Tag Archive: lease

Rita Roberts’ translation of Knossos Linear B tablet KN 946 G a 303 (mid-term, second year university):


Trust me, this is not an easy tablet to translate.

... with a translation into archaic ancient Greek added by Richard Vallance Janke.

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Rita Roberts’ first two translations of Linear B tablets for her second year of university, rams and ewes on a lease field:

Here we see Rita Roberts’ first two translations of Linear B tablets for her second year of university, both of them concerning rams and ewes on a lease field:

KN 1069 F b 09

KN 1084 E e 321

Rita made a couple of small errors in her translations, which I have corrected on the tablets as illustrated above. Her first error was to have omitted the ideogram for “rams” on the first line of Linear B tablet KN 1069 F b09. Although the ideogram is partially effaced, it is clearly that for “rams”, because we can still see the two parallel bars. In addition, the number of rams given in the effaced part of the tablet is lost. Since we shall never know what their number was, I have replaced it by a question mark (?) on the tablet above. On the same tablet, she refers to “units” of wool, which are generally referred to as “bales”.

On Linear B tablet KN 1084 E e 321, for some strange reason, she omitted “at Phaistos” on the second line.

Nevertheless, her initiation into Linear B tablets in the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean may be considered a success. We look forward with anticipation to her future translations.  Although I cannot possibly post all of them, as they run into the hundreds, I shall be posting some of the most intriguing in the near future and beyond.

Mycenaean Linear B tablet KN 1270 Ej 213 with the single supersyllabogram O on it:

Knossos tablet KN 1270 E j 213 and the supersyllabogram O

Mycenaean Linear B tablet KN 1270 Ej 213 has the single supersyllabogram O on it. This supersyllabogram O stands for onato = a lease field, as the translation makes perfectly clear. We see here that the shepherd (or sheep owner) Akunirios has 92 rams + another rams on a usufruct lease field. When we speak of a “usufruct lease field” we mean that the shepherd or sheep owner is permitted to use the lease field (generally by his landlord) for his own benefit or personal gain. 

Mycenaean Linear B tablet Ashmolean An1938_708_o with the single supersyllabogram O on it:

AN1938_708_o KN 1301 E j 324

Mycenaean Linear B tablet Ashmolean An1938_708_o has the single supersyllabogram O on it. This supersyllabogram O stands for onato = a lease field, as the translation makes perfectly clear.



Mycenaean Linear B tablet KN 791 G c 101 & the co-dependent supersyllabograms O & KI:

KN 791 G c 101 & supersyllabograms O & KI

On Mycenaean Linear B tablet KN 791 G c 101, we find the co-dependent supersyllabograms O & KI. In Mycenaean Greek, the SSYL (supersyllabogram) O = onato = a lease field & the SSYL KI = kitimena = a plot of land. When these two SSYLS are combined, they become co-dependent, each one delimiting the other. Hence, on the second line of this tablet, O KI + the ideogram for “rams” or “ewes” (we are unsure which, since the ideogram is right-truncated)  means “an unknown number (right-truncated) of sheep -or- rams -or- ewes on a settled plot of land in a lease field.” When two or more co-dependent supersyllabograms are used with the ideograms for “sheep”, “rams” or “ewes”, both must be nouns. Adjectives are never used for associative co-dependent supersyllabograms, which is precisely what O + KI are on the second line. Associative SSYLS never define the ideogram(s) with which they are linked, since the ideograms themselves already mean exactly what they mean, in this case, “sheep”, “rams” or “ewes”. What associative SSYLS do is modify the ideograms with which they are associated.

NOTE that all supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B were handed down from Minoan Linear A, which invented them. 

Linear B tablet KN 929 F q 01 with 3 supersyllabograms! ???

Supersyllabograms en masse? Is this possible on a single tablet? You can bet on it!

supersyllabograms en masse

Linear B tablet KN 929 F q 01,

Linear B tablet KN 929 F q 01 supersyllabograms KI PE O

with 3 supersyllabograms on it, is a perfect example of this relatively frequent phenomenon on Linear B tablets, regardless of provenance (Knossos, Pylos etc.). On this tablet alone, there are no fewer than 3 supersyllabograms, KI= kitimena ktoina = “a settled plot of land”, PE = periqoro = “(in) a sheep pen” and O = onato = “a lease field”. This is where decipherment can get tricky. At first sight, it looks rather peculiar that the scribe has positioned the first two supersyllabograms, KI and PE before the ideogram for “rams”, but without mentioning the number of rams “in sheep pens on a settled plot of land”, with this statement followed by yet another supersyllabogram, O = onato = “a lease field”, but only this time with the number of rams being specified = 80+. I say 80+ because the right hand side of this tablet is truncated, and so the number of rams could run anywhere from 80 to 89. But I suspect that, in spite of truncation, the number of rams is probably just 80. The problem remains, how do we concatenate the last supersyllabogram O with the previous two?  The only way this can be logically effected is by making the first two SSYLS, KI & PE, dependent on third, O... which is the scribe’s intention. This means that all of the sheep tabulated here are “in sheep pens on a settled plot of land”...  “on a lease field” .

