Tag Archive: pithos

New interpretation of Linear A tablet HT 10 (Haghia Triada):

Linear A tablet HT 10 Haghia Triada

A few months ago I posted my first interpretation of Linear A tablet HT 10 (Haghia Triada). Since then, I have made a few small tweaks. These are (a) the Linear A word kunisu, which is derived from Semitic kunissu, definitely means “emmer wheat”. (b) The supersyllabogram PA stands for Linear A pa3ni (paini) (noun)/pa3nina (painina) (adjective), which means either “millet” or “spelt”, since these two grain crops are the second most common grains cultivated everywhere in the Bronze age after kunisu “emmer wheat” and didero “einkorn wheat”. (c) the translation “offscourings/chaff” for ruma/rumata/rumatase (noun, adjective, noun in the instrumental plural) makes sense in context. (d) dare probably means “with a firebrand or torch”, since the tablet appears to deal with drought, when dead crops, i.e. grains in this case, are burnt. (e) Although tanati resembles the dative singular of the ancient Greek work qa/natoj, but this interpretation is doubtful.

the supersyllabogram SU in Linear A, a small cup with handles & the largest pithos size:

Minoan Pithos and small cup with a handle

The supersyllabogram SU in Linear A has two meanings, context dependent. The first is:

1. SU = supa3 (supai)/supa3ra (supaira) OM = a small cup with handles Cf. Linear B dipa mewiyo. The word depa/depu PGS de/paj de/pu (acc.?) = cup occurs in Linear A. Cf. Linear B dipa di/paj & Homeric de/pa

and the second is:

2. SU = supi/supu/supu2 OM = largest size pithos;

but not MOSE * NM1 supu/h sipu/h sipu/a i0pu/a = meal tub. MOSE * = decryption by Prof. Yuriy Mosenkis. This interpretation flies in the face of context on any Linear A tablet or fragment. It is all fine and well to conjecture a proto-Greek or Mycenaean-derived Greek word, but if you check your decipherment against extant tablets, then you may find it invalidated. This must always be done. Otherwise, you will end up with a meaning which is simply out of the question.

Translation of Linear B Knossos tablet KN 355 J b 19 by Rita Roberts:

Knossos tablet KN 355 J b 19 by Rita Roberts



Translation of Linear B tablet Knossos KN 346 J a 04 by Rita Roberts:

Linear B tablet KN 346 J a 04 Rita Roberts


Rita Roberts’ translation of Linear B tablet KN 342 J e 01 concerning olive oil:

Knossos tablet KN 342 J e 01 by Rita Roberts

Edges of Pithoi from Petras, Crete, 15th. century BCE:

edges of pithoi Crete, Petras, 15th century BC

It is apparent from the inscriptions on these pithoi that the text is inscribed in Mycenaean-derived New Minoan, except for the personal names (of the fabricators or owners of the vases) .

Petras Archaeological site:

Petras archaeological site


The first ever complete translation of a Linear A tablet in toto, HT 31 (Haghia Triada), vessels & pottery:

Linear A tablet HT 31 vessels

Here you see the first ever full translation of a Linear A tablet, HT 31 (Haghia Triada), vessels & pottery. Today I was finally able to break through the last barriers to the complete translation of this tablet, one of the most complete in Linear A, and the only one with so many ideograms, in this case, all of them standing for various types of vessels. The tablet explicitly names the type of each vessel by superimposing the Linear A name of it over its ideogram. What a windfall!

It just so happens that HT 31 exhibits so many parallels with Mycenaean Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) that it almost defies credulity... so much so that we can even consider the latter to be the long overdue “Rosetta Stone” for the former. Not only are they written in two syllabaries which are almost the same, Minoan Linear A for HT 31, and its successor, Mycenaean Linear A for Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris), but even the contents (the text) of each of these tablets closely mirrors that of the other. That is one truly amazing co-incidence. And it is precisely because the similarity between these two tablets is so striking that I have been able to decipher the integral text of Minoan Linear A HT 31 (Haghia Triada) in toto, with the exception of a few signs (syllabograms, ideograms and numerals) which are pretty much illegible. This is the first time in history that anyone has managed to decipher a Minoan Linear A tablet in its entirety.

Compare the translation of HT 31 with the text of Mycenaean tablet  Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) on which I have overlaid the equivalent cross-correlated Linear A vocabulary, and it instantly becomes clear that the two tablets deal with almost exactly the same range of vessels:

Pylos Tablet 641-1952 Ventris with Minoan Linear A term superimposed

The methodology followed in the comparative analysis of any Linear A tablet which appears similar to any Linear B counterpart is called cross-correlated retrogressive extrapolation of a Linear A tablet (A) with an equivalent Linear B tablet (B), where:

CCRE (cross-correlated retrogressive extrapolation) stipulates that A = B (closely or approximately), in this case closely. 

