Tag Archive: scribes

Early Minoan hieroglyphic roundels and seals may lend some insight into the later development of the Linear A syllabary:

Minoan hieroglyphic writing


As illustrated above, early Minoan hieroglyphic roundels and seals may lend some insight into the later development of the Linear A syllabary. Notice that the the hieroglyphic for an axe or labrys looks remarkably like the Linear A and Linear B syllabogram for A, while the Y shaped hieroglyphic, whatever it is supposed to represent (and no one knows what), is similar to the Linear A syllabogram for SA. So it is conceivable, however remotely, that this hieroglyphic seal may actually read asa or saa, whichever way you read it (not that we have any idea what that is supposed to mean).Then we have the hieroglyphic marked with an asterisk (*). This looks very much like a vase, amphora or flask to hold wine, water or possibly even olive oil. There is another one which looks like a fish. That should not be too surprising, given that the ideogram for fish does appear on at least one extant Linear A fragment from Phaistos, as we have witnessed in a recent previous post. Finally, on the bottom line, the seal marked (f) bears a hieroglyphic which looks like a bat, and this in turn may very well be the antecedent to the Linear A syllabogram MA. But this hieroglyphic is not that of a bat, but rather of a cat, which we can see from the beautiful seal on the top left of the illustration. This is substantiated by the some of the variations in the scribal hands for Linear A MA, which indeed look like the visage of a cat, as we see here:

Linear A scribal hands for MA = cat

So I guess it is a cat.

RESEARCH paper: Supersyllabograms in the agricultural sector of the Mycenaean economy, by Rita Roberts academia.edu:

This essay constitutes Rita Robert’s first foray into major research in ancient Mycenaean linguistics on academia.edu. Rita has composed this highly scholarly article as the major component of her mid-term examination in her second year of university, exactly half way to her degree. Keeping up this pace, she is bound to perform outstandingly in her final essay of her second year, and in her third year thesis paper, which will be considerably more demanding than this study, and about twice as long.

I strongly recommend you to download this study here:

supersyllabograms in agriculture in Linear B academia.edu

It makes for engaging reading in ancient linguistics research.

You can reach Rita’s academia.edu account here to view her other papers:

rita roberts academia.edu


Minoan Linear A scribal hands: W & Z series syllabograms: WA WI ZA ZE ZE ZU (the last)

Linear A scribal hands WA WI ZA ZE ZO ZU

Minoan Linear A scribal hands: T series syllabograms: TA TA2 (TAI) TE TI TO TU

Linear A scribal hands ta ta2 te to tu

Minoan Linear A scribal hands: S series syllabograms: SA SE SI SU

Linear A scribal hands SA SE SI SU

Minoan Linear A scribal hands: R series syllabograms: RA RA2 (RAI) RE RI RO RU

Linear A scribal hands RA R2 RE RI RO RU

Linear A scribal hands: P & Q series syllabograms:

Linear a scribal hands syllabograms rPA P3 PI PO PU PU2 QA QE

Linear A scribal hands: N series syllabograms:

Linear A N series of syllabograms

Linear A scribal hands: M series syllabograms

Linear A scribal hands: M series syllabograms:

Linear A scribal hands MA ME MI


Linear A scribal hands: JU + K series syllabograms:

linear a scribal hands JU KA KI KO KU


Linear A scribal hands: D series syllabograms:

Linear A scribal hands D series


Minoan Linear A scribal hands: vowels A E I O U

Minoan Linear A scribal hands: vowels A E I O U



Digital enhancement of Linear A & B tablets: #6 Linear A tablet ARKH 2 (Arkhanes)

Linear A tablet ARKH 2 Arkhanes digitized

Minoan Linear A Reza Adureza Tereza. Do they measure up? PART 1 = reza

The problem of generic versus specific measurement:

Minoan Linear A reza adureza tereza. Do they measure up? PART 1 = reza...

Soon after I first translated the Minoan Linear A words reza, adureza and tereza, it swiftly dawned on me that I had made a fundamental critical error in my decipherments. It is this. Based on the operation that cross-correlation between Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B assumes that both scripts fundamentally centre on inventories alone, I first turned to Linear B to test this hypothesis.

