod” on HT 31 and Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) is that there is no intervening text between the word for tripod, i.e. puko, on the former, whereas there is on the latter. But that is scarcely an impediment to the realization, indeed the revelation, that on HT 31 puko must mean exactly the same thing as tiripode on Pylos Py TA 641-1952. And it most certainly does. But, I hear you protesting, and with good reason, how can I be sure that this is the case? It just so happens that there is another Linear B tablet with the same word followed by the same ideogram, in exactly the same order as on HT 31, here: 

Linear A 19 confirmation that puko means tripod

The matter is clinched in the bud. The word puko in Minoan Linear A is indisputably the term for “tripod”, exactly parallel to its counterpart in Mycenaean Linear B, tiripode.

I had just knocked out the first brick from the Berlin Wall of Minoan Linear A. More was to come. Far more.

Continued in Part B.

                 

Just uploaded to academia.edu:
The Gezer Agricultural Calendar Almanac in Paleo-Hebrew (ca. 925 BCE) and its Translation into Mycenaean Linear B, Coupled with the Profound Implications of the Powerful Impact of Supersyllabograms aka Surcharged Adjuncts on Linear B:

category Linear B 
This highly significant article, which is the ultimate lead up to my talk,"The Rôle of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B", which I will be giving at the interdisciplinary Conference,"Thinking in Symbols", at the Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, Pultusk, Warsaw, on July 1st. or 2nd., is highly revealing of the primary focus my presentation at that time: Click on the banner below to visit the academia.edu page, where it is presently posted and available for download in PDF format. here: Click the banner below to retrieve it:

Paleo-Hebrew Gezer Calnder translated into Mycenaean Linear B
I am quite sure that anyone genuinely interested in Mycenaean Linear B will find it fascinating reading.

I would also like to point out that, even though I have been on academia.edu for less than a month, my papers have skyrocked to the top 1% of all research documents on the that site, which has surprised and astonished me beyond my wildest expectations. The number of followers I have garnered has risen from 55 last week to 90 today.

Richard
  


The Gezer Agricultural Almanac 925 BCE, Comparison Between the Paleo-Hebrew Alphabet on it & Mycenaean Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

Gezer Calendar or Almanach 925 BCE original versus Linear B

The Gezer Agricultural Almanac or Calendar was discovered in 1908 by R.A.S. Macalister of the Palestine Exploration Fund during the excavation of the ancient Canaanite city of Gezer, 32 kilometres to the west of Jerusalem. Inscribed on limestone, it describes monthly or bi-monthly periods of agricultural activities such as harvesting, planting or tending to specific crops. Paleo-linguistic scholars are divided concerning the language it is written in, some believing it to be Phoenician, others Proto-Canaanite, otherwise known as Paleo-Hebrew. But since the tablet makes as much sense in Paleo-Hebrew as it does in Phoenician (even though the translations must perforce differ), this raises a serious question which cannot be safely ignored over the perceived theoretical or actual relationship between the Phoenician and the Paleo-Hebrew alphabets, which in turn raises the further question whether or not Paleo-Hebrew is itself directly derived from Phoenician. Although open to dispute, if this notion holds any water, then the Proto-Canaanite or Paleo-Hebrew alphabet may very well be directly derived from the Phoenician, in which case even the ancient classical Hebrew alphabet, spawned from Paleo-Hebrew, is also indirectly derived from the Phoenician alphabet, despite appearances to the contrary.

But the vein may run even deeper. Since many scholars believe that the Phoenician alphabet grew out of Egyptian hieroglyphics, this in turn implies that the ancient Paleo-Hebrew alphabet at least is indirectly descended from Egyptian hieroglyphics. But there is a further complication. Since Paleo-Hebrew post-dates the almost identical syllabaries, Minoan Linear A by 7 centuries & Mycenaean Linear B, the latter falling into obscurity with the destruction of the Mycenaean civilization ca. 1200 BCE, fully 200 years before the advent of Proto-Canaanite, what are we to make of that? This is all the more pressing an issue, given that no fewer than 12 of 61 or 20 % of Linear B syllabograms look strikingly like the Paleo-Hebrew letters on the Gezer Calendar? if in fact it is written in Hebrew.

For the sake of argument and sheer practicality, let us say it is. If that is the case, then we have to wonder whether or not both the Phoenician and Proto-Canaanite alphabets were actually at least partially derived from either Minoan Linear A or Mycenaean Linear B or both. Given this scenario, it is open to serious doubt whether or not the Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew alphabets were exclusively derived from Egyptian hieroglyphics alone. This hypothesis cannot be safely ignored, given the striking similarities in particular characters in all 4 of these scripts, Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B, Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew. However, there is a wrench in the works. If this hypothesis is correct, then why on earth did both the Phoenician and Proto-Canaanite alphabets lose the five vowels of their more ancient predecessors, Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B? So we are left with an irresolvable conundrum.

