Tag Archive: seals

How can so-called Cretan hieroglyphs be hieroglyphs when there are only 45 of them?

Until now most researchers have simply assumed that the 45 Cretan symbols (by my count), exclusive of numerics, must be hieroglyphs. But the evidence appears to gainsay this hypothesis. As the table below makes quite clear, there are only 45 Cretan symbols, to which

only 27 may possibly/probably/definitely be assigned meanings.

possible or probable or definite known Cretan hieroglyphs

The significance of the remaining 18 are currently beyond the bounds of decipherment:

ALL unknown Cretan seal symbols

So this lands us with a total of only 45 Cretan symbols. If and when we compare this number with the approximately 1,000 Egyptian hieroglyphs, the whole notion that the Cretan symbols are hieroglyphs comes apart at the seams and is shattered.

sample of 1000 Egyptian hieroglyphs

And that is not the end of it. There are anywhere between 600 and 1,000 symbols in Cuneiform.


So once again, the massive proliferation of symbols, i.e. hieroglyphs, in Egyptian, and of symbols in Cuneiform make a mockery of the notion that the Cretan symbols are hieroglyphs. But if they are not hieroglyphs, what are they? It would appear that they are ideograms or logograms on seals and nodules which serve to tag the contents of the (papyrus) documents they seal. This hypothesis makes a lot of sense, since almost all Cretans and Minoans, administrators, merchants and consumer, were illiterate. These people were probably able to master the minimal number of 45 ideograms and logograms which we find on 100s of surviving seals. But while the illiterate hoy polloi could not read the script on the sealed papyrus (or leaf tablets sometimes), the scribes most definitely could. This leaves us open to yet another hypothetical question? What is the script of the texts? How many symbols or syllabograms (if the latter yet existed) would have been required to write the papyrus or inscribe the leaf tablets? Was this script, if script it was, an early form of Linear A, such as Festive Linear A? Or was it actually Linear A? This question or hypothesis demands further investigation.

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.

Haghia Triada roundels & noduli:

Linear A nodulae with syllabogram SI from Haghia Triada

From: The Haghia Triada administrative documents:


Descriptions from this site (quoted):

Although the writing has not been deciphered neither the language has been interpreted (sic, poor grammar) various data may be obtained from the tablets. First of all, a list of Linear A signs may be hypothesized, which, with its 97 symbols, reveals a syllabic script of a simple typology (consonant + vowel and vowels): the signs are, in fact, too many, to represent a complex syllabic system (as the Near Eastern Cuneiform and the Aegyptian Hieroglyph). To these syllabic signs a long series of "logograms", representing each one a word, are added. 

Types of seals represented:

nodulae and roundels from Haghia Triada


The roundel is a characteristic document of the Neopalatian Minoan [1] administration, beside the tablet. It is a round clay disk (classified as Wc) with seals impressions along the edge - from one to six impressions - and, on most cases, one inscription on one or both sides. Frequently the inscription consists of a logogram, sometimes also of a sign-group. It seems to represent the last act [2] of an administrative transaction and probably functioned as a receipt. 

The seals stamped on roundels fully coincide with seals stamped on the other different documents. At Haghia Triada 22 roundels have been found, one of them being without (an) inscription. 


It is (sic, They are) the most widespread Aegean Bronze Age document, both geographically and chronologically. These clay small object (sic, objects) (defined as noduli by J. Weingarten) were not always inscribed but only sealed. They appear in two shapes: dome (classified as We) (fig. 4) and disk (classified as Wf) (fig. 5).  At Haghia Triada 54 noduli have been found, in dome shape, and only 7 are inscribed. 

1 Flat-based nodule:
This type of document is rarely inscribed but regularly sealed. Its characteristic is the negative impression on its reverse (or base) which shows that it had been placed upon a folded piece of parchment around which a thin thread was wound which was also wound into the clay. It appears in two different shapes: standing (fig. 6) or recumbent (fig. 7) (both classified as Wb). At Haghia Triada 76 flat-based nodules have been found, only 2 having a carved inscription. 