Linear B and measurement:

Whenever the Linear B scribes inscribed tablets relating specifically to measurement (and that was on the vast majority of Linear B tablets dealing with commodities), they never used the word measurement in and of itself. Why, you ask? The answer, at least to the scribes, was transparent. The Linear B scribes, as we know all too well from their extremely frequent use of supersyllabograms to save precious space on what were very small tablets (usually 15 cm. wide, rarely more than 30), would almost certainly not have written out the word measurement on tablets actually providing the figures and totals for measurement, since it was all to obvious to them (though not us in the the twenty-first century!) that if the total figures and totals of measured commodities are tallied on any particular tablet, then why on earth say “measurement” of... when it was painfully obvious to them (the scribes) that this was what the tablet in question was all about? This practice is identical to the use of single syllabogram supersyllabograms to replace entire words or phrases on Linear B tablets, again for precisely the same reason, so save all the precious space they could on those tiny tablets. Which is exactly what they did. That leaves us with the obvious question, if the Linear B scribes did not use the implicit but obvious word  “measurement”, then what word(s) would they have used for measurement? The answer is implicit in the question: they used words for precise units of measurement, not for measurement in its generic sense. They would have had to use precise units of measurement for commodities such as specific crops, military paraphernalia, vessels, olive oil and wine; otherwise who on earth in the Knossian or Mycenaean palace administration would have known what the total amounts of specific items or commodities added up to? The way the Linear B scribes dealt with this conundrum was to devise a fully standardized, formulaic system of measuring specific units of dry and wet measurement, as illustrated here, and as initially calculated with amazing precision by Andras Zeke of the Minoan Language Blog back in 2012:

Minoan fractiona signs by Andras Zeke 2012

Specific measurement in Minoan Linear A:

And so I have come around to reasoning that what applies to the designation of specific measurement in Mycenaean Linear B must also apply to its forbear, Minoan Linear A, in some form or another. Unfortunately, my extensive online research rummaging for Minoan Linear A words (as opposed to units of measurement) came up cold. So what then? Did the Minoan Linear A scribes employ precise words for specific units of measurement? My believe is that in fact they did. Why so? Only recently, I quickly noticed that the words reza, adureza and tereza appeared on Minoan Linear A tablets, all of which dealt with measurement. Co-incidence? I think not.  

Let us begin with the simple word reza. If it is indeed the root word for its variants adureza and tereza, it stands to reason that it applies to the simplest unit(s) of measurement, as illustrated here on Linear B tablet Haghia Triada HT 31 (verso):

Llinear A HT 31 dry measurment reza

I would also like to stress that so far I have only scratched the surface of the problems inherent to at least the partial, but accurate, decipherment of certain Minoan Linear B terms (up to a potential vocabulary of 100+ words), in light of the fact that I have been painstakingly mulling over the hypotheses, criteria and a specific methodology which can successfully be applied to the prudent decipherment of at least a subset of Minoan Linear A. And to my satisfaction, I have been able to extrapolate these hypotheses, criteria and a specific methodology which we can practically apply to said decipherment. I shall be posting these principles very shortly here on Linear B, Knossos and Mycenae. I guarantee they will be real eye openers to past, researchers in the potential decipherment of Minoan Linear A, all of whom have overlooked some of the critical factors relative to its decipherment, which are more than likely to lead to at least a real measure of success. We shall soon see.    

It is extremely important to emphasize that if adureza and teresa are compounds of reza, compound Minoan Linear A words modify their meanings from their simple root word, in this case, reza, by adding prefixes, not suffixes, which would explain why adureza, with the prefix adu = “dry” means a specific unit of dry measurement and te for tereza refers to a specific unit of  “wet” measurement, not just “measurement” (reza). It will be absolutely necessary to test this tentative hypothesis against other Minoan Linear A word clusters composed of (a) a root root and (b) compound terms composed of the root + 1 or more prefixes, not suffixes, to determine whether it holds up to continued scrutiny. If it does, we are surely onto something big! 

For adureza and tereza, see the next two posts.

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.

Translation of Linear B tablet K 04-28 from the Knossos “Armoury”

Knossos tablet 04-28 N a 15

The translation of this tablet is relatively straightforward. The first line speaks for itself. On the second line we have  “opoqo kerayapi opiiyapi”, which could mean either “with horse blinkers of horn with parts of the reins” or “with horse blinkers with horn parts of the reins”,  since the Mycenaean Greek does not make it clear which part of the phrase – kerayapi – = “horn” modifies, the first or the second. Nevertheless, the second makes considerably more sense, since the poor horses might suffer injury if their blinkers were made of horn and they happened to shatter.  Certainly, the reins could be at least partly made of horn. So there you have it.

