Linear B

Linear B

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Encyclopedia
Linear B is a syllabic script
Syllabary
A syllabary is a set of written symbols that represent syllables, which make up words. In a syllabary, there is no systematic similarity between the symbols which represent syllables with the same consonant or vowel...

 that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

 by several centuries (ca. 13th but perhaps as early as 17th century BC, see Kafkania pebble
Kafkania pebble
The Kafkania pebble was found in Kafkania, some north of Olympia, on 1 April 1994. It bears a short inscription of eight syllabic signs in Linear B, possibly reading . The reverse side shows a double-axe symbol. The inscription is identified by some to be in the Mycenean language, though this...

) and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean
Mycenaean Greece
Mycenaean Greece was a cultural period of Bronze Age Greece taking its name from the archaeological site of Mycenae in northeastern Argolis, in the Peloponnese of southern Greece. Athens, Pylos, Thebes, and Tiryns are also important Mycenaean sites...

 civilization. Most clay tablets inscribed in Linear B were found in Knossos
Knossos
Knossos , also known as Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square...

, Cydonia, Pylos
Pylos
Pylos , historically known under its Italian name Navarino, is a town and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. It was the capital of the former...

, Thebes
Thebes, Greece
Thebes is a city in Greece, situated to the north of the Cithaeron range, which divides Boeotia from Attica, and on the southern edge of the Boeotian plain. It played an important role in Greek myth, as the site of the stories of Cadmus, Oedipus, Dionysus and others...

 and Mycenae
Mycenae
Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 km south-west of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos is 11 km to the south; Corinth, 48 km to the north...

. The succeeding period, known as the Greek Dark Ages
Greek Dark Ages
The Greek Dark Age or Ages also known as Geometric or Homeric Age are terms which have regularly been used to refer to the period of Greek history from the presumed Dorian invasion and end of the Mycenaean Palatial civilization around 1200 BC, to the first signs of the Greek city-states in the 9th...

, provides no evidence of the use of writing.

The script appears related to Linear A
Linear A
Linear A is one of two scripts used in ancient Crete before Mycenaean Greek Linear B; Cretan hieroglyphs is the second script. In Minoan times, before the Mycenaean Greek dominion, Linear A was the official script for the palaces and religious activities, and hieroglyphs were mainly used on seals....

, an undeciphered earlier script used for writing the Minoan language
Eteocretan language
The Minoan language was spoken in ancient Crete before it was replaced with the language of the mainland; the relationship between Minoan and Greek is unknown. While attempts have been made to connect it to other languages, Minoan must be considered unclassified until a linguistic affiliation can...

, and the later Cypriot syllabary
Cypriot syllabary
The Cypriot syllabary is a syllabic script used in Iron Age Cyprus, from ca. the 11th to the 4th centuries BCE, when it was replaced by the Greek alphabet. A pioneer of that change was king Evagoras of Salamis...

, which recorded Greek. Linear B consists of around 87 syllabic signs and a large repertory of ideographic
Ideogram
An ideogram or ideograph is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept. Some ideograms are comprehensible only by familiarity with prior convention; others convey their meaning through pictorial resemblance to a physical object, and thus may also be referred to as pictograms.Examples of...

 signs. These ideograms or "signifying" signs stand for objects or commodities, but do not have phonetic value and are never used as word signs in writing a sentence.

The application of Linear B seems to have been confined to administrative contexts. In all the thousands of clay tablets, a relatively small number of different "hands" have been detected: 45 in Pylos
Pylos
Pylos , historically known under its Italian name Navarino, is a town and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. It was the capital of the former...

 (west coast of the Peloponnese
Peloponnese
The Peloponnese, Peloponnesos or Peloponnesus , is a large peninsula , located in a region of southern Greece, forming the part of the country south of the Gulf of Corinth...

, in southern Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

) and 66 in Knossos
Knossos
Knossos , also known as Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square...

 (Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

). From this fact it could be thought that the script was used only by a guild of professional scribes who served the central palaces. Once the palaces were destroyed, the script disappeared.

The script


Linear B has roughly 200 signs, divided into syllabic signs with phonetic values and ideogram
Ideogram
An ideogram or ideograph is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept. Some ideograms are comprehensible only by familiarity with prior convention; others convey their meaning through pictorial resemblance to a physical object, and thus may also be referred to as pictograms.Examples of...

s with semantic values. The representations and naming of these signs has been standardized by a series of international colloquia starting with the first in Paris in 1956. After the third meeting in 1961 at the Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin
Racine, Wisconsin
Racine is a city in and the county seat of Racine County, Wisconsin, United States. According to 2008 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the city had a population of 82,196...

, a standard proposed primarily by Emmett L. Bennett, Jr., became known as the Wingspread Convention, which was adopted by a new organization, the Comité International Permanent des Études Mycéniennes
Comité International Permanent des Études Mycéniennes
The Permanent International Committee for Mycenaean Studies, always known as the Comité International Permanent des Études Mycéniennes or CIPEM, even in English, acts as a standardising body for Mycenaean studies and related disciplines, including Linear A and Cypriot epigraphy. It is an affiliate...

 (CIPEM), affiliated in 1970 by the fifth colloquium with UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

. Colloquia continue: the 13th occurred in 2010 in Paris.

