Tag Archive: John Chadwick

John Chadwick recognized the Linear B supersyllabograms ZE & MO:

chadwick reading the past linear b 37 ZE zeugesi

chadwick reading the past linear b 38 MO mono

It is quite obvious from the excerpts above from Chadwick’s masterful, Reading the Past: Linear B and Related Scripts, © 1987 that he clearly recognized the supersyllabograms ZE, corresponding to (archaic) Greek zeu/gesi = yoked and MO mo/noj = single. This being the case, it is also more than likely that he was aware of the existence of at least some of the 39 supersyllabograms in Linear B, and this is significant, because it was he who first latched onto Michael Ventris’ amazing discovery in 1952 that the Linear B syllabary was in fact the script of a very ancient and archaic Greek dialect, which we now know as Mycenaean. This raises the question, did Michael Ventris himself know about supersyllabograms? Brilliant as he was, I am greatly inclined to believe he did, but his untimely death at the young age of 34 in a terrible car accident in 1956 never gave him the chance to further develop and refine his initial decipherment of Linear B in 1952. So we shall never know. But very the idea that he may have known is truly tantalizing.

The last two military supersyllabograms KO & WI with (animal) hide:

Military supersyllabogram KO & WI with hide

The military supersyllabograms KO kowo = “fleece” & WI = (kito) wirineo = “leather (chiton)” with (animal) hide are the last two we can account for in the military sector. Although I have not been able to find either of them on any extant Linear B. Tablet, they are attested according to John Chadwick.

The Famous Linear B Tablet, “Rapato Meno”, the Priestess of the Winds & the Goddess Pipituna, Knossos KN Fp 13: Click to ENLARGE 

Translation of Knossos Tablet KN FP 13 RAPATO MENO

This tablet from Knossos, one of the most famous Mycenaean Linear B Linear B tablets, was first translated by Prof. John Chadwick, who did a fine job of it. There have been several good translations since then, but all of them have failed to notice certain finer details in the text. This translation hopefully brings these details to the fore.

For instance, as I have pointed out in the notes at the bottom of my translation, the units of measurement are open to question. I find it both expedient and wise to rely on the estimates of Andras Zeke of the now defunct Minoan Language Blog, since he has always been a most thorough and conscientious researcher. My estimates, like those of every other translator, are just that. So take them with a grain of salt. Secondly, Professors Killen and Chadwick translated qerasiya as “augur”, and I accept their translation without reserve, as it fits the context very well. However, every single translation to date that I have run across fails to mention that the augur is female, which once again very important in the context of Minoan-Mycenaean religious practices, which seem to have been pretty much the exclusive province of women. In my forth note [4], I call attention to the fact that here the ideogram for “olive” may refer to an “olive tree”, and to those who would (loudly) object to this interpretation, we need only recall that the olive tree was sacred to the goddess Athena in classical Athens. The connection between Minoan-Mycenaean religious practices is indirect and elliptical. However, if we stop to consider legend has it that “...every nine years Athens should send seven of their finest young men and young maidens to Crete, as sacrifice to the Minotaur. When the hero Theseus heard about this practice, he volunteered to be one of the victims, killing the Minotaur, and freeing Athens from this grizzly duty”: from

Research Project on King Minos

it makes more sense to interpret this reference as being an olive tree. This raises yet another question. If, as it appears from the context of this tablet, the Priestess of the Winds was the priestess of Pipituna, there is probably a direct or indirect connection between this goddess and the later Greek goddess, Athena. They might even be one and the same, though this strikes me as being unlikely.