2 Hanging nodule [3]:

This small clay piece is characterized by string holes which show that it was fastened to another object by a string. They may present one or two holes. 
Those with two holes (classified as Wd) have an elongated shape (fig. 8), while those with one hole (classified as WA) present five slightly different shapes: pendant, pyramid, cone, dome, pear (fig. 9) [4]. At Haghia Triada 936 single-holes have been found, 851 being inscribed, and 11 two-hole, only 2 being inscribed. 

Comments by Richard Vallance:

[1] Neo-palatial Minoan administration: This is the Minoan administration at Haghia Triada dating from the Middle Minoan MM ca. 1750-1550 BCE & Late Minoan LM1A, ca. 1550-1500 BCE. Documents in Linear A inscribed during the LM1A period may have been inscribed in Mycenaean-derived New Minoan.  
[2] “the last act”. This is ambiguous English. Does it refer to the “the most recent” of the Haghia Triada administration? And if so, does this mean the act or acts date from the Late Minoan LM1A period?  And if so, are these acts inscribed in Mycenaean-derived New Minoan?
[3] The nodules illustrated in my decipherment of Figure 9 above are hanging nodules.
[4] See my 3 decipherments in Figure 9 at the outset of this post. If the syllabogram SI is the first syllable of a Mycenaean-derived New Minoan word, it could represent any of the 3 decipherments I have proposed. If on the other hand, SI represents any Old Minoan word, it is indecipherable.  

Haghia Triada pianta genrale

Decipherment of the Linear B seal BE Zg2:

Linear B seal BE Zg 2

This decipherment is straightforward. It certainly makes sense that a Linear B seal could deal with 5 torches, more than likely in the context of a religious or royal rite.

Linear B seal BE Zg 1 as erroneously interpreted by Gretchen Leonhardt, corrected here:

Linear B seal BE Zg 1

Gretchen Leonhardt, a self-styled Linear B expert, has erroneously deciphered Linear B seal BE Zg 1.  As she so often does, she misinterprets syllabograms, all to often blatantly violating their phonetic values. It is clear from this seal that the last syllabogram must be either ru or ne, and  certainly not me, by any stretch of the imagination. Leonhardt is also in the habit of recasting the orthography of Linear B words she interprets to suit her own purposes. In this instance, she translates what she mistakenly takes to be the word on the VERSO to be dokame as dokema in Latinized Greek, flipping the vowels. But the second syllabogram is clearly ka, and cannot be interpreted as anything else.  The problem with Ms. Leonhardt’s so-called methodology in her decipherment of any and all Linear B tablets is that she runs off on wild tangents whenever she is confronted with any word that does not meet her preconceptions. In this instance, she is desperate to cook up a meaning which appeals to her, no matter how much she has to twist the Linear B orthography. She indulges in this very practice on practically every last Linear B tablet she “deciphers”, interpreting Linear B words to suit her fancy, except in those instances where she is faced with no alternative but to accept what is staring her in the face.

For instance, allow me to cite some of her translations of certain words on Linear B tablet Pylos TA 641-1952.  She has no choice but to accept tiripode as signifying “tripod”, eme as  “together/with” and qetorowe as “four year”, even though it properly means “four”, in line with the Latin orthography, quattuor. Linear B regularly substitutes q for t. As for her so-called decipherment of apu, she should know better than to translate it as  “to become bleached/white”. After all, how could a burnt tripod be bleached white, when scorching turns pottery black? It is astonishing that she would overlook the obvious here. What is even more damning is the indisputable fact that apu is the default aprivative preposition for “from/with” in Mycenaean, Arcadian, Arcado-Cypriot, Lesbian and Thessalian, as attested by George Papanastassiou in The preverb apo in Ancient Greek:

preposition apo in ancient Greek dialects

Then we have mewijo, which she interprets as “a kind of cumin”. Why on earth the Mycenaeans would have bothered with naming a specific kind of cumin when the standard word suffices, is completely beyond me. In fact, the alternative word she has latched onto is extremely uncommon in any ancient Greek dialect. Finally, she bizarrely interprets dipa, which is clearly the Mycenaean equivalent to the Homeric depa, as “to inspect”, another wild stretch of the imagination. Sadly, Ms. Leonhardt is much too prone to these shenanigans, which mar all too many of her decipherments. She ought to know better.

