Tag Archive: syllabary

Cretan pictograms – the first 14: the origins of syllabograms:

syllabary like Cretan pictograms

Cretan pictograms – the first 14: the origins of syllabograms:

There are 14 Cretan syllabary-like pictograms, most of which look like primitive syllabograms in Linear A, but almost certainly are not syllabograms. But all of them but one (the crescent moon on its side) are (almost) identical to the Linear A syllabograms A, DA, DI, NI, NU, RU, QE, SE, TA, TE and TU. But it is without a shadow of a doubt a mistake to identify any of them as syllabograms as such. They are the primordial templates of the latter.

In my previous posts on Cretan pictograms, I asserted that there were only 45 of them. That was a grievous mistake. I was way off the mark. Upon close examination of all of the Cretan pictograms so meticulously identified by Sir Arthur Evans in Scripta Minoa (1909, 1952), I discovered to my amazement that there are around 200 of them, exclusive of numerics, which have been successfully deciphered by Evans. From here on in, all posts on Cretan pictograms, whether (possibly/probably/definitely) known or unknown, i.e indecipherable, will be numbered sequentially until the absolute total of them all is reached. As we can see, the first 14 are those which look like Linear A syllabograms. In the next post, I shall introduce the Cretan pictograms for crops, which number sequentially from 15 to 23. Subsequent posts will identify Cretan pictograms from 24 onward.

In spite of the fact that many researchers call Cretan pictograms hieroglyphs, they simply cannot be, since 200 is far too small a figure for hieroglyphics or for scripts like Cuneiform. Both of the latter contain at least 1,000 figures or characters. This clearly disqualifies Cretan pictograms as hieroglyphs. In 1909 Sir Arthur Evans correctly identified them as pictograms right from the outside, and his conclusions are sound.

The third example of Cretan ideograms/logograms, Malia label Mu MA/M Hf, possibly decipherable:

Cretan label Malia Quartier Mu MA M Hf

Click on the label, FRAGRANTICA, for more information about saffron as an ancient aromatic.

This is the third example of Cretan ideograms/logograms, Malia label Mu MA/M Hf. Surprising as it is, this label may be largely decipherable. It is subdivided into 3 sections. The first S1 is blank. The second, S2, appears to spill over from the first side to the second, while the third, S3, is found on the second side alone. The first ideogram in S2 (section 2) is probably the one for “saffron”, while the second is still indecipherable. The third is clearly some sort of representation of a woman. The X, which is indecipherable, is followed by the number 100. S2 continues on side 2, which begins with what is clearly the ideogram for “textiles/cloth”, followed by what appear to be 3 ideograms for “sword(s)”. If these 3 ideograms in fact designate “swords”, they are practically identical to those for “swords” in Linear B. Section 3 (S3) begins with what appears to be an ideogram for “garment(s)”, followed once again by textiles, and followed in turn by an indecipherable ideogram, which might possibly relate to cutting, S3 ending with the number 100.

A partial decipherment might read: aromatic saffron + ? + a weaver or weavers (all weavers were women) weaving 100 rolls of cloth, 3 of which serve to wrap 3 swords in + 100 garments of some kind of (cut) textiles (saffron dyed?).

The first two examples of so-called Cretan hieroglyphs appear to be 4 separate palm-leaf tablets, but are in fact one 4 sided-bar:

Knossos 4 sided bar in Cretan hieroglyphics or not

The first two examples of so-called Cretan hieroglyphs appear to be 4 separate palm-leaf tablets, but are in fact one 4 sided-bar from Knossos. This is of great significance, because if I am right and the text is sequential, from start to finish, and runs dextrograde on each side (which it almost certainly does) then a clear pattern emerges. 5 distinct links are found on the four sides. These are clearly marked on the facsimile of this 4 sided bar (Knossos Hh (04) 03). Consequently, we can assume that this bar tallies contents, for which 5 key ideograms recur, signifying that there is a distinct coherence to the contents they tag. The four-sided bar appears to inventory not only agricultural items, namely, the produce of olive trees (olive oil) and some kind of grain crop, symbolized by the logogram which looks like the Linear A & B syllabogram ZU, but military ones as well. The ideogram for adze or labrys, which is the origin of the syllabogram A in Linear A and B, appears on face 1. Then we have what looks like a helmet on face 2 and a boars tusk helmet (L5) on face 4. (the latter the precursor, it would seem, of the Linear A & B syllabograms for E). Finally, we find an ideogram (L4) which looks like some kind of animal, and my bet is that it is a horse. All of these ideograms and logograms lend credence to a military interpretation.