Many of the signs are identical or similar to Linear A
Linear A
Linear A is one of two scripts used in ancient Crete before Mycenaean Greek Linear B; Cretan hieroglyphs is the second script. In Minoan times, before the Mycenaean Greek dominion, Linear A was the official script for the palaces and religious activities, and hieroglyphs were mainly used on seals....

 signs; however, Linear A, which encoded the unknown Minoan language, remains undeciphered and we cannot be sure that similar signs had similar phonetic values.

Syllabic signs


The grid developed during decipherment by Michael Ventris
Michael Ventris
Michael George Francis Ventris, OBE was an English architect and classical scholar who, along with John Chadwick, was responsible for the decipherment of Linear B.Ventris was educated in Switzerland and at Stowe School...

 and John Chadwick
John Chadwick
John Chadwick was an English linguist and classical scholar most famous for his role in deciphering Linear B, along with Michael Ventris.-Early life and education:...

 of phonetic values for syllabic signs is shown below.

Read the initial consonant in the left-most column and the vowel from the top row beneath the title. The transcription of the syllable (it may not have been pronounced that way) is listed next to the sign along with Bennett's identifying number for the sign preceded by an asterisk (as was Ventris' and Chadwick's convention).In the Unicode character names, Bennett's number has been rendered into a three-digit code by padding with initial zeros and preceding with a B (for "Linear B"). In cases where the transcription of the sign remains in doubt, Bennett's number serves to identify the sign. The signs on the tablets and other ancient artifacts often show considerable variation from each other and from the representations below. Discovery of the reasons for the variation and possible semantic differences is a topic of ongoing debate in Mycenaean studies.
Recognised signs of shape V, CVIn linguistics
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

 C and V in this type of context stand for consonant
Consonant
In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front of the tongue; , pronounced with the back of the tongue; , pronounced in the throat; and ,...

 and vowel
Vowel
In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...

.
-a -e -i -o -u
𐀀 a
*08
𐀁 e
*38
𐀂 i
*28
𐀃 o
*61
𐀄 u
*10
d- 𐀅 da
*01
𐀆 de
*45
𐀇 di
*07
𐀈 do
*14
𐀉 du
*51
j- 𐀊 ja
*57
𐀋 je
*46
𐀍 jo
*36
k- 𐀏 ka
*77
𐀐 ke
*44
𐀑 ki
*67
𐀒 ko
*70
𐀓 ku
*81
m- 𐀔 ma
*80
𐀕 me
*13
𐀖 mi
*73
𐀗 mo
*15
𐀘 mu
*23
n- 𐀙 na
*06
𐀚 ne
*24
𐀛 ni
*30
𐀜 no
*52
𐀝 nu
*55
p- 𐀞 pa
*03
𐀟 pe
*72
𐀠 pi
*39
𐀡 po
*11
𐀢 pu
*50
q- 𐀣 qa
*16
𐀤 qe
*78
𐀥 qi
*21
𐀦 qo
*32
r- 𐀨 ra
*60
𐀩 re
*27
𐀪 ri
*53
𐀫 ro
*02
𐀬 ru
*26
s- 𐀭 sa
*31
𐀮 se
*09
𐀯 si
*41
𐀰 so
*12
𐀱 su
*58
t- 𐀲 ta
*59
𐀳 te
*04
𐀴 ti
*37
𐀵 to
*05
𐀶 tu
*69
w- 𐀷 wa
*54
𐀸 we
*75
𐀹 wi
*40
𐀺 wo
*42
z- 𐀼 za
*17
𐀽 ze
*74
𐀿 zo
*20

Special and unknown signs


In addition to the grid, the first edition of Documents contained a number of other signs termed "homophones" because they appeared at that time to resemble the sounds of other syllables and were transcribed accordingly: pa2 and pa3 were presumed homophonous to pa. Many of these were identified by the second edition and are shown in the "special values" below. The second edition relates: "It may be taken as axiomatic that there are no true homophones." The unconfirmed identifications of *34 and *35 as ai2 and ai3 were removed. pa2 became qa.
Special values
Character 𐁀 𐁁 𐁂 𐁃 𐁄 𐁅 𐁇 𐁆 𐁈 𐁉 𐁊 𐁋 𐁌
𐁍
Transcription a2 (ha) a3 (ai) au dwe dwo nwa pte pu2 (phu) ra2 (rya) ra3 (rai) ro2 (ryo) ta2 (tya) twe two
Bennett's Number *25 *43 *85 *71 *90 *48 *62 *29 *76 *33 *68 *66 *87 *91


Other values remain unknown, mainly because of scarcity of evidence concerning them.Sign *89 is not listed in Ventris & Chadwick's (1973) tables but it does appear in the appendix of Bennett (1964) as part of the Wingspread convention. Note that *34 and *35 are mirror images of each other but whether this graphic relationship indicates a phonetic one remains unconfirmed.
Untranscribed and doubtful values
Character 𐁐
𐁑
𐁒
𐁓
𐁔
𐁕
𐁖
𐁗
𐁘
𐀎
𐁙
𐁚
𐁛
𐁜
𐁝
Transcription *18 *19 *22 *34 *35 *47 *49 pa3? *63 swi? ju? zu? swa? *83 *86 *89
Bennett's Number *18 *19 *22 *34 *35 *47 *49 *56 *63 *64 *65 *79 *82 *83 *86 *89


In recent times, CIPEM inherited the former authority of Bennett and the Wingspread Convention in deciding what signs are "confirmed" and how to officially represent the various sign categories. In editions of Mycenaean texts, those signs whose value has not been confirmed by CIPEM are always transcribed as numbers preceded by an asterisk (e.g., *64). CIPEM also allocates the numerical identifiers, and until such allocation, new signs (or obscured or mutilated signs) are transcribed as a bullet-point enclosed in square brackets: [•].

