Tag Archive: standards



Revisiting & deciphering 2 (TE & DA) of the 27 supersyllabograms in Minoan Linear A in light of the decipherment of 69 additional Minoan words:

Last year (2016), I isolated and categorized all 27 supersyllabograms in Minoan Linear A. This was an extremely exhaustive task, as I had to scan through all the extant Linear A tablets and fragments in order to tally them all. This took at least a month. It is important to understand that the Minoans, and not the Mycenaeans, invented supersyllabograms. A supersyllabogram is defined as the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of any given specific Minoan word, economic sector dependent. In other words, when we cross from one economic sector to another, the meaning of any single supersyllabogram can and often does change. The exact same phenomenon recurs in Mycenaean Linear B. For the past year and a half, I have thoroughly covered and deciphered all 36 supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B, and I have as well tentatively deciphered 9 or 33 % of the 27 supersyllabograms in Minoan Linear A. Yet in spite of my initial attempts at decipherment, I was unable to assign any proto-Greek significance to any of them.

But since I have now deciphered 69 new Minoan Linear A words of putative proto-Greek, proto-Hebrew, proto-Semitic and proto-Scythian origin, I have been able to revisit at least 2 of the 27 supersyllabograms, namely, DA & TE & I have discovered that a proto-Greek reading of them on at least one Minoan Linear A tablet, HT 133, makes perfect, unified sense in translation, as seen in this table:

adu-te-da-tenai-to-cut-dainai-to-distribute

The only observation I should make is the following: the supersyllabogram TE, which is the first syllabogram of the middle voice TENAI = archaic Greek teinai, appears first in the list, because the 55 standard units grains or wheat must be cut down first before they are distributed. For this reason, the middle voice DAINAI (of which the ultimate NAI is identical with that of TENAI), meaning “they are distributed” (i.e. the 55 standard units of grains or wheat). So the word order is entirely rational, and intuitive to the Minoan language. Cut the 55 units of grains or wheat first, and then distribute them. In short, the word order is identical to English. This should come as no surprise in view of the fact that both Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B generally read from left to right, just as does modern English.

This new development raises the number of Minoan Linear A supersyllabograms tentatively deciphered from 9 to 11 or 40.8 % of all 27 Linear A supersyllabograms.


Orientation of Minoan Linear A inventories is identical to modern inventories & plays a critical role in their decipherment:

The orientation of Minoan Linear A inventories is identical to modern inventories & plays a critical role in their decipherment. This fact has been entirely overlooked by all previous researchers and so-called decipherers of Minoan Linear A tablets. It must not be ignored under any circumstances. It is precisely this vertical (not horizontal) orientation of Minoan Linear A tablets that makes it easier for us to decipher some of them (not all of them by far). The Linear A tablet most susceptible to an almost complete decipherment on account of its vertical orientation is HT 31 (Haghia Triada) on vessels and pottery.  When we compare this Linear A tablet

disposition-of-vessels-on-ht-31-haghia-triada

the-vertical-orientation-of-linear-a-tablets

with the most famous inventory of vessels and pottery in Mycenaean Linear B, Pylos tablet Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris), also on vessels and pottery,

disposition-of-vessels-on-pylos-py-ta-641-1952-ventris

horizontal-orientation-of-linear-b-tablets-at-pylos-after-bennett

we instantly see how streamlined is the orientation and layout of the former and  how clumsy (at least by our modern standards) is the orientation and layout of the latter. Why the Mycenaean Linear B scribes abandoned the far more streamlined and practical layout of the Minoan Linear A inventories is perhaps a mystery to some... but not to all, and certainly not to me. What the Linear B inventories sacrifice by way of orientation they make up for in droves in space saving economy. Additionally, the Linear B scribes had plenty of other tricks up their sleeves to obviate the clumsy orientation of their inventory tablets. The most significant of these ploys was their deployment of supersyllabograms in droves, a feature largely missing from the Minoan Linear A tablets. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. 

It is impossible to properly cross-correlate the contents of Linear B tablet Pylos Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris) by means of retrogressive extrapolation with those of Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada) without taking their appositive orientations into account.

