Tag Archive: units



The extreme significance of the ideogram for “wine” on 2 Linear A tablets:


A.Y. Nickolaus Linear A tablet & ideogram for wine

Linear A tablet with the ideogram for wine Cf. A.Y. Nickolaus

It is extremely significant that the ideogram for “wine” appears on these two rectangular Minoan Linear A tablets.

The fact that they are rectangular is unique in and of itself. and therefore indicative of something of capital importance to the further decipherment of Minoan Linear A. What is even more striking is that the ideogram for “wine” appears dead centre on the A.Y. Nickolaus tablet, immediately after the first 3 ideograms for vessels incharged with attributive supersyllabograms = [1] – [3] and immediately before the last 3 = [4] – [6]. It is as if the Minoan Linear A scribe who inscribed this tablet deliberately wanted to draw attention to this striking quasi-geometric positioning. And why? If I understand the scribe’s intention correctly, he is directly correlating the ideogram for “wine” with all of the ideograms for vessels on this singularly rectangular tablet. In other words, he is stressing that all of the vessels are meant to contain WINE. If this is the case (and I can see no reason why it is not), then all of the tablets on vessels I have translated so far are vessels containing wine or meant to contain it. This is such a significant development in the first steps in the decipherment of Minoan Linear A that it cannot safely be ignored. What it implies is that there is a DIRECT (or INDIRECT but notable) between Linear A tablets inventorying vessels by type and those inventorying the standard scalar measurement of units of wine to be stored in amphorae in the magazines at Knossos, from the largest = teresa to the next four in descending size = [1] teke [2] nere [3] dawe?da and the smallest [4] quqani.

I shall shortly be illustrating this striking parallelism between Linear A terms related to the five standard units of measurement of wine and the several specific types of vessels on other Linear A tablets in a chart cross-correlating the notable relationship between the two (wine and vessels). This chart should serve to clear up any confusion and probably also any lingering doubts over my extremely precise definitions of the Linear A terminology for both wine and vessels.


Minoan Linear A Reza Adureza Tereza. Do they measure up? PART 1 = reza

The problem of generic versus specific measurement:

Minoan Linear A reza adureza tereza. Do they measure up? PART 1 = reza...

Soon after I first translated the Minoan Linear A words reza, adureza and tereza, it swiftly dawned on me that I had made a fundamental critical error in my decipherments. It is this. Based on the operation that cross-correlation between Minoan Linear A and Mycenaean Linear B assumes that both scripts fundamentally centre on inventories alone, I first turned to Linear B to test this hypothesis.

Linear B and measurement:

Whenever the Linear B scribes inscribed tablets relating specifically to measurement (and that was on the vast majority of Linear B tablets dealing with commodities), they never used the word measurement in and of itself. Why, you ask? The answer, at least to the scribes, was transparent. The Linear B scribes, as we know all too well from their extremely frequent use of supersyllabograms to save precious space on what were very small tablets (usually 15 cm. wide, rarely more than 30), would almost certainly not have written out the word measurement on tablets actually providing the figures and totals for measurement, since it was all to obvious to them (though not us in the the twenty-first century!) that if the total figures and totals of measured commodities are tallied on any particular tablet, then why on earth say “measurement” of... when it was painfully obvious to them (the scribes) that this was what the tablet in question was all about? This practice is identical to the use of single syllabogram supersyllabograms to replace entire words or phrases on Linear B tablets, again for precisely the same reason, so save all the precious space they could on those tiny tablets. Which is exactly what they did. That leaves us with the obvious question, if the Linear B scribes did not use the implicit but obvious word  “measurement”, then what word(s) would they have used for measurement? The answer is implicit in the question: they used words for precise units of measurement, not for measurement in its generic sense. They would have had to use precise units of measurement for commodities such as specific crops, military paraphernalia, vessels, olive oil and wine; otherwise who on earth in the Knossian or Mycenaean palace administration would have known what the total amounts of specific items or commodities added up to? The way the Linear B scribes dealt with this conundrum was to devise a fully standardized, formulaic system of measuring specific units of dry and wet measurement, as illustrated here, and as initially calculated with amazing precision by Andras Zeke of the Minoan Language Blog back in 2012:


