Tag Archive: John G. Younger

After 117 years, the Linear A vocabulary for 3 major grains (bran, wheat, barley) and for flax is conclusively deciphered:

Although decipherment of Linear A vocabulary for the primary Minoan grains has seemed beyond reach for the past 117 years, I believe that I may have actually cracked the vocabulary for at least 3 major Minoan grain crops, kireta2 (kiretai)/kiretana (attributive) = barley, dideru = einkorn wheat, kunisu = emmer wheat and for sara2 (sarai) = flax, while concurrently tackling 3 more grain crops, rumata(se), pa3ni (paini)/pa3nina (painina) (attributive), which I may or may not have managed to accurately identify. More on this below.

How did I manage to accomplish this feat? My first breakthrough came with the code-breaker, Linear A tablet HT 114 (Haghia Triada), on which appears the word kireta2 (kiretai). It just so happens that this is a match with the ancient Greek word, kritha(i) for barley, here Latinized:

Minoan Linear A tablet HT 114 Haghia Triada

Armed with this invaluable information, I then devised a procedure to extract the names of the other 2 major grains, dideru (Linear B equivalent, didero), and kunisu and for sara2 (sarai) from all of the Haghia Triada tablets. I selected the tablets from Haghia Triada because they mention grains far more often than any other extant Linear A tablets do, regardless of provenance, with the sole exception of Zakros ZA 20, which is a very close match with the many Linear A tablets from Haghia Triada dealing with grains.

The procedure I have adopted is tagged cross-comparative extrapolation (CCE). I scanned every last word related to grain on every last Linear A tablet from Haghia Triada, HT 1 – HT 154K on Prof. John G. Youngers Linear A texts in phonetic transcription HT (Haghia Triada) for the recurrence and numerical frequency of each of these words. It strikes me as very odd that no one in the past 117 years since the first discovery of Linear A tablets at Knossos has ever thought of this or a similar cross-comparative procedure. While it is practically useless to try and extrapolate the meaning of each and every grain merely by examining them in context on any single Linear A tablet, regardless of provenance, because even in single tablet context, and even in the presence of other words apparently describing other type(s) of grain, we get absolutely nowhere, the outcome from cross-correlating every last one of these words on every last tablet from Haghia Triada paints an entirely different picture, a picture which is both comprehensive and all-embracing. Clear and unambiguous patterns emerge for each and every word, including the total incidence of all statistics for them all. The result is astonishing. The table below makes this transparently clear:

Minoan ancient grains

We see right off the top that all of the Haghia put together mention akaru, which means field, the equivalent of Linear B akoro, no fewer than 20 times! Additionally, the generic word for wheat, situ, corresponding to Linear B sito, surfaces 5 times. But this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Cross-comparative extrapolation of the next 4 grains has proven to be much more fruitful. The first of these is of course kireta2 (kiretai) kiretana (attributive) for “barley”, which appears 149 times (!) on all of the Linear A tablets from Haghia Triada. I was definitely on to something big.

But the preliminary step I needed to take, before I actually attempted to identify the next 2 most common grains cultivated in the pre-Mycenaean and Mycenaean Minoan era, was to conduct a Google search on the 2 most common grains after barley grown in Minoan Crete. These are einkorn and emmer respectively. Returning to my cross-comparative extrapolative scan, I discovered the words dideru and kunisu recurring 40 times each. It just so happens that one previous researcher (whose name unfortunately escapes me for the time being, but whom I shall fully acknowledge when I publish my summary data on academia.edu) has accurately identified both of these types of wheat. As can be seen from the table above, these are dideru for “einkorn” and kunisu for “emmer” wheat respectively.

Moving on, fully realizing that sara2 (sarai) runs rampant on the Haghia Triada Linear A tablets, I discovered that this word recurs no less than 1321 times. Astonishing! But what does it mean? The answer was not long coming. The next most common crop the Minoans cultivated was flax, for the production of linen. Flax is not a grain, but is derived from flax flowers and seeds. This fully explains why sara2 (sarai) recurs with such astonishing frequency. Unlike the aforementioned grains, which would have been grown on a relatively restricted number of plots, in this case not exceeding 4o each, the number of flax flowers required to produce a sufficient flax harvest would have had to be very high… hence 1321. These stunning frescoes illustrate a male Minoan flax flower and a female flax seed gatherer:

Minoan flax gatherers

Even from these 2 frescoes, we can easily see that the flax gatherers were kept busy picking what was required, a large flax crop, in this case running to 1321 flax seeds and flowers. No surprise here.