Nevertheless, this hypothesis does raise doubts over Egyptian hieroglyphics being the sole ancestor of the Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew alphabets. Why so? ... because neither Minoan Linear A nor Mycenaean Linear B are the offshoots of Egyptian hieroglyphics. Back to our messy little paradox. The Gezer Almanac is held in the Archaeological Museum Artifacts Collection of the Istanbul Archaeological Museums (ISTANBUL ARKEOLOJI MÜZELERI), here:

Istanbul Archeological Museums Logo
In the next three posts, I shall:

1. post a table illustrating the comparison between the Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew alphabets, which are almost identical;
2. draw a thorough comparison between the Paleo-Hebrew letters (consonants only) on the Gezer Almanac and the 12 syllabograms + one ideogram in Mycenaean Linear B which resemble them;
3. translate the Gezer Calendar into Mycenaean Linear B, to clearly demonstrate the extremely close parallel in the efficacy of both scripts for statistical inventories. If anything, this remarkable parallelism reinforces the possibility that the Phoenician and Paleo-Hebrew alphabets may at least partially be outcrops of Minoan Linear A (preceding them both by at least 700 years) & Mycenaean Linear B, disappearing two centuries prior to widespread appearance of the former at the outset of what is commonly and largely erroneously referred to as the Dark Ages of the early Iron Age (ca. 1100-780 BCE).

Richard

							

Quotations from The Rôle of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B, Presentation at the Conference, Thinking Symbols, Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, Pultusk, Poland, June 30-July 2, 2015: Part A

Alan Turing

Alan Turing (1923-1954), a world-famous mathematical genius and cryptologist, was head of the team at Bletchley Park in England, which deciphered what was considered at the time to be the uncrackable Enigma Code that German Intelligence used throughout the Second World War for their secret military missions and operations, eventually all to no avail. It is he who said, “Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine.”
   
... let’s get straight to the point, and look at Slide A, which dramatically illustrates the universal rôle symbols play on physical signs, otherwise known as signage, in our hectic world today.

Slide omitted, to be displayed at the Conference only

Now you will notice that the international standard signage symbols we all my must rely on every day of our lives are of two kinds, (a) nominal (N), meaning symbols which replace the names of places, otherwise known as toponyms, which usually offer us static information & (b) verbal or kinetic (V), which replace actions we must take if we are to avoid unpleasant or disastrous consequences. Here on Slide A we see examples of both static and kinetic symbols or ideograms.

... we need to define in broad terms what a syllabary is, given that all of the signs on this tablet are syllabograms, so that we can interpret the Mycenaean city & settlement codes. This clears the way for a basic understanding of how syllabograms function. Like a script or signary based on ideograms, such as Egyptian hieroglyphics or Chinese ideograms, generally an earlier development than itself, a syllabary is a signary based on syllabograms, each of which consists of a single consonant + a single vowel up to a maximum of 5 vowels in a discrete series, as we see illustrated here in Slide J.

Slide omitted, to be displayed at the Conference only

Mycenaean Linear B, like its immediate predecessor, Minoan Linear A, has a D series, da, de, di, do & du; an N series, na, ne, ni, no & nu, and so on. Some syllabogram series are incomplete, for instance, the W series, wa, we, wi & wo, with four syllabograms & the Z series, za, ze & zo, consisting of three in Linear B. Minoan Linear A and the two archaic Greek pre-alphabetic syllabaries, Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C also have syllabograms for each of the 5 vowels. We can see now that a syllabary is generally considered to be the intermediate stage between even more ancient scripts such as Egyptian hieroglyphics on the one hand, and the later Greek alphabet on the other, in so far as it contains both consonant + vowel sequences and the minimal set of 5 vowels, just as all alphabets do right on up from the various avatars of the ancient Greek alphabet to the Cyrillic for many Slavic languages, such as Russian and Ukrainian to the Latin alphabet, from which almost all modern Occidental alphabets are derived. Click to ENLARGE 

hieroglyphics linear b alphabet



Cross-Correlation of Linear A with Linear B Syllabograms. Does it all add up or not? What is Linear A? What if? We need to take a long hard look at this.