Special post for Linear B students: how to convert from Linear B to the ancient Greek alphabet and vice versa:

The following tables illustrate how to convert from Linear B to the ancient Greek alphabet and vice versa.

A: Linear B to ancient Greek:

linear b syllabary with ancient Greek alphabet correspondences

B: ancient Greek to Linear B:

ancient greek alphabet with Liniear B correspondences


How circular language in the movie, Arrival, determines the aspacial/atemporal nature of logograms throughout the ages:

In the movie, Arrival (2016), which chronicles the arrival on earth of 12 mysterious ships, apparently from outer space, the following statements leap out at us:

parsing the language of the heptapods in the movie, Arrival

1. Unlike all written languages, the writing is semiseriographic. It conveys meaning. It doesn't represent sound. Perhaps they view our form of writing as a wasted opportunity.  
2. How heptapods write: ... because unlike speech,  a logogram is free of time. Like their ship, their written language has forward or backward direction. Linguists call this non-linear orthography, which raises the question, is this how they think? Imagine you wanted to write a sentence using 2 hands, starting from either side. You would have to know each word you wanted to use as well as much space it would occupy. A heptapod can write a complex sentence in 2 seconds effortlessly.

The key to all of this is the phrase a logogram is free of time. Allow me to illustrate. Logograms are also often called ideograms, and that is what I prefer to call them. Another word to describe them is icon. When we examine ancient Linear A and B ideograms and compare them with modern ones, the results are astonishing, to wit:




All of the aforementioned examples make it quite clear that ideograms, whether they be as ancient as those in Linear A and Linear B (i.e. about 3,400 years old) or modern ... or for that matter, neolithic or even earlier, all bear a striking resemblance to one another. Take for instance the Linear A ideogram for “scales” and compare it with just one modern one (among so many others), and we see immediately that they are extremely similar. Now take the Linear B ideograms for man” and “woman” and compare these with the washroom symbols for the same and once again the similarity is almost too good to be true. Then there is the Linear B ideogram for a four-spoke wheel compared with a modern one for an eight-spoke wheel. The number of spokes is not relevant to this discussion, only the fact that the ancient Linear B ideogram for “wheel” is practically identical to the modern one.

The implications for the decipherment of ideograms in any language, ancient or modern (let alone Linear A and Linear B) versus those in any modern language are staggering. We can be sure that the ancient ideograms varied little from one language to another, let alone between Minoan and Mycenaean. In fact, the syllabogram TE, which sometimes represents wheat, in Linear A and Linear B is almost identical to the same ideograms in cuneiform!

It is patently obvious that since the distinction between the ancient ideograms and their modern equivalents enumerated above is so thin, all of these ideograms (or logograms or icons) are not only time independent (atemporal) and spatially independent (aspatial), they are also language independent. This is a stunning phenomenon.

The implications for the further decipherment of Linear A are simply overwhelming.

And this is why in the movie, Arrival, the heptapods assert, “There is no time.”

Linear B syllabograms, homophones and special characters missing from the Linear A syllabary:

Linear B syllabograms and homophones not in Linear A

A considerable number of Mycenaean Linear B syllabograms, homophones and special characters missing from the Linear A syllabary. But the same can be said for a fairly large number of Linear A syllabograms, homophones and special characters missing from Linear B. Thus, students of both syllabaries must master, first the overlap, which accounts for most of the characters in both syllabaries, and secondly, the discrepancies, of which there are scores. There is simply no way around it. If you are a student of both Linear A and Linear B you have to learn the syllabograms, homophones and special characters found in one of the syllabaries but missing in the other.

Notably, the O series of syllabograms in Linear B suffers from several lacunae in Linear A. This is simply because Linear A has an aversion the ultimate O, and nothing more. Words which terminate in O in Linear B, which is to say, masculine and neuters, much more commonly end in U in Linear A. And this includes a great many exograms which are common to both syllabaries.