As a result of my exhaustive cross-comparative extrapolation of the first four Minoan crops, I have been able to define 3 of them for certain as grains, kireta2 (kiretai), dideru and kunisu, and one of them, sara2 (sarai) as flax. It is practically certain that all 4 definitions are correct. Hence, I have managed to isolate for the first time in 117 years the actual names of 4 major Minoan crops, barley, einkorn wheat, emmer wheat and flax.

However, when it comes to the next 5 crops, we run up against inescapable semiotic problems. What does each of these signifiers signify? There is no easy answer. On the other hand, I would have been remiss were I not to make a stab at extrapolating the names of these crops as well. It just so happens that the next most common grains after barley, einkorn and emmer cultivated by the Minoans were millet and spelt. And the next two words I extrapolated were rumata(se) and pa3ni (paini)/pa3nina/painina (attributive). But if one of them appears to be millet, the other is spelt, or vice versa. That is the conundrum. But the problem is compounded by the mystifying cumulative total statistics for each of these words, 1039 for rumata(se) and 1021 for pa3ni (paini)/pa3nina/painina (attributive). Why on earth are there so many recurrences of these 2 crops, when there are only 40 instances of dideru and kunisu? It does not seem to make any sense at all. Yet there is a possible explanation. While dideru and kunisu reference einkorn and emmer crops as crops per se, it would appear that rumata(se) and pa3ni (paini)/pa3nina/painina (attributive) refer to the seeds derived from the crops. It is the only way out of this impasse. However, it is not necessarily a satisfying answer, and so I have to reserve judgement on these definitions, which are interchangeable at any rate.

Next we have the ligatured logograms dare and kasaru, either of which might refer to the next most common crops, durum and lentils. But there is no way for us to corroborate this conclusion with any certainty. The verdict is out. Finally, the last word, kuzuni, might refer to 2 other, less common Minoan crops, either sesame or vetch for fodder. But once again, which one is which? Your guess is as good as mine.


Nevertheless, one thing is certain. Every last one of these words identifies a Minoan crop. While most of them are grains, three of them are certainly not. One of them is clearly flax (sara2/sarai) The other two may or may not be lentils or sesame. But they probably are one or the other, if they are not on the other hand durum or vetch. In short, there several permutations and combinations for the last 5. Yet the circumstantial evidence for the first 4 appears quite solid enough to justify the definitions we have assigned, barley, einkorn, emmer and flax. So at least this constitutes a major breakthrough in the identification of these 4 for the first time in 117 years.

I shall eventually be publishing a much more comprehensive draft paper on this very subject on my academia.edu account, either this summer or autumn. I shall keep you posted.

Comprehensive Linear A Lexicon of 969 words, the most complete Linear A Lexicon ever by far, with at least 250 terms more than Prof. John G. Younger’s Reverse Linear A Lexicon:

comprehensive Linear A Lexicon of 969 words

At this juncture in my ongoing endeavour to decipher Linear A, I have run across so many tablets with New Minoan Mycenaean derived superstratum words that I am confident I am well on the way to deciphering New Minoan. Such is not the case with Old Minoan, i.e. the original Minoan language a.k.a. the Minoan substratum. But even there I have managed to decipher at least 100 words more or less accurately, bringing the total of Old Minoan, New Minoan and pre-Greek substratum vocabulary to around 250 out of the 969 Linear A words I have isolated in my Comprehensive Linear A Lexicon, by far the most complete Linear A Lexicon ever to appear online, exceeding Prof. John G. Younger’s Reverse Linear A Lexicon by at least 250.

Since this new Lexicon is so large and I intend to publish it soon in its entirety on my academia.edu account, there is no point rehashing it here. Instead, I shall tantalize you with just a few excerpts, to give you at least a notion of how far I have taken this labour-intensive project.   


