Tag Archive: Thebes



2 Maps (1 in colour) of the Mycenaean Empire with major cities and other settlements:

mycenaean-empire-locales

This composite of two maps of the Mycenaean Empire with major cities and other settlements names the major cities in the upper coloured map. I originally posted the lower map in 2014, but I felt it was high time to post it again. Being as thorough as I am, I have identified more city and settlement names on the lower map than on any other map of the Mycenaean Empire on the Internet. Note also the greatest extent of the Mycenaean Empire (ca. 1600 – 1200 BCE) in pink.


PART B: The application of geometric co-ordinate analysis (GCA) to parsing scribal hands in Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B

Introduction:

I propose to demonstrate how geometric co-ordinate analysis of Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B can confirm, isolate and identify with precision the X Y co-ordinates of single syllabograms, homophones and ideograms in their respective standard fonts, and in the multiform cursive “deviations” from the invariable on the X Y axis, the point of origin (0,0) on the X Y plane, and how it can additionally parse the running co-ordinates of each character, syllabogram or ideogram of any of the cursive scribal hands in each of these scripts. This procedure effectively epitomizes the “style” of any scribe’s hand, just as we would nowadays characterize any individual’s handwriting style. This hypothesis is at the cutting edge in the application of graphology a.k.a epigraphy exclusively based on the scientific procedure of artificial intelligence geometric co-ordinate analysis (AIGCA) of scribal hands, irrespective of the script under analysis.

If supercomputer or ultra high speed Internet generated artificial intelligence geometric co-ordinate analysis of Sumerian and Akkadian cuneiform is a relatively straightforward matter, as I have summarized it in my first article [1], that of Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B, both of which share more complex additional geometric constructs in common, appears to be somewhat more of a challenge, at least at first glance. When we come to apply this technique to more complex geometric forms, the procedure appears to be significantly more difficult to apply. Or does it? The answer to that question lies embedded in the question itself. The question is neither closed nor open, but simply rhetorical. It contains its own answer.

It is in fact the hi-tech approach which decisively and instantaneously resolves any and all difficulties in every last case of geometric co-ordinate analysis of any script, syllabary or indeed any alphabet, ancient or modern. It is neatly summed up by the phrase, “computer-based analysis”, which effectively and entirely dispenses with the necessity of having to parse scribal hands or handwriting by manual visual means or analysis at all. Prior to the advent of the Internet, modern supercomputers and artificial intelligence(AI), geometric co-ordinate analysis of any phenomenon, let alone scribal hands, or handwriting post AD (anno domini), would have been a tedious mathematical process hugely consuming of time and human resources, which is why it was never attempted then.

The groundbreaking historical epigraphic studies of Emmett L. Bennet Jr. and Prof. John Chadwick (1966):

All this is not to say that some truly remarkable analyses of scribal hands in Mycenaean Linear B were not realized in the twentieth century. Although such studies have been few and far between, one in particular stands out as pioneering. I refer of course to Emmett L. Bennet Jr.’s remarkable paper, “Miscellaneous Observations on the Forms and Identities of Linear B Ideograms” (1966) [2], in which he single-handedly undertook a convincing epigraphic analysis of Mycenaean Linear B through manual visual observation alone, without the benefit of supercomputers or the ultra-high speed internet which we have at our fingertips in the twenty-first century. His study centred on the ideograms for wine (*131), (olive) oil (*130), *100 (man), *101 (man) & *102 (woman) rather than on any of the Linear B syllabograms as such. The second, by John Chadwick in the same volume, focused on the ideogram for (olive) oil. As contributors to the same Colloquium, they essentially shared the same objectives in their epigraphic analyses. Observations which apply to Bennett’s study of scribal hands are by and large reflected by Chadwick’s. Just as we find in modern handwriting analysis, both Bennett and Chadwick concentrated squarely on the primary characteristics of the scribal hands of a considerable number of scribes. Both researchers were able to identify, isolate and classify the defining characteristics of the various scribal hands and the attributes common to each and every scribe, accomplishing this remarkable feat without the benefit of super high speed computer programming.

Although Prof. Bennett Jr. did not systematically enumerate his observations on the defining characteristics of particular scribal hands in Mycenaean Linear B, we shall do so now, in order to cast further light on his epigraphic observations of Linear B ideograms, and to situate these in the context of the twenty-first century hi tech process of geometric co-ordinate analysis to scribal hands in Mycenaean Linear B. 

I have endeavoured to extrapolate the rather numerous variables Bennett assigned determining the defining characteristics of various scribal hands in Linear B. They run as follows (though they do not transpire in this order in his paper):

(a) The number of strokes (vertical, horizontal and diagonal – right or left – vary significantly from one scribal hand to the next. This particular trait overrides most others, and must be kept uppermost in mind. Bennett characterizes this phenomenon as “opposition between varieties”. For more on the concept of  ‘oppositions’, see my observations on the signal theoretical contribution by Prof.  L. R. Palmer below. 

(b) According to Bennet, while some scribes prefer to print their ideograms, others use a cursive hand. But the very notion of “printing” as a phenomenon per se cannot possibly be ascribed to the Linear B tablets. Bennet’s so-called analysis of  scribal “printing” styles I do not consider as printing at all, but rather as the less common scribal practice of precise incision, as opposed to the more free-form cursive style adopted by most Linear B scribes. Incision of characters, i.e. Linear B, syllabograms, logograms and ideograms, predates the invention of printing in the Western world by at least two millennia, and as such cannot be attributed to printing as we understand the term. Bennett was observing the more strictly geometric scribal hands among those scribes who were more meticulous than others in adhering more or less strictly to the dictates of linear, circular and other normalized attributes of geometry, as outlined in the economy of geometric characteristics of Linear B in Figure 1: Click to ENLARGE

a figure 1 geometric economy of Linear B

But even the more punctilious scribes were ineluctably bound to deviate from what we have established as the formal modern Linear B font, the standard upon which geometric co-ordinate analysis depends, and from which all scribal hands in both Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B, the so-called “printed” or cursive, must necessarily derive or deviate.