On a final note, we notice that the second reference to anemoiyereya is squashed up against the right side of this tablet, which is after all only 15 cm. or about 6 inches wide. No surprise there, given that almost all Linear B tablets are very small or tiny. This offers a perfectly sound explanation why the last reference to the offering by Utano (or whatever this name is, probably Minoan) to the Priestess of the Winds only gives us the units of measurement, but of what it does not say. Yet it is pretty much obvious that this too is an offering of olive oil, since that is the only commodity offered up on the rest of the tablet. On our bog, I have stressed a great many times the extremely common practice the Mycenaean scribes resorted to over and over again to save precious space on their cramped tablets. This is also the reason why they resorted to the formulaic use of single syllabograms as the first syllable of scores of very common Mycenaean Linear B words in the fields of agriculture, the military, textiles and vessels. People who regularly consult our blog already know that these are called supersyllabograms. Of the 61 Linear B syllabograms, 33 are supersyllabograms, while one homophone, rai = saffron is also in the same class.

In conclusion, the preceding observations have allowed me the latitude to bring a little more precision to the translation of Knossos tablet KN FP 13.

As a final aside, I for one find the use of Latin to reference the names of Linear B ideograms strange at best, and downright silly at worst. The words the ideograms replace are Greek; so the ideograms should be labelled in Greek, with an English translation for those who do not read Greek. Given that most people do not read Latin these days, what difference does it make? Little or none. For this reason, I myself always tag Linear B ideograms with their proper (Mycenaean or archaic) Greek names.


An Archaeologist’s Thoroughly Researched Translation of Pylos Tablet Py 641-1952 (Ventris)

This Linear B Tablet PY 641 is by far the most difficult one I have had to translate. It was the first ever Linear B tablet which Michael Ventris deciphered in 1952. I was in my teen years then and knew nothing of his great achievement and in fact nothing about the Linear B Ancient script writings whatsoever.

I am aware that many scholars have translated this tablet such as the archaeologist Carl Blegen, and also Prof. John Chadwick, who assigned the first range of standard values to ideograms for the vessels on Linear B Tablet 641.

Ref: Chadwick, John. The Decipherment of Linear B (2nd edition) London: Cambridge University Press 1970. ISBN 521-09596. pg. 117.

I now submit my translation of this very important Linear B tablet from the great Minoan Palace at Pylos: Click to ENLARGE

Pylos Tablet 64l Burnt from legs up


Aigeus a worker is making tripods of the Cretan style.
There are 2 Tripods with three legs and two handles,
1 Tripod with a single handle on one foot,
1 Tripod with the legs burnt from the legs up *,
3 Big pots with two handles,  
2 Big pots with three handle,
1 Smaller pot with four handles,
1 Small type of cup/ goblet with three handles,
1 Small type of cup/goblet without handles.

Kylix two handled stemmed Cup

As an archaeologist working on Minoan pottery for the past ten years, I feel that adding a few descriptions of the pottery vessels mentioned on this Linear B tablet will further our understanding of their important shapes and uses. Also, we must remember that due to the lack of sufficient room on these very small clay tablets, the Minoan scribe recording so many items would not have been able to write all the details for us to read in our modern times. But of course, his fellow Minoan scribes understood exactly what the pottery items were.

The following is my idea of what I believe the Minoan scribe has listed on this Linear B tablet PY 64l and what they were used for.

Tripods - Sometimes referred to as Cauldrons and were mainly used for cooking purposes and for boiling water
Tripod in color and b&w

Pithoi - Because the Linear B word mezoe means ‘greater/bigger’, I interpret these pots which have three and those with four handles as being Pithoi. They were used for the storage of large quantities of agricultural produce such as grain crops, olive oil and wine. These huge pots could have as many as eight handles.

Large Pithoi in storage at Knossos  

Large Pithoi (singular, pithos) in storage at Knossos

Amphorae – (singular, amphora) These pots having two handles or even three handles were used for the storage and transport of oil or any other liquid substances.

Minoan Amphora
      Early Minoan Amphora from Knossos

Amphora – mewijo means smaller. The other amphora listed on this tablet with four handles was most likely used for the storage of perfume.