Minoan fractiona signs by Andras Zeke 2012

Specific measurement in Minoan Linear A:

And so I have come around to reasoning that what applies to the designation of specific measurement in Mycenaean Linear B must also apply to its forbear, Minoan Linear A, in some form or another. Unfortunately, my extensive online research rummaging for Minoan Linear A words (as opposed to units of measurement) came up cold. So what then? Did the Minoan Linear A scribes employ precise words for specific units of measurement? My believe is that in fact they did. Why so? Only recently, I quickly noticed that the words reza, adureza and tereza appeared on Minoan Linear A tablets, all of which dealt with measurement. Co-incidence? I think not.  

Let us begin with the simple word reza. If it is indeed the root word for its variants adureza and tereza, it stands to reason that it applies to the simplest unit(s) of measurement, as illustrated here on Linear B tablet Haghia Triada HT 31 (verso):


Llinear A HT 31 dry measurment reza


I would also like to stress that so far I have only scratched the surface of the problems inherent to at least the partial, but accurate, decipherment of certain Minoan Linear B terms (up to a potential vocabulary of 100+ words), in light of the fact that I have been painstakingly mulling over the hypotheses, criteria and a specific methodology which can successfully be applied to the prudent decipherment of at least a subset of Minoan Linear A. And to my satisfaction, I have been able to extrapolate these hypotheses, criteria and a specific methodology which we can practically apply to said decipherment. I shall be posting these principles very shortly here on Linear B, Knossos and Mycenae. I guarantee they will be real eye openers to past, researchers in the potential decipherment of Minoan Linear A, all of whom have overlooked some of the critical factors relative to its decipherment, which are more than likely to lead to at least a real measure of success. We shall soon see.    

It is extremely important to emphasize that if adureza and teresa are compounds of reza, compound Minoan Linear A words modify their meanings from their simple root word, in this case, reza, by adding prefixes, not suffixes, which would explain why adureza, with the prefix adu = “dry” means a specific unit of dry measurement and te for tereza refers to a specific unit of  “wet” measurement, not just “measurement” (reza). It will be absolutely necessary to test this tentative hypothesis against other Minoan Linear A word clusters composed of (a) a root root and (b) compound terms composed of the root + 1 or more prefixes, not suffixes, to determine whether it holds up to continued scrutiny. If it does, we are surely onto something big! 

For adureza and tereza, see the next two posts.


Minuscule Units of Measurement & yet Another Major Breakthrough in Supersyllabograms in Linear B: Click to ENLARGE

Minuscule Units of Measuerment for spices saffron etc
Upon close examination of the syllabogram WE in the context of dry weight in Mycenaean Linear B, in this particular instance, dry weight of saffron, I have come to the conclusion that the line(s) transversing the syllabogram WE at an approximate angle of 105 - 110 º are actually equivalent to the tens (10 & 20), while the black circles in the upper and lower portions of WE are equivalent to the 100s (100 & 200) in the Linear B numeric system. Once again, the scribes would never had added these lines and circles to the syllabogram, unless they had good reason to. And they surely did. There is a striking resemblance between the approximately horizontal lines to the 10s, and of the black circles to the 100s in that system, as can be seen from the actual placement values for 10s and 100s immediately above the syllabogram WE. As if this is not impressive enough, there is even more to this syllabogram.