Excerpta from the Complete Linear A lexicon of 969 words:

This lexicon comprises all of the intact words in John G. Younger’s Linear A Reverse Lexicon (which is far from comprehensive) plus every last intact word on every single tablet at his site, wherever any of the latter are not found in the former. By my count, there are 969 words, some 250 more than in Prof. John G. Younger’s Reverse Linear A Lexicon. Words which are apparent variants of one another are listed as one entry, e.g.


The following entries have been deliberately omitted:
1 Words containing any syllabograms which are either partially or wholly numeric, since we do not know what the phonetic values of these syllabograms are.
2 Strings of syllabograms > than 15 characters.

OM = Old Minoan, the original Minoan language, denominated the Minoan substratum. Words are tagged OM only where I have been able to decipher any of them.
PGS = pre-Greek substratum, i.e. words, man of which are non-Indo-European, in existence before Mycenaean and ancient Greek, but which entered Greek and were probably present in Old Minoan, even if many of them do not appear on Linear A tablets or fragments. 
NM = New Minoan, Mycenaean derived or words of Mycenaean origin in Linear A

adara/adaro/adaru OM
ade/adu OM -or- NM = ades-, ados- sort of cereal 
adureza OM
aju 10
Akanu PGS = Archanes (Crete) 

... passim ...
dame/dami (sing. damai) PGS
danasi 80
daqera OM
darida OM
daropa OM
dasi OM
datapa 90
data2 OM
datu OM 
Dawa PGS (Haghia Triada) 
daweda OM

... passim ...

kanaka PGS
kapa/kapaqe/kapi NM 
kaporu NM
kapusi NM?
kara NM
karona NM?
karopa2 (karopai) OM 260
karu NM?
kasitero NM

... passim ...

mini/miniduwa NM
minute (sing. minuta2 - minutai)
mio/miowa 400
mita PGS

Paito = Phaistos
pa3a/pa3ana NM?
pa3kija 510

... passim ...

pimitatira2 (pimitatirai) OM
pita/pitaja 540
pitakase/pitakesi NM
posa NM
potokuro NM?
pu3tama 550
puko OM = tripod

... passim ...

rosa PGS = rose
rosirasiro PGS = planted rose (rose + hole sunk in the ground)
rotau 680
roti OM = a type of grain or wheat (Petras)
Rukito (topo) PGS
ruko NM?
rukue 690
ruqa/ruqaqa (common)
rusa (common/rusaka

... passim ...

saja/sajama/sajamana OM 700
saka NM
samidae PGS?
samuku OM
sara2 (sarai)/sarara PGS = sharia wheat 690 710

... passim ...

taikama OM PGS
tajusu 800
taki/taku/takui NM
tanate/tanati NM
tami/tamia/tamisi NM 
taniti 810 
tapa NM = Linear B

... passim ...

udami/udamia NM?
uju NM?
uki NM?
uminase OM 
unadi (common) 920
uro NM
utaro 930

waja NM
wanaka PGS
watepidu NM
watumare 940
wija NM
Winadu PGS (topomastics)
winu NM
winumatari NM 950
wireu NM
witero NM?

zapa 960
zute 969 

Comprehensive Linear A lexicon of 903 words in Linear A: the first one hundred = 1-100 = A - DI

Complete Linear A Lexicon banner

This is the most comprehensive Linear A Lexicon ever published on the Internet. 

This lexicon comprises all of the intact words in John G. Younger’s Linear A Reverse Lexicon (which is far from comprehensive) plus every last intact word on every single tablet or fragment at his site, wherever any of the latter are not found in the former. By my count, there are 903 words, though I may have made the occasional error in addition, since I had to subtract some repetitive words and add others from the tablets, which are not in the Linear A Reverse Lexicon. Although Prof. John G. Younger has tallied some 903 Linear A words on his site, Linear A Texts in phonetic transcription, his actual lexicon is far from complete. Consequently, it has been necessary for me to draw all of the intact Linear words from every last Linear A tablet and fragment on Prof. Younger’s site. The difficulty here is that his lexicon includes even those Linear A words containing unknown syllabograms, many of which are assigned numeric values only, e.g. *309 *318 *319 *346-348 etc. And there are a number of them. The problem with all of these syllabograms is that no one knows what their phonetic values are. So it goes without saying that every last Minoan Linear A word which contains even one of these unknown syllabograms should, properly speaking, be disqualified. Moreover, there is  redundancy in some of the vocabulary, since quite a few Linear A words on his site are simply variants of one another. To cite just a few examples, we have: daka/daki/daku/dakuna; maru/maruku/maruri; nesa, nesaki, nesakimi; and tami, tamia, tamisi. Consequently, I have also eliminated all of the variants on any given term. This leaves us with a remaindered total of 903, exclusive of onomastics (personal names) and topomastics (place names).