With regard to the Linear B word dipa meaning “cup”:

After further research into archaeological reports and illustrations at The Institute for Aegean Prehistory Study Centre for East Crete and The History of Minoan Pottery by Philip Betancourt 1985 Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, I found that the two cups listed on this tablet PY 64l can only mean a (type of cup). I therefore interpret them as being goblets, although the one with three handles possibly being a kylix Both were drinking vessels.

goblets found at knossos after Macdonald & Knappett 2007

Late Helladic IIIA2 three handled kylix courtesy Mitrou Archaeological Site Credit photo Winn Burke


Congratulations to Rita Roberts for her excellent translation of Pylos Tablet 641-1952 (Ventris), which she has grounded on her thorough research as an archaeologist into every last type of vessel illustrated by Prof. John Chadwick’s classification of ideograms for vessels. What is particularly impressive here is her insistence on checking one by one all of the ideograms (which are after all symbolic representations of the real thing) against prominent archaeological finds of each type. This very effective approach is novel, in so far as all of translators to date of tablet Pylos 641-1952 (Ventris), whether or not they were archaeologists themselves, have never taken the trouble to cross-correlate the various ideograms with their actual hardware counterparts. By taking this critical step in gathering concrete evidence to back up her choices for the name of each and every type of vessel on this extremely significant tablet, Mrs. Roberts has provided us empirical evidence as confirmation of the types of vessels named and flagged by ideograms on the tablet. Why no one has done this in the past is beyond me... and beyond Mrs. Roberts as well.

At any rate, it was this technically challenging tablet which I assigned to Rita Roberts as the final step in her Secondary School Level studies. I am delighted to announce that Mrs. Roberts has achieved a mark of 98% for the extreme thoroughness of her research, especially in the archaeological sphere. Rita is thus granted her Secondary School Matriculation with all its attendant rights and privileges. I shall be designing a Secondary School Graduation Certificate on fine linen 25% cotton paper, beautifully framed, to send to Rita Roberts. I shall also post her Certificate right here on our blog for all to see. It goes without saying that I myself shall not attempt to translate this famous tablet, because to be perfectly honest, I could not have come up with a translation as thoroughly researched or as minutely detailed and accurate as this one by Rita Roberts.

Mrs. Roberts is now at the first year level of university studies, and as such, she is now confronted with even greater challenges, being obliged as she is to translate tablets (much) more complex than Pylos 641-1952 (Ventris), to master all of the logograms and ideograms in Mycenaean Linear B, and to thoroughly learn all of the vocabulary in the military sphere from the comprehensive English – Mycenaean Linear B – Archaic Greek – Modern Greek Lexicon of Military Affairs she and I are to publish by June 2015. In effect, her studies for the first two semesters of her first year will focus primarily on the translation and the mastery of Mycenaean Linear B tablets on military affairs.

She is also hereby granted the status of co-moderator of this blog.


Progressive Linear B: Theory, Methodology & Practice:

In honour of the outstanding achievement of Michael Ventris (1922-1956), who single-handedly deciphered a hitherto “undecipherable” ancient script, Linear B, as being the earliest written form of ancient Greek, which Sir Arthur Evans called “Linear B”, and rightly assumed was a syllabary, but wrongly assumed was not Greek, I intend to build on his all too remarkable achievement by applying what I choose to call the principles of Progressive Linear B, a theory of Linear B grammar, syntax and vocabulary which I am putting to the test for the first time ever. After Michael Ventris’ tragic death in a fatal car crash on 6 September 1956, his loyal collaborator and disciple, Professor John Chadwick (1920-1998) of Cambridge University carried on his work, codifying the Linear B tablets, grammar and vocabulary, confirming once and for all that Mycenaean Linear B was the earliest written form of ancient Greek, predating the earliest Greek alphabet by at least 600 years.

What is Progressive Linear B?

Progressive Linear B constitutes an entirely novel theoretical approach to the syllabary, logograms, phonetics, grammar, syntax and vocabulary of Mycenaean Linear B. By applying the methodology of progressive Linear B, we may be able to reconstruct grammatical forms and vocabulary, which are nowhere attested in the approximately 6,000 extant Linear B tablets from Knossos, Pylos, Thebes, Mycenae, Chania or any other archeological sites where tablets have been discovered to date. The recovery of more tablets in the future may fill in some of the gaps in Linear B grammar and vocabulary, but the likelihood of this seems remote.