Spelling and pronunciation


The signs are approximations―each may be used to represent a variety of about 70 distinct combinations of sounds, within rules and conventions. The grid presents a system of monosyllabic
Syllable
A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. For example, the word water is composed of two syllables: wa and ter. A syllable is typically made up of a syllable nucleus with optional initial and final margins .Syllables are often considered the phonological "building...

 signs of the type V/CV. Clarification of the 14 or so special values tested the limits of the grid model, but Chadwick in the end concluded that even with the ramifications the syllabic signs can unexceptionally be considered monosyllabic.

Possible exceptions, Chadwick goes on to explain, include the two diphthong
Diphthong
A diphthong , also known as a gliding vowel, refers to two adjacent vowel sounds occurring within the same syllable. Technically, a diphthong is a vowel with two different targets: That is, the tongue moves during the pronunciation of the vowel...

s, (ai) and (au), as in Ai-ku-pi-ti-jo for Aiguptios (Αἰγύπτιος) and Au-ke-wa for Augewās (Αὐγείας).Ventris and Chadwick use Roman characters for the reconstructed Mycenaean Greek and give the closest later literary word in Greek characters. Often the phonetics are the same, but equally as often the reconstructed words represent an earlier form. Here the classical Greek was formed by dropping the w and lengthening the e to ei. However a diphthong is by definition two vowels united into a single sound and therefore might be typed as just V. Thus (rai), as in e-rai-wo for elaiwon (ἔλαιον),The w is dropped to form the classical Greek. is of the type CV. Diphthongs are otherwise treated as two monosyllables: a-ro-u-ra for 'arourans' (accusative plural of ἄρουραι), of the types CV and V. Lengths of vowels and accents are not marked.

(Twe), (two), (dwe), (dwo), (nwa) and the more doubtful (swi) and (swa) may be regarded as beginning with labialized consonants, rather than two consonants, even though they may alternate with a two-sign form: O-da-twe-ta and O-da-tu-we-ta for Odatwenta; A-si-wi-jo and A-swi-jo for Aswios (Ἄσιος). Similarly, (rya), (ryo) and (tya) begin with palatalized consonants rather than two consonants: -ti-ri-ja or -ti-rya for -trya (-τρια).

The one sign Chadwick tags as the exception to the monosyllabic rule is (pte), but this he attributes to a development pte<*pje as in kleptei<*klep-yei.

Linear B does not consistently distinguish between voiced
Voice (phonetics)
Voice or voicing is a term used in phonetics and phonology to characterize speech sounds, with sounds described as either voiceless or voiced. The term, however, is used to refer to two separate concepts. Voicing can refer to the articulatory process in which the vocal cords vibrate...

 and unvoiced stops (except in the dental series) and between aspirated
Aspiration (phonetics)
In phonetics, aspiration is the strong burst of air that accompanies either the release or, in the case of preaspiration, the closure of some obstruents. To feel or see the difference between aspirated and unaspirated sounds, one can put a hand or a lit candle in front of one's mouth, and say pin ...

 and unaspirated stops even when these distinctions are phonemic
Phoneme
In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

 in Mycenaean Greek. For example, pa-te is patēr (πατήρ), pa-si is phāsi (φησί.Classical words typically have the η of the Attic-Ionic dialect where Linear B represents the original α. p on the other hand never represents β: βασιλεύς is qa-si-re-uRepresenting guasileus, the b coming from gu); ko-ru is korus (κόρυς), ka-ra-we is grāwes (plural of γρηύς), ko-no is skhoinos. Exceptionally, however, the dentals are represented by a t-series and a d-series for unvoiced and voiced: to-so for tosos (τόσος or τόσσος) but do-ra for dōra (plural of δῶρον); however, to-ra-ke for thōrākes (plural of θώραξ). In other cases aspiration can be marked but is optional: pu-te for phutēr ("planter", from φυτεύω), but phu-te-re for phutēres ("planters" ). Initial aspiration may be marked only in the case of initial a and rarely: ha-te-ro for hateron (masculine ἅτερος), and yet a-ni-ja for hāniai (ἁνίαι).

The j-series represents the semivowel equivalent to English "y", and is used word-initially and as an intervocalic glide after a syllable ending in i: -a-jo for -αῖος (-aios); a-te-mi-ti-jo for Ἀρτεμίτιος (Artemitios). The w-series similarly are semivowels used word-initially and intervocalically after a syllable ending in u: ku-wa-no for kuanos (κύανος).

The r-series includes both the /r/ and /l/ phoneme
Phoneme
In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

s: ti-ri-po for tripos (τρίπος) and tu-ri-so for Tulisos (Τυλισός).