Finally, we are confronted with the perfect participle passive – metakekumena – . Chis Tselentis takes a wild guess that it means “dismantled?” , though it is quite obvious that he is very unsure of himself, given that his translation is followed by a question mark (?). Besides, when we consider the context of the physical attributes of the chariot in which this word is set, it does not make much sense that anyone would want to dismantle a chariot which has been painted crimson by someone else, as that would simply undo the work  of the painter. Not a pretty scene. The scribe would have had one angry painter on his hands. On the other hand, the translation “(fully) refurbished”, which is practically identical with L.R. Palmer’s, makes a lot more sense. In said case, the scribe and the painter would have gotten along fine with one another. I am not saying that Tselentis’ translation is outright wrong. But the problem is that there exists no ancient Greek verb which fits the orthographic conditions of the perfect participle passive – metakekumena –  . On the other hand, the ancient Greek verb – komizo – is a pretty close match, even though its own perfect participle passive does not match. But – komizo – is Classical Greek, while – metakekumena – is far more archaic Mycenaean Greek. So there really is no way to tell for sure. But since the translation matches up so well with the context of the actual physical appearance of the chariot, I am much more inclined to favour it over that of Chris Tselentis.

The application of geometric co-ordinate analysis (GCA) to parsing scribal hands: Part A: Cuneiform


I propose to demonstrate how geometric co-ordinate analysis of cuneiform, the Edwin-Smith hieroglyphic papyrus (ca. 1600 BCE), Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B and Arcado-Cypriot Linear C can confirm, isolate and identify with great precision the X Y co-ordinates of single characters or syllabograms in their respective standard fonts, and in the multiform cursive “deviations” from their fixed font forms, or to put it in different terms, to parse the running co-ordinates of each character, syllabogram or ideogram of any scribal hand in each of these scripts. This procedure effectively encapsulates the “style” of any scribe’s hand, just as we would nowadays characterize any individual’s handwriting style. This hypothesis constitutes a breakthrough in the application of graphology a.k.a epigraphy based entirely on the scientific procedure of geometric co-ordinate analysis (GCA) of scribal hands, irrespective of the script under analysis.


cuneiform font
Any attempt to isolate, identify and characterize by manual visual means alone the scribal hand peculiar to any single scribe incising a tablet or series of tablets common to his own hand, in other words, in his own peculiar style, has historically been fraught with difficulties. I intend to bring the analysis of scribal hands in cuneiform into much sharper focus by defining them as constructs determined solely by their relative positioning on the X Y axis plane in two-dimensional Cartesian geometry. This purely scientific approach reduces the analysis of individual scribal hands in cuneiform to a single constant, which is the point of origin (0,0) in the X Y axis plane, from which the actual positions of each and every co-ordinate on the positive planes (X horizontally right, Y vertically up) and negative planes (X horizontally left, Y vertically down) are extrapolated for any character in this script, as illustrated by the following general chart of geometric co-ordinates (Click to ENLARGE):

A xy analysis
Although I haven’t the faintest grasp of ancient cuneiform, it just so happens that this lapsus scientiae has no effect or consequence whatsoever on the purely scientific procedure I propose for the precise identification of unique individual scribal hands in cuneiform, let alone in any other script, syllabary or alphabet  ancient or modern (including but not limited to, the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Semitic & Cyrillic alphabets), irrespective of language, and even whether or not anyone utilizing said procedure understands the language or can even read the script, syllabary or alphabet under the microscope.    

This purely scientific procedure can be strictly applied, not only to the scatter-plot positioning of the various strokes comprising any letter in the cuneiform font, but also to the “deviations” of any individual scribe’s hand or indeed to a cross-comparative GCA analysis of various scribal hands. These purely mathematical deviations are strictly defined as variables of the actual position of each of the various strokes of any individual’s scribal hand, which constitutes and defines his own peculiar “style”, where style is simply a construct of GCA  analysis, and nothing more. This procedure reveals with great accuracy any subtle or significant differences among scribal hands. These differences or defining characteristics of any number of scribal hands may be applied either to:

