Tag Archive: purple

Linear A haiku: the saffron goddess, her crimson dress adorned with ivy:

Minoan Linear A haiku sea sarai the saffron goddess

In this haiku, all of the words except sarai = “flax or saffron” (the latter in this context) are Mycenaean-derived New Minoan (NM1). The onomatopoeia of the 3 phrases rolls off the tongue. Not only is her dress adorned with ivy, apparently she is as well.


The first ever complete and entirely unique decipherment of Linear A tablet HT 123 RECTO (Haghia Triada):

Linear A tablet HT 123 Haghia Triada RECTO olives saffron flax wine

This decipherment of Linear A tablet HT 123 RECTO (Haghia Triada) is entirely unique and is the first ever of its kind. It incorporates several key features never before seen in any of the failed attempts at deciphering this tablet. These are:

1. It accurately identifies the crops as (a) olives (b) wine and (c) saffron/flax;

2. It accurately identifies what all previous decipherers” have erroneously assumed to be fractions as crop shares;

3. It accurately identifies the supersyllabogram PU, which no one has ever before been able to decipher as the Old Minoan word, punikaso = Phoenician or in the case of wine = purple, equivalent to Linear B ponikiyo.

4. It clearly and accurately identifies the shares of crops, usually 8 shares per;

5. The Old Minoan Linear A word kiro appears to mean they owed, which suits the context to a T;

6. the combination of the number 8 with harvesting fits the season exactly, the month for harvesting being lunar August (at least if the Minoans counted counted their lunar months from the first month in the year, which certainly appears to be the case).

7. Since the total 20 + is right-truncated on the last line, I have to assume that it refers to 20 or more months, given that 9 months are mentioned above, with the ninth month implying that 8 preceded it, for a total 17. The number 4 with the unknown character probably also references months, bringing the potential total to 21. Thus a grand total of 20+ months is not out of the question.

This is the first ever successful decipherment of Linear A tablet HT 123 (RECTO) in toto.



The full range of marvelous, rich colours the Minoans at Knossos used on their stunning frescoes!


We notice right away that the colours they had at their disposal ran from various shades of yellows (saffron) and oranges to blues and various shades of purple. The Minoans at Knossos, Pylos, Thera (Thira, Santorini) and elsewhere were unable to reproduce green pigment.  This minor drawback had little or no perceptible effect on the splendid results they almost invariably came up with in their breathtaking frescoes, the likes of which were not reproduced anywhere else in the Occidental ancient world, except perhaps by the Romans, especially at Pompeii. The Romans were able to reproduce greens. 

Two lovely frescoes from Pompeii:




Minoan Linear A tablet HT 88 (Haghia Triada), ripe figs & fig gatherers in pay/hired: the next decisive step in the partial decipherment of Linear A

HT 88 facsimile

Minoan Linear A tablet HT 88 (Haghia Triada), which was quite out of my reach just a week ago, has now become accessible to decipherment. This is a direct result of the fact that I had already deciphered these words on this tablet, namely, reza (standard unit of measurement), kiro (owed) & datare (fig overseer). This outcome has for the first time facilitated the task of deciphering Linear A tablets in and of themselves which do not contain enough clues or indicators to trigger a plausible decipherment. Thus, I was able to extrapolate 2 news terms from this tablet alone.

kikina ostensibly means “purple” or, more accurately, “ripe” = Linear B popureyo.
pajare = “in pay” or “hired”  = Linear B emito.

This development may prove to be decisive, triggering a cascading domino effect, opening up preciously inaccessible vocabulary as a direct result of the 88 terms I have already managed to decipher, more or less accurately.

Here is an abbreviated version of Prof. John G. Younger’s version of HT 88:

HT 88 Figs


Comprehensive Architectural Lexicon, Knossos & Mycenae (Part B):

Architectural Lexicon Knossos and Mycenae Part B

Part B of our architectural lexicon in Linear B presents only a few little problems. First of all, pokironuka = decorated with different studs, would appear to refer to studs which are jutting ornamentations on buildings, but I cannot be sure of this. Ponikiyo is almost always translated as palm tree, but I suspect it also means Phoenician, i.e. an architectural style. For the three * asterisked notes, see the lexicon above. Just one more point on samara. Samara is an actual ancient city. One Linear B lexicon defines it as points, but I have not the faintest idea what that is supposed to mean. The alternative meaning is monuments, which is completely acceptable. But I have added the additional signification, burial mounds, because these appear in some numbers at Mycenae alone.