(c) as a corollary of Bennet’s observation (b), some cursive hands are sans serif, others serif.

(d) similarly, the length of any one or any combination of strokes, sans serif or serif, can clearly differentiate one scribal hand from another.
    
(e) as a corollary of (c), some serif hands are left-oriented, while the majority are right-oriented, as illustrated here in Figure 2: Click to ENLARGE

b figure 2 o cursive

(f) As a function of (d) above, the “slant of the strokes” Bennett refers to is the determinant factor in the comparison between one scribal hand and any number of others, and as such constitutes one of the primary variables in his manual visual analytic approach to scribal hands.

(g) In some instances, some strokes are entirely absent, whether or not accidentally or (un)intentionally.

(h) Sometimes, elements of each ideogram under discussion (wine, olive oil and man, woman or human) touch, just barely touch, retouch, cross, just cross, recross or fully (re)cross one another. According to Bennet, these sub-variables can often securely identify the exact scribal hand attributed to them.

(i) Some strokes internal to each of the aforementioned ideograms appear to be partially unconnected to others, in the guise of a deviance from the “norm” as defined by Bennett in particular, although I myself am unable to ascertain which style of ideogram is the “norm”, whatever it may be, as opposed to those styles which diverge from it, i.e. which I characterize as mathematically deviant from the point of origin (0,0) on the X Y co-ordinate axis on the two-dimensional Cartesian plane. Without the benefit of AIGCA, Bennett could not possibly have made this distinction. Whereas any partially objective determination of what constitutes the “norm” in any manual scientific study not finessed by high speed computers was pretty much bound to be arbitrary, the point of origin (0,0) on the X Y axis of the Cartesian two-dimensional plane functions as a sound scientific invariable from which we define the geometrically pixelized points of departure by means of ultra high speed computer computational analysis (AIGCA).

(j) The number of strokes assigned to any ideogram in Linear B can play a determinant role. One variation in particular of the ideogram for wine contains only half the number of diagonal strokes as the others. This Bennett takes to be the deviant ideogram for must, rather than wine itself, and he has reasonably good grounds to make this assertion. Likewise, any noticeable variation in the number of strokes in other ideograms (such as those for olive oil and humans) may also be indicators of specific deviant meanings possibly assigned to each of them, whatever these might be. But we shall never know. With reference to the many variants for “man” or human (*101), I refer you to Bennett’s highly detailed chart on page 22 [3]. It must be conceded that AI geometric co-ordinate analysis is incapable of making a distinction between the implicit meanings of variants of the same ideogram, where the number of strokes comprising said ideogram vary, as in the case of the ideogram for wine. But this caveat only applies if Bennet’s assumption that the ideogram for wine with fewer strokes than the standard actually means (wine) must. Otherwise, the distinction is irrelevant to the parsing by means of AIGCA of this ideogram in particular or of any other ideogram in Linear B for which the number of strokes vary, unless corroborating evidence can be found to establish variant meanings for each and every ideogram on a case by case basis. Such a determination can only be made by human analysis.   

(k) As Bennett has it, the spatial disposition of the ideograms, in other words, how much space each ideogram takes up on the various tablets, some of them consuming more space than others, is a determinant factor. He makes a point of stressing that some ideograms are incised within a very “cramped and confined space”.  The practice of cramming as much text as possible into an allotted minimum of remaining space on tablets was commonplace. Pylos tablet TA 641-1952 (Ventris) is an excellent example of this ploy so many scribes resorted to when they discovered that they had used up practically all of the space remaining on any particular tablet, such as we see here on Pylos tablet 641-1952 (Figure 3): Click to ENLARGE

c figure3 Pylos tablet TA 641-1952

Yet cross comparative geometric analysis of the relative size of the “font” or cursive scribal hand of this tablet and all others in any ancient script, hieroglyphic, syllabary, alphabetical or otherwise, distinctly reveals that neither the “font” nor cursive scribal hand size have any effect whatsoever on the defining set of AIGCA co-ordinates — however minuscule (as in Linear B) or enormous (as in cuneiform) —  of any character, syllabogram or ideogram in any script whatsoever. It simply is not a factor.

(l) Some ideograms appear to Bennett “almost rudimentary” because of the damaged state of certain tablets. It is of course not possible to determine which of these two factors, cramped space or damage, impinge on the rudimentary outlines of some of the same ideograms, be these for wine (must), (olive) oil or humans, although it is quite possible that both factors, at least according to Bennet, play a determinant rôle in this regard. But in fact they cannot and do not, for the following reasons:
1. So-called “rudimentary” incisions may simply be the result of end-of-workday exhaustion or carelessness or alternatively of remaining cramped space;
2. As such, they necessarily detract from an accurate determination of which scribe’s hand scribbled one or more rudimentary incisions on different tablets, even by means of AIGCA;
3. On the other hand, the intact incisions of the same scribe (if they are present) may obviate the necessity of having to depend on rudimentary scratchings. But the operative word here is if they are present. Not only that, even in the presence of intact incisions by said scribe, it all depends on the total number of discrete incisions made, i.e. on the number of different syllabograms, logograms, ideograms, word dividers (the vertical line in Linear B), numerics and other doodles. We shall more closely address this phenomenon below.

(m) Finally, some scribes resort to more elaborate cursive penning of syllabograms, logograms, ideograms, the Linear B word dividers, numerics and other marks, although it is open to serious question whether or not the same scribe sometimes indulges in such embellishments, and sometimes does not. This throws another wrench into the accurate identification of unique scribal hands, even with AIGCA.