Words which are apparent variants of one another are listed as one entry, e.g.


The following entries have been deliberately omitted:
1. Words containing any syllabograms which are either partially or wholly numeric, since we do not know what the phonetic values of these syllabograms are.
2. Strings of syllabograms > than 15 characters.

NOTE: I have already deciphered well over 200 Linear A words, but none of these are tagged in this comprehensive Linear A Lexicon. I shall be posting my decipherments at a later date.

akanuzati  10
anau 20
arepirena 30
asara2/asararame 40
asupuwa 50
dadai/dadana 60
dame/damate 70
datara/datare/datu 80
dideru 90
dinau 100

Can quantum computers assist us in the potentially swift decipherment of ancient languages, including Minoan Linear A?



No-one knows as yet, but the potential practical application of the decryption or decipherment of ancient languages, including Minoan Linear A, may at last be in reach. Quantum computers can assist us with such decipherments much much swifter than standard digital supercomputers.



Here are just a few examples of the potential application of quantum computers to the decipherment of apparently related words in Minoan Linear A:

kireta2 (kiretai) *
kiretana *
kuro *
maru (cf. Mycenaean mari/mare = “wool” ...  may actually be proto-Greek
maruku = made of wool? 
pajai (probably a diminutive, as I have already tentatively deciphered a few Minoan Linear A words terminating in “ai”, all of which are diminutives.  

All of these examples, with the exception of  * kireta2 (kiretai), kiretana & kuro *, each of which I have (tentatively) deciphered, are drawn from Prof. John G. Youngers Linear A Reverse Lexicon:


It is to be noted that I myself have been unable to decipher manually on my own any of the related terms above, with the exception of the 3 words I have just mentioned.  The decipherment of kuro = “total” is 100 % accurate. I would like to add in passing that I have managed to (at least tentatively) decipher 107 Minoan Linear A words, about 21 % of the entire known lexicon. But everyone anywhere in the world will have to wait until 2018 to see the results of my thorough-going and strictly scientific research until the publication of my article on the partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A in Vol. 12 (2016) of Archaeology and Science (Belgrade), actually to be released in early 2018. But if you would like to get at least a very limited idea of what my eventual decipherment is all about, you can in the meantime consult this preview on my academia.edu account here:


Someone Will Succeed in Deciphering Minoan, by Cyrus H. Gordon:

Someone will succed in deciphering Minoan

I certainly cannot claim that I have done that! But what I can assert is that I have done my utmost to achieve at least a partial decipherment of the vocabulary of Minoan Linear A, if not of the language itself or of its syntax and grammar. Like everyone else who has attempted to decipher Minoan Linear A to date, I have no clue whatsoever what language it is, nor what class of languages it belongs to (proto-Indo- European or other). Nor do I care. All I have attempted to do is, to the best of my abilities, to decipher, more or less accurately (less accurately almost as often as more) as many Minoan Linear A terms as I possibly can. To date, I have managed 134 Minoan Linear A words, which account for 26.7 % of all the intact Linear A words in John G. Younger’s Linear A Lexicon (510). That is about as far as I have been able to go. To view my glossary, please click here:

Minoan Linear A Glossary134

Minoan Linear whorls unearthed by Heinrich Schliemann at Troy in 1875 & their striking similarity to the Linear A whorls (recto/verso) illustrated here:

Minoan Linear A text whorls and Heinrich Schliemann's finds 1875

As I searched through all of the tablets Prof. John G. Younger has placed online on his superb site, Linear A Texts in phonetic transcription, Minoan Linear whorls unearthed by Heinrich Schliemann at Troy in 1875 are strikingly similar to the Linear A whorls (recto/verso) from his site, which you can view by clicking on the logo for his site:

