Tag Archive: transcription

Proto-Slavic interpretation of Minoan Linear A tablet HT 13 (Haghia Triada) — another decipherment gone awry (Click on Tablet below to READ the original):

HT 13 our interpretation

Pavel Serafimov, Anton Perdih, in their Translation of the Linear A Tablet HT 13 from Crete (above) have made a valiant attempt to cross-correlate their contextual reading of Minoan Linear A tablet HT 13 (Haghia Triada) with Proto-Slavic. At first glance, at least some points of their decipherment seem more or less “accurate”. But the global decipherment swiftly crumbles into a morass of self-contradictions, severe ambiguities and mismatched cross-purposes. Like so many other philologists struggling to decipher Minoan Linear A, Serafimov and Perdih make the practically universal assumption, which I for one categorically reject as superfluous and spurious (at least for the time being), that if we are to succeed in deciphering Minoan Linear A at all, we must be in contact with an actual “known” proto-language upon which, as so many philologists insist, Linear A must be based, believing as they do that there is simply no way to escape this paradoxical box of it-must-be-this-proto-language-or-nothing-at-all approach. The fundamental universal problem inherent to this approach is that each and every one of these would-be decipherers has boxed himself into a proto-language which he assumes, in utter faith and sometimes rash confidence, must be the proto-language upon Minoan Linear A must be based, come hell or high water. Yet it is obvious to any truly professional historical linguist or philologist that it is impossible for all of the so-called proto-languages touted as the base of Minoan Linear A to be the right base for it, given that no two of these so-called proto-languages are alike, even if they are in the same class of ancient languages, for instance, Proto-European.

Minoan Slavic Glossary



It just does not wash. Either only one of these philologists has got it right or none of them have it at all. I am of the firm conviction that none of them have it. Let us take a closer look at just a few of these unavailing attempts at deciphering Minoan Linear A:
First, we have J. MacGillivary’s review of various attempts to decipher Minoan Linear A, a very worthwhile read:

J MacGillivray

Then, on Jan Best’s “Decipherment” of Minoan Linear A, by Gary A. Rendsburg

Jan Best
Next, Breaking the Code: a first translation of the lost language of Linear A, by Sam Connolly

Sam Connolly Beaking the Code Linear A

Linear A Decipherment: Translation of Minoan Inscriptions in Linear A, by Stuart L. Harris  

Sam Harris Linear A decipherment

Finally, there is the truly bizarre cross-correlation of Minoan Linear A with an ancient Niger-Congo dialect, by C.J.K. Campbell-Dunn


What is worse is that all of the aforementioned books make the preposterous claim that they have in fact deciphered Minoan Linear A, a claim which no professional philologist or historical linguistic, including myself, would ever dare make. The only case I can rationally make is for a partial decipherment at best of Minoan Linear A, a venture which I have myself undertaken, with mixed results. While some of the 134 terms in my Minoan Linear A Glossary are more than likely to be correct, others may be (though with a lesser degree of accuracy), while yet others are open to serious doubt.   

which leaves me with the sole exception of David W. Packard’s Minoan Linear A, which relies solely on computational linguistics to analyze Minoan Linear A, and which is a study I for one shall order personally online (if at all possible, since it was published way back in 1974) and which I shall be keeping a very close eye on with reference to my own cross-correlative retrogressive extrapolations of Minoan Linear A tablets from their latter-day Mycenaean Linear B counterparts, where these exist:

David Packard Minoan Signs


And I quote:

The very first work done on this was done by David W. Packard, the son of Hewlett-Packard (company) co-founder David Packard. He published a book on his work back in 1974 called Minoan Linear A and I highly recommend it. I tried reading it when I first got interested in Linear A and it was way over my head, so I took a few years to familiarize myself with the inscriptions, symbols and patterns and then went back to it. Much better! Ilse Schoep also relied heavily on his data in her dissertation on the Haghia Triada tablets and was able to provide some updates to the data which had occurred since Packard's time, though her dissertation was an overview of the Haghia Triada administration rather than a computational approach.

by Kim Raymoure
I have cited just a few of the many fruitless attempts at deciphering Minoan Linear A, but at least this cross-section gives us all a clear overview of this highly specialized field of research.

Minoan Linear whorls unearthed by Heinrich Schliemann at Troy in 1875 & their striking similarity to the Linear A whorls (recto/verso) illustrated here:

Minoan Linear A text whorls and Heinrich Schliemann's finds 1875

As I searched through all of the tablets Prof. John G. Younger has placed online on his superb site, Linear A Texts in phonetic transcription, Minoan Linear whorls unearthed by Heinrich Schliemann at Troy in 1875 are strikingly similar to the Linear A whorls (recto/verso) from his site, which you can view by clicking on the logo for his site:

Linear A Texts in phonetic transcription

(Scroll down to Troy about 80 % down from the top of the page)

Imagine my excitement when I ran across the whorls from Troy with Minoan Linear A text on them from Prof. Youngers site! The similarities are in fact so astonishing that I have decided to go out on a limb (which is typical of me) and dare to decipher the text on the Linear A whorls (recto/verso), where [1] recto appears to mean “the left or outside spindle wheel” and [2] verso would therefore mean “the right or inside spindle wheel”, yielding two spindle wheels on each side of the distaff, just they appear in the illustration of an ancient Greek distaff and spindles (top left). Indeed, the figure of several whorls which the renowned archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann, dug up at Troy in 1875 (top right) appear to confirm my findings.