In other words, all 80 of these sheep are being kept in a single sheep pen on only one of the settled plots of land on this lease field. There is no mention of the rest of the sheep on this lease field. But you can bet there are others. The point is that the scribe is explicitly drawing our attention to these 80 sheep alone. The tablet is extremely precise. That is the way of the best inventories. The more precise, the better.   

Linear B tablet KN 791 G c 101 & the co-dependent supersyllabograms O & KI:

KN 791 G c 101 & supersyllabograms O & KI

Linear B tablet KN 791 G c 101 features the single dependent supersyllabogram O = onaton = “lease field” on line 1 & the co-dependent supersyllabograms O & KI = (O = onaton = “lease field” + KI = kitimena kotona =  “a settled plot of land in a lease field” on line 2, where the first SSYL O = onaton is dependent for its context on the second KI = kitimena kotona. Usually KI kitimena kotona =  “an owned & settled plot of land in a lease field”, but this scenario is impossible on this tablet, since a plot of land cannot be owned if it is one of many in a lease field. Context. Logic.

And to round out our little post, a cute cartoon!

bah humbug

Linear B tablet KN 934 G y 201 & the autonomous supersyllabograms KI & O:

KN 934 G y 201 & the supersyllabograms KI & O discrete

Linear B tablet KN 934 G y 201 & the autonomous supersyllabograms KI & O presents us with a different scenario than the previously posted tablet, in which the two supersyllabograms KI & O were co-dependent, i.e. the one could not exist without the other conjoined with the ideogram for sheep or rams which they both modified together, as a unit. In such a case, the meaning is clear. The scribe is describing a “leased plot of land”, one of several parcelled out from a larger “lease field.”

But on this tablet, the two supersyllabograms are kept distinctly separate from one another, although each one modifies the ideogram which appears immediately to its right. So in this case, each of these two supersyllabograms must stand alone. The first one on this tablet, KI, used in conjunction with the ideogram for “rams”, of which there are 6, simply means “an owned and settled plot of land”. The notion of leasing does not enter the picture. On the other hand, the second supersyllabogram, O, refers specifically to “a usufruct lease field” in contrast to the previously mentioned “owned and settled plot of land”. On this particular tablet, which has been right-truncated, the actual ideogram, be it for sheep, rams or ewes, is missing, but we know for certain it must have been on the tablet when it was intact, because O = onato cannot stand on its own.

When it comes to land tenure, everyone for himself!

Your land NO my land!

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

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

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

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

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

Several illustrations of the the Minoan goddess, Potnia:

Potnia Theron Minoan Snake goddess and Artemis


The second supersyllabogram in Linear B, KI = an owned & settled plot of land:

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

The second supersyllabogram in Linear B, also a subset of land tenure is KI = “an owned & settled plot of land”. What is particularly remarkable about this second supersyllabogram in the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy is that it, KI, replaces not just one, but two Linear B words, viz. (a) kotona = “a plot of land” & (b) kitimena = “owned”, “settled” or more likely “owned and settled”. Concatenate the two Linear B words, kotona kitimena (in the natural Mycenaean Linear B and archaic Greek word order, noun + adjective) and we wind up with “an owned and settled plot of land.”  That sure is one long phrase in English covered by a single supersyllabogram, i.e. KI, and it even replaces two Linear B words, kotona kitimena. This unique supersyllabogram, KI is the one and only SSYL in all of Mycenaean Greek which replaces two Mycenaean Linear B words (though only in the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy). 

It was not quite so straightforward a matter to translate this intriguing Linear B tablet. Several issues jumped to the fore. In the first place, the word anano on the first line appears nowhere in any Greek Lexicon, and so I have to assume (and probably correctly) that it is a variant of anono, which means “not leased”. The reason why I believe this to be a variant spelling is that this is the sole Linear B tablet on which the supersyllabogram KI appears all alone, all by itself . On every other tablet I have found, the supersyllabograms KI & O appear in conjunction. And since O = onato = “a leased plot of land”, it stands to reason, in the absence of the SSYL O on this particular tablet, and in the presence of the word anano = anono = “not leased”, that this tablet is the only one with the supersyllabogram KI on it which deals with land which is not leased. On all the other tablets with the SSYL KI, the SSYL O = onato = “a leased field” also appears, in contraindication with this one.