It is in fact a supersyllabogram. Its meaning is identical to the same SSYL for crops in the agricultural sector, namely; WE is the first syllable of the Mycenaean Linear B word weto, which literally means “the running year”, in other words “the current fiscal year”. This makes perfect sense, since the scribes at Knossos, Phaistos, Mycenae, Pylos, Thebes and other Mycenaean locales only kept records for the current fiscal year, never any longer. The most astonishing feature of this supersyllabogram is that it combines itself as a SSYL with the Linear B numeric system, meaning that it alone of all the SSYLS refers to both the number of minusucle items (in this case, saffron, but it could just as easily refer to coriander or other spices) and the total production output of the same items for the current fiscal year. The Linear B scribes have truly outdone themselves in this unique application of the supersyllabogram, distilling it down to the most microscopic level of shorthand, thereby eliminating much more running text from the tablet we see here than they ever did from any other tablet, including all of those sporting “regular” supersyllabograms. In this instance alone (on this and the few other tablets on which it appears), this unique “special” SSYL is a supersyllabogram with a specific numeric measurement value at the minuscule level, something entirely new, and seen nowhere else in all of the extant Linear B literature.

Quite amazing, if you ask me.

NOTE: the assignment of a value approximating 1 gram for the single unit, i.e. the simple syllabogram WE with no traversing lines or black circles, is just that, nothing more than an approximation. I had to correlate the single unit with something we can relate to in the twenty-first century, so I chose the gram as an approximate equivalent. One thing is certain: the unit WE is very small, indicating as it does minuscule dry measurement weight.  

Richard


Mycenaean Linear B Units of Measurement (Liquid, Dry & Weight): Click to ENLARGE

Units of Mesurement in Mycenaean Linear B

This table illustrates the syllabograms, logograms & ideograms used to represent units of measurement, liquid, dry and by weight. As can clearly be seen, the exact values many of the units are uncertain. I have hazarded a guess that the unit of measurement in this table which is represented by the ideogram for sheep may very well be the agricultural unit, a hogshead, in which case it is a liquid unit of measurement. Even that unit is variable, ranging anywhere from 46 to 65 US imperial gallons, with several stops in between. So if the Mycenaean measurement is anything like a hogshead, then it is probably just as unreliable, especially in light of the fact that the Mycenaean unit is ancient. Ancient units of measurement were notoriously variable. After all, if merchants could cheat, they would. There is nothing new in that practice!

The following units of measurement, which are syllabograms – RO, PE, ZE, MO & O, are all also supersyllabograms (more on this in subsequent posts). The meanings of ZE, MO & O are clear, and well established. ZE always means “a pair of” (wheels etc.) or “a team of” (horses, oxen etc.), while MO always means “a single” wheel etc., and O always refers to “deficit”. 

The meaning of PE is unclear. The meaning of PE as a supersyllabogram varies from sector to sector of the Mycenaean economy. In the field of agriculture, sub-field livestock/sheep, it is periqoro in Mycenaean Linear B Latinized, which means “an enclosure, i.e. a sheep pen”, whereas in the wine-making sector it appears as perusinowo (Latinized), meaning “last year’s (wine)”. Prof. Lynne Ribaud, who initially compiled this table of units of measurement in Mycenaean Linear B, assigned the value “a bunch of...”, presumably referring to “a bunch of grapes”, but this meaning is very uncertain.

Since these accounting terms are extremely common in Linear B inventories, anyone wishing to truly master Linear B must become familiar with all of them.  

Andras Zeke of Hungary, the owner of the now defunct

Minoan Language Blog
(a terrible pity, since it was such a magnificent blog) has taken a further step in the right direction, by hazarding more exact estimates of the values of several of the these measurement units, as illustrated here: Click to ENLARGE

Mycenaean-measurement-systems Minoan Language Blog
I have always greatly admired his extremely meticulous logical approach to the analysis of both the Linear A and Linear B syllabaries, and so I am inclined to accept the measurement values he assigns at their approximate face value, although I have no way of verifying his overall accuracy. Other Linear B researchers must have already cross-checked his findings, but as of now I am unaware of the results of any such findings. If anyone reading our blog is aware of other research into the units of measurement in Mycenaean Linear B, please advise me as soon as possible.


Richard


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