Tag Archive: willow

summer haiku d’été – colourful willows = saules colorés

colourful willows
pepper your canvas –
rippling grove

colourful willows
saules colorés
soyeux sur ta toile –
verger au vent

Richard Vallance

Painting, “colorful willows”, acrylic on canvas, by Lanie Shanzyra Rebancos.

Peinture,  « saules colorés », acrylique sur toile, par Lanie Shanzyra Rebancos.

Are there any Minoan Linear A words in Mycenaean Greek? Of course!

Consider the word kidapa on the third line of Mycenaean Linear B tablet KN 894 N v 01:

Knossos tablet KN 894 N v 01 original text Latinized and in archaic Greek

which is certainly not an ancient Greek word, not in any ancient Greek dialect from the earliest, Mycenaean, to the latest, Attic and Hellenic. But if it is not Greek, then what on earth is it? Before we answer that question, let us review just a few other terms which appear both in the Minoan language and in Mycenaean Greek, as follows: sedina (Minoan) & serino (Mycenaean) = celery/orada (Minoan) & rodo (Mycenaean) = rose/araiwa (Minoan) & erawo (Mycenaean) = olive (oil) and finally kanaka (Minoan) & kanako (Mycenaean) = saffron. All of these terms are firmly deciphered in the Minoan language and fully translated in Mycenaean Greek, let alone in the later ancient Greek dialects. But none of them are Indo-European.

On another footing, it is notable that, in Minoan, a significant proportion of the terms we have managed to decipher to date, more or less accurately, begin with the letter K. Referencing our Glossary of 75 Minoan Linear A words, we find that at least 15/75 or 20% begin with K. This is rather striking, in light of the fact that a correspondingly large number of words in ancient Greek begin with K, even though the two languages are in no way related. In other words, since kidapa begins with K, that is another reason to conjecture that it might possibly be Minoan.  

Finally, I feel obliged to make the observation, however transparent it may seem to some of us, that all languages, ancient and modern, inherit thousands upon thousands of words from ancestral languages, and in a great many cases, the words inherited are not even of the same class of language (for instance, Indo-European). English is notorious for this. While most of the hundreds of thousands of words in English which are not strictly English are Indo-European, having been lifted in droves from ancient Greek, Latin and French, great many are not Indo-European. Examples are: ketchup, chai (tea) from Sino-Tibetan; chile, poncho from Arawak (Andean) & anchovy and jingo from Basque, to cite a very few.

So if all languages, ancient or modern, can and do borrow vocabulary from previous languages not in in their class, then Mycenaean Greek, which is Indo-European, must also have done the same with respect to Minoan.

However, since I have been unable to find kidapa on any Minoan Linear A tablet or fragment, there is absolutely no way I can confirm it is Minoan. Nevertheless, for the reasons I have enumerated above, there stands a good chance that it may very well be Minoan. Thus, although I intend to add it and other bizarre and unaccountable words in Mycenaean Greek, which are clearly not of Indo-European origin, to my Glossary of Minoan Linear A words, I shall do so under the subtitle, “Words in Mycenaean Greek of putative Minoan origin”, but I shall not add any of these words to the total number of Minoan words I have already deciphered more or less accurately.

Finally, how did I come to the conclusion, tentative as it is, that kidapa may very well mean “ash”, even if it is not Minoan and even though it is certainly not Greek? It all boils down to the methodology I resort to over and over, namely, cross-correlative analysis. If the words for elm and willow respectively appear on lines 1. and 4., then it is reasonable to assume that kidapa on line 3. should also be a type of wood. Carrying this assumption one step further, we may reasonably deduce that the type of wood kidapa is supposed to be is supposed to be is also a species of hardwood, like the other two (elm and willow). Homer mentions ash as the preferred wood used for the construction of ships in the Iliad; so it is quite feasible that kidapa is indeed “ash”. But there is absolutely no way of verifying this assumption. 