Above all else, the masculine and neuter genitive singular always terminates in O in Linear B, and always in U in Linear A. The feminine genitive singular ultimate in Linear A, just as we find in Linear B, appears to be ija, and there are plenty of examples (for instance, jadireja, kiraja, kupa3rija, musajanemaruja, namarasasaja, nenaarasaja, nemaruja, nenaarasaja, nukisikija, sejarapaja, sidija, sudaja and Sukirteija, to cite just a few) . The problem is that no examples of masculine or neuter genitive singular with the ultimate ijo exist. Only a few words terminate in iju, (aju, araju, kumaju, kureju, pirueju and sareju), but these are almost certainly masculine and/or neuter genitive singular, hence likely validating the notion that the feminine genitive singular is ija.

Preview of the most Complete Linear A Lexicon of 1029 words ever compiled in history soon to be published on academia.edu just uploaded:

preview of comprehensive Linear A Lexicon

This Preview of the most Complete Linear A Lexicon of 1029 words ever compiled in history soon to be published on academia.edu.pdf is in and of itself a lengthy article (14 pages long), offering full insight into the massive extent and impact of the actual lexicon, Comprehensive Lexicon of 1029 New Minoan, pre-Greek substratum and Old Minoan words, with extensive commentaries, soon to be published on my academia.edu account (sometime in July 2017). The actual Lexicon will be at least 45 pages long, and will include all of the following elements:

1. An in-depth introduction, comparing this Lexicon, with its 1029 Linear A terms with the Linear A Reverse Lexicon of Prof. John G. Younger, containing 774 intact Linear A words. To date, Prof. Younger’ Lexicon has always been considered the de facto standard of Linear A lexicons; but it falls far short of the mark. From scanning through every last Linear A tablet on Prof. Younger’s site, Linear A texts in phonetic transcription, I discovered scores of Linear A words which he missed in his Reverse Lexicon. I have also spent the last two years ransacking the Internet for every last scrap of evidence of extant Linear A tablets, fragments, roundels, pendants and inscriptions on pottery, only to unearth even more Linear words entirely overlooked by Prof. Younger, to the extent that I uncovered a total of 1029 Linear A exograms, 225 more than he did. Thus, our Comprehensive Linear A Lexicon is 27.7 % larger than his.
2. The Lexicon itself, containing 1029 words, of which over 160 are Mycenaean-derived New Minoan, some 85 are either toponyms or eponyms, a few score fall within the pre-Greek substratum and at least 80 are Old Minoan words I have been able to decipher, more or less conclusively. As for the remainder of the Old Minoan substratum, i.e. the original pre-Greek Minoan language, I have been unable to decipher the rest of its vocabulary. But believe it or not, this factor is less of an impediment to the decipherment of Linear A than we might otherwise believe. I have been able to decipher at least 350 words out of a total of 1029, which is to say about 33 % of Linear A.
3. Each section of the final Comprehensive Lexicon, i.e. A: Mycenaean-derived New Minoan NM1 B: the pre-Greek substratum C: eponyms and toponyms D: Old Minoan vocabulary and E: ligatured logograms is accompanied by a detailed analysis and survey of its contents.
4. The final Lexicon contains a comprehensive bibliography of 84 items on every aspect I have detailed of the decipherment of Linear A as outlined in this preview.  



A major advance in the decipherment of Linear A, the impact of 22 Linear A ligatured logograms, of which 12 are in Mycenaean-derived Greek:

Linear A ligatured logograms

Here we see 22 ligatured logograms in Linear B. By ligatured logograms we mean two or more Linear A syllabograms bound together as one unit. To date, no previous researcher, not even Andreas Zeke of the Minoan Language Blog, has isolated any more than 10 ligatured logograms. This comes as a great surprise to me, if not a real shock. Considering the huge impact these 22 ligatured logograms is bound to have on the decipherment of Linear A, why any ancient language linguist in the past 117 years since the discovery of the first Linear A tablets at Knossos would not account for all 22 of the ligatured logograms I have taken firmly into account is beyond me.

Since there are at least 2 syllabograms bound together, it is impossible to determine which syllabogram comes first. This means that in the case of 2 ligatured syllabograms, the word represented may be reversed. For instance, in the case of the first ligature in the table below, the ligature could be either aka or kae, although the first is more plausible in the second in this case. If the first ligature is indeed aka, then it is highly likely that it is the Linear A equivalent of the Greek word aska, which is the archaic accusative of askos (here Latinized), meaning a leather bag or wine skin, more likely the second than the first. In the case of the third, we have either kuwa, the exact Linear A equivalent of Linear B kowa, which deciphered means girl”or if reversed, waku, which in ancient Greek is agu (Linear A orthography) or agos, meaning “any matter of religious awe/guilt/sacrifice”, of which the last definition is the most convincing.