Secondly, the word Rawoqonoyo also appears nowhere in any Linear B Lexicon, and so I really had to put my thinking cap on!   The first two syllables of this word are easy to decipher. They are the Mycenaean Linear B rawo = “the host”, “the army” or “the people.”  It is duly found in Chris Tselentis’ Linear B Lexicon. However, what are we to make of “qonoyo”? To begin with, it is immediately obvious that these last three syllabograms are in the genitive, ending as they do with “oyo”. That raises the question, what is the nominative? Nowhere to be found on any extant Linear B tablet other than this one, and nowhere in any Linear B Lexicon. Me, stumped? Of course not!  Checking the Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary, I discovered the Classical Greek word goneus (here Latinized), which means “parent” or “ancestor”, for which the Mycenaean genitive singular would have been gonoyo. Looks like a bingo, with the caveat, however, that this word actually existed in Mycenaean times. In my view, the chances are very high it did. So then this word is apparently a name, an eponym which roughly translates as “The Father of the People”, in other words the (shaman) overseer of the clan owning this flock of ewes.  Grandpa in the Spirit.  He does not even have to be alive. By virtue of being the revered worshipped ancestor of the folks who own these ewes, he merits his title, Most High Dude (so to speak). The translation makes sense, and so that is why I am sticking to my guns on this one. I simply have an intuitive feel for this one. In passing I should also like to explain why I opted for the free translation “owned by the Father of the Host”, which looks like it should be dative, whereas it is actually genitive, as we have seen. But if a plot of land is that of the Father of the Host, that implies he owns it. Simple as that. Besides, this construction (genitive standing in for dative for “by”) is common not only to Mycenaean and Homeric Greek, but to Classical Greek as well.

According to Tselentis, the village name is either Dawos or Dawon. Dawos makes more sense to me,  as toponyms are usually masculine in Mycenaean Greek: Knossos, Amnisos and Pylos, or feminine, Mycenae.

This was a lot of ground to cover, but then again, this supersyllabogram. KI = kotona kitimena = “an owned and settled” plot of land is not only the only SSYL which concatenates two Linear B words, kotona + kitimena, but is also one of the most heavily used SSYLs in Mycenaean Linear B, along with its cousin counterpart, O = onato = “lease field” .

Introduction to supersyllabograms in Linear B: O = onato = lease field # 3

Knossos tablet KN 1084 E e 321 and the supersyllabogram O for onato = lease field

Linear B tablet Knossos KN 1084 E e 321 is the third and final tablet in our series on the supersyllabogram O = onato = “(usufruct) lease field”. By now the translation of the supersyllabogram O should be so transparent that you can practically read it with your eyes closed... well, not quite. You wouldn’t want to close your eyes (joke!). The cities of Phaistos and Pylos were the second and third largest sheep raising locales in Minoan-Mycenaean Crete and Mycenae after the huge metropolis of Knossos (population ca. 55,000, an enormous city for antiquity). Whether or not Phaistos or Pylos came second or third or vice versa is anyone’s guess. So let’s move on to the next supersyllabogram KI for sheep raising and sheep husbandry. Can you guess what it means? Hint, it also has to do with land tenure.


Introduction to supersyllabograms in Linear B: O = onato = lease field # 2

Knossos tablet KN 1270 E j 213 and the supersyllabogram O

Now that I have fully explained how supersyllabograms function in Mycenaean Linear B, it is going to be a lot easier for us to understand the second tablet in the series, Knossos tablet KN 1270 E j 213, on which once again the supersyllabogram O = onato = “(usufruct) lease field” appears for the second time and again on the bottom line. So the translation of that line must be “... and 48 rams on a lease field on the island of Eksonos -or- Exonos”, where the supersyllabogram O in front of the ideogram for “rams” of course means onato = “(usufruct) lease field”. That was pretty easy. I shall post one more tablet with the supersyllabogram O = onato, to make it crystal clear how it functions. Then we shall turn to the supersyllabogram KI, which for the moment I am keeping a secret from you. Eksonos or Exonos was one of several major islands in the Minoan-Mycenaean Empire where sheep were raised.

Introduction to supersyllabograms in Linear B – what is a supersyllabogram?

In brief, a supersyllabogram is the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of any Linear B word (or phrase) used in conjunction with any one of scores of Linear B ideograms. In a sense, almost all supersyllabograms are dependent on the ideogram which they modify, hence they are called dependent supersyllabograms. However, it is not as simple as that. In actual fact, it is the supersyllabogram which modifies the meaning of the ideogram, sometimes drastically.