The aforementioned variables as noted though not explicitly enumerated by Bennett summarize how he and Chadwick alike envisioned the prime characteristics or attributes, if you like, the variables, of various scribal hands. Each and every one of these attributes constitutes of course a variable or a variant of an arbitrary norm, whatever it is supposed to be. The primary problem is that, if we are to lend credence to the numerous distinctions Bennet ascribes to scribal hands, there are simply far too many of these variables. When one is left with no alternative than to parse scribal hands by manual visual means, as were Bennet and Chadwick, there is just no way to dispense with a plethora of variations or with the arbitrary nature of them. And so the whole procedure (manual visual inspection) is largely invalidated from a strictly scientific point of view.

In light of my observations above, as a prelude to our thesis, the application of artificial geometric co-ordinate analysis (AIGCA) to scribal hands in Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B, I wish to draw your undivided attention to the solid theoretical foundation laid for research into Linear B graphology or epigraphy by Prof. L.R. Palmer, one of the truly exceptional pioneers in Linear B linguistic research, who set the tone in the field to this very day, by bringing into sharp focus the single theoretical premise — and he was astute enough to isolate one and one only — upon which any and all research into all aspects of Mycenaean Linear B must be firmly based. 

I find myself compelled to quote a considerable portion of Palmer’s singularly sound foundational scientific hypothesis underpinning the ongoing study of Linear which he laid in The Interpretation of Mycenaean Greek Texts [4]. (All italics below mine). Palmer contends that....

The importance of the observation of a series of ‘oppositions’ at a given place in the formulaic structure may be further illustrated... passim... A study of handwriting confirms this conclusion. The analysis removes the basis for a contention that the tablets of these sets were written at different times and list given herdsmen at different stations. It invalidates the conclusion that the texts reflect a system of transhumance (see p. 169 ff.).

We may insist further on the principle of economy of theses in interpretation... passim... See pp. 114 ff. for the application of this principle, with a reduction in the number of occupational categories.

New texts offer an opportunity for the most rigorous application of the principle of economy. Here the categories set up for the interpretation of existing materials will stand in the relation of ‘predictions’ to the new texts, and the new material provides a welcome opportunity for testing not only the decipherment but also interpretational methods. The first step will be to interpret the new data within the categorical framework already set up. Verificatory procedures will then be devised to test the results which emerge. If they prove satisfactory, no furthers categories will be added.   

The number of hypotheses set up to explain a given set of facts is an objective measure of the ‘arbitrary’, and explanations can be graded on a numerical scale. A completely ‘arbitrary’ explanation is one which requires x hypotheses for y facts. It follows that the most ‘economical’ explanation is the least ‘arbitrary’.

I could not have put it better myself. The more economical the explanation, in other words, the underlying hypothesis, the less arbitrary it must necessarily be. In light of the fact that AIGCA reduces the hypothetical construct for the identification of scribal style to a single invariable, the point of origin (0,0) on the two-dimensional Cartesian X Y plane, we can reasonably assert that this scientific procedure practically eliminates such arbitrariness. We are reminded of Albert Einstein’s supremely elegant equation E = Mc2 in the general theory of relatively, which reduces all variables to a single constant.
     
Yet, what truly astounds is the fact that Palmer was able to reach such conclusions in an age prior to the advent of supercomputers and the ultra high speed Internet, an age when the only means of verifying any such hypothesis was the manual visual. In light of Palmer’s incisive observations and the pinpoint precision with which he draws his conclusion, it should become apparent to any researcher in graphology or epigraphy delving into scribal hands in our day and age that all of Bennet’s factors are variables of geometric patterns, all of which in turn are mathematical deviations from the point of origin (0,0) on the two-dimensional X Y Cartesian axis. As such Bennet’s factors or variables, established as they were by the now utterly outdated process of manual visual parsing of the differing styles of scribal hands, may be reduced to one variable and one only through the much more finely tuned fully automated computer-generated procedure of geometric co-ordinate analysis. When we apply the technique of AI geometric co-ordinate analysis to the identification, isolation and classification of scribal hands in Linear B, we discover, perhaps not to our surprise, that all of Bennet’s factors (a to m) can be reduced to geometric departures from a single constant, namely, the point of  origin (0,0) on the  X Y axis of a two-dimensional Cartesian plane, which alone delineates the “style” of any single scribe, irrespective of the script under analysis, where style is defined as a function of said analysis, and nothing more.

It just so happens that another researcher has chosen to take a similar, yet unusually revealing, approach to manual visual analysis of scribal hands in 2015. I refer to Mrs. Rita Robert’s eminently insightful overview of scribal hands at Pylos, a review of which I shall undertake in light of geometric co-ordinate analysis in my next article.

Geometric co-ordinate analysis via supercomputer or the ultra high speed Internet:

Nowadays, geometric co-ordinate analysis can be finessed by any supercomputer plotting CGA co-ordinates down to the very last pixel at lightning speed. The end result is that any of a number of unique scribal hands or of handwriting styles using ink, ancient on papyrus or modern on paper, can be identified, isolated and classified in the blink of an eye, usually beyond a reasonable doubt. However strange as it may seem prima facie, I leave to the very last the application of this practically unimpeachable procedure to the analysis and the precise isolation of the unique style of the single scribal hand responsible for the Edwin Smith papyrus, as that case in particular yields the most astonishing outcome of all.

Geometric co-ordinate analysis: Comparison between Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B: 

Researchers and linguists who delve into the syllabaries of Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B are cognizant of the fact that the syllabograms in each of these syllabaries considerably overlap, the majority of them (almost) identical in both, as attested by Figures 4 & 5: Click to ENLARGE

d figure 4 CF Linear A Linear B symmetric

e figure 5 circular Linear A & Linear B
By means of supercomputers and/or through the medium of the ultra-high speed Internet, geometric co-ordinate analysis (AIGCA) of all syllabograms (nearly) identical in both of syllabaries can be simultaneously applied with proximate equal validity to both.

Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B share a geometric economy which ensures that they both are readily susceptible to AI geometric co-ordinate analysis, as previously illustrated in Figure 1, especially in the application of said procedure to the standardized font of Linear B, as seen here in Figure 6: Click to ENLARGE

f figure 6 ccomplex co-ordinate analysis

And what applies to the modern standard Linear B font inevitably applies to the strictly mathematical deviations of the cursive hands of any number of scribes composing tablets in either syllabary (Linear A or Linear B). Even more convincingly, AIGCA via supercomputer or the ultra high speed Internet is ideally suited to effecting a comparative analysis and of parsing scribal hands in both syllabaries, with the potential of demonstrating a gradual drift from the cursive styles of scribes composing tablets in the earlier syllabary, Minoan Linear A to the potentially more evolved cursive hands of scribes writing in the latter-day Mycenaean Linear B. AICGA could be ideally poised to reveal a rougher or more maladroit style in Minoan Linear A common to the earlier scribes, thus potentially revealing a tendency towards more streamlined cursive hands in Mycenaean Linear B, if it ever should prove to be the case. AIGCA could also prove the contrary. Either way, the procedure yields persuasive results.

This hypothetical must of course be put squarely to the test, even according to the dictates of L.R. Palmer, let alone my own, and confirmed by recursive AICGA of numerous (re-)iterations of scribal hands in each of these syllabaries. Unfortunately, the corpus of Linear A tablets is much smaller than that of the Mycenaean, such that cross-comparative AIGCA between the two syllabaries will more than likely prove inconclusive at best. This however does not mean that cross-comparative GCA should not be adventured for these two significantly similar scripts.   

Geometric co-ordinate analysis of Mycenaean Linear B:

A propos of Mycenaean Linear B, geometric co-ordinate analysis is eminently suited to accurately parsing its much wider range of scribal hands. An analysis of the syllabogram for the vowel O reveals significant variations of scribal hands in Mycenaean Linear B, as illustrated in Figure 2 above, repeated here for convenience:

b figure 2 o cursive

Yet the most conspicuous problem with computerized geometric co-ordinate analysis (AIGCA) of a single syllabogram, such as the vowel O, is that even this procedure is bound to fall far short of confirming the subtle or marked differences in the individual styles of the scores and scores of scribal hands at Knossos alone, where some 3,000 largely intact tablets have been unearthed and the various styles of numerous other scribes at Pylos, Mycenae, Thebes and other sites where hundreds more tablets in Linear B have been discovered.

So what is the solution? It all comes down to the application of ultra-high speed GCA to every last one of the syllabograms on each and every one of some 5,500+ tablets in Linear B, as illustrated in the table of several Linear B syllabograms in Figures 7 and 8, through which we instantly ascertain those points where mathematical deviations on all of the more complex geometric forms put together utilized by any Linear B scribe in particular leap to the fore. Here, the prime characteristics of any number of mathematical deviations of scribal hands for all geometric forms, from the simple linear and (semi-)circular, to the more complex such as the oblong, wave form, teardrop and tomahawk, serve as much more precise markers or indicators highly susceptible of revealing the subtle or significant differences among any number of scribal hands. Click to ENLARGE Figures 7 & 8:

g figure7 cmplex
h figure8 cursive scribal hands me no ri we

By zeroing in on Knossos tablet KN 935 G d 02 (Figure 9) we ascertain that the impact of the complexities of alternate geometric forms on AIGCA is all the more patently obvious: Click to ENLARGE

i figure 9 KN 935 G d 02 TW

When applied to the parsing of every last syllabogram, homophone, logogram, ideogram, numeric, Linear B word divider and any other marking of any kind on any series of Linear B tablets, ultra high speed geometric co-ordinate analysis can swiftly extrapolate a single scribe’s style from tablet KN 935 G d 02 in Figure 9, revealing with relative ease which (largely) intact tablets from Knossos share the same scribal hand with this one in particular, which serves as our template sample. We can be sure that there are several tablets for which the scribal hand is in common with KN 935 G d 02. What’s more, extrapolating from this tablet as template all other tablets which share the same scribal hand attests to the fact that AIGCA can perform the precise same operation on any other tablet whatsoever serving in its turn as the template for another scribal hand, and so on and so on. 

Take any other (largely) intact tablet of the same provenance (Knossos), for which the scribal hand has previously been determined by AIGCA to be different from that of KN 935 G d 02, and use that tablet as your new template for the same cross-comparative AICGA procedure. And voilà, you discover that the procedure has extrapolated yet another set of tablets for which there is another scribal hand, in other words, a different scribal style, in the sense that we have already defined style. But can what works like a charm for tablets from Knossos be applied with relative success to Linear B tablets of another provenance, notably Pylos? The difficulty here lies in the size of the corpus of Linear B tablets of a specific provenance. While AIGCA is bound to yield its most impressive results with the enormous trove of some 3,000 + (largely) intact Linear B tablets from Knossos, the procedure is susceptible of greater statistical error when applied to a smaller corpus of tablets, such as from Pylos. It all comes down to the principle of inverse ratios. And where the number of extant tablets from other sources is very small, as is the case with Mycenae and Thebes, the whole procedure of AIGCA is seriously open to doubt.

Still, AIGCA is eminently suited to clustering in one geometric set all tablets sharing the same scribal hand, irrespective of the number of tablets and of the subset of all scribal hands parsed through this purely scientific procedure.

Conclusion:

We can therefore safely conclude that ultra high speed artificial intelligence geometric co-ordinate analysis (AIGCA), through the medium of the supercomputer or on the ultra high speed Internet, is well suited to identifying, isolating and classifying the various styles of scribal hands in both Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B.

