Tag Archive: plot of land

Minoan Linear A decorated ceramic, kitina, Cf. Linear B kot0na = plot of land?

minoan decorated ceramic

This Minoan Linear A decorated ceramic is inscribed with the single word, kitina, which looks very much like the Mycenaean Linear B word kotona or kotoina, which means a plot of land. If this is the case, it would appear that the ceramic is a personal token of the owner of a plot of land. It could also be a personal name, but this is less likely. What appears to ber the genitive singular, kitanasija, also appears in Linear A.

Decipherment of Haghia Triada tablet HT 11 entirely in Mycenaean derived Greek:

HT 11

If we read this tablet as if it were inscribed in Mycenaean derived Greek, it does actually make sense. While the tablet is partially an inventory, the rest of it is a religious ceremony for (farmed?) land leased out, blessed by 3 priests. It is much more complex than most tablets either in Linear A or in Linear B.

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.

Decipherment of Minoan Linear A tablet HT 131 (Haghia Triada) qareto = Linear B onato = “lease field”:

Following hard on the heels of Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada), dealing with vessels and pottery, which I have been able to successfully decipher with high precision from top to bottom, comes this tablet HT 131, focused on rams on a lease field.  How do I know this? As I have already pointed out several times on this blog, by utilizing the procedure of cross-correlative regressive extrapolation from similar or almost identical Mycenaean Linear B tablets, it is possible to reconstruct with high or moderately high accuracy the contents of many Minoan Linear A tablets. As we has already learned, Pylos tablet Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) may reasonably be considered the “Rosetta stone” for Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada). And so it has proven to be the case.

The same methodology, cross-correlative regressive extrapolation (or CCRE) from Mycenaean Linear B tablets closely corresponding to earlier Minoan Linear A t tablets can and does yield satisfying results. Take for instance Mycenaean Linear B tablet KN 1383 E j 924 from Knossos:


On this tablet we find the supersyllabogram O, which symbolizes the Mycenaean Linear B word, onato, meaning “lease field”. Notice also that the number of rams on this lease field = 99 and the number of ewes = 19 on the first line, while on the second, the number of rams = 25, all of them on a lease field.

Now taking in turn Minoan Linear A tablet HT 131:



we find to our surprise and satisfaction that the number of sheep is 27, and that these sheep have something to do with the Minoan Linear A word, qareto. I put it to you that qareto very probably means precisely the same thing as onato does in Mycenaean Greek. Hence, these two tablets, the Minoan and the second line of the Mycenaean, are practically identical. Of course, anyone can object — and such a person would be right — that the closely matched number of sheep on these two tablets (25 on the Linear A and 27 on the Linear B) is mere happenstance. However, the fact that the only surviving Minoan Linear A tablet with the term qareto on it matches up so neatly with the Mycenaean Linear B tablet from Knossos above is pretty good circumstantial evidence that the two tablets are dealing with one and the same phenomenon.

So I have assigned a scalar value of  > 75 % to qareto on the Linear B tablet, signifying that the chances this term means “lease field” are very good. Not perfect, but a decent match with the Mycenaean Linear B tablet. This is one of the Minoan Linear A terms which I shall be highlighting in my upcoming article in Vol. 12 (2016), “Pylos tablet Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris), the ‘Rosetta Stone’ to Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada) vessels and pottery” of the prestigious international annual, Archaeology and Science ISSN 1452-7448. This will be the third straight article in a row I shall have published in this annual by late 2017 or early 2018.

Symbaloo/Google search ranks Minoan Linear A, Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae as fourth largest on the Internet:


Since this is a Boolean AND search, if we omit sites dealing with only Minoan Linear A or only Mycenaean Linear B, which do not fulfill this requirement, our site ranks fourth. But since the site, Linear A and Linear B script: Britannica.com is a minor site, we actually rank third.

Also, our PINTEREST board is ranked fifth (actually fourth). We have over 1.7 K Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B translations, photos, maps & images on our PINTEREST board, Minoan Linear A & Mycenaean Linear B, Progressive Grammar and Vocabulary. Click the banner to visit and join if you like!

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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. 