I welcome any and all comments on this hard-fought and hard-won breakthrough in the decipherment of Minoan Linear A. Please also tag this post with 4 to 5 stars if you like it (hopefully 5!) 

How did I manage to decipher 17 Minoan Linear A words in 1 month? The 4 principles

That is the burning question. And here are the reasons why. To begin with, it is impossible to decipher any unknown ancient language by relying on its internal structure alone. It simply cannot be done. We must have recourse to certain fundamental principles before we even being to attempt any decipherment. So far, I have been able to isolate four of them. These are:

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 Minoan and a known ancient language: 

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.

Wikipedia Rosetta Stone

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 might potentially be very close to another in Mycenaean Linear B, and that tablet is none other than 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 Py TA 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 the (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.

Linear A HT 13 tereza additional vocabulary

Pylos 641-1952 Archaeology and Science

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

The presence of apparently (very) similar ideograms for vessels on both of these 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 was well on my way to a clear start at deciphering 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.

These four principle form the foundation of the first steps that appear to yield relatively convincing results in the decipherment of the 17 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. That is a very good start.

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 bother me in the least.

In the next post, relying on principles 2. (cross-correlation) and 3. ideograms, I shall decipher the eighteenth Minoan word (18), this time one related to spices.

5 words of vessel types in Minoan Linear A: Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada)

6 words for pottery in Minoan Linear A

Egyptian cartouches for Ptolemy and Cleopatra

On Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada), in addition to the word puko = “tripod” in Minoan Linear A, we find 5 more words of vessel types, which we can at least generically translate. The first 3 are qapai, supu & karopai, each of which is counted only 10 times. This figure is significant in itself, given that the next 2 vessels, supaira & paraqe, are counted 300 & 3,000 times successively. We can therefore surmise with reasonable certainty that supaira & paraqe are much smaller vessels than the first 3. Of the first 3, one at least is highly likely to be the equivalent of dipa mezoe = the large(st) vessel on Pylos Linear B tablet PY TA 641-1952 (Ventris). Which one I cannot say for sure, but my bet is on the second one, given that it ends in pu, which I take to be a macro designator,  in light of the fact that [1] [3] & [2] end in pai, which I understand to be a micro designator or diminutive. More on this is later posts. Notice that each of the 5 words for vessels is enclosed in a cartouche,  which is a carry-over from the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic practice of using cartouches on their columns to designate the names of gods and the Pharoahs. In other words, the cartouche encloses important words. And so it is with this Linear A tablet. Dipa mezoe is the equivalent of the classical Greek word, pithos, which refers to the largest possible vessels, generally for the storage of wine or at Knossos, for olive oil, as illustrated here: 

Giant pithoi from Knossos for storage of olive oil

A partial Linear B tablet from  Knossos illustrating 542 amphorae or pithoi! 

KN 712 M p 01

This is a partial Linear B tablet from  Knossos illustrating 542 amphorae or pithoi, a staggering number. Since the pithoi at Knossos are all huge, it is impossible that these 542 amphorae an all be pithoi. Far from it. Probably 500 at least were smaller amphorae, and the rest (42 or so) possibly pithoi, but we cannot be sure. I have deduced that teyo to the left side of this partial tablet is the genitive singular of the Linear B word teo = “Zeus” or “a god”, hence in this context it means, “of Zeus” or “of the god”, implying that all of these amphorae and pithoi are the property of said god. 

Here we see a fabulously wrought Minoan bee pendant with what appears to be the image of a Minoan priest or god in the centre.

Minoan bee pendant god ca 1850 - 1550 BCE Aigina

An Archaeologist’s Thoroughly Researched Translation of Pylos Tablet Py 641-1952 (Ventris)

This Linear B Tablet PY 641 is by far the most difficult one I have had to translate. It was the first ever Linear B tablet which Michael Ventris deciphered in 1952. I was in my teen years then and knew nothing of his great achievement and in fact nothing about the Linear B Ancient script writings whatsoever.

I am aware that many scholars have translated this tablet such as the archaeologist Carl Blegen, and also Prof. John Chadwick, who assigned the first range of standard values to ideograms for the vessels on Linear B Tablet 641.

Ref: Chadwick, John. The Decipherment of Linear B (2nd edition) London: Cambridge University Press 1970. ISBN 521-09596. pg. 117.