Finally, we need only compare the orientation of HT 31 (Haghia Triada) with a modern inventory (this one on textiles) to immediately realize the practice is one and the same, past and present:

modern-inventory-textiles

 Very little escapes my penetrating scrutiny. I shall be discussing the profound implications of the vertical orientation of almost all Minoan Linear A inventories versus the horizontal of most Mycenaean Linear B inventories in my upcoming article, “Pylos tablet Py TA 641-1952 (Ventris), the ‘Rosetta Stone’ to Minoan Linear A tablet HT 31 (Haghia Triada) vessels and pottery”, definitively slated for publication in Vol. 12 (2016) in the prestigious international annual, Archaeology and Science ISSN 1452-7448 (release date spring 2018). To be submitted by Nov. 15, 2016.

 

Linear B tablets K 04.30 and 04.33 from the Knossos “Armoury” illustrating the use of the supersyllabogram ZE

wheel ZE 04.30

K04.33, being a mere fragment, can be translated in the blink of an eye as  “one set of wheels on axle”, although we can be certain that the lost part of  this fragment dealt with chariot construction and design. What on earth else?

As far as K 04.30 is concerned, we have to wonder why the scribe set the word “newa” = “new” so far to the right of the phrase “Komoda opa”.  I believe there is tenable explanation for this. We notice that the word “newa” is closer to the ideogram for a set of wheels on axle = ideogram for wheel + ZE. So this may indicate that the scribe probably wishes to draw our attention more to the fact that this set of wheels is “new” than to the other parts of the chariot.

But that still begs the question, why? Scribes often separate single syllabograms or words from phrases to the right or left of the phase each is related to. As I have often said before, on this blog and in my published papers, no scribe or writer uses any linguistic device in any language whatsoever, unless that linguistic device plays a specific mandatory role in context, the function of which cannot be substituted by any other textual approach. This is the case here. The scribe is surely stressing that this set of wheels on axle is not just new but brand new. But again, why on earth would anyone do that, when it is apparent to the reader that the entire chariot is new? Or is it? Appearances can be deceiving. The emphasis on the newness of the set of wheels on axle leads me to believe that this chariot is to some extent constructed with spare or used parts. Consequently, we may assume that many other chariots inventoried on tablets are also partially constructed from spare or used parts. If that is the case, then the fact that the set of wheels is brand new takes precedence over the condition of the other parts in the construction of this chariot in particular makes perfect sense, at least to me.

This explanation is sound.  Given that the same ploy pops up on a considerable number of tablets, and not just in the military sector of the economy, we have to ask ourselves why the scribe has resorted to this approach in each and every case where similar dispositions of syllabograms are separated from the text they appear in on tablets, regardless of economic sector.  In other words, the praxis of the separation of (a single) syllabogram (s) from the rest of the text on the same line is never effected as a recurring linguistic practice without good reason. We shall discover that this is so over and over in the discussion of supersyllabograms in Linear B, again regardless of economic sector.

Richard



Rita Robert's translation of Knossos tablet KN 1540 O k 01 (xc) “so many swords”

Click to ENLARGE:

KN 1540

As is usual with Mrs. Roberts, she once again finesses another translation of the many military-related tablets in the Knossos armoury. She has chosen military affairs as her primary area of interest in her first year of university studies. She certainly has her hands full, as there are scores of tablets from Knossos focusing on this sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy.

What intrigues me most is her marked ability to home in on the most significant details of the tablets in this particular series, as in fact she does with any tablets she translates, regardless of sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy. She notes for instance that:

(a) The scribe is actually tallying the “total” number of swords. That is what the formulaic phrase “so many” boils down to on all Linear B tablets which give totals, regardless of provenance (Knossos, Pylos etc.)
(b) Only the totals for the number of swords on each one of the tablets running in a straight series vary. The text does not. It is fossilized, i.e. formulaic to the extreme.
(c) As Rita herself pointed out to my during one of our chats on Skype, the phrasing on every single one of these tablets is formulaic, down to the last word (totals only varying). This finding is extremely significant where it comes to the translation of tablets in Mycenaean Greek, regardless of time frame (i.e. ca. 1450 BCE at Knossos or ca. 1300-1200 BCE at Pylos, Mycenae etc.) 
(d) Extrapolating these findings to practically all tablets in Linear B, we discover, not to our surprise, that formulaic phrasing is the established scribal practice, regardless of the sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy with which they are concerned and regardless of provenance (Knossos, Pylos etc.)
(e) This finding can hardly be surprising to us or anyone who stops to think about it, given that inventories, ancient and modern, are always standardized and always formulaic.