This tablet is held at the Ashmolean Museum, British Museum:

Asmolean Museum An1910_211_o

Knossos tablet 04-38 from the Knossos “Armoury”

wheel ZE 04.38

Knossos tablet 04-38 from the Knossos “Armoury” illustrates the use of the supersyllabogram ZE = “zeukesi” = a pair of, in other words, when it comes to wheels, a set of wheels (on axle)... certainly not off axle! Since there are 15 sets of wheels made of willow inscribed on this tablet, it is clear that the tablet describes the construction of sets of chariot wheels only, and not of the chariots to which they are eventually to be attached. Except for a rather large patch of scratches on the top left side of the tablet, it is completely intact. This inventory of the construction of wheels alone, and not of the chariots to which they are to be affixed, strengthens my previous hypothesis that some chariots were fully assembled without their wheels already on axle. In other words, any such chariot would have been delivered to its buyer without its wheels on axle, most likely because he wanted the wheels custom made to his specifications, and then fitted afterwards to the chariot in question. Otherwise, why would there be several Linear B tablets from Knossos and Pylos describing wheel manufacturing only?

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

wheel ZE 04.30

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

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

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

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


Translation of tablets K 04.40 N u 03 & K 04.41 from the Knossos “Armoury”
04.40 amota kedomena pteweya odakweta

04.41 erika odakweta kedomena

While the translation of these two tablets is quite straightforward, there is a little problem with the second  one, since it is unsure whether or not the chariot body or the chariot wheels are made of willow. However, I prefer the first translation over the second, given that on almost all other Linear B tablets from the Knossos “Armoury” are made of elm. On the same tablet (04.41), it is obvious to the observant translator that we may be dealing with anywhere from 50 to 59 sets of wheels on axle, ergo, 50 to 59 chariots.

POST 1,000! Linear B tablets K 04-31 N u 07 & 04-37 N u 04 in the Knossos “Armoury”

Yes, we have finally hit 1,000 posts on Linear B, Knossos and Mycenae, in its slightly less than three years of existence.


While the translation of both of these tablets is relatively straightforward, I do have a few comments to make. In the first place, it is becoming more than obvious by this point (after seeing several Linear B tablets on the design and construction of chariots already posted here) that not only is the vocabulary for chariots completely standardized, i.e. formulaic in the extreme, but that words referencing the parts of the chariot almost always appear in a minimally variable order on the tablets.  It is to be noted that the generic words for the largest parts always appear first, followed by (characteristics of) their smaller components. Thus:

1 EITHER if it is mentioned, – amota – (with wheels) or – anamota – (without wheels) almost always appears in the first position. If the reference to wheels is the first on the tablet, it is apparent that the scribe is squarely placing emphasis on the (construction of the) wheels over all other parts of the chariot.
OR if it is mentioned, – iqiyo – (for a single dual chariot for two people and NOT for the dual, 2 chariots!) or – iqiya – (for a chariot or chariots) almost always appears in the first position. If the reference to the chariot is the first on the tablet, it is apparent that the scribe is squarely placing emphasis on the construction of the chariot over all other concerns.

This is routinely followed either:

2 (a) by the kind of wood the scribe is referring to, usually either – pterewa –  = elm or – erika –  = willow, then by the designation – temidweta – referring to the rims of the wheel(s),
(b) inversely,  by the designation – temidweta – referring to the rims of the wheel(s) and then usually either – pterewa –  = elm or – erika –  = willow, for the kind of wood the rims are made of; 

3 followed  by – odatuweta –   referring to the grooves in the rims (it makes perfect sense to refer to the rims first and then to the grooves on the rims, rather than the other way around, which would violate common sense) then with a reference to the use of – kako –  = bronze or any variations of it (although this word can sometimes appear in the  first position but only if either of the words –  amota – (with wheels) or – anamota – (without wheels) do not appear on that line;

4 then by the ideogram for wheel + the supersyllabogram ZE = –  zeugesi –  = a pair of wheels, or more properly speaking, (a set of) wheels on axle + the number of sets of wheels (if present) , with the understanding that if more than 1 set of wheels is listed, then more than one chariot is referenced. Thus, if the supersyllabogram (SSYL) ZE is followed by the number 22, the scribe is referring to 22 chariots;
and (if present) by the ideogram for wheel, either preceded or followed by  the supersyllabogram MO = –  mono –  = a single wheel, or more properly = a spare wheel or spare wheels, if a number > 1 appears after MO;

5 and finally (if present) by the ideogram for chariot with wheels or chariot without wheels.

Of course, the word order is not set in stone (nothing ever is), but you get the picture.

In short, the vocabulary appearing on military tablets dealing with chariots is both formulaic and routinely predictable. This is a prime characteristic of all inventories, ancient or modern. 