Additionally, in the field of agriculture, all supersyllabograms without exception are said to be associative, which is to say that they are associated by happenstance with the ideograms they modify as indicators of geographic location, land tenure, land disposition, sheep raising and husbandry, as dictated by each supersyllabogram. The tablet shown here clearly illustrates the disposition of an associative supersyllabogram, in this case O = Linear onaton = “a usufruct lease field” or more simply “a lease field”, which as you can see is an entire phrase in English, even though it is only one word in Mycenaean Linear B. Here is how the supersyllabogram O = onaton in particular functions. Where the ideograms alone (accompanied by no supersyllabogram) signifying rams and ewes appear on any Linear B tablet, as on the first line of KN 1371 E j 921, they simply mean what they are, rams and ewes, which is why the first line of this tablet simply translates as 80 rams and 8 ewes. Period. Nothing more, nothing less. Simple.

Linar B tablet KN 1371 E j 921 O supersyllabogram = onaton = lease field

The supersyllabogram O, the first of 36: 

The first supersyllabogam in Mycenaean Linear B = O = onaton = lease field

However, as soon as the scribe places a supersyllabogram, in this case O, which as we have just noted above is the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of a certain Linear B word, the meaning changes, often  dramatically. The problem is, what does O mean? Upon consulting Chris Tselentis’ excellent Linear B Lexicon, we discover (not much to our surprise) that there is one word and one word only which fits the context and that word is of course onato. Every other entry under the vowel syllabogram O in his Lexicon comes up cold. They are dead ends. This leaves us with only one alternative. The vowel syllabogram O must mean onato = “a lease field”, and absolutely nothing else. So the second line on this tablet can only mean one thing, “12 rams on a (usufruct) lease field”. Nothing else. Period.  However, take away the ideogram, in this case for “rams”, and leave the O all by itself on the tablet, it means absolutely nothing. It is just the vowel syllabogram O, and there is no Mycenaean Linear B word  with the single vowel “O”. This is precisely why the supersyllabogram O (and all other supersyllabograms in the agricultural sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy are tagged as associative (because they just so happen to be associated with the ideograms they modify) and dependent on the ideogram they modify (because once they are associated with a particular ideogram, they distinctly modify its meaning). This phenomenon takes some getting used to, because it does not exist in any other language or script, ancient or modern... which is astounding when you think of it.

Unfortunately, not all supersyllabograms are that easy to crack. In fact, the majority of them are not. But we can leave that prickly problem to later, much later. In case you are wondering , out of 61 syllabograms + 1 homophone (AI) in Mycenaean Linear B, no fewer than 36 (!) or  59 % are supersyllabograms. That is a huge investment on the part of Mycenaean Linear B scribes. But why, I hear you asking, would they even bother doing this? The answer stares us in the face... to save precious space on what are after all tiny tablets. Linear B tablets are rarely more than 15 cm. wide,  with only a few being 30 cm. So rather than spell out onato in full, in this case onato = a lease field, they simply placed the supersyllabogram O in front of the ideogram for any of sheep or rams or ewes, and left it at that. And what goes for the supersyllabogram O goes for every last one of the 36 supersyllabograms.

This phenomenon may seem a little weird to you all at first sight. But you will rapidly become accustomed to it as I post more and more supersyllabograms (a.k.a. SSYLs) pursuant to this post.

Note that until I myself deciphered all 36 supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B between 2014 & 2016, no one in the field of linguistic research into Linear B had ever deciphered any more than a scattered few or them, let alone isolated, identified and classified all 36. In fact, no researcher to date has ever even understood what the phenomenon of the supersyllabogram is. Not until I cracked them wide open.

This is the most significant breakthrough in the decipherment of Mycenaean Linear B in the 64 years since its initial decipherment by Michael Ventris in 1952. In 2017, I will be publishing the definitive article on The Theory and Application of Supersyllabograms in Linear B, but in which publication and precisely when remains a closely guarded secret never to be whispered until it meets the light of day.

Linear B tablet, Ashmolean Museum An1938_708_o, rams and ewes:

AN1938_708_o KN 1301 E j 324

Note on the translation:

In the first line, we have the intriguing word, Yatiri, which I take as being a place name (toponym). However, given that it ends in “ri ”, it could also be dative, and in that case, it sure looks like that dative of Linear B iatere = Greek iatros = “physician”. If that is so, it would seem that the scribe who inscribed this tablet may have wanted to indicate to us that he wishes the owners of the sheep, Adaios and Dotias, to bring their flocks to the attention of the physician, who would check them for disease. However, this is the less likely of the two translations. The place name makes more sense.