This of course applies to her decipherment of Linear B seal BE Zg 1. Finally, we can also interpret the figure on this seal as representing the Horns of Consecration ubiquitous at Knossos. 

Linear A seals: Part 2 + Minoan grammar, nominative singular masculine in u:


Linear A seal HM 570.1g confirms beyond doubt that the word situ is New Minoan, i.e. Mycenaean-derived for “wheat”, a tight match with Mycenaean sito.     But it establishes a lot more than just that. Since there are well over 200 Minoan     words, whether Old Minoan or Mycenaean-derived New Minoan, all of which terminate in u, the circumstantial evidence is very strong that u is the nominative masculine singular of Minoan nouns and adjectives regardless.  I have no idea what jetana means, as it is clearly Old Minoan.

Linear A seals: Part 1 + Minoan grammar, enclitic ne = in/on:


On these Linear A seals we find the word patane, apparently a variant of patos (Greek) = path. But how can we account for the divergence from standard Greek spelling? In the Mycenaean dialect, the preposition “in” was proclitic and expressed as eni, hence eni pati (locative singular). But as I have already pointed out several times in previous posts, when any word is imported from a source superstratum language (in this case, Mycenaean) into a target language (in this case, the Minoan language substratum), its orthography must be changed to comply with the spelling conventions of the target language. This phenomenon also occurs in English, where 10s of thousands of Norman French and French words are imported, but where in a great many cases, the French spelling must be adjusted to conform with English orthography. To cute just a few examples of French orthography adjust to meet the exigencies of English spelling, we have:

French to English:

albâtre = alabaster
bénin = benign
cloître = cloister
dédain = disdain
épître = epistle
forêt = forest
fanatique = fanatic
gigantesque = gigantic
gobelet = goblet
loutre = otter
maître = master
plâtre = plaster
similitude = similarity
traître = treacherous

and on and on. This phenomenon applies to every last substratum language upon which a superstratum from another language is imposed.

Likewise, in the case of Old Minoan, it is inevitable that the orthography of any single superstratum Mycenaean derived word has to be adjusted to meet the exigencies of Minoan orthography.

The most striking example of this metamorphosis is the masculine singular. Mycenaean derived words in Minoan must have their singular ultimate adjusted to u from the Mycenaean o. There are plenty of examples:

Akano to Akanu (Archanes)
akaro to akaru (field)
kako to kaku (copper)
kuruko to kuruku (crocus/saffron)
mare (mari) to maru (wool)
Rado to Radu (Latos)
simito to simitu (mouse)
suniko to suniku (community)
Winado to Winadu (toponym)
woino to winu (wine)
iyero to wireu  (priest)

But these same words terminate in u in Minoan. And there are well over 150 in the extant Linear  A lexicon of slightly more than 950 words. 

As we can clearly see on Linear A seal HM 570.1a, the word patane is typical of several Minoan words, all of which also terminate in ne. These are:


It distinctly appears that all of these words are in the Minoan dative/locative case, and that the enclitic ultimate therefore means “in” or “on”. This will have to be substantiated by further research, but for the time being, let us assum that this conclusion is at least tentatively correct.

Displays of exquisite Minoan-Mycenaean jewellery # 4 as a prelude to the stunning gold pin from the Ayia Nikolaos Museum:

All of these displays illustrate just how exquisite Minoan-Mycenaean craftsmanship was.

composite of exquisite Minoan jewlery

The last of these displays is that of the stunning gold pin from the Ayia Nikolaos Museum. This pin is of particular interest to us here because in the next post I succeed in completely deciphering the inscription, which is written entirely in Mycenaean derived New Minoan.




Cretan hieroglyphic seals (Middle Minoan I & II, ca. 2100-1700 BCE):

Cretan hieroglyphic seals

On the first of these seals there appear 4 ideograms (?) which appear to be precursors of Minoan Linear A syllabograms, but there is no way of knowing whether or not this is the case.

The Master Seal of Khania and a sealing from Haghia Triada:

Master seal Khania and sealing Haghia Triada

These beautiful seals may date from Middle or early Late Minoan times, and if this is so, they were fashioned when Minoan Linear A was still in use. Otherwise, if they date from Late Minoan III, the script in use would have been Linear B.

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