Tag Archive: sheep raising



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

 


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Mycenaean Linear B tablet KN 1270 Ej 213 with the single supersyllabogram O on it:

Knossos tablet KN 1270 E j 213 and the supersyllabogram O

Mycenaean Linear B tablet KN 1270 Ej 213 has the single supersyllabogram O on it. This supersyllabogram O stands for onato = a lease field, as the translation makes perfectly clear. We see here that the shepherd (or sheep owner) Akunirios has 92 rams + another rams on a usufruct lease field. When we speak of a “usufruct lease field” we mean that the shepherd or sheep owner is permitted to use the lease field (generally by his landlord) for his own benefit or personal gain. 


Mycenaean Linear B tablet Ashmolean An1938_708_o with the single supersyllabogram O on it:

AN1938_708_o KN 1301 E j 324

Mycenaean Linear B tablet Ashmolean An1938_708_o has the single supersyllabogram O on it. This supersyllabogram O stands for onato = a lease field, as the translation makes perfectly clear.

 

 


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. 


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What does the word teri mean in Minoan Linear A?

Minoan Linear  A TERI sheep and olive oil

In spite of the fact that Andras Zeke of the Minoan Language Blog attributes to the Minoan Linear A word teri the name of a type of ram on Linear A tablet PH 31, his translation cannot stand, because the same word is used in association with olive (oil) on another tablet, HT 91 (Haghia Triada). So the term is clearly independent of either association. On the other hand, the context of both these tablets is susceptible of assisting in determining what teri might mean. We should definitely take into account that only 1 ram and 1 (amphora?) of olive oil is mentioned on each of these two tablets. So the context severely limits our interpretation(s), since only large numbers of rams and olive oil admit of more liberal translations. I found that I had no real choice other than to consult Chris Tselentis’ superb Linear B Lexicon, in order to extract any meaning(s) that might possibly mesh with the Minoan word teri in light of the fact that only 1 reference is made to a ram and an amphora of wine. Under the circumstances, the only practicable translations I could come up with were: [1] just delivered (as it is certainly conceivable that just 1 of either of the above could have been “just delivered” to a farmer or possibly to a priest or priestess, possibly for sacrifice [2] as an offering, again to a priest or priestess, possibly for sacrifice or [3] being delivered, once again in the same context.

This brings the number of Minoan Linear A words we have deciphered, more or less accurately, to 65.


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 1119 E n 322 & the supersyllabogram PE = peribolos = sheep pen:

Linear B tablet KN 1119 E n 322 supersyllabogram Pe = periqoro = sheep pen

This tablet, which also uses the supersyllabogram PE, informs us that the shepherd or sheep owner, Dekeraeus cares for 56 rams and 8 ewes at Damnios and another 28 rams in a sheep pen at Kutaistos.


The third supersyllabogram PE = periqoro = a sheep pen, the “magic bullet”!

the magic bullet Linear B periqoroyo

The third supersyllabogram PE = periqoro = “a sheep pen” is truly the “magic bullet”! Linear B tablet KN 1232 E d 462 gives it all away!

Linear B tablet KN 1232 E d 462 the code breaker for PE = periqoro = sheep pen

It contains no supersyllabogram at all, but that is just the point. What it does is spell out the word periqoroyo, which is the genitive singular of periqoro, corresponding to the Athenian Greek word, peribolos (here Latinized), which means “an enclosure”. But how does that work out to mean “a sheep pen” in Mycenaean Linear B, you ask? As we recede further and further into the past in any (ancient) language, the words which are generally abstract or at the very least generically concrete, as is peribolos “an enclosure” in Attic Greek become ever more concrete as the timeline regresses. Since Mycenaean Greek is the very earliest of the East Greek dialects (of which the much later Attic Greek is also a member ) it stands to reason that the meaning of the word periqoroyo (genitive on this tablet) or periqoro (nominative) is almost certain to mean “a livestock pen” and in the even more specific context of sheep husbandry “a sheep pen”. Which is precisely what it does mean.