In case any of you are wondering, as I am sure you are, what are all these tablets tagged Ashmolean Museum? There is a relatively small, but extremely significant collection of Linear B tablets held by the Ashmolean Museum, the British Museum, The Sir Arthur Evans Archive, here:

Sir Arthur Evans Archive

Although this collection of tablets transferred by Sir Arthur Evans to the British Museum in the early 1900s is small, it should never be ignored, as it contains in its gallery

Sir Arthur Evans Archives Gallery of Linear B tablets

such commanding tablets as:
Ae 2031, previously translated on our site, here:
and An1910_211_o 

Linear B tablet KN 791 G c 101, ewes and rams & what it signifies:

Knossos tablet KN 791 G c 101 ewes and rams

Linear B tablet KN 791 G c 101, as with most Linear B tablets dealing with sheep, takes stock of ewes and rams. There are literally 100s of such tablets, far more than all the tablets put together in every other sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy (military, textiles & vessels or pottery). This goes to show the critical importance of sheep raising and sheep husbandry in the Minoan/Mycenaean economy. It is by far and away the most important sector of their economy. I first translated this tablet back in 2014, when I was just familiarizing myself with supersyllabograms. I made a fundamental error in my then translation, by conflating KI with pakoso, giving pakososi, which is meaningless. In actual fact, the separate syllabogram KI is the supersyllabogram for kitimena = a plot of land.

On another point. Those of you who visit our site may find it odd that the nouns on Linear B tablets are almost always in the nominative, even when one modifies another, such as onato kitimena which literally means “a lease field, a plot of land”, but freely and accurately translated means “on a leased plot of land”,  where onato becomes attributive. The difficulty here is that these are both associative supersyllabograms, both of which must be nominative regardless of context. Why so? Since the Linear B tablets are inventories, the scribes could not be bothered with inflected cases, unless it was absolutely unavoidable.  As far as they were concerned each “item” on the inventory stood on its own, as a nominative, in other words, as a naming marker.  Although this seems very peculiar to us, that does not matter one jot, because here we are in the twenty-first century and there they were in the thirteenth or fourteenth century BCE, and never the twain shall meet. After all, they, the scribes, wrote the tablets, so whatever we may think about their “style” (which is also irrelevant because they could have cared less about that too), we have to put up with their formulaic conventions, because that is what these phenomena and others similar to them amount to. Take it or leave it. But if you leave it does not make a hill of beans worth of difference.

Knossos Linear B tablet K 919, fleece, penning in sheep on a plot of land etc.:

Linear B tablet K 919 with the supersyllabograms KI PE ZA SE

This is a unique Knossos Linear B tablet K 919, the only 1 of its kind in the entire repertoire of Linear B tablets, in so far as in it we have the only appearance in Linear B of the (apparently) independent supersyllabogram SE = sekaze in Linear B or sekazein in ancient Greek, which means “to pen in”. This suits the context like a glove, since the supersyllabogram PE, which means “a sheep pen” pops up immediately after the SSYL KI = “a plot of land”, while the left-truncated O to the right of the tablet is almost certainly the first supersyllabogram,  i.e. O, the first vowel of the Linear B word onaton = “a lease field”. I say that the SSYL SE is apparently independent, since it is not immediately fused with an ideogram,  in this case, the ideogram for “ewes” (100 of them) to its right. But this may be deceptive. The SSYL SE may be partially independent and partially dependent, since (a) it stands on its own in between maro = “fleece” and the ideogram for “ewes”, yet (b) it may very well be dependent on the ideogram for “ewes”, in spite of its placement. This is also a unique phenomenon in Linear B. No other supersyllabogram other than SE is both dependent and independent, if indeed that is what this one is. I cannot be sure. In point of fact, no other scribe ever resorted to placing a supersyllabogram mid-way between a Linear B word, maro, and an ideogram (ewes). Very odd.

Linear B tablet KN 595 R p 31 with reference to the chiton undertunic:

Linear B tablet KN 595 R p 31 & the supersyllabograms O PE & KI

This tablet has to be one of the most challenging and most intriguing I have ever had the pleasure of deciphering. Challenging because it introduces two new associative supersyllabograms which appear nowhere else on tablets in the military sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy. Intriguing because, as is to be expected, the two associative supersyllabograms, O & PE in the military sector, cannot possibly mean the same thing as they do in the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy, where they are occur on hundreds of tablets. Associative supersyllabograms, which always appear adjacent to the ideograms they modify, are those which describe some characteristic or element related it, unlike attributive supersyllabograms, which always appear inside the ideogram which they modify. Attributive supersyllabograms are without exception an attribute of the ideogram which they embody. Thus the attributive supersyllabogram KI describes precisely the type of textile its ideogram refers to, namely, the chiton undertunic = kito in Linear B, which the Mycenaean warriors, charioteers and foot soldiers alike wore under their breastplate = toraka in Linear B or thorax in ancient Greek. There is no mystery here.