In Part C, we shall move on to the parsing of scribal hands in Arcado-Cypriot Linear C, of the early hieratic handwriting of the scribe responsible for the Edwin Smith Papyrus (1600 BCE) and ultimately of the vast number of handwriting styles and fonts of today.
  
References and Notes:

[1] The application of geometric co-ordinate analysis (GCA) to parsing scribal hands: Part A: Cuneiform
https://www.academia.edu/17257438/The_application_of_geometric_co-ordinate_analysis_GCA_to_parsing_scribal_hands_Part_A_Cuneiform
[2]  “Miscellaneous Observations on the Forms and Identities of Linear B Ideograms” pp. 11-25 in, Proceedings of the Cambridge Colloquium on Mycenaean Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, © 1966. Palmer, L.R. & Chadwick, John, eds.  First paperback edition 2011. ISBN 978-1-107-40246-1 (pbk.)
[3] Op. Cit.,  pg. 22
[4] pp. 33-34 in Introduction. Palmer, L.R. The Interpretation of Mycenaean Texts. Oxford: Oxford at the Clarendon Press, © 1963. Special edition for Sandpiper Book Ltd., 1998. ix, 488 pp. ISBN 0-19-813144-5



Mycenaean Linear B Units of Dry Measure, Knossos Tablet KN 406 L c 02: Click to ENLARGE

KN 416 L c 02 akareu paito spice total

The translation of this tablet from Knossos into English is relatively straightforward. The problem is that no one really knows what exactly the unit of measure designated by the Linear B symbol that looks like a T means. My best guess is that the 9 shakers of coriander (I say, shakers, because the ideogram looks like a shaker & it is most likely folks used shakers back in the good old days in Knossos, just as we do nowadays). However, the problem remains, how do 9 shakers of coriander add up to only 2 units. My best guess is that the shakers were boxed, 5 units per box. So 9 shakers would have filled one box and most of another... something along those lines.

Andras Zeke of the Minoan Language Blog gives a value of approx. 3 kilograms per unit, meaning we would end up with about 5 kg. or so for 9 shakers of coriander. They would have had to be really huge shakers! No one could have held them. So it is quite apparent that the measured value Andras Zeke has assigned to our wee little T is in fact way off the mark, if we are to believe our eyes. On the other hand, that T might very well have been divisible by 10 or even 100, given that the Mycenaean numeric system is based on units of 10, just like our own. So it is conceivable that we are dealing with some kind of metric system here. Given that the Mycenaean numeric is base 10, that would make sense. So we could be dealing with something like 50 grams and not 5 kilograms of coriander... that would make a hell of a lot of sense.  But since we were not there to see how the scribes allocated the spice jars into so-called units, we shall never really know. Still, there is no harm in speculating.

Now, as for my translation of the ideogram for a spice container (spice shaker), I have translated it specifically as a “a coriander spice shaker”, since on every single every tablet, bar none, from Knossos mentioning spice containers, it is always coriander that is spelled out. The folks at Knossos must have been crazy about coriander!  Since there are only 2 or 3 tablets which do not mention coriander outright, that leaves us with around 95 % of all tablets referring to spices which do spell it out. Linear B scribes were very fussy about having to spell out the names of spices, or for that matter, anything on Linear B tablets which could be easily represented, i.e. symbolized by an ideogram. The ideogram appears on this tablet, but the word does not. This is practically beside the point. It appears that the scribe simply did not bother writing it, for some reason or another. The practice of spelling out the name of any item on a Linear B tablet which can easily be illustrated with an ideogram is very unusual. The scribes were sticklers for saving space at all costs on what is admittedly a very small medium, rarely more than 30 cm. wide by 15 cm. deep, and more often than not, even smaller than that!  So the fact that the scribes generally did spell out coriander as the spice of choice for Minoan Knossos seems to imply that the king, queen, princes and the palace attendants prized it very highly. 

Another point: almost all of the tablets mentioning koriyadana = coriander also use the word apudosi = delivery, i.e. they tabulate the actual delivery of so many units of coriander to the palace. So this tablet can be translated any of these ways:

Achareus delivers to Phaistos 9 shakers of coriander for a total of 2 units
or
Achareus delivers for deposit at Phaistos 9 shakers of coriander for a total of 2 units.
or even
Achareus delivers for deposit at the palace of Phaistos 9 shakers of coriander for a total of 2 units.

These are all valid translations, since after all everyone who was anyone, meaning the scribes, the nobility and the wealthy businessmen) knew perfectly well that such precious commodities as coriander could only be consumed by the well-to-do, and that these folks all lived – you guessed it – in the palace! There was absolutely no need in the minds of the scribes, meaning, in practice, for them to write out what was obvious to everyone. This is precisely why nowadays we need to learn to read out of the tablets what the scribes were actually inventorying, rather than trying to read into them. If this sounds like a tough slog, you bet it is. But it is far better to aim at getting the actual gist of the message on the tablet (whether or not spelled out in text, or simply with logograms and ideograms) than to strip down your translation to the point where it becomes unintelligible.

