Tag Archive: seeds

Rita Roberts translation of Knossos tablet KN 160a J j 11, dealing with wine, corrected:

Linear B tablet KN 160a J j 11 wine

Rita Roberts translation of Knossos tablet KN 160a J j 11, dealing with wine, corrected, is trickier than the previous one she has translated to fulfill the requirements for her second year of university, KN 906 Da 02, dealing with livestock. Because this tablet is damaged, truncated left and right, it can be more difficult to establish meaning for certain terms. But not necessarily so. Rita struggled gainfully with this tablet. And this is understandable. What determines everything in the decipherment of any tablet, Linear A or B, is CONTEXT. If we cannot determine what any given word(s) mean in the actual context of the tablet, we sometimes fail to grasp the meanings of these words. But in the end, everything falls into place, and a relatively convincing translation can be gleaned from it, as we see in the illustration above.

The only character which occasions real difficulty is the supersyllabogram PE, which usually stands for seed(s). But if this the meaning to be extracted, it does not really make all that much sense, since grape seeds do not contribute much to wine, only the grapes do. The only explanation I can muster here is this: the grape seeds had to be extracted, i.e. removed, from the grapes to produce the wine. That makes sense. Finally, we find the ideogram for “olive oil” on this tablet, but how olive oil mixes with wine is a mystery to me, unless the olive oil is being served with bread along with the wine. But there is no mention of bread on this tablet. So some issues remain unresolved.


Linear B tablet, Pylos ER 312, tax collection for wheat for the temple in the palace:

Linear B Pylos tablet ER 312

This most fascinating of Linear B tablets, Pylos ER 312, clearly deals with the temple in the palace (both words in the locative singular). The tablet deals with taxation of seed for wheat and for wheat as such, where the units of wheat a large, and measured in something like bale-like units. Now it is obvious that in the Minoan/Mycenaean era, wheat and other grain crops were not measured in bales, but there was a standard large unit of measurement for them, which probably approximated bales. As the tax collector is mentioned, we know this tablet deals exclusively with taxation for wheat seeds and wheat. The taxes raised by the tax collector are for the temple in the palace. In line 7, we have worokiyoneyo eremo, which prima facie is somewhat mystifying. However, as my research colleague, Alexandre Solcà, points out, eremo is the adjective corresponding to the noun, eremo, the latter signifying desert. So the attributive of this word probably means devoid of. It certainly makes sense in context, given that the word preceding it is worokiyoneyo (genitive singular) for “of an offering , so the sense would be, literally, devoid of an offering, hence, a free offering. This clears up any ambiguity in the text.



The lengthy and highly informative Linear B tablet Pylos Py Er 312 from Chris Tselentis’ Linear B Lexicon:

Pylos tablet PY TA Er 312 Linear B

Pylos tablet PY TA Er 312 Linear B Latinized and translation
Linear B tablet Pylos Py Er 312 which Chris Tselentis deciphered in his superb Linear B Lexicon is presented above. This tablet runs the gamut from wheat and wheat seeds, to the measurement of olive oil to a number of references to the gods and sacred cults. Since Linear B tablets from Pylos tend to be significantly larger than those from Knossos, they are often a richer source of information applicable to the decipherment, not only of Linear B tablets, but of Minoan Linear A tablets as well.  You can be sure that I shall rely a good deal lon this tablet in my efforts towards the further decipherment of Minoan Linear A. Since Chris Tselentis has done all the work for us, I have simply translated it into English, without troubling myself with appending the text in Archaic Greek.  

Dry Measurement of Wheat, Barley & Grain Seeds in Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

Linear B tablet  KN 819 A j 0 wheat barley & seed

Because this tablet is largely intact, it is fairly easy to translate. But there are still a few small problems in the second line. First of all, the total wheat production for 1 month (or does this mean, the average monthly wheat total for 1 year?) is given as approx. 3 kilograms, if we are to trust the measurement table established by Andras Zeke of the Minoan Language Blog- and there is no reason why we should not under the circumstances, namely, that we really have no idea what the actual total (represented by the Linear B logogram which looks like a T) for dry measurement was. So kilograms will do as well as anything. Still, at least the system appears to have been metric. This is followed by a much larger output for barley of 3 x 9 = 27 kilograms, which strikes me as a little bit odd, given that wheat was probably the staple crop, followed by barley. On the other hand, there is nothing to indicate that this is a monthly total for barley. In fact, the total of approx. 27 kilograms is immediately followed by the number 7. My interpretation of this apparently stray number is that it may represent 7 months (the ideogram for month being conveniently omitted), yielding a total of a little less than 4 kilograms per month, which would align the barley production total with the wheat. But this still strikes me as really odd. Why would the scribe assign the total for only 1 month’s production of wheat, and follow it up with the total production of barley for 7 months? This does not make much sense. We then have a total production of about 3 x 3 = approx. 9 kilograms of seed, if I am interpreting this right. The reason I assign 3 x 3 = about 9 kilograms of seed is this: I believe the scribe deliberately omitted the T logogram (which is equal to about 3 kilograms), hence 3 (x 3) = 9.

Why would he do that? It is really quite simple. He has apparently omitted the ideogram for “month” right after the number 7. He has already used the T logogram twice on this line, and so – again to save valuable space on a very small tablet - he simply omits it the third time (as he did for the second occurrence for “month”), since he knows that all of the other scribes clearly understand that it is implicit. Just another shortcut. More shorthand. Big surprise. Still, the statistics do not seem to square. Our translation of the inventory totals just does not “feel right”. For this reason, I have to reserve judgement on the translation, given that there appears to be something the scribes all implicitly understood - I am not quite sure what – but which we do not at a remove of some 32 centuries. And I fear I may have taken the scribal practice of omitting what was “obvious” to the scribes a little too far.

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