(a)  the unique styles of any number of different scribes incising a trove of tablets all originating from the same archaeological site, hence, co-spatial and co-temporal, or
(b)  of different scribes incising tablets at different historical periods, revealing the subtle or significant phases in the evolution of the cuneiform script itself in its own historical timeline, as illustrated by these six cuneiform tablets, each one of which is characteristic of its own historical frame, from 3,100 BCE – 2,250 BCE (Click to ENLARGE),

B Sumerian Akkadian Babylonian stamping
and in addition

(c)  Geometric co-ordinate analysis is also ideally suited to identifying the precise style of a single scribe, with no cross-correlation with or reference to any other (non-)contemporaneous scribe. In other words, in this last case, we find ourselves zeroing in on the unique style of a single scribe. This technique cannot fail to scientifically identify with great precision the actual scribal hand of any scribe in particular, even in the complete absence of any other contemporaneous cuneiform tablet or stele with which to compare it, and regardless of the size of the cuneiform characters (i.e. their “font” size, so to speak), since the full set of cuneiform characters can run from relatively small characters incised on tablets to enormous ones on steles. It is of particular importance at this point to stress that the “font” or cursive scribal hand size have no effect whatsoever on the defining set of GCA co-ordinates of any character, syllabogram or ideogram in any script whatsoever. It simply is not a factor.

To summarize, my hypothesis runs as follows: the technique of geometric co-ordinate analysis (GCA) of scribal hands, in and of itself, all other considerations aside, whether cross-comparative and contemporaneous, or cross-comparative in the historical timeline within which it is set ( 3,100 BCE – 2,250 BCE) or lastly in the application of said procedure to the unambiguous identification of a single scribal hand is a strictly scientific procedure capable of great mathematical accuracy, as illustrated by the following table of geometric co-ordinate analysis applied to cuneiform alone (Click to ENLARGE):

C geometric co-ordinate analysis of early mesopotamian cuneifrom

The most striking feature of cuneiform is that it is, with few minor exceptions (these being circular), almost entirely linear even in its subsets, the parallel and the triangular, hence, susceptible to geometric co-ordinate analysis at its most fundamental and most efficient level. 

It is only when a script, syllabary or alphabet in the two-dimensional plane introduces considerably more complex geometric variables such as the point (as the constant 0,0 = the point of origin on an X Y axis or alternatively a variable point elsewhere on the X Y axis), the circle and the oblong that the process becomes significantly more complex. The most common two-dimensional non-linear constructs which apply to scripts beyond the simple linear (such as found in cuneiform) are illustrated in this chart of alternate geometric forms (Click to ENLARGE):

D alternate geometric forms
These shapes exclude all subsets of the linear (such as the triangle, parallel, pentagon, hexagon, octagon, ancient swastika etc.) and circular (circular sector, semi-circle, arbelos, superellipse, taijitu = symbol of the Tao, etc.), which are demonstrably variations of the linear and the circular.
These we must leave to the geometric co-ordinate analysis of Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B and Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, all of which share these additional more complex geometric constructs in common. When we are forced to apply this technique to more complex geometric forms, the procedure appears to be significantly more difficult to apply. Or does it? The answer to that question lies embedded in the question itself. The question is neither closed nor open, but simply rhetorical. It contains its own answer.

It is in fact the hi-tech approach which decisively and instantaneously resolves any and all difficulties in every last case of geometric co-ordinate analysis of any script, syllabary or indeed any alphabet, ancient or modern. It is neatly summed up by the phrase, “computer-based analysis”, which effectively and entirely dispenses with the necessity of having to manually parse scribal hands or handwriting by visual means or analysis at all. Prior to the advent of the Internet and modern supercomputers, geometric co-ordinate analysis of any phenomenon, let alone scribal hands, or so-to-speak  handwriting post AD (anno domini), would have been a tedious mathematical process hugely consuming of time and human resources, which is why it was never applied at that time. But nowadays, this procedure can be finessed by any supercomputer plotting CGA co-ordinates down to the very last pixel at lightning speed. The end result is that any of an innumerable number of unique scribal hand(s) or of handwriting styles can be isolated and identified beyond a reasonable doubt, and in the blink of an eye. Much more on this in Part B, The application of geometric co-ordinate analysis to Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B and Arcado-Cypriot Linear C. However strange as it may seem prima facie, I leave to the very last the application of this unimpeachable procedure to the analysis and the precise isolation of the unique style of the single scribal hand responsible for the Edwin-Smith papyrus, as that case in particular yields the most astonishing outcome of all.