Let’s take a look at this cross-comparative table of Linear A “syllabograms” which look (almost) identical to their Linear B counterparts, and let’s generously assume that they all have the same phonetic values in both syllabaries. Why not? Almost everyone has anyway. Click to ENLARGE:

LinearA01-120 CF LinearB

Still, ever since I first started comparing the Linear A with the Linear B syllabary, I found myself seriously questioning how and, more significantly, why most ancient language linguists specializing in these two scripts have assumed that, just because deciphered syllabograms in Linear B all bear a specific phonetic value, consequently the so-called “syllabograms” - if indeed all are just that, syllabograms – ought to or, if we push the envelope, must have the same values in Linear A. But, being the doubting Thomas I am, I have serious reservations about the hypothetical premises underlying such a tailor-made assumption. 

My reasons are several:

1. Since the Minoan language is completely undeciphered, and contains considerably more syllabograms, logograms & ideograms (or whatever else) than Linear B, how can we be reasonably sure that even those characters (whatever they are) in Linear A, which look (almost) identical to their Linear B counterparts, are in fact identical? Given that the Minoan language has stubbornly evaded any attempt whatsoever at decipherment, what is plainly unproven is just that, and nothing more. The fundamental assumption almost all researchers espouse, who posit value for equal value in both scripts as being unquestionably “correct”, is open to serious cross-examination. In the face of lack of scientific evidence, supportive or even partially supportive, this cannot possibly be confirmed with any degree of reasonable accuracy. I for one simply cannot accept on faith alone the hypothesis that comparison of specific values of a known syllabary should inevitably lead to the conclusion that in all instances A=A, B=B etc. Far from it. This is not to say that there is still a high probability that what strongly looks like a syllabogram in Linear A exactly corresponding to a known syllabogram in Linear B is in fact the same syllabogram in both scripts. I am more than willing to concede that in all probability A in Linear A is A in Linear B etc. But there is simply no way of proving this; so we have to take the whole matter with a grain of salt.

2. Now if it ever turns out that evidence can be forwarded that even a few of the so-called “syllabograms” in Linear A which look exactly like their counterparts in linear B are in fact syllabograms, but with entirely different phonetic values or, in the worst case scenario, not syllabograms at all, such a turn of events would throw a huge wrench into the fundamental premise, widely espoused by the community of linguists specializing in Linear A and Linear B taken together, that they form a contiguous continuum. And that would be very bad news for future attempts at deciphering the Minoan language. Again, I stress, I am not at all saying that the current widely espoused theory is in essence wrong. In fact, it is probably I who am wrong, possibly even completely out of step. But there still remains a possibility, however slim (and I for one do not think it is that slim), that there are likely to be real problems with cross-correlation of Linear A characters (whatever they are) with their so-called counterparts in Linear B. In the meantime, I am more than willing to reserve judgement on this question, and to follow the herd, with this caveat, that I remain and shall always remain the doubting Thomas, until and unless I can be even somewhat assured that the presumed cross correlations can stand the acid test as they are.

3. Now what really makes me wonder what on earth is going on with “everything is fine just as it is, so why reinvent the wheel?” is this. Some researchers already assign different phonetic values to the “same” characters in Linear A. That is worrisome in and of itself. Take for instance that the so-called syllabograms TE, TU & SI appear in more than one way in Linear A. Yes, it is true that the one version of TE looks a lot like the other. But when we come to TU & SI, things get positively messy. To illustrate my point, take a look at this chart: Click to ENLARGE

Linear-A-base Minoan Language Blog

Yes, a great many researchers delving into Linear A will say, “Well, that is to be expected. The script was bound to evolve over such a long period of time – more than a millennium.” Fair enough. But the difficulty remains that, whereas Linear A was apparently in use from ca. 2500-1500 BCE, neither Linear B nor Linear C evolved in any real sense, even though the former was in continual use from ca. 1600-1200 BCE & the latter from 1100-400 BCE (a much longer period!).

Given the considerably longer timeline for Linear A, it is more than likely that the appearance and possibly even the phonetic values of certain characters was bound to change. This sort of scenario falls neatly in line with the significant changes Egyptian hieroglyphics underwent over their long history. The fact that Linear A is a much earlier script than either Linear B or Linear C lends further credence to its apparent fluidity. After all, the English alphabet changed dramatically over a relatively shorter timeline (ca. 700 AD – 1500 AD), some 300 years less. On the other hand, Linear C did not change at all over 700 years, almost as long as the evolution of the English alphabet. So I am not quite sure what to make of all this, except to say, once again, I remain the doubting Thomas.