I repeat. The scribe has not used a supersyllabogram (namely, PE) on Linear B tablet KN 1232 E d 462 at all. He has chosen to write out the word in full. This is just the stroke of luck I was fervently dreaming of when I was in the early stages of deciphering supersyllabograms in the agricultural sector of the Minoan/Mycenaean economy, since I desperately needed at least some circumstantial evidence that what I chose to call supersyllabograms were in fact the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of a Linear B word or phrase. And this tablet gave it all away. An obliging Linear B scribe had, on this tablet alone of the 3,000+ tablets and fragments from Knossos, actually written out in full the word the supersyllabogram PE symbolized. The word periqoroyo is in the genitive singular on this tablet, which literally means  “from a sheep pen”. In other words, all of the 23 rams and 27 ewes on this tablet come from a sheep pen, or if you like, were originally in a sheep pen. Must have been great fun!

But, you must be asking, how does this tablet prove that the supersyllabogram PE actually means “from a sheep pen” or “in a sheep pen”? It does so because every other tablet, including the very next one in this series, KN 1233 E n 224

Linear B tablet KN 1233 E n 234 the real Mccoy

do not spell out the word periqoro(yo), but instead deliberately substitute the supersyllabogram PE for it. And there are some 20 tablets in the series!

There is no other instance anywhere on any other Linear B tablets, regardless of provenance (Knossos, Pylos etc.) where the supersyllabogram is spelled out in full on one tablet in a given series and then replaced by its supersyllabogram,  except in this sole case where one tablet does spell the word out in full, only to be followed by its paradigmatic SSYL PE in the next and the next and the next tablet... and so on, and indeed on the tablets preceding it. 


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 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” .


Introduction to supersyllabograms in Linear B: O = onato = lease field # 3

Knossos tablet KN 1084 E e 321 and the supersyllabogram O for onato = lease field

Linear B tablet Knossos KN 1084 E e 321 is the third and final tablet in our series on the supersyllabogram O = onato = “(usufruct) lease field”. By now the translation of the supersyllabogram O should be so transparent that you can practically read it with your eyes closed... well, not quite. You wouldn’t want to close your eyes (joke!). The cities of Phaistos and Pylos were the second and third largest sheep raising locales in Minoan-Mycenaean Crete and Mycenae after the huge metropolis of Knossos (population ca. 55,000, an enormous city for antiquity). Whether or not Phaistos or Pylos came second or third or vice versa is anyone’s guess. So let’s move on to the next supersyllabogram KI for sheep raising and sheep husbandry. Can you guess what it means? Hint, it also has to do with land tenure.

Phaistos_Locator_Map

Introduction to supersyllabograms in Linear B: O = onato = lease field # 2

Knossos tablet KN 1270 E j 213 and the supersyllabogram O

Now that I have fully explained how supersyllabograms function in Mycenaean Linear B, it is going to be a lot easier for us to understand the second tablet in the series, Knossos tablet KN 1270 E j 213, on which once again the supersyllabogram O = onato = “(usufruct) lease field” appears for the second time and again on the bottom line. So the translation of that line must be “... and 48 rams on a lease field on the island of Eksonos -or- Exonos”, where the supersyllabogram O in front of the ideogram for “rams” of course means onato = “(usufruct) lease field”. That was pretty easy. I shall post one more tablet with the supersyllabogram O = onato, to make it crystal clear how it functions. Then we shall turn to the supersyllabogram KI, which for the moment I am keeping a secret from you. Eksonos or Exonos was one of several major islands in the Minoan-Mycenaean Empire where sheep were raised.


Introduction to supersyllabograms in Linear B – what is a supersyllabogram?

In brief, a supersyllabogram is the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of any Linear B word (or phrase) used in conjunction with any one of scores of Linear B ideograms. In a sense, almost all supersyllabograms are dependent on the ideogram which they modify, hence they are called dependent supersyllabograms. However, it is not as simple as that. In actual fact, it is the supersyllabogram which modifies the meaning of the ideogram, sometimes drastically.