The q-series is used for monosyllables beginning with a class of consonants that disappeared from classical Greek by regular phonetic change: the labiovelars (see under Mycenaean Greek). These had entered the language from various sources: inheritance from Proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

, assimilation, borrowing of foreign words, especially names. In Mycenaean they are /kʷ/, /gʷ/, and rarely /kʷh/ in names and a few words: a-pi-qo-ro for amphiquoloi (ἀμφίπολοι); qo-u-ko-ro for guoukoloi (βουκόλοι); -qo-i-ta for -φόντης.

Some consonants in some contexts are not written (but are understood): word-initial s- and -w before a consonant, as in pe-ma for sperma (σπέρμα); syllable-final -l, -m, -n, -r, -s: a-to-ro-qo for anthrōquos (ἄνθρωπος). In the first example, the pe-, which was primarily used as its value pe of grid class CV, is being used for sper-, not in that class. This was not an innovative or exceptional use, but followed the stated rules. Similarly, a, being primarily of grid class V, is being used as an- and could be used for al, am, ar, and so on.

Clusters of two or three consonants that do not follow the initial s- and w- rule or the double consonants: ξ (ks or x), ψ (ps) and qus (which later did not exist in classical Greek) were represented by the same number of signs of type CV as the cluster had consonants: ko-no-so for Knōsos,Double letters, as in Knossos, were never represented; one was dropped. ku-ru-so for khrusos (χρυσός). The consonants were the same as in the cluster. The vowels so introduced have been called "empty", "null", "extra", "dead" and other terms by various writers as they represent no sound. The sign was not alphabetic: rules governed the selection of the vowel and therefore of the sign. The vowel had to be the same as the one of the first syllable following the cluster or if at the end of the word, preceding: ti-ri-po with ti- (instead of ta-, te- and so on) to match -ri-.

Ideograms


Linear B also uses a large number of ideogram
Ideogram
An ideogram or ideograph is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept. Some ideograms are comprehensible only by familiarity with prior convention; others convey their meaning through pictorial resemblance to a physical object, and thus may also be referred to as pictograms.Examples of...

s. They express:
  • The type of object concerned (e.g. a cow, wool, a spear)
  • A unit of measure.


They are typically at the end of a line before a number and appear to signify the object the number applies to. Many of the values remain unknown or disputed.
Some commodities such as cloth and containers are divided into many different categories represented by distinct ideograms. Livestock may be marked with respect to their sex.

The numerical references for the ideograms were originally devised by Ventris and Bennett, divided into functional groups corresponding to the breakdown of Bennett's index. These groups are numbered beginning 100, 110, 120 etc., with some provision of spare numbers for future additions; the official CIPEM numberings used today are based on Ventris and Bennett's numbering, with the provision that three or four letter codes (written in small capitals), based on Latin words that seemed relevant at the time, are used where the meanings are known and agreed. Unicode (as of version 5.0) encodes 123 Linear B ideograms.

The ideograms are symbols, not pictures of the objects in question - e.g. one tablet records a tripod with missing legs, but the ideogram used is of a tripod with three legs. In modern transcriptions of Linear B tablets it is typically convenient to represent an ideogram by its Latin or English name or by an abbreviation of the Latin name. Ventris and Chadwick generally used English; Bennett, Latin. Neither the English nor the Latin can be relied upon as an accurate name of the object; in fact, the identification of some of the more obscure objects is a matter of exegesis
Exegesis
Exegesis is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for exegesis of the Bible; however, in contemporary usage it has broadened to mean a critical explanation of any text, and the term "Biblical exegesis" is used...

.
Ideograms
Glyph CodepointNote that the codes do not represent all the glyph
Glyph
A glyph is an element of writing: an individual mark on a written medium that contributes to the meaning of what is written. A glyph is made up of one or more graphemes....

