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Before we can decipher even a single Linear A tablet on olive oil, we must decipher as many as we can in Linear B, because... PART A: delivery of olive oil

Before we can plausibly (and frequently tentatively) decipher even a single Linear A tablet on olive oil, we must decipher as many as we can in Linear B, because there are so many facets to be taken fully into consideration in the olive oil sub-sector of the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy related to the production of olive oil which on an adequate number of Linear B tablets (at least 10), mostly from Knossos, dealing with harvesting from olive oil trees and the production and delivery of olive oil that we must account for every single term related to olive oil on the Linear B tablets, and then compile a list of all of these terms in order to cross-correlate these with equivalent terms on the Linear A tablets, mostly from Haghia Triada.

Another vital factor which just occurred to me is that the Minoan economy appears to have been primarily centred in Haghia Triada, while the Mycenaean primarily in Knossos, with valuable contributions from Pylos as well. In other words, the economic centre or power house, if you will, of the Minoan economy appears to have been Haghia Triada and not Knossos. I am somewhat baffled by the fact that researchers to date have not taken this important factor adequately into account. It appears to reveal that Knossos had not yet risen to prominence in the Minoan economy in the Middle Minoan Period (ca. 2100-1600 BCE):

the three Periods of Minoan Civilization

The gravest challenge confronting us in the cross-correlation of the several economic terms related to olive oil production in the late Minoan III 3a period under Mycenaean suzerainty (ca. 1500-1450 BCE)  with potentially equivalent terms in Minoan Linear A arises from the mathematical theoretical constructs of combinations and permutations. Given, for instance, that there are potentially a dozen (12) terms related to olive oil production on an adequate number (10-12)  Linear B tablets to afford effectual cross-correlation, how on earth are we to know which terms in Mycenaean Linear B correspond to apparently similar terms in Minoan Linear A? In other words, if we for instance extrapolate a total of 12 terms from Mycenaean Linear B tablets, how are we to line or match up the Mycenaean Linear B terms in a “Column A” construct with those in Minoan Linear B in “Column B”? There is no practical way that we can safely assert that term A (let us say, for the sake of expediency, that this word is apudosi = “delivery”) in Mycenaean Greek corresponds to term A in Minoan Linear  A, rather than any of B-L, in any permutation and/or in any combination. This leads us straight into the trap of having to assign ALL of the signified (terms) in Mycenaean Linear A to all of the signified in Minoan Linear B. I shall only be able to definitively demonstrate this quandary after I have deciphered as many Linear B tablets on olive oil as I possibly can.

340 APUDOSI

349 APUDOSI


379 APUDOSI

For the time being, we have no choice but to set out on our search with these 3 tablets, all of which prepend the first term apudosi = “delivery” to the ideogram for olive oil. In closing, I wish to emphatically stress that this is precisely the signified I expected to turn up in the list of terms potentially related to olive oil production in Mycenaean Linear B. It is also the most important of all Mycenaean Linear B terms prepended to the ideogram for “olive oil on the Linear B tablets. When we come to making the fateful decision to assign the the correct Minoan Linear A term meaning just that, delivery” on the Linear A tablets dealing with olive oil, how are we to know which Linear A signified corresponds to Linear B apudosi = “delivery”? Still the situation is not as bad as you might think, at least for this term. Why so? Because if it appears (much) more often on the Linear B tablets (say, theoretically, 5 times versus less than 5 for all the other terms in Linear B related to olive oil), then the term appearing the most frequently on Minoan Linear A tablets related to olive oil is more likely than not to be the equivalent of apudosi, i.e. to mean  “delivery”.

The less frequent the occurrence of any particular term relative to olive oil on the Mycenaean Linear B tablets, the greater the room there is for error, to the point that where a term appears only once on all of the Linear B tablets we can manage to muster up for translation, it becomes next to impossible to properly align that term with any of the terms occurring only once on the Minoan Linear A tablets, especially where more than one signified occurs on the Mycenaean Linear B tablets. If for example, 3 terms occur only once on the Linear B tablets, which one(s) aligns with which one(s) on the Linear A? A messy scenario. But we must make the best of the situation, bite the bullet, and cross-correlate these 3 terms in all permutations and combinations (= 9!) from the Linear B to the Linear A tablets containing them. This I shall definitively illustrate in a Chart once I have translated all terms related to olive oil production in Mycenaean Linear A.


A few cracks in the Berlin Wall of Linear A. How far can we decipher it?