This is all the more true in light of the fact that at least 800 of 3,000 tablets I meticulously consulted from the Scripta Minoa from Knossos contain very little if any text at all, and rather a lot of supersyllabograms (single syllabograms), ideograms and logograms. The reason for this is obvious: in order to save as much space as humanly possible, the Linear B accountants (scribes) never wrote out what was obvious to them all as a guild. In other words, Mycenaean Linear B, as an inventory and statistical accounting language – which is what it basically is – combines two notable features: (a) the language is highly formulaic & (b) the greater part of it is shorthand for Mycenaean Greek text inferred but rarely explicitly spelled out. If this sounds peculiar to us nowadays, we need only recall that this is exactly how modern shorthand functions. All too many Linear B translators have completely overlooked this fundamental characteristic of Mycenaean Linear B, which in large part explains its almost total uniformity over a wide geographic area, from Knossos to Phaistos and other Mycenaean sites on the island to Crete itself to Pylos on the opposite coast, all the way to Mycenae and Tiryns on the far side of the Peloponnese and even as far away as Thebes in Boeotia, which was a key Mycenaean centre and which has been continually occupied from then on right through to today. Click on the map to ENLARGE:

Thebes Boetia

All of this further implies that, while Linear B, the accounting and inventorying language for Mycenaean Greek, was homogeneous, uniform and formulaic to the teeth, the actual Mycenaean dialect may very well have not been. In fact, I sincerely doubt it was, since it is symptomatic of all ancient Greek dialects, even those which are closely related (such as the Ionic and Attic) to diverge and go their own merry way, regardless of the structure, orthography and grammatical quirks of their closest relatives. Since that was surely the case with every ancient Greek dialect with which we are familiar – and God knows it was! - then it must have also been the case with Mycenaean Greek and with its closest, kissing cousin, Arcado-Cypriot Greek, the latter written in Linear C or in the quirky Arcado-Cypriot alphabet. Even though no other ancient Greek dialects were as closely related as were Mycenaean and its kissing cousin, Arcado-Cypriot, these dialects were somewhat different. What is more, it is almost certain that there were notable variations within each of these dialects, the further afield you went. In other words, the Mycenaean Greek spoken at Knossos and Phaistos, which would have been much more influenced by its forbear, the Minoan language, was a little different from that spoken at Pylos, and doubtless even more from the Mycenaean Greek at Mycenae, Tiryns and especially Thebes.

But spoken Mycenaean Greek and the Mycenaean Linear B accounting and inventorying language are not the same beast. The latter is a homogeneous, formulaic and largely shorthand subset of the former. I shall have a great deal more to say about this extremely important distinction between the two in future.

Richard

Translation of a Tiny Linear B Fragment Thebes TH Of 37, Spelt Granary & Bales of Wool

Introduction: Discoveries of the Cache of Linear B Tablets at Thebes:

First, some background on the Linear B Thebes tablets. This relatively small cache was unearthed at archaeological excavations in Thebes, Greece, according to the following timeline: the first 21 fragments were excavated in 1963–64; 19 more tablets & fragments were found in 1970 and 1972; but by far the largest find came from 1993 to 1995, when the archaeologist Vassilis L. Aravantinos discovered some 250 tablets, amounting roughly to 300 or 5% of the entire corpus of about 6,000 Linear B tablets and fragments. Of these, the first and by far the most substantial store, amounting to no fewer than 4,000 tablets and fragments, was unearthed by Sir Arthur Evans from 1900 to 1903 and again after the First World War, and followed by major digs from all other Mycenaean sites, Pylos being the next largest after Knossos, with over 1,000 tablets and fragments there alone.

The Theban tablets and fragments date to the Late Helladic IIIB period (ca. 1300-1200 BCE), contemporary with the finds at Pylos. Apparently, the Theban tablets date from roughly 1225 BCE, when the Kadmeion, the Mycenaean palace complex at Thebes, came to ruin.    

Prof. John Chadwick, Michael Ventris’ closest colleague and confidant in the initial decipherment of Linear B, who outlived Ventris by scores of decades, himself identified three recognizable Greek divinities, Hera, Hermes and Potnia "the mistress", among the recipients of wool, and made a case for ko-ma-we-te-ja, the name of a goddess, elsewhere attested at Pylos.

The Significance of Linear B Tablet TH Of 37, as well as of the other Linear B finds at Thebes:

Though relatively few in number (about 300), the tablets and fragments from Thebes are significant for a number of reasons, not the least of which are: (a) by ancient standards for travel time, Thebes was located at a great distance from both Knossos and Mycenae. (b) In spite of this vast distance, the syntactical structure, orthographic conventions and the standard use of the entire Linear B syllabary varied very little, if at all, from Linear B from all the other administrative sites scattered all over Greece and Crete, as well as the outlying Cycladic islands and settlements. (c) The real clincher in this scenario is that Mycenaean Greek, unlike later Greek dialects during the historical period (ca. 800–400 BCE), which varied widely, was remarkably consistent and standardized regardless of where it was used. As “proof” positive of the cross-the-board structural linguistic uniformity of Linear B, regardless of where it was in use (Knossos, Mycenae, Pylos, Phaistos, etc. etc.) all we need to do is simply glance at Theban fragment TH Of 37 (let alone read it), to realize that in fact the consistency is overwhelming, right down to the precise disposition of syllabograms, logograms and ideograms on the tablets, which were also by and large of the same shape as well! And here it is (Click to ENLARGE):

Translation of Thebes Tablet TH Of 37

May I stress emphatically that I do not lend any more credence to my own half-baked translations (pardon the obvious pun!), even when I come up with more than one alternative translation, and often as many as three, than to anyone else’s equally scholarly – and valiant, if not fanciful – attempts at translation. I am a doubting Thomas down to my core. I sincerely do not believe in any single over-riding theory of the “best of all possible worlds” when it comes to deciphering any Linear B tablet, except perhaps the most voluminous in which ample context tends to lay to rest all sorts of doubts about almost every word in the integral text.  I say, “tends to...”, because even with the longest Linear B tablets, nagging doubts remain about not a few phonemes. All we have to do is compare the decipherments of even as few as three Mycenaean Greek linguists specializing in Linear B to witness these variations, however minor or (sometimes) significant. 

And where context is minimal, as in this tablet, the decipherment becomes all the more problematic. Allow me to flag some of the more recalcitrant textual ambiguities on this particular tablet alone.