4. Is the Linear A Syllabary strictly a syllabary, or does it contain Hieroglyphics as well?

Linear A has considerably more characters (syllabograms, homophones, logograms and ideograms, if indeed all of these are just those) than Linear B, which again raises the question, which characters are syllabograms, which homophones, which logograms and which ideograms. There is simply no way to substantiate which are which. Again, the monster rears its ugly head. Since there are quite a few more “ideograms” - if that is what they really all are – in Linear A than in Linear B, what on earth can the ideograms in Linear A which have no counterparts in Linear B possibly mean? And I have to ask out loud, are they even all ideograms, or could some of them even be hieroglyphics? This is no idle matter. Let us not conveniently “forget”, or more to the point, blithely brush aside the fact that the Linear A syllabary was immediately preceded by an even earlier Minoan script with one particularly telling characteristic: 

AncientScripts.com logo
Most early writing systems have their origins in iconographic systems and likewise Cretan Hieroglyphs most likely evolved out of non-linguistic symbols on seal stones from the late 3rd and early 2nd millennium BCE. Cretan Hieroglyphs was the first writing of the Minoans and predecessor to Linear A.

And again:

AncientGreece.org Logo

The first written scripts of the Minoans resemble Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Phaistos Disk which is now exhibited in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum and dates back to 1700 BC, is an example of such (a) script.

And again:

Athena Review
Minoan Hieroglyphic Scripts: The earliest Minoan writing is the Cretan hieroglyphic script used on seal stones and clay accounting documents (Packard 1974). This early syllabic script evolved by 1900 BC during the Middle Minoan period, and was used through the destruction of the Minoan palaces ca.1450 BC.

Oh, and for your enlightenment – and mine too, here are a few examples of early Cretan-Minoan hieroglyphics: Click to ENLARGE

Comparison of Cretan hieroglyphics with Linear A Characters

Now isn’t this just a mind-bender? One of the Cretan-Minoan hieroglyphics [2] is identical to its Linear A counterpart (whatever it is), while the first Cretan-Minoan hieroglyphic [1] is flipped right side up in Linear A. The other two [3] & [4] are (almost) identical, except for degree orientation. But the most astonishing thing is that [3] = the syllabogram DA in Linear A & B and TA in Linear C, lasting with very little change for 2,100 years! (2,500 BCE – 400 BCE). In other words, what began as a Cretan-Minoan hieroglyphic gradually transformed into a syllabogram, at least in the later development of Linear A, and again as a syllabogram in both Linear B & Linear C. TA in Linear C is in fact the exact same syllabogram as DA in Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B, since Arcado-Cypriot Linear C has no D+vowel series.

Now, let’s just carry my novel hypothesis to its all but inexorable conclusion. What if just a few of the hieroglyphics in the pre-Linear A hieroglyphic scripts just happened to slip into Linear A, without anyone caring much either way? If the earliest Linear A scribes still found it convenient to continue using even a few of the earlier Cretan-Minoan hieroglyphics, why wouldn’t they? After all, when the Linear B scribes devised their syllabary for Mycenaean Greek, they swiped scores and scores of characters, syllabograms and ideograms lock-stock-and-barrel from Linear A without even thinking twice of it.  So here is my hypothesis, for what it is worth – and that may very well be something – what if... again, I say, what if some of the Linear A characters are still hieroglyphic? Well, there is one sure way to test this hypothesis, and that is to directly compare, i.e. cross-correlate, every last character in the Linear A syllabary with the hieroglyphics in its immediate predecessor, the Cretan-Minoan hieroglyphs... which is exactly what I intend to do. But it does not even end there. 
 
Has anyone ever bothered to compare the total number of Linear A characters – whatever they are – with the total number of Egyptian hieroglyphics, though there are plenty of the latter? If not, why not? Well, don’t worry, because I intend to do just that as well.  Now, if even two or three Linear A characters turn out to look (almost) exactly like certain Egyptian hieroglyphics, of which the phonetic values and the meaning are already known to us, we may be onto something, though I hasten to add that this does not at all mean that the Minoan language is related in any way to the Egyptian, or even that the similar characters in Linear A are still hieroglyphics. Dangerous assumption.... though of course they very well may be. Confused? That’s OK too, since confusion is the first step towards scepticism, and scepticism in turn the next step on the path to investigation.


Richard


More humour: composites of ancient tablets and hieroglyphs .. ancient grammar police!

Oh wait! I think they were just kidding (Click to ENLARGE):

egyptainhieroglyphicshumour  

I’ve never seen this symbol before (Click to ENLARGE):

ancienttabletshumour



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