Berlin Wall of Minoan Linear A

Even if I have have made a few small cracks in the Berlin Wall of Linear A, the burning question remains, “How far can we decipher it?” The short answer and the long answer are both, “If you think you can decipher Minoan Linear A, you have another think coming!” (including yours truly). The bulk of the vocabulary of Minoan Linear A remains a closed door, firmly nailed shut and locked with padlocks.  The following tablets make this all too painfully obvious:

kuruku

I haven’t the faintest idea what they mean.

Unless we are able to apply at least one of the 5 principles applicable to even a minimal decipherment of a very few Minoan Linear A words (we have managed to decipher 30 so far – more or less – and it was like extracting teeth in most of the cases!), there is simply no way we can ever make any real progress towards deciphering the majority of Linear A words. It is just out of the question... at least for the foreseeable future. What the more distant future will bring no one knows.

The 5 principles for the decipherment of even a minimal cross-section of Minoan Linear A are:

1. (The so-called negative factor). Do not attempt to correlate the Minoan language with any other ancient language  except for the Linear B syllabary and indirect derivation from Mycenaean Greek terms (2. below).   
  
2. Basing our technique on that of the French philologist, Jean-François Champellion, who deciphered the Rossetta Stone in 1822, cross-correlate words in the Minoan Linear A syllabary with parallel words in the Linear B syllabary on strikingly similar tablets in Mycenaean Greek, squarely taking into account the meanings of such words in the latter script and their potential adaptation to vocabulary in a very similar context on Minoan Linear A tablets.  
 
3. Take direct cues from parallel ideograms on reasonably similar Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B tablets.

4. Turn to reliable archaeological evidence where this is available and finally;

5. (the most important principle of all). It is critical to understand that Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B both dealt with inventories and the process of inventorying livestock, crops, military matters and commodities such as vessels and pottery and textiles. 

Even if we rigorously apply these 5 principles, either singly or much better, jointly (the more principles we can call up the better), there is no guarantee that our decipherments a.k.a. Translations are accurate or even correct. While some are indisputably right on the mark, for instance, Linear A puko definitely means “tripod” and most of the Minoan Linear A words for plants and spices are on the money, as for the rest of the words I have attempted to decipher to date, some are more or less accurate, and some are wide open to academic dispute. This is as it should be in an imperfect world, especially in light of the fact that my attempts at decipherment constitute what I sincerely hope is the first rational approach to the decipherment of Minoan Linear A.

As far as I am concerned, even managing to (more or less) decipher 30 Minoan Linear A words is a fine start, but this small vocabulary amounts to little more than a few cracks in the Berlin Wall of Minoan Linear A.    
  

The 5 principles applicable to the rational partial decipherment of Minoan Linear A:

If we are to make any headway at all in the eventual decipherment of Minoan Linear A, there are certain principles which should be strictly applied. There are 5 of them:

1. (The so-called negative factor). Do not attempt to correlate the Minoan language with any other ancient language  except for the Linear B syllabary and indirect derivation from Mycenaean Greek terms (2. below).   
  
2. Basing our technique on that of the French philologist, Jean-François Champellion, who deciphered the Rossetta Stone in 1822, cross-correlate words in the Minoan Linear A syllabary with parallel words in the Linear B syllabary on strikingly similar tablets in Mycenaean Greek, squarely taking into account the meanings of such words in the latter script and their potential adaptation to vocabulary in a very similar context on Minoan Linear A tablets.  
 
3. Take direct cues from parallel ideograms on reasonably similar Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B tablets.

4. Turn to reliable archaeological evidence where this is available and finally;

5. (the most important principle of all). It is critical to understand that Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B both dealt with inventories and the process of inventorying livestock, crops, military matters and commodities such as vessels and pottery and textiles. 

1. The attempt to correlate Minoan with known ancient language (negative principle or factor):

All too many past researchers and philologists attempting to decipher Minoan Linear A have made the assumption that they had first to determine what class of language it must or may have belonged to before they even began to attempt decipherment. This is, as we shall see, a false premise, a non starter, a dead end.