But what about the associative supersyllabograms O on the first line and PE on the second line? What can they possibly signify? It is obvious from the outset that here, in the military sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy, they cannot conceivably mean the same thing as they do in the agricultural sector, where O = onato i.e. a lease field & PE = periqoro = a sheep pen in Linear B. This is where context comes into play, and in a big way. In fact, without context in the broadest sense of that word, no supersyllabogram, whether associative or attributive, can have any meaning at all.

It is absolutely necessary to define context in its all-inclusive sense. By context I do not merely mean the semantic-syntactical context within the confines of the tablet in which any supersyllabogram whatsoever appears, but also the cross-comparative syntactical contextual significance of each and every syllabogram cutting across any number of tablets in which these supersyllabograms appear in the same sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy. But even at this level, context is not sufficiently accounted for. It is all fine and well to contend that this is all there is to context. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unless and until we take context to mean the actual real world significance of each and every supersyllabogram, let alone word or phrase, we take into account in any and all sectors of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy, contextual and cross-contextual syntactical context alone fall far short of establishing their actual meaning. The real world context is just that. It is the clincher.

For instance, if we contend that the associative supersyllabograms O = onato or lease field, and PE = periqoro or a sheep pen in contextual association alone with the ideogram they modify, we cannot be certain that that is in fact what these two supersyllabograms designate. Unless we take their real world, environmental context fully into account, there is no substantive corroborative evidence that these supersyllabograms actually mean what they appear to mean in their contextual sense alone. The only way we can be certain that these supersyllabograms O & PE actually refer to a lease field and a sheep pen in turn, and nothing else, is to fully account for their real world context, namely, the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy (which just so happens to be almost always sheep). Otherwise, all the contextual analysis in the world amounts to a hill of beans. As it just so happens, these two supersyllabograms, O & PE, in the agricultural sector alone, must mean what they do mean, because there are no other feasible alternatives in their real world environment.

The guiding principle is, change the sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy in which any supersyllabogram appears, and you automatically change its real world significance in the vast majority of cases, with very few exceptions. It is patently impossible for the supersyllabogram O to mean a lease field or for the supersyllabogram PE to refer to a sheep pen in in the military sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy. The idea is ludicrous. That leaves us with no other alternative than to attempt to establish, not only the (cross-) contextual, but also the real world significance of the associative supersyllabograms O & PE in the military sector. This is not such a simple operation as one might assume.

The principle of cross-contextual real world significance of supersyllabograms:

Before moving on to the definitions of these two supersyllabograms in the military sector, it is absolutely necessary to generalize the principle of the sense of any supersyllabogram whatsoever in the context of any and all sectors of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy in which it appears. Hypothetically and in actuality, the meaning of any supersyllabogram whatsoever, associative as well as attributive, depends entirely on both the syntactical and real world context within which it appears. Change the environmental context in which any single supersyllabogram is set, and you automatically change its meaning or more properly speaking, its true significance. Thus, for instance, the supersyllabograms O & PE each signify one thing and one thing only in the agricultural sector and quite another in the military sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy. This is true for every single supersyllabogram which cuts across any or all of the sectors of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy. These sectors are: agricultural, military, textiles, vessels (pottery etc.), religious and toponyms. For instance, the supersyllabogram PA cuts across all sectors but one, vessels. But it cannot and does not carry the same real world significance in any of these sectors. This factor must always be held uppermost in mind in the determination of the real world significance of any and all supersyllabograms, associative or attributive, as they cut across the boundaries separating the sectors of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy.

That leaves us with the burning question, just what do the associative supersyllabograms O & PE signify in the military sector? The answer, at least in the case of the associative supersyllabogram O, is not so obvious as one might imagine. Why so? Unfortunately, when we turn to Chris Tselentis’ superb Linear B Lexicon, we discover to our dismay that there are no fewer than three candidates for the supersyllabogram O. These are (a) that the supersyllabogram O means a military unit, such as a squadron or battalion or (b) it refers to the delivery of the item(s) under the scope or (c) to the purchase of said item(s). Which one is right?  We shall never know. We were not there when the scribes assigned the real world significance to this supersyllabogram, O. Any one of the aforementioned definitions fits the bill where the military sector is concerned. It is particularly tempting to opt for the first meaning, as it is explicitly military, but we must be on our guard about making such an assumption. However, it does appear that the notion of a military unit such as a squadron or battalion makes eminent sense, given the presence of the word eropakeya, which references game hunting. At the same time, that definition looks suspiciously like it is too specific with regard to the real world context, as I am somewhat doubtful whether a scribe would run to such detail in the determination of the significance of the supersyllabogram at hand, namely, O. It makes just as much sense to postulate that O refers to the delivery or purchase of the textile, the chiton undergarment. We were not there when the scribe assigned the meaning he did to this supersyllabogram, O. So we shall never know. So take your pick.