© by Richard Vallance Janke 2015 (All Rights Reserved = Tous droits réservés)

What is a Top-Notch Translation? Is there any such thing? Pylos Tablet 641-1952 (Ventris)

Those of you who are regular readers of our blog, and who take the trouble to really delve into the fine points of our posts on the decipherment of scores of Linear B tablets which we have already translated, will have surely noticed by now that I never take any translation for granted, yes, even down to the very last word, phrase, logogram or ideogram, while strictly taking into account whether or not the tablet itself is completely intact, or – as is far more often the case - left- or right-truncated. In every instance of the latter, any decipherment, however carefully devised, is likely to be considerably more inaccurate than any translation of an intact tablet.  

Not to follow these strict procedures would be tantamount a one-sided, highly subjective and excessively biased exercise in imposing a single, strictly personal, interpretation on any extant Linear B tablet, a practice which is fraught with so many pitfalls as to invite certain error and misinterpretation. I would much rather offer all alternative translations of every single last word, phrase, logogram, ideogram etc. in any and all Linear B tablets, than to rashly commit myself to any single translation. It is only in this way that you, our readers, can decide for yourselves which of my translations appears to be the most feasible or appropriate to you in the precise (or more likely than not, not so precise) context of the tablet in question.

No decipherer or translator of Mycenaean Linear B extant tablets or text in his or her right mind has a monopoly on the so-called “right” or “correct” translation of any Mycenaean source, because if that individual imagines he or she does, that person is dreaming in technicolour or – dare I say - even high on psychedelics. The only people who had the very real monopoly, in other words, the actual precise meaning of each and every tablet or source firmly in hand in Mycenaean Linear B were – you guessed it – the Mycenaean scribes themselves. We absolutely must bear this critical consideration in mind at all times whenever we dare approach the translation of any Linear B source, if we are to maintain any sense of the rational golden mean, of our own glaring linguistic inadequacies at a remote of some 3,500 years, and our own decidedly limited cognitive, associative powers of translation, which are in fact extremely circumscribed at the level of the individual translator.

It is only through the greatest sustained, systematic international co-operative effort on the part of all translators of Linear B, let alone of Linear C or of any other ancient language, regardless of script, that we as a community of professional linguists, can ever hope to eventually approximate a reasonably accurate translation. The greater the number of times a (Linear B) tablet is translated, the greater the likelihood that our sustained, combined co-operative efforts at translation is bound to bear positive fruit. Those who insist on being loners in the decipherment or translation of any texts in any in any ancient language run the severe risk of exposing themselves to sharp critical responses and, in the worst case scenario, to public ridicule in the research community specializing in ancient linguistics. Caveat interpres ille. That sort of translator should watch his Ps & Qs.
An excellent case in point, the translation of the very first tablet ever deciphered by our genius code-breaker, Michael Ventris, in 1952 & 1953, Pylos Tablet PY 641-1952 (Ventris): Click to ENLARGE:

Pylos Tablet PY 641-1952 Ventis as transslated by Ventris in 1952

We previously discussed the letters between Emmett L. Bennett and Micheal Ventris in June 1952 which effectively broke the code for Mycenaean Linear B, when Bennett first brought to Ventris’  attention his correct translation of the very first word on this famous tablet, tiripode, which unequivocally meant “tripod”. With this master key to Linear B, Ventris was able to decipher the entire tablet in no time flat, making it the first tablet ever to have been translated end-to-end into English. For our commentary on the letters, please click on this banner:

famous letters Ventris re Pylos tablet PY 641-1952
Since that time, the tablet has been translated scores and scores of times. Several translators have gone so far as to claim that theirs “is the best translation”. If you will forgive me for saying this, people making such an injudicious claim are all, without exception, wrong. It is only by combining, cross-checking and cross-correlating every last one of the translations attempted to date on this fascinating tablet, Pylos Tablet PY 641-1952, that we can ever hope to come up with at least one or two translations which are bound to meet the criteria for a really top-notch translation. Those criteria are several. I shall address them one by one, finally summarizing all such criteria, throughout the coming year.