Translation of Linear B textiles tablet, KN 474 R q 21:

KN 474 R q 21 textiles

This tablet does not present any unexpected problems. The only issue is that we do not know what kind of cloth the supersyllabogram PU refers to. It is called pukateriya in Mycenaean Greek, but since the word is archaic, having fallen out of use with the collapse of the Mycenaean Empire ca. 1200 BCE, there is no way we can recover its precise meaning, i.e. to establish exactly what kind of cloth it refers to.  But we do know that the cloth is popureya = purple.

Linear B tablet Sd 4401 from the Knossos “Armoury”, a fully assembled chariot:

Knossos tablet SD 4401

Apart from the very first tablet on chariots we posted this month, namely, Linear B tablet Kn 894 N v 01, here:

Link to Knossos tablet Kn 894 N v 01

This is one of the most detailed of the Linear B tablets from the Knossos “Armoury”, zeroing in on more parts of a Mycenaean chariot than can be found on any of the other tablets we have already translated on the same subject, apart from Linear B tablet Kn 894 N v 01. There are a couple of peculiarities in the Linear B text of this detailed tablet which require clarification. The first is that the ideogram for chariot on the right side of the tablet is right truncated; so we do not know whether or not the chariot is equipped with a set of wheels. But common sense tells us that it is almost certain that this is a chariot equipped with wheels on axle, since the scribe explicitly states that the chariot is fully assembled. Secondly, the word for chariot on the second line = - iqiya – is feminine, which is quite strange, given that all of the modifying attributes following this word are in the masculine. This leads me to confidently conclude that the scribe meant to inscribe – iqiyo - = a double chariot, i.e. a chariot for two drivers, rather than – iqiya -. Otherwise, the grammatical constructs on the second line do not jibe.

As we have already noted in our translations of at least a few of the other chariot tablets, the scribes are prone to make errors, usually in case agreement or in orthography. But that is nothing unusual, given that writers past and present are prone to the same liability. After all, we are only human.

Did you know you speak Mycenaean Greek? You do! K-Z = kunaya to zeukesi

Mycenaean Greek in Modern English: korete to zeukesi: Click to ENLARGE

korete to zeukesi

[1] kunaya – Mycenaean Greek has no “g”, but ancient Greek does. Many English words begin with Greek words, as for instance gynecology + all others in this table marked with [1] 
[2] The same goes with prefixes. Many English words begin with the Greek prefix “peda”.
[3] The ancient Phoenicians were famous for their purple cloth, which they inherited from the splendid purple cloth, the finest in the entire then known world (the middle Mediterranean & the Aegean) the Minoans at Knossos had produced before them. Hence, Phoenician is a synonym for “purple”.
[4]The Mycenaean syllabary can express words beginning with “te”, but for some reason, they spelled 4 the same was the Romans did, “qetoro”, and there is nothing wrong with that. Archaic Greek sometimes expressed the number 4 with “petro” and sometimes with “tetro”. This too is not at all unusual with early alphabetic Greek, in which the various East Greek dialects derived from Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C flipped between these two spellings. Orthography was uncertain in archaic Greek, in other words, it had not yet fossilized into the final spelling used in Attic Greek in Classical Athens = tettares.
[5] The English word “quartet” is derived from the Latin “quattro”, which in turn was preceded historically by the Mycenaean “qetoro”, although the Latin spelling is unlikely to have derived from the latter. It is just that Mycenaean Greek and Latin happened to resort to the same basic spelling for 4. 
[6] Since Mycenaean Greek had no “l”, words beginning with “lambda” in (archaic) Greek had to be spelled with “r” + a vowel in the syllabary. Hence, “rewo” = archaic Greek “lewon” = English “lion” & “rino” = ancient Greek “linon” = English “linen”
[7] The ancient words “sasama” = “sesame” & Mycenaean “serino” = ancient Greek “selinon” = English “celery” are in fact not Greek words, but proto-Indo European. 
[8] While “sitophobia” = “fear of eating” in English does not seem to correspond with “sitos” = “wheat” in ancient Greek, in fact it does, since wheat was one of the main staples of their diet, just as it was for the Egyptians, Romans and most other ancient civilizations. In other words, wheat was a staple food.
[9] Although the Mycenaean infinitive “weide” = archaic Greek “weidein” = English “to see”, the aorist began with “weis”, hence “vision” in English.