I now submit my translation of this very important Linear B tablet from the great Minoan Palace at Pylos: Click to ENLARGE

Pylos Tablet 64l Burnt from legs up


Aigeus a worker is making tripods of the Cretan style.
There are 2 Tripods with three legs and two handles,
1 Tripod with a single handle on one foot,
1 Tripod with the legs burnt from the legs up *,
3 Big pots with two handles,  
2 Big pots with three handle,
1 Smaller pot with four handles,
1 Small type of cup/ goblet with three handles,
1 Small type of cup/goblet without handles.

Kylix two handled stemmed Cup

As an archaeologist working on Minoan pottery for the past ten years, I feel that adding a few descriptions of the pottery vessels mentioned on this Linear B tablet will further our understanding of their important shapes and uses. Also, we must remember that due to the lack of sufficient room on these very small clay tablets, the Minoan scribe recording so many items would not have been able to write all the details for us to read in our modern times. But of course, his fellow Minoan scribes understood exactly what the pottery items were.

The following is my idea of what I believe the Minoan scribe has listed on this Linear B tablet PY 64l and what they were used for.

Tripods - Sometimes referred to as Cauldrons and were mainly used for cooking purposes and for boiling water
Tripod in color and b&w

Pithoi - Because the Linear B word mezoe means ‘greater/bigger’, I interpret these pots which have three and those with four handles as being Pithoi. They were used for the storage of large quantities of agricultural produce such as grain crops, olive oil and wine. These huge pots could have as many as eight handles.

Large Pithoi in storage at Knossos  

Large Pithoi (singular, pithos) in storage at Knossos

Amphorae – (singular, amphora) These pots having two handles or even three handles were used for the storage and transport of oil or any other liquid substances.

Minoan Amphora
      Early Minoan Amphora from Knossos

Amphora – mewijo means smaller. The other amphora listed on this tablet with four handles was most likely used for the storage of perfume.

With regard to the Linear B word dipa meaning “cup”:

After further research into archaeological reports and illustrations at The Institute for Aegean Prehistory Study Centre for East Crete and The History of Minoan Pottery by Philip Betancourt 1985 Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, I found that the two cups listed on this tablet PY 64l can only mean a (type of cup). I therefore interpret them as being goblets, although the one with three handles possibly being a kylix Both were drinking vessels.

goblets found at knossos after Macdonald & Knappett 2007

Late Helladic IIIA2 three handled kylix courtesy Mitrou Archaeological Site Credit photo Winn Burke


Congratulations to Rita Roberts for her excellent translation of Pylos Tablet 641-1952 (Ventris), which she has grounded on her thorough research as an archaeologist into every last type of vessel illustrated by Prof. John Chadwick’s classification of ideograms for vessels. What is particularly impressive here is her insistence on checking one by one all of the ideograms (which are after all symbolic representations of the real thing) against prominent archaeological finds of each type. This very effective approach is novel, in so far as all of translators to date of tablet Pylos 641-1952 (Ventris), whether or not they were archaeologists themselves, have never taken the trouble to cross-correlate the various ideograms with their actual hardware counterparts. By taking this critical step in gathering concrete evidence to back up her choices for the name of each and every type of vessel on this extremely significant tablet, Mrs. Roberts has provided us empirical evidence as confirmation of the types of vessels named and flagged by ideograms on the tablet. Why no one has done this in the past is beyond me... and beyond Mrs. Roberts as well.

At any rate, it was this technically challenging tablet which I assigned to Rita Roberts as the final step in her Secondary School Level studies. I am delighted to announce that Mrs. Roberts has achieved a mark of 98% for the extreme thoroughness of her research, especially in the archaeological sphere. Rita is thus granted her Secondary School Matriculation with all its attendant rights and privileges. I shall be designing a Secondary School Graduation Certificate on fine linen 25% cotton paper, beautifully framed, to send to Rita Roberts. I shall also post her Certificate right here on our blog for all to see. It goes without saying that I myself shall not attempt to translate this famous tablet, because to be perfectly honest, I could not have come up with a translation as thoroughly researched or as minutely detailed and accurate as this one by Rita Roberts.

Mrs. Roberts is now at the first year level of university studies, and as such, she is now confronted with even greater challenges, being obliged as she is to translate tablets (much) more complex than Pylos 641-1952 (Ventris), to master all of the logograms and ideograms in Mycenaean Linear B, and to thoroughly learn all of the vocabulary in the military sphere from the comprehensive English – Mycenaean Linear B – Archaic Greek – Modern Greek Lexicon of Military Affairs she and I are to publish by June 2015. In effect, her studies for the first two semesters of her first year will focus primarily on the translation and the mastery of Mycenaean Linear B tablets on military affairs.

She is also hereby granted the status of co-moderator of this blog.




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