And when we turn our attention to more closely examine the two Minoan words in Linear A, [1] pimitatira2 = pimitatirai & [2] dumitatira2 = dumitatirai, we discover that the words are identical except for the first syllabogram or first syllable, which are [1] pi & [2] du. Of course, it is indifferent to the decipherment whether or not pi designates the left or right spindle wheel and du the right or left spindle wheel, or vice versa, provided that we understand that the wheels are opposite one another on the distaff. This in turn implies that the prefixes (prefixed syllabogram) pi must mean “left” or “outside” and du the opposite, “right” or “inside” or vice versa. But for the sake of expediency, we have settled on the first interpretation, though if you yourself prefer it the other way around, that is fine with me.

But the implications of this discovery go even further. If pi means “left” or “outside” and du the opposite, “right” or “inside”, it is up to us to attempt to verify this hypothesis by scanning through every last Minoan Linear A tablet in Prof. John G. Younger’s database of Linear A texts, searching for the possible recurrence of these same two prefix syllabograms in different contexts. If we do happen to stumble upon such text(s), then not only may we have the means to verify or dismiss our decipherment of the two words here, [1] pimitatira2 = pimitatirai & [2] dumitatira2 = duimitatirai, but also to cross-correlate these two quasi-identical Minoan words (prefixes excepted) with other Minoan Linear A words, which would then serve to confirm or dismiss our hypothetical decipherment, and even allow us to decipher the other quasi-identical twin words, with the sole difference that one word has the prefix pi and other du. Let us fervently hope for such an outcome. You can rest assured that this is precisely what I intend to do, scan Prof. John G. Younger’s database of Linear A texts from top to bottom, and end to end, in the hope of discovering other quasi-twins with the same syllabograms as prefixes.

This brings the total number of Minoan Linear A words (tentatively) deciphered to 55. 

The Famous Linear B Tablet, “Rapato Meno”, the Priestess of the Winds & the Goddess Pipituna, Knossos KN Fp 13: Click to ENLARGE 

Translation of Knossos Tablet KN FP 13 RAPATO MENO

This tablet from Knossos, one of the most famous Mycenaean Linear B Linear B tablets, was first translated by Prof. John Chadwick, who did a fine job of it. There have been several good translations since then, but all of them have failed to notice certain finer details in the text. This translation hopefully brings these details to the fore.

For instance, as I have pointed out in the notes at the bottom of my translation, the units of measurement are open to question. I find it both expedient and wise to rely on the estimates of Andras Zeke of the now defunct Minoan Language Blog, since he has always been a most thorough and conscientious researcher. My estimates, like those of every other translator, are just that. So take them with a grain of salt. Secondly, Professors Killen and Chadwick translated qerasiya as “augur”, and I accept their translation without reserve, as it fits the context very well. However, every single translation to date that I have run across fails to mention that the augur is female, which once again very important in the context of Minoan-Mycenaean religious practices, which seem to have been pretty much the exclusive province of women. In my forth note [4], I call attention to the fact that here the ideogram for “olive” may refer to an “olive tree”, and to those who would (loudly) object to this interpretation, we need only recall that the olive tree was sacred to the goddess Athena in classical Athens. The connection between Minoan-Mycenaean religious practices is indirect and elliptical. However, if we stop to consider legend has it that “...every nine years Athens should send seven of their finest young men and young maidens to Crete, as sacrifice to the Minotaur. When the hero Theseus heard about this practice, he volunteered to be one of the victims, killing the Minotaur, and freeing Athens from this grizzly duty”: from

Research Project on King Minos

it makes more sense to interpret this reference as being an olive tree. This raises yet another question. If, as it appears from the context of this tablet, the Priestess of the Winds was the priestess of Pipituna, there is probably a direct or indirect connection between this goddess and the later Greek goddess, Athena. They might even be one and the same, though this strikes me as being unlikely.

On a final note, we notice that the second reference to anemoiyereya is squashed up against the right side of this tablet, which is after all only 15 cm. or about 6 inches wide. No surprise there, given that almost all Linear B tablets are very small or tiny. This offers a perfectly sound explanation why the last reference to the offering by Utano (or whatever this name is, probably Minoan) to the Priestess of the Winds only gives us the units of measurement, but of what it does not say. Yet it is pretty much obvious that this too is an offering of olive oil, since that is the only commodity offered up on the rest of the tablet. On our bog, I have stressed a great many times the extremely common practice the Mycenaean scribes resorted to over and over again to save precious space on their cramped tablets. This is also the reason why they resorted to the formulaic use of single syllabograms as the first syllable of scores of very common Mycenaean Linear B words in the fields of agriculture, the military, textiles and vessels. People who regularly consult our blog already know that these are called supersyllabograms. Of the 61 Linear B syllabograms, 33 are supersyllabograms, while one homophone, rai = saffron is also in the same class.

In conclusion, the preceding observations have allowed me the latitude to bring a little more precision to the translation of Knossos tablet KN FP 13.

As a final aside, I for one find the use of Latin to reference the names of Linear B ideograms strange at best, and downright silly at worst. The words the ideograms replace are Greek; so the ideograms should be labelled in Greek, with an English translation for those who do not read Greek. Given that most people do not read Latin these days, what difference does it make? Little or none. For this reason, I myself always tag Linear B ideograms with their proper (Mycenaean or archaic) Greek names.



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