The very first of these researchers to make such an assumption was none other than Sir Arthur Evans himself, though he could hardly be blamed for doing so, being as he was at the very frontier of the science of archaeology at the outset of the twentieth century, up until the First World War when he had to suspend archaeological work at Knossos (1900-1914). I made this clear in my article, “An Archaeologist’ s Translation of Pylos tablet Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris)”, in Vol. 10 (2014) in the prestigious international journal, Archaeology and Science (Belgrade) ISSN 1452-7448, in which I emphasized and I quote from Evans:

It would seem, therefore, unlikely that the language of the Cretan scripts was any kind of Greek, and probable that it was related to the early language or languages of Western Anatolia – associated, that is, with the archaeological 'cultures’ of Alaja Hüyük I ('proto-hattic’) and of Hissarlik II and Yortan ('Luvian’)...”, and a little further, “Though many of the sign-groups are compounded from distinct elements, usually of two syllables each, there is little trace of an organized system of grammatical suffixes, as in Greek. At most, a few signs are notably frequent as terminals... (italics mine) and this in spite of its great antiquity, given that it preceded the earliest known written Greek, The Iliad and The Odyssey of Homer by at least 600 years! It was a perfectly reasonable and plausible assumption, in view of the then understandable utter lack of evidence to the contrary.

Returning to my own analysis:

Besides, there were no extant tablets in either Minoan Linear A or Linear B with parallel text in another known ancient language, as had conveniently been the case with the Rosetta Stone, which would have gone a long way to aiming for a convincing decipherment of at least the latter script.  Yet Evans was nagged by doubts lurking just below the surface of his propositions. (pp. 137-138)

So Evans was vacillating between the assumption that the Minoan language may have been related either to Luvian or Hittite (a brilliant assumption for his day and age) and that it was an ancestral form of proto-Greek. Both assumptions were wrong, but if only he had known that Linear B was alternatively the actual version of a very ancient East Greek dialect, namely, Mycenaean Greek, how different would the history of the decipherment of Linear B at least have been. 

To complicate matters, Michael Ventris himself, following in the footsteps of Evans, began by making the same assumption, only this time correlating (italics mine) Linear B with Etruscan, stubbornly sticking with this assumption for almost 2 years before Linear B literally threw in his face the ineluctable conclusion that the script was indicative of Mycenaean Greek (June 1952).

My point is and here I must be emphatic. It is a total waste of time trying to pigeon-hole the lost Minoan language in any class of language, whether Indo-European or not. It will get us absolutely nowhere. So I have concluded (much to my own relief and with positive practical consequences) that it does not matter one jot what class of language Minoan belongs to, and that it serves us best simply to jump into the deep waters without further ado, and to attempt to decipher it on its own terms, i.e. internally.

2. Cross-correlation between the Minoan language and the Mycenaean syllabary: 

Notice that in 1. above I italicized the word correlating. This is no accident at all. It is only by the process of cross-correlation with a known language that we can even begin to decipher an unknown one. And of course, the known language with which the Minoan language must be cross-correlated is none other than Mycenaean in Linear B, if not for any reason other than that Linear B uses basically the same syllabary as its predecessor, with only a modicum of changes required by the latter to represent Mycenaean Greek, more or less accurately. This assumption or principle, if you like, is squarely based on the approach used by the renowned French philologist, Jean-François Champellion, who finally deciphered in 1822, 23 years after it was discovered in Egypt in 1799.


Rosetta Stone Champollion 1790-1832

How did he do it? He made the brilliant assumption that the stone, on which was inscribed the identical text in Demotic and ancient Greek, must have the exact same text in Egyptian hieroglyphics on it. And of course, he was right on the money. Here is were the principle of cross-correlation comes charging to the fore. If a given text in an unknown ancient text is on the same tablet as at least one other known language (and in this case two), a truly observant and meticulous philologist cannot but help to draw the ineluctable conclusion that the text of the unknown language must be identical to that of the known. Bingo!
 
But I hear you protest, there are no media upon which the identical text is inscribed where Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B are concerned. The medium on which texts in both Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B are inscribed is the clay tablet. While it is indisputably true that there exist no tablets on which the identical text is inscribed in Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B, upon close examination, we discover to our amazement that there is at least one tablet in Minoan Linear A which is potentially very close to another in Mycenaean Linear B, and that tablet is none other than Linear A HT 31 from Haghia Triada, on which the text, at least to a highly observant philologist, would appear to be very close to a text on a particular Linear B tablet. And that tablet, we discover to our amazement, is none other than Pylos tablet TA Py 631-1952 (Ventris). Armed with this assumption, I forged right ahead and made a direct comparison between the two. And what did I discover? Both tablets mention (almost) the very same types of vessels in at least 4 instances. Armed with this information, I simply went ahead and found, this time not to my amazement or even surprise, that I was – at least   tentatively – correct.