1. In a real, almost scary sense, all translations of Linear B, for all its inherent ambiguities, are tautological by nature, or plagued with circular reason. There is simply no way out of this impasse. But this is precisely the reason why any and all truly competent decipherments of Linear B tablets vie with one another for attention, and why the whole process of translating Linear B is such an exciting undertaking for us all in the first place. So much the better for all ongoing research ventures in the translation of Linear B, since the more versions of the same tablet (any tablet or fragment) we have, the more likely are we to eventually hone in at least a relatively stable translation with minor, if real, variations.

In fact, I think I would probably have to check myself into a lunatic asylum if I were to make the absurd claim that my translation, however competent or even brilliant, of any Linear B tablet or fragment, were better than another highly qualified translator’s, for the obvious reason that there is no way to check which version is “right” — whatever the blazes that is supposed to mean—unless the doctor is right at hand and on call. And here the doctor is the scribe who actually wrote the tablet in question, and only he can tell us what it really means. But he isn’t available for comment, being sadly dead for some 32 centuries. So we just have to put up with our bandage solutions, even when they do “heal” the text we have in front of us well enough. For this very reason, I never contest the translations my co-researcher, Rita Roberts, posts on our blog, because I was not the author of them, and so I do not and cannot know why she, in her sound judgement, opted for the choices she made. All I can do is come up with an alternative translation, if one is called for. More often than not, it is not. But if it is, that way we both stay clear of our respective asylums. What is good for the goose (Rita) is good for the gander (me), or for that matter any goose or gander.    

2. When there is no evidence for an existing (attested A) word to be found anywhere on any extant Linear B medium, I am more than willing to search elsewhere, by which I mean in alphabetical Greek texts, the earlier the better, the best being The Catalogue of Ships in Book II of the Iliad, which is written in the most archaic so-called Epic Greek, sharing as it does a number of grammatical features and even some vocabulary in common with Mycenaean Greek. One of the most outstanding is the archaic genitive in “oio” in the Iliad, which is, for all intents and purposes, the exact equivalent of the Linear B genitive in “ojo” or “oyo”, if you like. And I like “oyo” a lot better for the simple reason that I sincerely believe that the harsher j pronunciation such as we have in English was swiftly on its way out, already morphing into something like the much softer French j as in “je” (I). It is not far from from the soft “je” to outright “i”. 

A similar phenomenon was manifested in Middle and Renaissance English, when the rough pronunciation of “r”, which still persists in practically every other Occidental Indo-European language, simply vanished in the Great Vowel Shift between 1350 and 1700 in England, when not only the English vowels ended up greatly softened, but also the labials “l” & “r” underwent the very same process, becoming semi-consonants or more accurately semi-vowels.

This is the same process which shifted the Mycenaean pronunciation towards something like French j as in “je”, not the much stronger English “j” at all! And this is precisely why I, like a few other Linear B scholars, much prefer “ya ye yo” over the more commonly accepted “je je jo”, for the simple but obvious reason that scholars speaking in English will almost certainly get the pronunciation wrong. Since English is after all by far the most common language used for research articles, both in print and online, regardless of scientific, linguistic, historical or literary discipline, we are far more likely to fall into this trap, even if we are not English speaking, as that is the way “j” is pronounced in English. You just cannot get around it, try as you might... unless of course you are French, and cannot pronounce “j” as the English do, but pronounce it as the French do... which just so happens to agree much more closely with the latter pronunciation, at least in my opinion. Otherwise, how can we explain the relatively swift transition from “ojo” to “oyo” to “oio” in Homeric Greek? I leave it entirely to you to decide for yourselves.

3. When early alphabetical texts are not available, the next best resource is the Liddell & Scott Greek-English Lexicon (1986), which after all includes many dialectical variants on the same word(s), quite a few of them (quasi)-archaic. And even in those instances where only latter-day Ionic and Attic orthography is to be found, we can still make a brave attempt (as I always do), to retrospectively re-construct much earlier versions of the word in question.

This is exactly what I have done on this tablet, where:

3.1 I had to rummage through Liddell & Scott to come up with a suitable translation for the first word in the first line of this tablet, QARIYA, which did not make any sense whatsoever, at least for the first half-hour of digging about. However, the most likely candidate finally popped up right in front of my nose. I decided that the translation I hit upon was a pretty good match with AREIZEWEI (dative singular), which I happened to translate first (3.2). The match is the Ionic form of the word for “granary”, which fits the bill very nicely.   

Caveat: however, once again, I must warn you, this translation of mine is neither any better or any worse than anyone else who really puts the axe to the grindstone.  This tablet is open to at least a few interpretations, for the simple reason that, in this case as in so many others, the Linear B text is more or less ambiguous – and here, unfortunately, more. Other experienced and expert Linear B translators will surely take exception to my translation. That is the healthy approach. I invite translators who disagree with my own version of this text to make their views known in the Comments section for this post. In fact, I welcome any criticisms, however tough, of any of my translations of Linear B tablets.   

3.2 I merge two Ionic-Attic words into one so-called “Mycenaean” word, areizewei (areirawewei). Whether this word ever existed is open to hefty debate, but it might have, which is good enough for me. I have done this on several Linear B tablets, including the very last one in the post immediately before this one, in which I translated the famous Linear B tablet, Mycenae MY Oe 106.  It is no mere accident that the clay figure of a boy appears in tandem with this tablet... because that is precisely what the Linear B scribe intended. We need to pay a lot more attention to everything that appears on any and all Linear B tablets and fragments, including attendant pieces such as this, because they must be there for a very good reason. If you read my previous post, all of this will come into sharp focus. On that tablet, I came up with a derivative [D] word (not attested [A]) for “a young boy”, transliterated here into Latin script = koroton, which in turn just happens to be an exact match with the Linear B KOROTO on this tablet. This phenomenon is identical to the Classical Attic paidion (a youngster). Since the word KOROTO is right in front of our noses on this tablet, then it does exist, and it does mean “a young boy”. What the blazes else can it mean, especially when that huge sketch of a boy is staring us right in the face? In fact, what the scribe who wrote tablet truly seems to be saying is that the boy is the primary subject of the entire tablet, which is precisely what I take it to mean.