s, only the major ones.
Bennett CIPEM English
People and Animals
U+10080 100 A- VIR
vir
MAN
U+10081 102 A- MUL
mulier
WOMAN
U+10082 104 Cn CERV
cervus
DEER
𐂃 U+10083 105 Ca S- EQU
equus
HORSE
𐂄 U+10084 105 Ca EQUf mare
𐂅 U+10085 105 Ca EQUm stallion
𐀥 U+10025 106
QI
*21
OVIS
ovis
SHEEP
𐀥
WE
*75
we-ka-ta
Bous ergatēs
"Adjunct to ox" (1973)
𐂆 U+10086 106b C- D- OVISf EWE
𐂇 U+10087 106a C- D- OVISm RAM
𐁒 U+10052 107
RA
*22
CAP
capra
GOAT
𐂈 U+10088 107b C- Mc CAPf SHE-GOAT
𐂉 U+10089 107a C- CAPm HE-GOAT
𐁂 U+10042 108
AU
*85 C-
SUS
sūs
PIG
𐂊 U+1008A 108b C- SUSf SOW
𐂋 U+1008B 108a C- SUSm BOAR
𐀘 U+10018 109
MU
*23 C-
BOS
bōs
OX
𐂌 U+1008C 109b C- BOSf COW
𐂍 U+1008D 109a C- BOSm OX/BULL
Units of Measurement
110 Z
kotylai
Volume
Cup
111 V
khoinikes
Volume
112 T Dry
113 S Liquid
114 Weight
*21 Weight
*2 Weight
115 P Weight
116 N Weight
117 M
dimnaion
Weight
118 L
talanton
TALENT
*72 G- Bunch?
*74 S- Pair
*15 S- Single
*61 Deficit
By Dry Measure
𐂎 U+1008E 120 E- F- GRA
grānum
WHEAT
𐂏 U+1008F 121 F- HORD
hordeum
BARLEY
𐂐 U+10090 122 F- U- OLIV
olīva
OLIVES
𐀛 U+1001B NI
*30 F
FICUS FIGS
𐀎 U+1000E *65 FARINA FLOUR
"some kind of grain"
𐂑 U+10091 123 G- Un AROM
arōma
CONDIMENT
KO
*70 G-
Coriander
𐀭 U+1002D SA
*31 G-
Sesame
KU
*81 G-
Cumin
SE
*9 G-
Celery
MA
*80 G-
Fennel
124 G- PYC cyperus
𐂒 U+10092 125 F- CYP cyperus?
126 F- CYP+KU cyperus+ku
𐂓 U+10093 127 Un KAPO fruit?
𐂔 U+10094 128 G- KANAKO safflower
By liquid measure
By weight
By weight or in units
Counted in units
Vessels
𐃟 U+100DF 200
sartāgo
BOILING PAN
𐃠 U+100E0 201 TRI
tripūs
TRIPOD CAULDRON
𐃡 U+100E1 202
pōculum
GOBLET?
𐃢 U+100E2 203
urceus
WINE JAR?
𐃣 U+100E3 204 Ta
hirnea
EWER
𐃤 U+100E4 205 K Tn
hirnula
JUG
𐃥 U+100E5 206 HYD
hydria
HYDRIA
𐃦 U+100E6 207 TRIPOD AMPHORA
𐃧 U+100E7 208 PAT
patera
BOWL
𐃨 U+100E8 209 AMPH
amphora
AMPHORA
𐃩 U+100E9 210 STIRRIP JAR
𐃪 U+100EA 211 WATER BOWL?
𐃫 U+100EB 212 SIT
situla
WATER JAR?
𐃬 U+100EC 213 LANX
lanx
COOKING BOWL
Furniture
𐃄 U+100C4 220 Ta
scamnum
FOOTSTOOL
𐃅 U+100C5 225 ALV
alveus
Weapons
𐃆 U+100C6 230 R HAS
hasta
SPEAR
𐃇 U+100C7 231 R SAG
sagitta
ARROW
𐃈 U+100C8 232 Ta *232 ?
𐃉 U+100C9 233 Ra DAGGER
𐃊 U+100CA 234 GLA
gladius
SWORD
Chariots
𐃌 U+100CC 240 Sc BIG
biga
Biga (chariot)
The biga is the two-horse chariot as used in ancient Rome for sport, transportation, and ceremonies. Other animals may replace horses in art and occasionally for actual ceremonies. The term biga is also used by modern scholars for the similar chariots of other Indo-European cultures, particularly...

WHEELED CHARIOT
𐃍 U+100CD 241 Sd Se CUR
currus
WHEEL-LESS CHARIOT
𐃎 U+100CE 242 Sf Sg CAPS
capsus
CHARIOT FRAME
𐃏 U+100CF 243 Sa So ROTA
rota
WHEEL

Corpus


The tablets are classified by the location of their excavation.
  • KN Knossos
    Knossos
    Knossos , also known as Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square...

    : ca. 4,360 tablets (not counting finds of Linear A).
  • PY Pylos
    Pylos
    Pylos , historically known under its Italian name Navarino, is a town and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. It was the capital of the former...

     : 1,087 tablets.
  • TH Thebes
    Thebes, Greece
    Thebes is a city in Greece, situated to the north of the Cithaeron range, which divides Boeotia from Attica, and on the southern edge of the Boeotian plain. It played an important role in Greek myth, as the site of the stories of Cadmus, Oedipus, Dionysus and others...

    : 99 tablets + 238 published in 2002 (L. Godart and A. Sacconi, 2002; see under Thebes tablets
    Thebes tablets
    The Thebes tablets are clay tablets discovered at the city of Thebes, Greece, with inscriptions in the Mycenaean Greek language in the Linear B script. They belong to the Late Helladic IIIB context, contemporary with the finds at Pylos. A first group of 21 fragments were found in the 1963–64...

    )
  • MY Mycenae
    Mycenae
    Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 km south-west of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos is 11 km to the south; Corinth, 48 km to the north...

    : 73 tablets.
  • TI Tiryns
    Tiryns
    Tiryns is a Mycenaean archaeological site in the prefecture of Argolis in the Peloponnese, some kilometres north of Nauplion.-General information:...

    : 27 tablets.
  • KH Chania
    Chania
    Chaniá , , also transliterated Chania, Hania, and Xania, older form Chanea and Venetian Canea, Ottoman Turkish خانيه Hanya) is the second largest city of Crete and the capital of the Chania peripheral unit...

    : 4 tablets.
  • another 170 inscriptions in Linear B were found on vessels.


If it is genuine, the Kafkania pebble
Kafkania pebble
The Kafkania pebble was found in Kafkania, some north of Olympia, on 1 April 1994. It bears a short inscription of eight syllabic signs in Linear B, possibly reading . The reverse side shows a double-axe symbol. The inscription is identified by some to be in the Mycenean language, though this...

, dated to the 17th century BC, would be the oldest known Mycenean inscription, and hence the earliest preserved testimony of the Greek language. A clay tablet was found in Iklaina dating to between 1450 and 1350 B.C.