12 Mycenaean-derived Greek ligatures:

Linear A logograms ligatured Greek

When it comes to ligatures consisting of more than 2 syllabograms, the number of permutations and combinations rises dramatically. Whereas with 2 ligatured logograms there are only 2 possibilities, with 3 there are 9, and with 4 there are 16… at least theoretically. However, in practical terms, just one syllabogram, the first on the left, very likely certainly takes precedence, meaning that the number of permutations and combinations is probably no greater than 2 even in these cases. However, there is no way of knowing for certain. For instance, what are we to make of the eleventh ligature, which can read as either mesiki or sikime or kimesi, or as 6 additional permutations? As it so happens, 2 translations seem most plausible. The first is mesiki, which can be translated as Greek meseigu (Latinized), meaning “in the middle”, whereas the second is kimesi, which can be rendered as keimesi, instrumental plural of keimos, “with muzzles or halters for a horse”. Either translation is perfectly plausible; so we must account for both.

All in all, of the 22 ligatured logograms, 12 or over half are susceptible to translation into Greek. If anything, this illustrates the great impact of the Mycenaean-derived superstratum on Linear A. In this table, only 10 ligatures appear to be in Old Minoan, i.e. the original Minoan language, aka the Minoan substratum. Finally, with the addition of these 22 ligatured logograms and a few more words I have recently unearthed, the number of words in our Comprehensive Linear A Lexicon soars from 988 to an astonishing 1022, which means that the corpus of Linear A vocabulary now amounts to at least 20 % of that for Linear B. No previous Lexicon of Linear A even approaches this upper limit. Prof. John G. Younger’s Linear A Lexicon, the most thorough-going to date, contains only 774 intact Linear A terms, exclusive of broken words with some syllabograms missing, strings of greater than 15 syllabograms, and any words containing numeric syllabograms, which are utterly indecipherable at any rate. This means that our Lexicon is an astonishing 24.3 % larger than that of Prof. Younger. In addition, I have managed to decipher at least 30 % of Linear B, the highest amount ever. I shall be soon publishing our Lexicon on my academia.edu account, by mid-July at the latest, and it is bound to have a considerable impact on the ancient linguistics community.

Our site moderator, Richard Vallance Janke, April 30 2017

Richard Vallance Janke April 30 2017

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


PINTEREST Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B, Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, PIN site for Minoan Linear A, Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae:

PINTEREST Minoan Linear A, Mycenaean Linear B, Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, Progressive Grammar and Vocabulary:

PINTEREST Linear A Linear B progressive grammar and vocabulary

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Minoan Linear A Linear B Knossos and Mycenae WordPress

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Decipherment of the RECTO of Linear A tablet HT 86 (Haghia Triada):

Linear A Haghia Triada HT 86

It is possible to decipher this tablet and several others dealing with grain crops with a reasonable degree of accuracy and, in the case of some words, with complete accuracy. The Linear A word akaru is almost certainly the equivalent of akaro, and not of akareu, in Linear B, the latter interpretation of John G. Younger being utterly out of the question in context. The standard Old Minoan words for emmer wheat and “roasted einkorn” are kunisu and dideru. The second of these words, dideru, is equivalent to Linear B, didero, but neither word appears in any later ancient Greek dialect, leading me to draw the inference that dideru/didero is either archaic proto-Mycenaean Greek or that it falls within the pre-Greek substratum or alternatively that it is Old Minoan (OM). As for dame, it appears to be dative singular for damu (Linear A) or damo (Linear B), hence grains for the village wheat”. Finally, minute would appear to signify “and for one month”, te being enclitic, meaning “and”, with the entire phrase derived from mini = “month”. The actual case structure for the ultimate u has yet to be determined for Old Minoan. Unfortunately, it will be some time before I can tackle Old Minoan grammar (declensions and conjugations), as I must first decipher as many Old Minoan, pre-Greek substratum and Mycenaean-derived words as I can in Linear A. And these run to at least 300 out of 988 Minoan words I have isolated.


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