In the case of at least two words on both tablets, as it turned out, I was right on the money. These are (a) puko = tripod on HT 31 and tiripode = tripod on  Py TA 631-1952 (Ventris). This was the very first word I ever managed to decipher correctly in Minoan Linear A. My translation, as it turns out, is without a shadow of a doubt, correct. My excitement mounted. (b) The second is supa3ra or supaira on HT 31, which would appear to be almost if not the exact equivalent of dipa mewiyo = a small(er) cup on Py TA 631-1952 (Ventris), but without the handles on the latter. And as it turns out, I was again either close to the mark or right on it. Refer to our previous posts on the decipherment of these two words, and you can see for yourselves exactly how I drew these startling conclusions.

Another Linear B tablet which is a goldmine of Mycenaean vocabulary from which certain Minoan words may be indirectly extrapolated is Pylos tablet TA Py Un 718 L.


Pylos tablet PY Un 718 Chris Tselentis


By extrapolation of Minoan Linear A terms from their Mycenaean Linear B equivalents, I certainly do not mean that the former can be directly divined from the latter, since that is impossible, given that Mycenaean Greek is a known language whereas Minoan Linear A is unknown. What I mean is simply this: there is a good chance that a word which appears on a Minoan Linear A tablet which shares (almost) identical ideograms and relatively similar placement of (quasi-)identical text with its reasonably similar Mycenaean counterpart may share (approximately) the same meaning as its Mycenaean Greek counterpart. The clincher here is context. If the (quasi-)identical ideograms on both the Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B tablets appear strikingly alike, then we may very well have something substantial to go on. Pylos tablet TA Py Un 718 L is as close to an ideal candidate as there comes for such cross-correlation with tablets with similar text on one or more Minoan Linear A tablets.     

3. Parallel ideograms on Linear A and Linear B tablets:

The presence of apparently (very) similar ideograms for vessels on both of the aforementioned tablets only serves to confirm, at least tentatively for most of the words on vessels I have attempted to decipher, and conclusively for the two words above, that I am (hopefully) well on my way to a clear start at deciphering at deciphering a small subset of Minoan Linear A. For lack of space, I cannot give details this post, which is already long enough, but once again, previous posts reveal in much more detail this principle on which my decipherments are founded, and the methodology behind it which lends further credence my translations.

4. Archaeological evidence lends yet further credence to my decipherments of 4 of the largest vessel types on HT 31, namely, karopa3 or karopai, nere, qapai & tetu. The problem here is, which one of the largest is the largest of them all, being approximately equivalent to the Greek pithos? I cannot tell from the tablet. However, since my initial stab at decipherment, I have tentatively concluded that Minoan Linear A words terminating in the ultimate U are masculine singular for the very largest in their class. Hence,  it would appear at least that tetu is the most likely candidate for the equivalent to the ancient Greek pithos. I cannot as yet determine with any degree of certainty that this is so, but it is at least a start.

5. (the most important principle of all). It is critical to understand that Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B both dealt with inventories and the process of inventorying livestock, crops, military matters and commodities such as vessels and pottery and textiles. Based on this assumption, it only makes sense that a particular inventory on a Mycenaean Linear B tablet which appears very close to a similar one on a Minoan Linear A tablet (Cf. Linear B Pylos tablet TA Py 641-1952 (Ventris) and its strikingly similar counterpart Linear A tablet Haghia Triada HT 31) is quite likely to bear some fruit in at least a partial decipherment of the latter. And this proves to be the case, as I have amply illustrated in previous posts. I am therefore committed to working on the operating assumption and principle that Minoan Linear A tablets (approximately) parallel to their Linear B counterparts (See principle 2. above).  

These five principles form the foundation of the first steps that appear to yield relatively convincing results in the decipherment of the 18 words in Minoan Linear A I have tackled so far. Relying on the application of these four principles, either singly or in combination, we can, I believe, make some real headway in the decipherment of roughly 5% to 10 % of the terms on the Linear A tablets. The greater the number of these principles entering into the equation for the decipherment of any Minoan word in particular, the greater are our chances of “getting it right”, so to speak. This is a very good start.

Warning! Caveat: yet even the application of these 5 principles, singly or in tandem (and the more we can apply, the better) cannot guarantee that at least some of our “translations” are incorrect or even way off the mark, because some of them are bound to be just that. I have already discovered that my initial translation of kaudeta on Linear A tablets HT 13 and HT 31 is probably off-base. Time to return to the drawing board.

On the other hand, at least to date, it is virtually impossible to decipher any Linear A words on any tablet to which any or all of the aforementioned principles cannot be safely applied. This leaves hundreds of Minoan terms virtually beyond our reach. In other words, tablets on which Minoan vocabulary appears, but without any reference or link to the 4 principles mentioned above remain a sealed mystery. But that does not trouble me in the least.

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