Chronology


The main archives for Linear B are associated with these stages of Late Minoan and Helladic pottery
Helladic period
Helladic is a modern archaeological term meant to identify a sequence of periods characterizing the culture of mainland ancient Greece during the Bronze Age. The term is commonly used in archaeology and art history...

:

LM II (1425-1390 BC):
  • Knossos, Room of the Chariot Tablets.


LM IIIA2 (1370-1340 BC) or IIIB (1340-1190 BC):
  • Knossos, main archive.


LM IIIB:
  • Chania, tablet Sq 1, 6659, KH 3 (possibly Linear B).


LH/LM IIIB1 end:LM III is equivalent to LH III from a chronological perspective.
  • Chania, tablets Ar 3, Gq 5, X 6.
  • Mycenae, tablets from Oil Merchant group of houses.
  • Thebes, Ug tablets and Wu sealings.

LH IIIB2, end:
  • Mycenae, tablets from the Citadel.
  • Tiryns, all tablets.
  • Thebes, Of tablets and new Pelopidou Street deposit.
  • Pylos, all but five tablets.

Controversy


The Knossos
Knossos
Knossos , also known as Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square...

 archive was dated by Sir Arthur Evans
Arthur Evans
Sir Arthur John Evans FRS was a British archaeologist most famous for unearthing the palace of Knossos on the Greek island of Crete and for developing the concept of Minoan civilization from the structures and artifacts found there and elsewhere throughout eastern Mediterranean...

 to the destruction by conflagration at about 1400 BC (which baked and preserved the clay tablets), in the Late Minoan II (LM II) period. Evans made a career of excavating the Knossos
Knossos
Knossos , also known as Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square...

 site in the late 19th century and early 20th century and creating the concept of Minoan civilization
Minoan civilization
The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC. It was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of the British archaeologist Arthur Evans...

, which he believed was historically accurate.

This view stood until Carl Blegen
Carl Blegen
Carl William Blegen was an American archaeologist famous for his work on the site of Pylos in modern day Greece and Troy in modern day Turkey...

 excavated the site of ancient Pylos
Pylos
Pylos , historically known under its Italian name Navarino, is a town and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. It was the capital of the former...

 in 1939 and uncovered tablets inscribed in Linear B, one of the two scripts discovered at Knossos and named by Evans. Those tablets were fired in the conflagration that destroyed Pylos about 1200 BC, at the end of Late Helladic IIIB (LHIIIB). With the decipherment of Linear B by Michael Ventris
Michael Ventris
Michael George Francis Ventris, OBE was an English architect and classical scholar who, along with John Chadwick, was responsible for the decipherment of Linear B.Ventris was educated in Switzerland and at Stowe School...

 in 1952, serious questions about Evans' date began to be considered. Most notably, Blegen said that the inscribed stirrup jars (an oil flask with stirrup-shaped handles) imported from Crete around 1200 were of the same type as those dated by Evans to the destruction of 1400. Blegen found a number of similarities between 1200 BC Pylos and 1400 BC Knossos and suggested the Knossian evidence be reexamined, as he was sure of the 1200 Pylian date.

The examination uncovered a number of difficulties. The Knossos tablets had been found at various locations in the palace and Evans had not kept exact records. Recourse was had to the day books of Evans' assistant, Duncan Mackenzie
Duncan Mackenzie
Duncan Mackenzie was a Scottish archaeologist, whose work focused on one of the more spectacular 20th century archaeological finds, Crete's palace of Knossos, the supposed centre of Minoan civilisation....

, who had conducted the day-to-day excavations. There were discrepancies between the notes in the day books and Evans' excavation reports. Worse, the two men had quarreled over the location and strata of the tablets, Mackenzie had called Evans a liar, and Evans had not only sacked him but made sure he did not excavate anywhere else.

The results of the reinvestigation were eventually published in a definitive work: It consists of two works, Leonard Palmer's The Find-Places of the Knossos Tablets and John Boardman's The Date of the Knossos Tablets. In this book Palmer plays the role, so to speak, of prosecuting attorney and Boardman of defending attorney; consequently, the dispute was known for a time as "the Palmer-Boardman dispute".

Like questions concerning the veracity of Heinrich Schliemann
Heinrich Schliemann
Heinrich Schliemann was a German businessman and amateur archaeologist, and an advocate of the historical reality of places mentioned in the works of Homer. Schliemann was an archaeological excavator of Troy, along with the Mycenaean sites Mycenae and Tiryns...

, the controversy soon escalated beyond the evidence, which set the world of classical scholarship looking for a way to resolve the question once and for all, a still unfulfilled hope. There appeared to be no "smoking gun" of Evans' mendacity; that is, he could in his excavation reports have simply been generalizing to resolve contradictions in the data. Moreover Blegen's arguments depended more on a preponderance of evidence rather than any single incontrovertible proof. No such incontrovertible proof has ever been found.

The real issue is whether sufficient reason exists to question Evans, since there is as much evidence for 1400 as there is for 1200. Without a solid reason to doubt Evans, the community of classical scholars tends to support a date of 1400 by default; that is, LM IIIA:2. As for LH IIIB, it likely begins in the 1310s or 1300s BC, after Mursilis II's sack of Miletus
Miletus
Miletus was an ancient Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia , near the mouth of the Maeander River in ancient Caria...

; it ends around 1200 BC.