PS in case you are wondering (which you probably are not), it took me 12 hours (!) to construct the illustration and to compile the text of this post, the longest time ever I have had to devote to any post. But for most significant explanatory posts I still spend between 4 and 8 hours. So I sincerely hope folks who read my posts really do appreciate all the bloody hard work I pour into them, and even, dare I suggest, flag all such posts with “Like”. And why not comment on them too? It won’t kill you, and certainly won’t kill me. Healthy debate, as I have intimated above, is the very sustenance of true research.   
 

Richard

A Map of the Mycenaean Empire (ca. 1600-1200 BCE) with Mycenaean Settlements Named in Linear B, Latinized Linear B & English (Click to ENLARGE):

Map of Mycenaean and Minoan Greece

A few notes on this map. The capital cities, Knossos in Crete & Mycenae on the mainland Peloponnese, are flagged with a red star. The purple star beside Mycenae is also found beside the name of Troy, to indicate that the Mycenaeans conquered Troy, although quite when is uncertain (ca. 1300-1250 BCE?). Even if the conquest were as early as 1300 BCE, that would have left only another century before the collapse of Mycenae itself. In fact, what remained of the great Bronze Age Greek cities, Knossos (which had fallen into disrepair and eventually into ruins long before 1200 BCE – almost certainly no later than 1425-1400 BCE), then Mycenae itself, along with its satellite Mycenaean cities and settlements (Pylos, Tiryns, Thebes and Athens) all collapsed right around 1200 BCE. It is doubtful that they all fell on account of the Dorian invasion, since it is highly unlikely the Dorians ever got anywhere near Thebes or Athens. So this leaves the whole question of how and why the Mycenaean Empire fell so suddenly wide open to speculation. Note that all of the Minoan & Mycenaean locales tagged on this map are attested (A) on Linear B tablets from Knossos, Phaistos, Zakros, Mycenae, Pylos or Thebes.

Richard


 


Linear B Show & Tell # 3:  Axes & (Temple of the) Double Axes & their Relgious Symbolism: (Click to ENLARGE)

A akosono dapu dapuritoyo axes (temple of the) double axes

If anything, the symbolism if the “axe” and especially of the “double axe” is one of the major underpinnings of Minoan/Mycenaean religion. We find axes and double axes all over the place on Minoan and Mycenaean frescoes, regardless of site, Knossos, Mycenae, Pylos etc.  If ever you visit Knossos, you will see for yourself the famous Temple of the Double Axes. Although the lower story is sealed off, if you look down, you will see a lovely frieze of horizontal double axes on the back wall of the lower story. To this day, no-one really knows the true significance of the symbol of the axe or double axe in Minoan or Mycenaean mythology. They pose a real dilemma. Since the Minoans at Knossos were a peaceable people, why would they plaster double axes all over the walls of a building which we take to be the Temple of the Double Axes (erroneously or not)?

In Mycenae, however, the symbol of the axe or double axe makes perfect sense, as the Mycenaeans were a warlike people. The simplest explanation I can come up with is that the Mycenaeans exported the axe and double axe to Knossos after their conquest or occupation of the city. And no-one is quite sure if the Mycenaeans actually did conquer Knossos, or whether the two “city states” allied in order to greatly strengthen their hand as a unified Empire in the economic and trading affairs of the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean seas ca. 1500-1200 BCE. Of course, Knossos (Late Minoan III Palatial Period) itself fell sometime around 1450-1400 BCE, but the great Mycenaean Empire persisted until ca. 1200 BCE, after which the Nordic Dorians invaded the entire Greek peninsula, the Peloponnese, leaving the Mycenaean “city states” in ruins. It is entirely probable that the Minoan-Mycenaean Empire ca. 1500-1400 BCE rivalled the Egyptian Empire in the scope of its power. Almost certainly the Mycenaeans were actively trading with civilizations along the East coast of Greece and inland, Athens and Thebes (the latter being a Mycenaean stronghold) and with the city of Troy and the inhabitants along the West coast of what we now know as Turkey. What is particularly fascinating and (highly) revealing in the historical perspective of the rise of ancient Greece is that the new Greek colonies which spread all over the Aegean in the 7th. and 6th.  centuries BCE flourished in precisely the same places where the Mycenaeans had carried on such extensive trade some 6 to 10 centuries earlier! There is more to this than meets the eye, as we shall eventually discover in key posts on this blog later this year or sometime in 2015.

Other omnipresent religious symbols included the Horns of Consecration at Knossos, and the Snake Goddess & the goddess Pipituna at both Knossos and Mycenae.

Richard

Pylos Tablet TA 641-1952 (Ventris) with Linear B FONT


Pylos Tablet TA 641-1952 (Ventris) with Linear B FONT (CLICK to enlarge):

Pylos Tablet TA 641-1952 Ventris with Linear B FONT

This is the very first Linear B tablet deciphered by Michael Ventris in 1952. So in honour of his name as a superb linguist and genius of the first order, I now present you with a totally new version of this historic tablet, which I have reformatted for the greatest possible clarity, with the intention to make this tablet all the more accessible to students of Linear B who wish to translate a tablet into English.  It should come as no surprise that of all the extant Linear B tablets, this is the one most often translated.

I will be providing a complete translation of Pylos tablet TA 641-1952 later this month.

Thank you. Richard

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