Tag Archive: lambs

Archaeology and Science annual: the Decipherment of Supersyllabograms in Linear B, the last & most formidable frontier in the decipherment of Mycenaean Linear B:


For the past 65 years since Michael Ventris first deciphered Linear B, one phenomenon has eluded historical linguists and philologists. This is the supersyllabogram, which is always a single syllabogram, being the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of a particular Mycenaean word in any one or more of the major economic sectors of the Mycenaean economy: agriculture, military, textiles and the vessels and pottery sector, along with a few religious supersyllabograms. Supersyllabograms are always independent; they always stand alone on extant Linear. My discovery, isolation and classification of supersyllabograms represents the final frontier in the decipherment of Mycenaean Linear B. Some 800 tablets from Knossos alone contain primarily supersyllabograms, with a subset of these incised with supersyllabograms and nothing else. It is difficult to decipher the former, and impossible to decipher the latter without fully accounting for the presence of supersyllabograms. The decipherment of supersyllabograms accounts for the last and most difficult remaining 10 % of Mycenaean Linear B to be deciphered.




You may also download The Decipherment of Supersyllabograms in Linear B here:


This article is 35 pages long (pp. 73-108) in a 29 cm. x 22 cm. format, which is far oversized compared with the standard north American format for research journals (ca. 20 cm. vertical), meaning that if it had been published in the standard north American format, it would have run to some 50 pp., which is the size of a small book.

The Editorial Board consists of 21 peer reviewers, all of them matriculated professors and researchers at the Ph.D. level or higher, from Ancona, Belgrade, Belgium, Bologna, Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.A., Moscow, Münich, Philadelphia, U.S.A., Rome, Warsaw & Trieste. Every author must pass muster with the majority of these peer reviewers if his or her article is to be published in Archaeology and Science. That is one tall hurdle to overcome.

Note also that I am ranked in the top 0.5 % of all researchers and publishers on academia.edu



My Sonnet pursuant to the 2 haiku about sheep: Easy Prey

Easy Prey


Matthew 18:12

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them
has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains
and go in search of the one that went astray?

Since Hell’s self resurrected on the mad,
the sane dare not consort with the insane,
unless they find themselves as ironclad
in mind as soul to shear across the grain
of equipoise and suffer the untold,
to cast themselves on Sinai’s desert rocks,
to wander off  and stray beyond the fold
where they’ll fall easy prey to Satan’s hawks.
But pause... and ask yourself if you’d submit
to humiliation, the same embraced
by martyrs such as they, or counterfeit,
and by the latter token be defaced.
      The wolf has left his lair, and shall attack
      the sane and the insane... and can’t turn back. 

Richard Vallance,

January 9, 2017

2 haiku about sheep in Mycenaean Linear B, ancient Greek, English & French


Andras Zeke’s definitions for “rams”,  “ewes ”, “billy goats” & “nanny goats” (Minoan Language Blog. The fault is in our stars:

On Minoan Linear A tablet PH 31,

Linear A PH 31 and agricultural stock

Andras Zeke provides us with 5 definitions for “rams”, but none for  “ewes ”, while he highlights one each for “billy goats” & “nanny goats” (Minoan Language Blog):

The four nomenclatures he attributes to “rams” are teri, rurumati, amidao, madi & patada. But as the old saying goes, you cannot have it both ways, or in this case, you cannot have it five ways. It is possible that one (and only one) of these words refers to young “rams” (lambs), but that still leaves us with the conundrum, which 1 of the 5 references “rams” and which young “rams” (lambs), if the latter even occur! There are just too many permutations and combinations to make any single definition for “rams” accessible.

On the other hand, he attributes just one definition each to “billy goat” (patane) and  “nanny goat”  (tujuma), which looks neat on the surface of things. But this scenario does not take into account the possibility, even probability, that other words are teamed up with “billy goat” and  “nanny goat” on other Linear A tablets, even if none appear on any other extant Linear A tablets. Since, in the absence of God knows how many lost Minoan Linear A tablets, we cannot know for sure whether or not other terms are conjoined with “billy goat” and “nanny goat” on the lost tablets, there is no way of our knowing whether or not additional words are adjacent to the ideograms for “billy goat” and “nanny goat” on those. In other words, other words may very well have been teamed up with these ideograms on lost tablets, but we shall never know. It is for this reason that I can neither consider the word patane as meaning “billy goat” nor tujuma as standing for “nanny goat”.