Linear A Texts in phonetic transcription

(Scroll down to Troy about 80 % down from the top of the page)

Imagine my excitement when I ran across the whorls from Troy with Minoan Linear A text on them from Prof. Youngers site! The similarities are in fact so astonishing that I have decided to go out on a limb (which is typical of me) and dare to decipher the text on the Linear A whorls (recto/verso), where [1] recto appears to mean “the left or outside spindle wheel” and [2] verso would therefore mean “the right or inside spindle wheel”, yielding two spindle wheels on each side of the distaff, just they appear in the illustration of an ancient Greek distaff and spindles (top left). Indeed, the figure of several whorls which the renowned archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann, dug up at Troy in 1875 (top right) appear to confirm my findings.

And when we turn our attention to more closely examine the two Minoan words in Linear A, [1] pimitatira2 = pimitatirai & [2] dumitatira2 = dumitatirai, we discover that the words are identical except for the first syllabogram or first syllable, which are [1] pi & [2] du. Of course, it is indifferent to the decipherment whether or not pi designates the left or right spindle wheel and du the right or left spindle wheel, or vice versa, provided that we understand that the wheels are opposite one another on the distaff. This in turn implies that the prefixes (prefixed syllabogram) pi must mean “left” or “outside” and du the opposite, “right” or “inside” or vice versa. But for the sake of expediency, we have settled on the first interpretation, though if you yourself prefer it the other way around, that is fine with me.

But the implications of this discovery go even further. If pi means “left” or “outside” and du the opposite, “right” or “inside”, it is up to us to attempt to verify this hypothesis by scanning through every last Minoan Linear A tablet in Prof. John G. Younger’s database of Linear A texts, searching for the possible recurrence of these same two prefix syllabograms in different contexts. If we do happen to stumble upon such text(s), then not only may we have the means to verify or dismiss our decipherment of the two words here, [1] pimitatira2 = pimitatirai & [2] dumitatira2 = duimitatirai, but also to cross-correlate these two quasi-identical Minoan words (prefixes excepted) with other Minoan Linear A words, which would then serve to confirm or dismiss our hypothetical decipherment, and even allow us to decipher the other quasi-identical twin words, with the sole difference that one word has the prefix pi and other du. Let us fervently hope for such an outcome. You can rest assured that this is precisely what I intend to do, scan Prof. John G. Younger’s database of Linear A texts from top to bottom, and end to end, in the hope of discovering other quasi-twins with the same syllabograms as prefixes.

This brings the total number of Minoan Linear A words (tentatively) deciphered to 55. 

Vocabulary and Supersyllabograms in Minoan Linear A classified by tablets (Click on the logo to visit his site):

Linear A Texts in phonetic transcription

NOTE: Decipherment of many of these words in Minoan Linear A can be cross-correlated with relative ease with Mycenaean Linear B tablets with supersyllabograms on them, since the latter may give hints relative to the potential meanings of the words in question. 

Relatively intact Minoan Linear A tablets with vocabulary potentially suited for decipherment.

7 ideograms for decipherment of Linear A

Grains (wheat & barley):

ARKH 3 ?
... kane + grain
... kinu + grain
... yapi + grain
... pipu3 = pipai + grain
(all left truncated)?

adaro + grain 

HT 21
pitakase + TE = grain 

HT 44 (cf. HT 88 (human) + HT 131)

HT 91

HT 92 (Cf. HT 133)

HT 93 
pa3nina = painina + grain + PA3 + RE + SE
ase + grain + PA
pa3nina = painina 

HT 101
zu*22*di + grain + QE
sara2 = sarai +grain (See also HT 105 HT 114 HT 121 & HT 125)
Total = 5 - I will attempt a preliminary decipherment soon. 

HT 102
sara2 = sarai + grain

HT 114
sara2 = sarai+ grain

HT 115
*47*nuraya + grain

HT 116
pura2 = purai + grain + DI – I will attempt this one soon.
pura2 = purai + grain + KI – I will attempt this one soon.