The intellectual positions of the scholars can be identified by the dates they give for the tablets. This article utilizes an outline developed by Cynthia Shelmerdine, who is in the Boardman camp. While stating two possibilities for the main archive of Knossian tablets, she accepts a 1400 date for the Room of the Chariot Tablets. There still might have been two conflagrations and tablet firings, one in 1200 and one in 1400. Jeremy Rutter is a scholar who is in the Palmer camp. Rutter relies on a similarity of scribal hand between one of the Chania tablets and the Knossos tablets and dates all the tablets from 1350-1300 to 1200 BC.

Nearly every scholar presents his or her view as the generally accepted view or the one most proved by recent evidence. Regardless of how the scholars may present their perceptions, the issue is very much open and the search for evidence continues.

Contents


The major cities and palaces used Linear B for records of disbursements of goods. Wool, sheep, and grain were some common items, often given to groups of religious people and to groups of "men watching the coastline."

The tablets were kept in groups in baskets on shelves, judging by impressions left in the clay from the weaving of the baskets. When the buildings they were housed in were destroyed by fires, many of the tablets were fired.

Discovery and decipherment




Arthur J. Evans


The decipherment of Linear B began as an interest by the British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 archaeologist Arthur Evans
Arthur Evans
Sir Arthur John Evans FRS was a British archaeologist most famous for unearthing the palace of Knossos on the Greek island of Crete and for developing the concept of Minoan civilization from the structures and artifacts found there and elsewhere throughout eastern Mediterranean...

 in collecting and studying ancient engraved gemstones he had begun to obtain by purchase and by short-term excavations in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Herzegovina
Herzegovina is the southern region of Bosnia and Herzegovina. While there is no official border distinguishing it from the Bosnian region, it is generally accepted that the borders of the region are Croatia to the west, Montenegro to the south, the canton boundaries of the Herzegovina-Neretva...

, continuing the passion his father had for acquiring and investigating antiquarian artifacts. Between 1877 and 1882 he was Balkans correspondent of the Manchester Guardian there, reporting on a revolt of the Serbs
Serbs
The Serbs are a South Slavic ethnic group of the Balkans and southern Central Europe. Serbs are located mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and form a sizable minority in Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia and Slovenia. Likewise, Serbs are an officially recognized minority in...

 against the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

. The Ottomans lost control of the region in 1878 and its subsequent rulers, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, expelled Evans from the country after a 6-week sojourn in prison, claiming he had supported another rebellion against them.

He and his new wife returned to live quietly in Oxford and after a tour of Greece and the rest of the Balkans in 1883 during which they favored archaeological sites and exhibits including Orchomenos
Orchomenos
Orchomenus , the setting for many early Greek myths, is a municipality and a rich archaeological site in Boeotia, Greece, that was inhabited from the Neolithic through the Hellenistic periods. , the population was 10,732...

 and Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

. Arthur became keeper of the Ashmolean Museum
Ashmolean Museum
The Ashmolean Museum on Beaumont Street, Oxford, England, is the world's first university museum...

 in Oxford in 1884, delivering an inaugural address advocating that the Ashmolean become a "home of archaeology in Oxford." Thus when presented by Greville Chester in 1886 with an engraved gemstone purchased in Athens but reportedly from Crete he began to study publications of these stones suspecting that the "hieroglyphs" with which they were said to be inscribed were part of a writing system. In 1893 after the death of his wife Margaret he visited Athens to view the exhibition of artifacts from Mycenae and try to acquire more gemstones. While there he received a tour conducted personally by Schliemann and noticed that a few of the signs occurred on Mycenaean artifacts. He began to call the supposed writing system "Mycenaean." Heinrich Schliemann
Heinrich Schliemann
Heinrich Schliemann was a German businessman and amateur archaeologist, and an advocate of the historical reality of places mentioned in the works of Homer. Schliemann was an archaeological excavator of Troy, along with the Mycenaean sites Mycenae and Tiryns...

 had never identified the signs clearly as writing, relating in his major work on Mycenae that "of combinations of signs resembling inscriptions I have hitherto only found three or four ...." Evans also verified from the antiquarian dealers that the stones came from Crete.

Losing no time Evans and a friend, John Myres
John Myres
Sir John Linton Myres was a British archaeologist. He conducted excavations in Cyprus in 1904. He became the first Wykeham Professor of Ancient History, at the University of Oxford, in 1910, having been Gladstone Professor of Greek and Lecturer in Ancient Geography, University of Liverpool from 1907...

, embarked for Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

 and in 1893, 1895 and 1896 travelled over the entire island looking for the sources of the stones. They found that the stones were worn by Cretan women as amulet
Amulet
An amulet, similar to a talisman , is any object intended to bring good luck or protection to its owner.Potential amulets include gems, especially engraved gems, statues, coins, drawings, pendants, rings, plants and animals; even words said in certain occasions—for example: vade retro satana—, to...

s and were called γαλόπετρες (galopetres, "milk-stones") and had come from the extensive Mycenaean ruins. Starting in 1894 Evans published his theories that the signs evidenced various phases in the development of a writing system in the Journal of Hellenic Studies
Journal of Hellenic Studies
The Journal of Hellenic Studies is a peer-reviewed academic journal which contains articles that pertain to Hellenic studies, i.e. the language, literature, history, and archaeology of the ancient Greek world, and reviews of recent books of importance to Hellenic studies. It is published annually...