Minoan Linear A tablet KH 10 (Khania/Chania) & akipiete = Mycenaean Linear B kekemena = “common, shared, allotted”:

Linear A KH 10 akipiete = shared plot of land Linear B ktonia

Minoan Linear A tablet KH 10 from Khania/Chania contains the word akipiete, which is very likely the equivalent of Mycenaean Linear B kekemena = “common, shared, allotted”. Note the number 90 following the number of “bushel-like” units of wheat. That number is too small to refer to anything other than something rather small in common, or if you like, shared or allotted to an equally small number of farmers or (more likely) tenant farmers sharing a rather small plot of land = ktoina. I had previously defined akipiete as “harvest”, but such an interpretation is quite out of the question in light of the small no. of “bushel-like” units of wheat = 90. Such a piddly amount of wheat would never be sufficient to victualize all of the inhabitants of Khania/Chania, not even for a month! So we have no alternative but to greatly reduce the number of people who can reasonably be fed by 90 bushels to a few farmers or more likely tenant farmers on a small plot of land.

It is crucial to understand that the number of items following any object on a Minoan Linear A tablet is a critical factor determining the definition of said object. This factor will become clearer when I publish my draft article on our Minoan Linear A Glossary on academia.edu.

This is term 105 I have deciphered, more or less accurately. I feel comfortable enough assigning a scalar value of 60%+ to this term, indicating a reasonable degree of accuracy.

Minoan Linear A tablet Zakros ZA 11 & kupa or sa*301ri = planter:

Zakros Linear A tablet ZA 11 planter

On Minoan Linear A tablet Zakros ZA 11, we run across 2 terms which are likely to mean “planter”, kupa or sa*301ri. The problem is, which one does mean this? I really had no choice but too tag both of these words as candidates for “planter”. This predicament has faced me more than once in attempting to attribute suitable meanings to Minoan words. However, a decision must be made. In this case, the more appropriate term for “planter” appears to be sa*301ri rather than kupa, since the latter is more likely to be feminine.

Whichever of these two terms is the more a propos remains an open question. At any rate, the term is no. 104 in our Glossary of Minoan Linear A.

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

On Minoan Linear A tablet PH 31,

Linear A PH 31 and agricultural stock

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

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

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

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

a AN1938_708_o KN 1301 E j 324

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

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

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

c Knossos tablet KN 791 G c 101 ewes and rams

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

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

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” .

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.

Linear B tablet K 1248, Knossos, a special case:

Knossos tablet K 1248 PE rams

Linear B tablet K 1248 at Knossos presents us with a special case, in so far as it contains two new independent supersyllabograms, RU and KA. KA = kameu, which refers to the owner of a kama, a unit of land, which in turn is for all intents and purposes, synonymous with kitimena = a plot of land. This makes such perfect sense in context that it appears almost incontestable. And it also makes sense that the supersyllabogram KA, the owner of a unit or plot of land must be an independent supersyllabogram, because the owner is not necessarily directly linked to the sheep. Any kind of livestock might be present on his land at any given time. Moreover, the the unit or plot of land as such is independent of whatever livestock or, for that matter, crops which might turn up there. Now the tablet further clearly implies that KA = the owner of a unit of land because he is called by name, Kirinetos. He must be quite a wealthy farmer or superintendent of lands because he owns a lot of sheep (95) at one place (unnamed) and five more at Tuniya, which apparently is a minor outpost, given the small number of rams there. On the other hand, it is very difficult to establish whether or not he also owns a unit of land at Rukito = Lykinthos, since using a supersyllabogram, in this case, RU, to replace a toponym, is completely atypical. In fact, I reserve serious doubts that indeed RU refers to a place name. The only reason I selected it (Rukito) is that this is the only entry in Chris Tselentis' Linear B Lexicon which fits the bill. But it is a pretty poor excuse for the full word represented by the independent supersyllabogram RU, and so we must take it with a serious grain of salt.  I have tried my best.