HT 121
sara2 = sarai 
HT 125
sara2 = sarai 
reta2 = retai + grain + PA – I will attempt this one soon (See also sara2 = sarai)

HT 129
kireta2 = kiretai + grain
tuqirina + grain

HT 131
iqa*118 + grain (Cf. HT 44)

HT 133 
adu + TE + grain + DA – I will decipher this one very shortly (Cf. adureza = basic standard unit for dry measurement for grains such as barley and wheat)

KH 10
akipiete + grain

Man (human):

HT 58

HT 88 (See HT 133 above)

HT 105
sara2 = sarai
Oil and olive oil:

HT 14
apu2nadu + oil + MI + oil + DI

HT 91
teri = oil + MI – I will attempt this one soon.

HT 101
kupa3 = kupai + U – I will attempt this one soon.

HT 121
kirita2 = kiritai + oil + QE + DI – I will attempt this one soon.

HT 123-124 *
kitai + (owed) = kiro (total)– I will attempt these 3 soon.
saru +  (owed) = kiro (total)
datu +  (owed) = kiro (total)

HT 140
yedi + KI


HT 132
qareto = field (lease field -or- plot of land)? + ideogram for sheep. This does not mean sheep!


HT 93 – I will attempt this one soon.


kura = wine? or something related to wine. Cf. Linear B Tablet Pylos Py TA Un 718 L (to be posted next).


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

KN 894 An1910_211_o.jpg wheel ZE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

approaching history

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Notes on Knossos tablet 894 N v 01 Wheel ZE

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

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

The Greek Age of Bronze chariots

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

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

wheel rim illustration

Hence my translation here:

Translation of Knossos tablet KN 984 N v 01 Wheel ZE

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

Linear A texts in transciption

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

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

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

So stay posted. 

A type of cloth” - the Supersyllabogram PU in Mycenaean Linear B & its Implications for the Eventual Decipherment of Minoan Linear A: Click to ENLARGE

Linear B Tablet  KN 474 R q 21 PUPUREYA PUKATARIYA
This is probably the last supersyllabogram for cloth, and the last one we will be dealing with before we move onto providing the meanings of all 31 SSYs in context sometime in December 2014. That will be the final step before we publish our official PDF research article sometime in the winter or spring of 2015.

In the meantime, reviewing the principle of the supersyllabogram, it is defined as the first syllabogram, in other words, the first syllable of the Mycenaean Linear B word which it represents, with the caveat that SSYs vary in meaning depending on the context in which they appear. By context we mean the area of the Minoan/ Mycenaean economy or society which the tablet is dealing with. Thus, the SSY PU would have a different meaning in agriculture than it does in the economic sector for textiles. Within each context, however, each supersyllabogram always has one invariable meaning.

In the context of textiles, the SSY PU means “a type of cloth”, and is the first syllable of the Mycenaean word pukatariya. Unfortunately, this word had already disappeared from Greek even in the archaic period, when Homer wrote the Iliad (ca. 900-700 BCE). So we have no way of knowing whether in fact pukatariya was a Greek, Minoan or even an altogether foreign word. My suspicion is that it is Minoan, and that raises the question whether several other Mycenaean words for which there is not even an archaic Greek equivalent might also be Minoan. If any are – even just a few of them – then that might provide a clue to at least a partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A. It would be an easy task if we were able to find either the exact or an approximate equivalent of any of these purported “Minoan words”  in John G. Younger’s exhaustive lexicon of Minoan Linear A:

John G Youngers reassigment of PA2 to QA
but I suspect that we would have no such luck, as the old saying goes. The confirmation of even a single one of these words in Younger’s lexicon would be a welcome little shot in the arm for the eventual decipherment of Minoan Linear A. Of course, if we cannot find any of the words on extant Linear B tablets for which there is no Greek equivalent, archaic or classical, then we are simply out of luck. I shall eventually get around to doing precisely that, culling all of the Mycenaean words from extant Linear B tablets. for which there is no Greek equivalent, in order to compare them with Younger’s lexicon, unless John G. Younger beats me to the punch. I strongly suspect he already has.

Prof. John G Younger Univresity of Kansas
Finally, since the Mycenaean orthography is pukatariya, we cannot be sure if the Mycenaean Greek pronunciation was putakataria, fugataria or possibly even futhataria.




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