Additionally, in the field of agriculture, all supersyllabograms without exception are said to be associative, which is to say that they are associated by happenstance with the ideograms they modify as indicators of geographic location, land tenure, land disposition, sheep raising and husbandry, as dictated by each supersyllabogram. The tablet shown here clearly illustrates the disposition of an associative supersyllabogram, in this case O = Linear onaton = “a usufruct lease field” or more simply “a lease field”, which as you can see is an entire phrase in English, even though it is only one word in Mycenaean Linear B. Here is how the supersyllabogram O = onaton in particular functions. Where the ideograms alone (accompanied by no supersyllabogram) signifying rams and ewes appear on any Linear B tablet, as on the first line of KN 1371 E j 921, they simply mean what they are, rams and ewes, which is why the first line of this tablet simply translates as 80 rams and 8 ewes. Period. Nothing more, nothing less. Simple.

Linar B tablet KN 1371 E j 921 O supersyllabogram = onaton = lease field

The supersyllabogram O, the first of 36: 

The first supersyllabogam in Mycenaean Linear B = O = onaton = lease field

However, as soon as the scribe places a supersyllabogram, in this case O, which as we have just noted above is the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of a certain Linear B word, the meaning changes, often  dramatically. The problem is, what does O mean? Upon consulting Chris Tselentis’ excellent Linear B Lexicon, we discover (not much to our surprise) that there is one word and one word only which fits the context and that word is of course onato. Every other entry under the vowel syllabogram O in his Lexicon comes up cold. They are dead ends. This leaves us with only one alternative. The vowel syllabogram O must mean onato = “a lease field”, and absolutely nothing else. So the second line on this tablet can only mean one thing, “12 rams on a (usufruct) lease field”. Nothing else. Period.  However, take away the ideogram, in this case for “rams”, and leave the O all by itself on the tablet, it means absolutely nothing. It is just the vowel syllabogram O, and there is no Mycenaean Linear B word  with the single vowel “O”. This is precisely why the supersyllabogram O (and all other supersyllabograms in the agricultural sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy are tagged as associative (because they just so happen to be associated with the ideograms they modify) and dependent on the ideogram they modify (because once they are associated with a particular ideogram, they distinctly modify its meaning). This phenomenon takes some getting used to, because it does not exist in any other language or script, ancient or modern... which is astounding when you think of it.

Unfortunately, not all supersyllabograms are that easy to crack. In fact, the majority of them are not. But we can leave that prickly problem to later, much later. In case you are wondering , out of 61 syllabograms + 1 homophone (AI) in Mycenaean Linear B, no fewer than 36 (!) or  59 % are supersyllabograms. That is a huge investment on the part of Mycenaean Linear B scribes. But why, I hear you asking, would they even bother doing this? The answer stares us in the face... to save precious space on what are after all tiny tablets. Linear B tablets are rarely more than 15 cm. wide,  with only a few being 30 cm. So rather than spell out onato in full, in this case onato = a lease field, they simply placed the supersyllabogram O in front of the ideogram for any of sheep or rams or ewes, and left it at that. And what goes for the supersyllabogram O goes for every last one of the 36 supersyllabograms.

This phenomenon may seem a little weird to you all at first sight. But you will rapidly become accustomed to it as I post more and more supersyllabograms (a.k.a. SSYLs) pursuant to this post.

Note that until I myself deciphered all 36 supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B between 2014 & 2016, no one in the field of linguistic research into Linear B had ever deciphered any more than a scattered few or them, let alone isolated, identified and classified all 36. In fact, no researcher to date has ever even understood what the phenomenon of the supersyllabogram is. Not until I cracked them wide open.

This is the most significant breakthrough in the decipherment of Mycenaean Linear B in the 64 years since its initial decipherment by Michael Ventris in 1952. In 2017, I will be publishing the definitive article on The Theory and Application of Supersyllabograms in Linear B, but in which publication and precisely when remains a closely guarded secret never to be whispered until it meets the light of day.


3 quasi-identical tablets on rams. But what are the “items related to rams ”? What a quandary!