But the situation is further compounded by another critical factor, which is that the corresponding ideograms for all of these farm animals, sheep, rams, ewes, billy goats and nanny goats recur hundreds of times on Linear B tablets, yet never with any definition for any of them! All we see on any of these hundreds of tablets are the ideograms for each animal (masculine and feminine), never their definitions. And here on Linear A tablet PH 31 we find the same ideograms (which appear slightly differently in Linear A). So that leaves the question wide open. Just what can the words teri, rurumati, amidao, madi & patada, associated with rams, and patane for billy goat plus tujuma for nanny goats, possibly refer to? The situation is further complicated by the fact that never more than 5 and more often than not only 1 of each of these words attached to their respective ideograms appear on this tablet. This is in contradistinction with the total numbers of any these animals on practically all Linear B tablets, ranging from lows of scores to highs of hundreds. What is going on here? Why the huge discrepancy? Take for instance the three Linear B tablets below. On the first (KN 1301 E j 324),

a AN1938_708_o KN 1301 E j 324

78 rams and 22 ewes are mentioned, on the second (KN 928 G c 301),

b Knossos tablet KN 928 G c 301 supersyllabogram KI = kotona kitimena

the numbers of rams and ewes are truncated, but you can be sure that there are lots of them, while on the third (KN 791 G c 101),

c Knossos tablet KN 791 G c 101 ewes and rams

10 ewes & 105 rams are referenced, with the last ideogram on the second line truncated, so that we cannot even identify whether or not it is masculine or feminine. But here again, we can rest assured that the number of rams or ewes following the last ideogram runs at least to the scores.

There is no way of accounting for this huge discrepancy in the number of ewes and rams on Linear A tablet PH 31 (1 to 5) and the much greater numbers on the three Linear B tablets. Let us not forget that the totals for rams and ewes on almost every Linear B tablet run to the scores and hundreds, and even to the thousands for rams. I am thus left with no alternative but to conclude that the words on the Linear A tablet are not definitions for rams and ewes, and that even though there is only one “definition” (taken with a grain of salt) each for billy and nanny goat, that does not preclude the possibility and even probability that other words related to the same agricultural stock may have appeared on Minoan Linear A tablets, especially the non-extant ones. We cannot ignore that distinct possibility. The probability factor may also enter the equation.

3 quasi-identical tablets on rams. But what are the “items related to rams ”? What a quandary!

KN 1175 - KN 1180 sheep

The written text of all three of these tablets is identical. Only the total numbers of rams and so-called “items related to rams ” vary, especially that latter, from a low of 10 to a high of 67. This raises the thorny questions of why the shepherd or owner of these sheep, Dumireweis, would have to use 67 items related to rams on the second tablet, versus 10 on the first and 20 on the third, especially in light of the fact that the number of rams varies but little on all three tablets (4,5,4).

The next problem is that Mycenaean Greek does not in any specify what these items are supposed to be. The only recourse I have is to assume that they are the instruments and implementa the shepherds and sheep owners used to raise their sheep. Turning to modern sheep raising instruments, and using a little imagination to boot, I came up with the ones listed in the illustration above. This still leaves the issue of Dumireweis having to resort to using 67 such items for a mere 5 rams on the second tablet. The only explanation I can come up with is that the is using several of the same items, meaning that he has several of each in stock. But if this is the case, why does he apparently have only 10 items in stock on tablet 1 and 20 on tablet 3, unless these are a subset of his total stock? That can make sense, as in modern inventories, we can and sometimes do find varying numbers of tool, instruments etc. related for instance to car or airplane manufacturing. These instruments can run to a significant number, especially in the aerospace industry. But I find it extremely difficult to believe that there could as many as a total of 67 discrete (separate) instruments used in an ancient agricultural setting such as that of Knossos, Mycenae or Pylos. It would make far more sense to adduce that the number of such tools and implementa is in fact only 10, as illustrated on the first tablet. This would mean that the 20 on the last tablet would make for redundancy in the number of separate, distinct items, for instance 3 forceps for birthing, 2 different shearing tools etc. Shearing in particular could have involved the use of a number of different, even specialized tools. So the number 67 on the second tablet may not be so wacky after all. For instance, Dumireweis could have made use of 2 different type of forceps or calipers for birthing, and as many as 5 different shearing tools, all in quantity, in order that the total runs to 67.

shears and tongs some bronze

But we are not done yet. Why on earth are there 3 tablets inventorying Dumireweis’ rams, when the scribe could have fit all of the rams and all of the instruments on one tablet? That really beats me. He could have listed 97 instruments for 13 rams, but he didn’t. The only explanation I can come up with is that the scribe is inventorying three different groups of rams Dumireweis owns. No matter how you cut it, though, there appears to be no way our of this messy impasse.

Knossos tablet KN 1280 E m 222, 10 ewes, 10 lambs and 40 sheep in a sheep pen:

Knossos tablet KN 1280 E m 222 lambs and sheep in sheep pens

Knossos tablet KN 1280 E m 222 deals with 10 ewes as mothers of 10 lambs, and also with 40 rams in a sheep pen. The supersyllabogram PA = pauro in Linear B or pauros in ancient Greek, also parvus in Latin = “small” or “little”, hence a small sheep is naturally a lamb. As if. Unfortunately, although the supersyllabogram PA occurs on no less than 38 Linear B tablets in the sheep husbandry sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy, there is no attested word corresponding to this supersyllabogram anywhere in the Mycenaean Greek lexicon. So I had to make an “educated guess”. Well, actually more than just educated. After all, the ancient Greek word pauros = Latin parvus = “small” or “little” eminently fits the bill. So I chose it, just like that. It is possible that this SSYL does not mean “lamb”, but I rather doubt it, especially in light of the fact that the number of lambs on this tablet is exactly equal to the number of ewes. 10 mothers, 10 lambs.


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