Linear B tablets on wheat: KN 849 K j 72:

Knossos KN 849 K j  72 wheat

This tablet is rather more challenging. The Linear word beginning with pera on the first line is right-truncated; so we do not know what word or phrase it is supposed to represent. Upon consulting Chris Tselentis’ excellent Linear B Lexicon, I discovered only one Linear B word which fit, and that is peraakoraiya, which means “in the further provinces”. It is plausible, I suppose, but rather unlikely. However, it is possible, even likely, that Linear B pera is not truncated at all, and that it is therefore the preposition for “beyond”... but beyond what? It just so happens that, as with everything else in the agricultural sphere, the Minoans and Mycenaeans raised their sheep and livestock and cultivated their crops on Linear B kitimena = “plot(s) of land”. So a better translation would be, “Wheat is being cultivated beyond the confines of this particular plot of land”, in other words, in an adjacent plot. That makes quite a lot of sense to me. 

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.

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.  


Associative versus Attributed Supersyllabograms Illustrated in Mycenaean Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

Illustration of Associative versus Attributive Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B

This is Slide H of my lecture, “The Rôle of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B ” I shall be giving at the Conference, “Thinking Symbols” at the Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, associated with the University of Warsaw, Poland, between June 30 & July 2, 2015. It clearly illustrates the marked difference between an associative (as) and an attributive supersyllabogram (at).

Associative Supersyllabograms:

Associative SSYLs relate to physical objects or items, places, specific locations & geographic identifiers which are independent of the ideograms they are associated with, and which do not define them in any way, except as additional information relative to the latter. A sheep is still a sheep, a horse is still a horse & an ox is still an ox, even when it has no associative supersyllabogram modifying it. However, associative SSYLS are extremely informative, since they always circumscribe the circumstances in which the ideograms, almost always animate and animal, find themselves placed. As such, associative SSYLS (as) replace whole words and even entire phrases, which offer us a great deal more insight into the ideogram involved than would have been supplied by the ideogram alone. There is a huge difference between the ideogram for “sheep” or “ram” all on its own, and the same ideograms accompanied by an associative supersyllabogram. For instance, in this illustration, the SSYL (as) KI informs us that “the ram is on a plot of land”.  That is an entire sentence in English symbolized by the SSYL (as) KI + the ideogram for “ram” (only two characters!). The SSYL (as) O + “sheep” is even more informative, telling us that “the sheep is on a lease field.” and even “the sheep is on a usufruct lease field.” Not only that, the scribes frequently combined two or more SSYLs (as), such as KI & O with an ideogram, usually for “ram”, “ewe” or “sheep”, replacing a very long sentence in both Mycenaean Linear B and in English (or any other target language into which the source – Mycenaean Greek – is translated). Thus, the SSYLs (as) KI + O + the ideogram for “ewe + the number 114 mean no less than,114 ewes on a plot of land which is a usufruct lease field”.

Associative supersyllabograms proliferate in the agricultural sector of the Mycenaean economy, and are also characteristic of the military sector. Associative SSYLS are not symbiotic.

Talk about a shortcut! Of course, many of us already know by now that the Mycenaean scribes frequently resorted to this clever stratagem to save plenty of space on what are, after all, very small tablets, rarely more than 30 cm. wide by 15 cm. deep, and usually much smaller.

Attributive Supersyllabograms:  

On the other hand, attributive SSYLs (at) always modify the the sense of ideograms on which they simultaneously depend as the ideograms themselves depend on them through the attributive qualities they assign to the latter. In other words, the relationship between the attributive supersyllabogram and the ideogram which it modifies is both symbiotic and auto-determinative. The plain ideogram for “cloth” has nothing inside it. But when the ideogram for “cloth” is assigned an attribute (usually defined as an adjectival modifier) that ideogram contains inside itself the supersyllabogram which unequivocally modifies its meaning. Thus, the ideogram for “cloth” with the SSYL NE inside it can mean one thing and one thing only, “new cloth”. Likewise, the SYL PU inside the ideogram for “cloth” can only mean “purple cloth”, and nothing else. Similarly, the SSYL TE inside the same ideogram has the specific meaning, “well-prepared cloth” or “finished cloth prepared for market or sale”. Thus, all attributive supersyllabograms modify the unqualified meaning of the simple syllabogram for “cloth” in the textile sector, while similar SSYLS in other sectors, especially the vessels, pottery & vases sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy operate in the exact same fashion. Associative supersyllabograms proliferate in these two sectors. 



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