Theory, Methodology and Practice:

It is perhaps best to illustrate how I apply the reconstitutive methodology of progressive Linear B to extrapolate unattested grammatical forms from the actual forms which have been found on the tablets. With this in mind, let us turn to the verb, EKEE, to have, for the conjugation of the present tense from forms actually found on the tablets. As far as I know. These are (CLICK to enlarge):

attested forms present tense active in Mycenaean Linear B

From these three extant forms, I believe it is possible to extrapolate and reconstruct most of the remainder of the conjugation of the present tense of the verb, EKEE, “to have”, (the classical Greek and English conjugations following the reconstructed Linear B forms), with attested forms (as found on tablets) tagged with (A), and Derived forms tagged with (D), as follows:

The Verb EKEE as paradigm for the reconstruction of the present tense active (CLICK to enlarge):

Verb EKEE EKO present tense active in Progressive Mycenaean Linear B

As you can readily see from this reconstruction of the present tense of EKEE, I am unable to make an accurate estimation of the probable form of the second person singular with any degree of certainty, which is why I have omitted it. However, with this sole exception, I have been able to reconstitute the rest of the present tense of the verb,” to have”, into the forms they most likely would have taken in Mycenaean Greek, had any tablets been unearthed with these forms. With the conjugation of EKEE (to have) as our paradigm, I believe it is possible to proceed with the reconstruction of the present tense of all verbs ending with O in first person singular of the active (not middle!) voice .

Thus, in the paradigm for the attested (A) and derivative (D) endings of the present infinitive active & present tense active, the first person singular and plural & the second person plural are derived. Hence, the Linear B forms and their Latin transcriptions for the present infinitive active & the conjugation of the present active (with the exception of the missing second person singular) of verbs ending in “ko” are (CLICK to enlarge):

Paradigm Present Tense Active Mycenaean Greek for verbs ending in "ko"

Of course, my reconstructions are always to be considered as tentative and conjectural. If anyone familiar with Linear B is at odds with my interpretative reconstructions of this or any other grammatical form in Linear B, I encourage the same to comment on my conjectures on this Blog. I will of course answer any questions, issues or doubts you may harbour over my reconstitutive grammar, which I will be gradually building on this Blog, starting with several active verbs in the present tense, based on the paradigm for the conjugation of the present tense of the verb, EKEE.

Progressive Linear B: Theory, Methodology and Practice:© Richard Vallance Janke 2013

Our 100th. POST! Linear B Tablet 641-1952

Yes, this is our 100th. POST! Linear B Tablet 641-1952, and a very significant post this is, considering that this tablet was the very first Linear B tablet ever translated into English by none other than Michael Ventris himself, after the archeologist, Carl Blegen, working at the site of ancient Pylos, informed Ventris that when he applied Ventris’ final grid to this tablet, he discovered to his amazement that the first word spelled, “tiripode”, as we can see here (CLICK to enlarge):

Pylos Tablet Ta641-1952 Ventris

which he instantly realized was in all probability Greek, the one language no one as yet believed  Linear B represented… with the exception of Michael Ventris himself, who having given up on Etruscan and other possibilities, was beginning to suspect that indeed Linear B had to represent Greek, in spite of all his instincts crying out that it was not.  All of this happened in early June 1952. Of course, Blegen’s translation of the first word on Pylos Tablet 641-1952, burst open the floodgates, so that by July 2, 1952, Ventris had completely deciphered the tablet.  And the rest is history…. but to say the least, earth-shattering history, which was to push back Greek civilization a further 700 years! …. from ca. 800 BCE (which had previously been considered  the terminus post quem of the earliest Greek civilization utilizing writing (the primitive Greek alphabet as such) to 1,500 BCE, at the height of the Mycenaean-Minoan thalassocracy.


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