KN 1175 - KN 1180 sheep

The written text of all three of these tablets is identical. Only the total numbers of rams and so-called “items related to rams ” vary, especially that latter, from a low of 10 to a high of 67. This raises the thorny questions of why the shepherd or owner of these sheep, Dumireweis, would have to use 67 items related to rams on the second tablet, versus 10 on the first and 20 on the third, especially in light of the fact that the number of rams varies but little on all three tablets (4,5,4).

The next problem is that Mycenaean Greek does not in any specify what these items are supposed to be. The only recourse I have is to assume that they are the instruments and implementa the shepherds and sheep owners used to raise their sheep. Turning to modern sheep raising instruments, and using a little imagination to boot, I came up with the ones listed in the illustration above. This still leaves the issue of Dumireweis having to resort to using 67 such items for a mere 5 rams on the second tablet. The only explanation I can come up with is that the is using several of the same items, meaning that he has several of each in stock. But if this is the case, why does he apparently have only 10 items in stock on tablet 1 and 20 on tablet 3, unless these are a subset of his total stock? That can make sense, as in modern inventories, we can and sometimes do find varying numbers of tool, instruments etc. related for instance to car or airplane manufacturing. These instruments can run to a significant number, especially in the aerospace industry. But I find it extremely difficult to believe that there could as many as a total of 67 discrete (separate) instruments used in an ancient agricultural setting such as that of Knossos, Mycenae or Pylos. It would make far more sense to adduce that the number of such tools and implementa is in fact only 10, as illustrated on the first tablet. This would mean that the 20 on the last tablet would make for redundancy in the number of separate, distinct items, for instance 3 forceps for birthing, 2 different shearing tools etc. Shearing in particular could have involved the use of a number of different, even specialized tools. So the number 67 on the second tablet may not be so wacky after all. For instance, Dumireweis could have made use of 2 different type of forceps or calipers for birthing, and as many as 5 different shearing tools, all in quantity, in order that the total runs to 67.

shears and tongs some bronze

But we are not done yet. Why on earth are there 3 tablets inventorying Dumireweis’ rams, when the scribe could have fit all of the rams and all of the instruments on one tablet? That really beats me. He could have listed 97 instruments for 13 rams, but he didn’t. The only explanation I can come up with is that the scribe is inventorying three different groups of rams Dumireweis owns. No matter how you cut it, though, there appears to be no way our of this messy impasse.


Linear B tablet, Ashmolean Museum An1938_708_o, rams and ewes:

AN1938_708_o KN 1301 E j 324

Note on the translation:

In the first line, we have the intriguing word, Yatiri, which I take as being a place name (toponym). However, given that it ends in “ri ”, it could also be dative, and in that case, it sure looks like that dative of Linear B iatere = Greek iatros = “physician”. If that is so, it would seem that the scribe who inscribed this tablet may have wanted to indicate to us that he wishes the owners of the sheep, Adaios and Dotias, to bring their flocks to the attention of the physician, who would check them for disease. However, this is the less likely of the two translations. The place name makes more sense.

In case any of you are wondering, as I am sure you are, what are all these tablets tagged Ashmolean Museum? There is a relatively small, but extremely significant collection of Linear B tablets held by the Ashmolean Museum, the British Museum, The Sir Arthur Evans Archive, here:

Sir Arthur Evans Archive


Although this collection of tablets transferred by Sir Arthur Evans to the British Museum in the early 1900s is small, it should never be ignored, as it contains in its gallery

Sir Arthur Evans Archives Gallery of Linear B tablets


such commanding tablets as:
Ae 2031, previously translated on our site, here:
https://linearbknossosmycenae.wordpress.com/2016/05/05/the-famous-bulls-head-sacrificial-libation-rhyton-ashmolean-museum-translated/
and An1910_211_o 
https://linearbknossosmycenae.wordpress.com/2016/01/01/knossos-tablet-kn-894-n-v-01-ashmolean-as-a-guide-to-mycenaean-chariot-construction-and-design-3/




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.

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