Linear B tablet K 04.5 from the Knossos Armoury: the redoubtable challenges for translation

04.5 iqiya piriniyo opoqo keryapi opiiyapi

 Linear B tablet K 04.5 from the Knossos Armoury: the redoubtable challenges for translation

While some of the military tablets from the Knossos Armoury dealing with the construction and design of chariots pose a few problems in the translation of certain words which yield at least two or possibly even three different possible meanings, others are much more of a challenge to the translator. Some vocabulary in the more challenging tablets proves to be much more fractious. There are several reasons for this phenomenon when we are dealing with Mycenaean Greek vocabulary, let alone that of any truly archaic ancient language, such as Babylonian and Assyrian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphics. These are:

1 Some words in Mycenaean Greek may closely or somewhat resemble their later counterparts in Homeric Greek or Classical Greek, conveying the same or a similar meaning. Such is the case with – wanax – = “king” in Mycenaean Greek.
2 Some of the words in Mycenaean Greek may closely or somewhat resemble their later counterparts in Homeric Greek, and yet not convey precisely the same meaning or might even mean something more remotely associated, such as – qasireu – , which does not mean the same thing as “basileus” = “king” in Homeric Greek. A – qasireu – in Mycenaean Greek is merely a local leader of a town, citadel, redoubt or similar small centre and nothing more.   A king in Mycenaean Greek is a – wanax – , for which there is an almost exact match in Homer’s Iliad.  
3 Some words in Mycenaean Greek may look like variants of later Homeric or Classic Greek words, although they are spelled in a fashion alien to the latter, never appearing in them. 
4 Some of the words in Mycenaean Greek may closely or somewhat resemble their later counterparts in Classical Ionic or Attic Greek, and yet convey an entirely different meaning.
5 Some vocabulary in Mycenaean Greek may be archaic Greek which later fell entirely out of use even prior to Homeric Greek, in which case it may be next to impossible to confirm that such words are even archaic Greek at all.
6 Some vocabulary in Mycenaean Greek may possibly be proto-Greek or even more ancient proto Indo-European, but we can never be certain of this at all.
7 Some vocabulary in Mycenaean Greek may possibly or even likely be Minoan or of Minoan origin. Such is the case with the word – kidapa – on tablet KN 894 N v 01, the very first tablet I translated in this series of tablets on chariots. L.R. Palmer assumes this word refers to a kind of wood, and I agree. This assumption is based on the fact that two other kinds of wood are referenced on the same tablet, i.e. elm and willow. With this evidence in hand, I have gone even further than L. R. Palmer and have taken the calculated risk to identify this word as meaning “ash (wood)”, a wood which Homer uses for weapons.
8 Just as is the case with Classical Greek, in which a few thousand words are not of Indo-European origin, Mycenaean Greek contains a fair proportion of such vocabulary. Words such as – sasama –  (sesame) & – serino –  (celery) come to mind.

This is the scenario which confronts us in the translation of at least two of the words on this tablet, namely, – piriniyo – and – mano –, both of which are certainly open to more than one possible interpretation. The first word - piriniyo – meets the criteria outlined in 1 & 3 above. It probably means “an ivory worker”, but we cannot be sure of this. Since the latter – mano – may not have any relation to later Homeric or Classical Greek at all, it is a crap shoot to try and translate it. This word meets the criteria in 1,2 and 4 above. But I took the chance (as I always do), on the assumption, however fanciful, that – mano – may be related to the Classical Greek word – manos – , meaning “thin”, as defined in Liddell & Scott.

And what applies to Mycenaean vocabulary on this and all other tablets dealing with chariots, whether or not they originate from Knossos, equally applies to all of the vocabulary on each and every tablet in the military sector of the Mycenaean economy. By extension, this principle must also apply to all of the vocabulary on Linear B tablets, regardless of provenance (Knossos, Pylos, Mycenae, Thebes etc.) and regardless of the sector of the Mycenaean economy with which they are concerned. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. In short, the 8 criteria outlined above must be applied on an equal footing, through the procedure of cross-comparative extrapolation, to all of the vocabulary of Mycenaean Greek.

We shall return to this phenomenon in our article on chariot construction and design, which is to appear on my

 account under the auspices of Koryvantes, the Association of Historical Studies (Athens):

Koryvantes Association of Historical Studies Athens Category Linear B & the Iliad
sometime later this winter.

Minoan Linear A, Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae

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