Tag Archive: offerings



New interpretation of Linear A tablet HT 7 (Haghia Triada):

Linear A tablet HT 7 Haghia Triada

 

A few months ago, I tentatively deciphered Linear A tablet New interpretation of Linear A tablet HT 7 (Haghia Triada), but when I look back on that decipherment now, I find it implausible. So I have re-interpreted here in light of new data I have acquired since then. As the tablet is inscribed mostly in Old Minoan, it is rather difficult to make complete sense of it. However, the two Mycenaean-derived New Minoan (NM1) terms offer us a clue. These are iruja = a priestess and tanati, which appears to be dative singular for “death”. However, although iruja is nominative singular, it is followed by the number 3, which would seem to indicate that there are 3 priestesses. And the Minoan plural of a is e, hence iruje. The only explanation I can find for this discrepancy is that the 3 priestesses are operating independently, one by one, each one making at least 1 offering, while 1 priestess makes 2, for a total of 4. But this translation, which is rather convoluted, remains in doubt because I cannot verify with any real certainty the meanings of the Old Minoan words. However, it does manage to hold together. Perhaps someday in the future, we shall unearth more Linear A tablets, which will provide us with insight into the significance of the Old Minoan vocabulary.


Linear B tablet Pylos TA Ae 08 offerings of gold from her slaves to the priestess at Pylos:

Linear B tablet Pylos Ae 08 offerings by slaves to the priestess at Pylos

The Linear B tablet Pylos TA Ae 08 offerings of gold from her slaves to the priestess at Pylos is one of the most famous of all Linear B tablets. It rounds out our survey of 6 religious tablets in Mycenaean Linear B which may very well serve as templates for the decipherment of Minoan Linear A tablets in the same vein.


Linear B tablets on wheat: KN 36 K c 33:

KN 36 K c 33 wheat

This is a typical Linear B tablet from Knossos dealing with wheat.


Rams for ritual slaughter: KN 386 A 87 & KN 387 X c 57 joins:

KN 386 & KN 387 tablet joins sacrificial rams

Here I am really digging deep into unknown waters in the decipherment of Linear B, deeper than I ever have.

These two fragments were originally one tablet. The central part is missing. This has got to be one of the most fascinating challenges I have ever encountered in the decipherment of Linear B text, since, as with all Linear B joins, it requires the decipherer to attempt to fill in the blanks, so to speak, i.e. the missing part of the original tablet, which as you can see is in an inverted V shape. If at all possible, as much the text that originally was located within that V has to be restored. Since as everyone knows who visits our blog that I am never one to skip a challenge, no matter how tough, I took it upon myself to make a serious attempt at a plausible reconstruction of at least part of the missing text, and to my satisfaction, I believe I succeeded, in the sense that I have recovered what might plausibly have been some of the original text, at least conjecturally. Any other interpretation might suffice, provided that (a) it made sense in the context of the text preserved on the two adjacent sides & (b) that the missing vocabulary was consistent with the ritual of religious sacrifice of sheep, a common practice in many civilizations of the ancient world.

Let us walk through my decipherment of the so-called missing text step by step. First of all, we have the left truncated syllabograms ... NO heading the first line of the right hand side of the original tablet (KN 387 X c 57). It is no easy matter to even make a stab at what the rest of this word could possibly have meant, or for that matter, how many syllabograms, in other words, syllables, it contained. So I had to take the only recourse available to me, and that was to ransack Chris Tselentis’ excellent Linear B Lexicon of at least 2,500 Linear B words for any word ending in NO which might possibly suit the context, keeping firmly in mind that this is the scene of a religious ceremony involving the ritual sacrifice of a ram or rams. I finally found the term which ideally suited the context, and it is temeno, which means a religious shrine or temple. It fits the context like a glove. So the likelihood that this was indeed the missing word ending with left-truncated NO is reasonably assured. On the second line of the same fragment (the right side), we have repa, the last two syllabograms or syllables of another missing word. The term which immediately leaped to mind was arepa = “cream” or “ointment”, and if that is a putative “correct” translation, it can be interpreted as meaning an  “anointing cream”. Fits the bill. The third word on the third line of the right hand side of the fragment, ending in the single syllabogram WE, was much harder to divine. It could be one of a dozen things, but I finally settled on duwowe, meaning  “a two handled vessel or urn”.  This again suits the context, but it is only one of scores of possible interpretations, all of which would have equally suited the context.  I was working on the assumption that the person making the sacrifice, presumably a priest, would have cremated the ashes of the ram(s) after the sacrifice. But this is definitely going out on a limb, since in most ancient societies, sacrificial slaughter of  sheep or rams involved killing them and then roasting them on a spit for subsequent consumption in a religious feast honouring the god” or if Hebrew, God. On the other hand, the Minoans and Mycenaeans may have (also) cremated the ashes of the sacrificed ram. If there is any researcher or archaeologist out there who visits this blog and can refute the notion of post-sacrificial cremation among the Minoans and Mycenaeans, please have at it and I shall revise my decipherment accordingly. 

Moving over to the left hand side of the join (KN 386 A 87), which contains considerably less text, we have on the second line the syllabogram QE, which by itself means “and”, but which in this case might possibly be the last syllabogram, i.e. last syllable of a Linear B word... except that scarcely any Linear B words end in QE,  and any way the syllabogram QE in this context is written huge. So I am left with no other alternative than to interpret it as I have done = “and”.  But “and” what? There you have me. I am stumped. On the next line, the third one down, we have the ideogram for “man” or “person” followed by the number 1, for “one person”, this in turn followed by the supersyllabogram SA, and then by the ideogram for “ram” and the number 1. The SSYL SA I have previously established on another tablet posted on this blog as most likely meaning sapaketeriya = “for ritual slaughter” or “for ritual sacrifice”. This too suits the context very well.  You can see the downwards pointing arrow from the ideogram for “man” to the word Towaune = “Towaunes”, presumably the name of the man, on the fourth line. His name in turn is followed by a Linear B word, which, if complete, is doke, a variation on odoke, the aorist (simple past) of the verb didomi (in Linear B), which means “to give” or “to offer”, and in this context “to offer up” (for ritual sacrifice). So now the sense is complete, except for all those single syllabograms (qe wa & po) on the left side of the join, which I can make no sense of at all. And that is a pitfall. However, within these restraints, I have been able to come up with one possible, even plausible interpretation (among God knows how many others), which you can see in translation at the bottom of the figure above.
     

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

Translation of Knossos Tablet KN FP 13 RAPATO MENO

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

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

Research Project on King Minos

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

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

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

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

Richard

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