In the meantime, stay posted for the latest carefully considered, extremely well-researched and eminently consistent translation of this famous tablet, with fresh new insights, by Rita Roberts, soon to be posted right here on this blog. It is not my own translation, but trust me, it is a highly professional one, fully taking into account a number of historical translations, one of the best of which is that by Michael Ventris himself. I freely admit I could not have matched Rita’s translation myself, for reasons which will be made perfectly clear when we come to post her excellent decipherment early in March 2015. To my mind, it is one of the finest translations of Pylos PY 631-1952 ever penned.

Subsequently, we shall rigorously examine Gretchen Leonhardt’ s translation of the same tablet, to which she assigns the alternative identifier, Pylos PY Ta 641, rather than its usual attribution. It strikes me as rather strange that she would have resorted to the alternate identifier, almost as if she intended - consciously or not - to distance herself from the original translation by Ventris himself. For her translation, please click on this banner:

Pylos Tablet Py 641-1952 Ventris Leonhardt

Ms. Leonhardt’ s decipherment is, if anything, unique and - shall we say - intriguing. We shall see how it stacks up against Michael Ventris’ and Rita Roberts’ translations, meticulously cross-correlating her own translation of every word or ideogram which is at variance with that of the same word or ideogram in either of the other two decipherments. Each translation will then be subjected to a range of rigorous criteria to determine in which respects it is as sound as, or inferior or superior to its other 2 counterparts.  Of course, the table of merits and demerits of each of the three translations is strictly my own interpretation, and as such is as subject to sound linguistic, logical, contextual and practical counter-criticism as any other. Anyone who (strongly) disagrees with my assessments of each of these 3 translations should feel free to address his or her critiques of them. I shall be more than happy to post such criticisms word-for-word on our blog, with the proviso that both Rita Roberts and I myself are free to counter them as we see fit under the strict terms enumerated above.


KEY POST: A Résumé of the Rôle of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B

This post, which is of supreme importance, has been a long time coming. I will be making a MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT concerning this post in the next few days, as this constitutes the most significant breakthrough for us here at Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae since its inception 22 months ago.  The résumé as submitted to the institutions concerned is illustrated in the visual .jpg text here: Click to ENLARGE

RESUME Role ofSupersyllabograms in Linear B

This résumé, which I repeat below in a slightly less compressed format, but without the examples of supersyllabograms in Linear B, serves as the basis of a much more in-depth institutionally sponsored paper, The Rôle of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B, which is to be published before the end of this year, and which may even appear in other venues.


A supersyllabogram (SSYL) is defined as the first syllabogram or vowel, i.e. the first syllable of a Linear B word or phrase, and it is always found adjacent to or inside an ideogram, and always with the same invariable meaning in a particular sector of Minoan/ Mycenaean society. Sectors include agriculture, military, textiles, vessels & religious. If the ideogram or the sector changes, so does the meaning of the supersyllabogram.

Here is an example of a Linear B tablet from Knossos which uses three (4)! supersyllabograms with the ideogram for RAM. Click to ENLARGE:

Appendix A knossos-tablet-kn-927-f-a-01-ramsWhat!”, I hear you saying. “I thought you said that super- syllabograms always appeared singly adjacent to or inside an ideogram in any sector of Minoan/Mycenaean society.”  But if you re-read what I said above, that is not quite what I said. I pointed out that a supersyllabogram is always a single syllabogram or vowel, and the first syllable only of any Mycenaean word or phrase in Linear B. I did not claim that more than one supersyllabogram could not appear adjacent to or inside an ideogram. To the contrary. Scribes frequently resorted to using as many as four (4) SSYLS on one tablet, thereby eliminating all extraneous text, which would have otherwise wasted much valuable space on what were (and are) extremely small tablets. Few tablets exceed 30 cm. in width or 15 cm. in depth. Some are so tiny you have to look at them through a magnifying glass to read them! The scribes knew exactly what they were doing. The fewer words or phrases they had to write out, the more space they saved on the tablets... which is precisely why some 800 of 3,000 tablets (27%) from Knossos, which I examined and read meticulously use supersyllabograms to replace words and even entire phrases in Mycenaean Greek.         

Scribes would never have written single syllabograms unless they meant something! - with ideograms, they do. SSYLs are a form of shorthand.

See the visual post above for examples of Supersyllabograms.

28 of 61 syllabograms (46 percent) are supersyllabograms. About 800/3000 tablets from Knossos I meticulously examined use supersyllabograms.

In the next post, we shall discuss the idiosyncratic characteristics of supersyllabograms.



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