As for the supersyllabogram PE, things are much more straightforward. We already know from the syntactical and real world context of the attributive supersyllabogram KI, which can refer to one thing and one thing only, the (undergarment) chiton, that the associative supersyllabogram PE must without a shadow of a doubt be directly related to its parallel attributive supersyllabogram KI. It just so happens that Chris Tselentis has lit upon the one word which precisely fits the context (at all levels). And that word is pekoto, which refers to a kind of textile. And that kind of textile is quite obviously the chiton. But why would the scribe find it necessary to repeat the notion of textile, once as pekoto (a kind of textile) and secondly as kito (a chiton) specifically? There has to be a legitimate reason; otherwise he would not have done so. The reason is this: the scribe is specifically drawing our attention to the manufacture of a certain type of textile, in this instance, the chiton undergarment. This is the primary thrust of the overall significance of the text (contextual and real world) of this tablet. In other words, the fact that the supersyllabogram O refers to a military hunting unit, or to the delivery or purchase of the items under consideration for game hunting (namely, textiles) is secondary, taking a back seat to the actual manufacture of this item, which is the chiton undertunic. At least that is how I interpret it.

Supersyllabograms for sheep husbandry at Knossos (K series supplemental): Click to ENLARGE

Sheep husbandry tablets Scripta Minoa K series supplemental
We see illustrated above 13 tablets in the K series (supplemental) from Scripta Minoa (Sir Arthur Evans), Cambridge University, 1952. The supersyllabograms on these tablets are 0 for onato = lease field, pa for Paito, i.e. Phaistos (?) and pe for periqoro = enclosure or sheep pen. Although the SSYL pa appears with high frequency on the Linear B tablets from Knossos dealing with sheep husbandry, its precise meaning remains unclear. I have been unable to find any word beginning with the syllabogram pa as first syllable in any lexicon of Mycenaean Greek which can possibly be a match for this supersyllabogram, except for the toponym, Paito = Phaistos. This would appear to be in violation of the meanings of supersyllabograms we should expect in any sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy regardless, since none of the SSYLs I have isolated, defined and categorized to date are place names, with the sole exception of pa, if indeed it represents Phaistos — and I have serious reservations about that. However, in spite of its high frequency on the Linear B tablets from Knossos, there is no other cogent decipherment at hand. So I am forced assume that the SSYL pa is the first syllable of the Mycenaean place name, Paito = Phaistos. Until and unless another more reliable decipherment for the SSYL pa for sheep husbandry in the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy is forthcoming, this translation will have to do. I am obliged to base my conjecture for this decipherment on the plausible assumption that the scribes were in the habit of inventorying sheep, rams and ewes at Knossos, given that tens and tens of thousands of them are mentioned for that city alone, whereas the number of sheep raised in all other centres, including Phaistos, usually runs into the scores or hundreds at most, almost never into the thousands. So it would appear that the scribes took to mentioning Phaistos by name for sheep raising at that locale, whenever they felt this was appropriate. It makes sense, given that Phaistos was the next major locale for sheep raising after Knossos, as illustrated on this map: Click to ENLARGE

Minoan Mycenaean Crete Knossos Phaistos and other centres
This is all the more plausible as few other centres for sheep raising are mentioned with any frequency on the Linear B tablets from Knossos.


The supersyllabogram SA in Mycenaean Linear B: sapaketeriya = animals for ritual slaughter: Click to ENLARGE

KN 386 X a 87 & KN 387 X c 57
Recently, I ran across two new fragmentary tablets from Knossos, KN 386 X a 87 & its quasi-join, KN 387 X c 57, both of which sport the supersyllabogram SA to the left of the ideogram for ram(s). The addition of this new supersyllabogram brings the total number of SSYLS in Mycenaean Linear B to 35 or 57.4 % of a syllabary of 61 syllabograms in all. This is a significant chunk, which attests to the supreme rôle of supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B. We have defined the phenomenon of the supersyllabogram over and over in our blog, but for those of you who are not familiar with it, a supersyllabogram is the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable only of a particular word or even an entire phrase in Mycenaean Greek. It is advisable for our newcomers to consult the section SUPERSYLLABOGRAMS, which you can click on at the top of our blog (see above).