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. 



Associative Versus Attributive Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B: Appendix H

Appendix H neatly summarizes the rôle of supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B. Click to ENLARGE:

H Appendix
I wish to stress one thing in particular. There is a marked difference in associative supersyllabograms, which account for the greatest number of SSYLS in Mycenaean Linear B, and attributive supersyllabograms, which appear primarily in the textiles and vessels (pottery, amphorae, cups etc.) sectors of the Late Minoan III & Mycenaean economies.

Associative supersyllabograms inform of us of some element, usually a land tenure factor, which relates to the ideogram itself, or which circumscribes its environment, especially in the livestock raising sub-sector of the agricultural sector. For instance, the supersyllabogram O, which you see in this Appendix, plus the ideogram for sheep + the number of sheep accounted for in the inventory of any particular tablet, informs us that the sheep are being raised on a lease(d) field, more specifically a usufruct lease field (i.e. a lease field which a farmer tenant cultivates for the use of his own family and village neighbours, with a taxation imposed by the overseer). In other words, the supersyllabogram is associated with the raising of x no. of sheep. The scribe could have simply informed us that x no. of sheep were raised, and left it at that. But he did not. By adding just one syllabogram, in this case a simple vowel = O, he has given us a great deal more information on the raising of the sheep (rams & ewes) on this particular tablet. And he has done all of this without having to resort to writing it all out as text. Since it was critical for the scribes to use as little space as possible on what were (and are) extremely small tablets, the use of supersyllabograms as a substitute for wasteful text is illustrative of just how far the scribes were willing to go to save such invaluable space. They did not do this only occasionally. They did it a great deal of the time, and they always followed the exact same formula in so doing. Not only are syllabograms such as O (on a lease field), KI (on a plot of land) & NE (in their sheep pens) in the field of sheep husbandry associative, they are all what I designate as dependent supersyllabograms, since they are meaningless unless they are immediately adjacent to the ideograms they qualify. No ideogram, no supersyllabogram. Period.

To illustrate the radical difference between a Linear B tablet on which a supersyllabogram + an ideogram is used, and another on which the text is spelled out, take a good hard look at this comparison: Click to ENLARGE

Knossos Tablet KN 933 G d 01 supersyllabograms and text

This comparison between the real tablet from Knossos using only supersyllabograms and ideograms (left) and a putative one using text in full (right) is precisely the reason why so many scribes much preferred the former formulaic approach to inscribing tablets to the latter discursive and space wasting technique. A textual version of this tablet would have been twice as long as the actual tablet. Even if no one nowadays has ever managed to decipher dependent supersyllabograms until now, that cannot conceivably mean that the Linear B scribes did not know what they were, since otherwise, they would never have used them so liberally in the first place. In other words, using SSYLS for no reason at all is tantamount to a reductio ad absurdum. There are thousands of supersyllabograms found on 700 tablets from Knossos. They are there because all of the scribes, as a team or, if you like, as a guild, all understood each and every supersyllabogram to mean one thing and one thing only in its proper context. In other words, supersyllabograms are standardized and always formulaic. This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Homer, who also heavily relied on formulaic expressions, though for entirely different reasons. My point is that formulaic language is a key characteristic of ancient Greek texts, right on down from Mycenaean times through to Attic and beyond. We should never overlook this extremely important characteristic of ancient Greek, regardless of period (1450 – 400 BCE).   

Attributive dependent supersyllabograms always appear inside the ideogram which they qualify, never adjacent to it. They always describe an actual attribute (usually known as an adjectival function) of the ideogram. For instance, the syllabogram PO inside the ideogram for “cloth” is the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of the Mycenaean word ponikiya = “purple”, hence the phrase = “purple cloth”.  Likewise the syllabogram TE, when it appears inside the ideogram for “cloth” is the supersyllabogram for the Mycenaean word tetukuwoa, which means “well prepared” or if you like, “well spun”. Hence, the syllabogram TE inside the ideogram for cloth must mean one thing and one thing only, “well-prepared cloth”. I have discovered, identified & classified well over a dozen examples of associative supersyllabograms. 

Neither type of dependent supersyllabogram, associative or attributive, was ever isolated and tabulated in Mycenaean Linear B until I systematically studied, deciphered and classified scores of them on some 700 tablets from Knossos.



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