As we document each of Rita's translations of the tablets in this series, we shall soon enough realize that the formulaic standards imposed by the scribal guilds are universal, once again regardless of economic sector or provenance. This is one of the most salient key characteristics of tablets in Linear B, and I strongly suspect of the tablets in Minoan Linear A before them... which leads me to my next observation, namely, that the formulaic practice also likely underlying all such tablets in Minoan Linear A as well may be a crack, however small, in the doorway opening up to at least a partial decipherment of the Minoan language.

Richard


Conference on Symbolism: The Rôle of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B: Selected Appendices A-C

Since the presentation I shall be giving at the Conference, Thinking Symbols, at the Pultusk Academy, University of Warsaw, is under wraps until then, I am posting for your information just 5 of the 11 Appendices to that talk (3 in this post), to give you at least some idea of where I shall be leading the attendees at the Conference in the course of my talk. In this post, you can see the first three Appendices. The first one (Appendix A) illustrates the use of what I choose to call Modern International Superalphabetic Symbols, as you see here:

A Appendix

It is readily apparent from this appendix that we are dealing with modern ideograms, all of which are international standards, and which are recognized as such world-wide. For instance, everyone in the world knows that the first symbol or ideogram means “under copyright protection”, while the fourth means “no parking”.

Proceeding to Appendix B, we have:

B Appendix

The abbreviations in this appendix are so strikingly similar to what I have identified as supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B that it is immediately obvious to anyone seeing the latter for the first time can instantly correlate the former with the the city codes or supersyllabograms in Linear B, as seen here in Appendix C:

C Appendix

Clearly, the abbreviations for modern city codes, even though they consist of the first two letters only of the 10 city names are identical in structure and format to the ancient city names, represented by the first syllabogram, in other words, the first syllable in each, which we find in Appendix C.  This astonishing co-incidence reveals something of the sophistication of Mycenaean Linear B taken to its limits.

It was in fact Prof. Thomas G. Palaima who first identified these city names (Knossos, Zakros, Pylos etc.) in his superb translation of Linear B tablet Heidelburg HE Fl 1994. What he failed to realize was that he had in fact discovered the sypersyllabogram, which I finally came to realize in 2014 was always the first syllabogram, in other words, the first syllable only of a particular Mycenaean Greek word, in this instance, a city or settlement name. In retrospect, we cannot blame him for this apparent oversight, because that is all it was, apparent. He never got around to a meticulous examination of the 3,000 relatively intact tablets from Knossos, which I took upon myself to carry through to its ultimate revelation(s). And what a revelation they proved to be, when in the course of over a year (2014-2015), I discovered to my utter astonishment that some 700 (23.3%!) of the 3,000 tablets I examined all had at least one supersyllabogram on them, and some as many as four!

Some of the tablets I examined had supersyllabograms only on them, and no text whatsoever. The question was, I had to wonder – and I mean I really had to wonder – what did they all mean? The answer was not long in coming. Within 2 weeks of identifying the first new supersyllabogram, I had already isolated & defined more than 10 of them!

When I speak of supersyllabograms, I do not mean simply city or settlement names. Far from it. These are just the tip of the iceberg, and they are atypical. There are at least 30 supersyllabograms in all, out of a syllabary comprised of only 61 syllabograms, in other words 50% of them. That is a staggering sum. Supersyllabograms range in meaning from “lease field” to “plot of land” to “sheep pen” to “this year” (among the first 10 I discovered) referring to sheep husbandry in the agricultural sector, from “cloth” to “well-prepared cloth” to “gold cloth” and “purple dyed cloth” in the textiles sector, and on and on. That this is a major discovery in the further decipherment of Mycenaean Linear B goes practically without saying. In fact, nothing like it has been achieved in the past 63 years since the decipherment of the vast majority of Mycenaean Linear B by the genius, Michael Ventris, in 1952-1953.

michael ventris 1922-1956 at work in hisstudy
More Appendices to follow in the next post.

Richard
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