How did I come to the determination that this SSYL references the Mycenaean Greek word, sapaketeriya? It was actually quite straightforward. In Chris Tselentis' excellent comprehensive Linear B Lexicon (PDF), which you can download from my academia.edu account here:

Linear B Lexicon Tslentis
there are only so many Mycenaean Greek words of which the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable, is SA. Of these, one and one only neatly fits the context of sheep raising in the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy, and that is the word sapaketeriya = animals for ritual slaughter. It is significant that this SSYL appears nowhere else on any extant tablet or fragment from either Knossos or Pylos. The reason for this seems to be that the practice of tallying ritual slaughter in inventories would appear to be the exception by far rather than the norm. The norms in inventories of sheep (rams & ewes) on hundreds of tablets from Knossos are primarily tallies of sheep on kitimena = plots of land, onato = lease fields, periqoro = enclosures or sheep pens, and similar aspects of prime interest to sheep husbandry and sheep raising. We have done scores of translations of tablets focusing on these areas on our blog. But again, this quasi-join of (apparently) one tablet is exceptional in two ways. First, it is a particularly rare exception to the types of tallies with which animal raising and husbandry tablets in Linear B are concerned, regardless of provenance (Knossos, Pylos etc.) and secondly, the quasi-joined tablet is in and of itself exceptional, in other words, quite remarkable. It is, in a word, a stunning find.

The partial translation:

Of all the tablets in Mycenaean Linear B which I have translated to date, this is by far the most difficult text with which I have been faced. The gaps in the quasi-join are so fragmented that it appears to make it next to impossible to glean any sense out of the tablet's intent, in other words, what it is supposed to inventory. However, closer examination of the fragmentary text which does appear to the left and to the right of the quasi-join reveals a few fascinating clues. These are tagged in the translation in the illustration above. A few words of explanation are however in order. I've managed to make some sense of the overall intent of the inventory by extrapolating what I take to be the missing text from the context of the intact text.

For instance, it seems to me that the right-truncated word following the indecipherable left-truncated word toyaone on left line 3 is very likely to be paketere, the Mycenaean Greek word for a peg or pegs, or more to the point, a stake or stakes. In the context of this tablet, the ritual slaughter of rams, this rather makes sense, especially in light of the fact that once again, in Chris Tselentis' Linear B Lexicon, it is the only word beginning with the syllabogram pa which fits the context. So that is why I have translated the snippet as such. After all, it does make sense that a ram intended for ritual slaughter would be tied to a stake, to restrain it. One can easily argue that this isn't necessary at all, but on the other hand, it is entirely plausible. Secondly, on right line 0 we find the termination no, left-truncated. What word can this final syllabogram possibly refer to? Once again, turning to our trusty Linear B Lexicon, we discover the word kono, the Mycenaean for the schinus rush plant. It is quite possible that the schinus rush plant may have played a rôle in the ritual slaughter of rams. No one can claim with any certainty that it did... but then again it might have. There is no way of our knowing, peering back 3,300 years through the mists of history, as we were not there when the scribe who tallied this tablet wrote whatever he wrote. But this guestimate is as good as any.

Next, on right line 1, we have the two syllabograms ito left-truncated. One of the most common words found on scores and scores of tablets from Knossos dealing with sheep and livestock is of course the toponym or place name, Paito = Phaistos. So I have opted for that. But then how are we to account for the presence of the number 1 immediately following Phaistos? The explanation might run as follows. What the scribe is describing here is the ritual slaughter of rams at Phaistos only once on this occasion, hence, the number 1. It is well worth considering. Finally, on right line 2, we find the single ultimate (terminal) syllabogram we. What can that possibly refer to?  And once again, there is a plausible explanation for the missing word of which it is the ultimate, namely, the word akorowe, referencing a field or fields. After all, where do we normally find sheep? ... in fields. That too makes sense in the context.

So while my translation is fragmentary, enough of the original text remains on the tablet to allow at least one plausible reconstruction of the intent of the inventory's tally. The reconstituted text does make eminent sense in its proper context. It is of course only one of several possible reconstructions. But I for one am satisfied with it as it stands.  

On a final note, I feel I ought to address the problem of the juxtaposition of the huge syllabogram QE with the much smaller syllabogram wa subsumed to its right. I bring this point up because I have noticed the same phenomenon recurring on scores of tablets from Knossos, and not just with this particular type of combination of these two syllabograms alone. Several other syllabograms appear in the same configuration, i.e. with one, the much larger, appearing first, and the second, much smaller, subsumed to it on the right. I have no idea what this means, but it is surely significant of something, because, as I have said many times over, the Mycenaean scribes never used any linguistic device unless they meant to, in other words, unless they found some practical advantage in so doing. So any two consecutive syllabograms (whichever ones they are) appearing in this particular configuration do not appear to constitute a Mycenaean Greek word, but rather to be a variation on the phenomenon of the supersyllabogram itself. I have neither the room nor the intellectual means to address this unusual configuration in this post, as I have not even begun to make any determination yet re. what this phenomenon actually is. However, I do intend to investigate it thoroughly in the relatively near future, as it quite possibly constitutes a sub-category of supersyllabograms, presumably being a corollary of the latter phenomenon.

Eventually we shall see.  



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