, the first article being the much-cited Primitive Pictographs and a Prae-Phoenician Script from Crete. In these articles Evans distinguished between "pictographic writing" and "a linear system of writing." He did not explicitly define these terms, causing some confusion among subsequent writers concerning what he meant but in 1898 he wrote "These linear forms indeed consist of simple geometrical figures which unlike the more complicated pictorial class were little susceptible to modification," the idea being that the pictographs were communications of meaning by pictures, but the linear characters were mere outlines standing for sounds and strung out like alphabetic writing. Although he called the writing alphabetic Evans believed it also might be syllabic signs. At the conclusion of the 1898 article Evans asserted "That the linear or quasi-alphabetic signs ... were in the main ultimately derived from the rudely scratched line pictures belonging to the infancy of art can hardly be doubted."

The site at Knossos
Knossos
Knossos , also known as Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square...

 had been identified as a major one (even though underestimated) and excavation by part owners had begun twice previously in 1878 by Minos Kalokairinos and in 1890 by W.S. Stillman but were stopped in each case by the refusal of the Ottoman Empire to grant permission (firman). Evans began in 1894 to negotiate for its purchase in competition with French archaeologists. By 1896 he had Kephala Hill. In January, 1897, the Christian population of Crete revolted and for the next few years Crete was occupied by forces of Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Italy, Austria, Greece and defending garrisons of Ottoman forces supported by the Muslim population of Crete. In 1898 Prince George of Greece was appointed high commissioner of a Crete of equivocal status: independent, under the king of Greece and still under Ottoman rule. The Ottomans agreed to withdraw and the last troops were ferried off the island by the British fleet on December 5, 1898. In that year also Evans completed the purchase of the rest of the site, although it still had to be paid for. Although he had a reputation for being a "rich man" he had not yet inherited any money. The site and initial excavations were paid for by contributions, subscription and Evans' own limited personal funds. By 1899 the political context had stabilized, the sale was completed and Evans had acquired sufficient resources to begin. He hired Duncan Mackenzie
Duncan Mackenzie
Duncan Mackenzie was a Scottish archaeologist, whose work focused on one of the more spectacular 20th century archaeological finds, Crete's palace of Knossos, the supposed centre of Minoan civilisation....

, a noted archaeologist, by telegram as director of excavation and on March 23, 1900, began to excavate.

In Evans' report to the British School at Athens
British School at Athens
The British School at Athens is one of the 17 Foreign Archaeological Institutes in Athens, Greece.-General information:The School was founded in 1886 as the fourth such institution in Greece...

 for that year, for which he admits relying on Mackenzie's day book, after scant finds on March 30, 1900, and four days later, of clay tablet
Clay tablet
In the Ancient Near East, clay tablets were used as a writing medium, especially for writing in cuneiform, throughout the Bronze Age and well into the Iron Age....

s marked with hieroglyphic writing, on April 5 the excavators discovered the first large cache ever of Linear B tablets among the remains of a wooden box in a disused terracotta bathtub. Subsequently caches turned up at multiple locations (of later disputed date) including the Room of the Chariot Tablets (called that by Evans in the report) where over 350 pieces from four boxes were found. The tablets were 4.5 cm (1.8 in) to 19.5 cm (7.7 in) long by 1.2 cm (0.47244094488189 in) to 7.2 cm (2.8 in) wide and were scored with horizontal lines over which text was written in about 70 characters. Even in this earliest excavation report Evans could tell that "...a certain number of quasi-pictorial characters also occur which seem to have an ideographic or determinative meaning."

The excavation was over for that year by June 2. Two acres had been uncovered, but intentionally not below the Mycenaean horizon. As for the fate of the tablets, Evans reported "only a comparatively small proportion of the tablets were preserved in their entirety," the causes of destruction being rainfall through the leaky roof of the storage room, crumbling to powder or small pieces and being thrown away (Evans supposed) by workmen who failed to identify them. And yet, Evans supposed that such perishable objects could survive or be stored over long periods of time: "at least some of the tablets go back to the beginning of the fifteenth century BC." Apparently the ones that survived did so by being baked in the conflagration that destroyed the palace or by being "sun-baked."

A report on September 6 to the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland
Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland
The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland is the world's longest established anthropological organization, with a global membership. Since 1843, it has been at the forefront of new developments in anthropology and new means of communicating them to a broad audience...

 began to use some of the concepts characteristic of Evans' later thought. The terms "palace of Knossos" and "palace of Minos
Minos
In Greek mythology, Minos was a king of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa. Every year he made King Aegeus pick seven men and seven women to go to Daedalus' creation, the labyrinth, to be eaten by The Minotaur. After his death, Minos became a judge of the dead in Hades. The Minoan civilization of Crete...

" are used. Appleton's for that year notes that Evans took up Stillman's theme that the palace was the labyrinth
Labyrinth
In Greek mythology, the Labyrinth was an elaborate structure designed and built by the legendary artificer Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos...

 of mythology in which the half-bovine son of King Minos
Minos
In Greek mythology, Minos was a king of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa. Every year he made King Aegeus pick seven men and seven women to go to Daedalus' creation, the labyrinth, to be eaten by The Minotaur. After his death, Minos became a judge of the dead in Hades. The Minoan civilization of Crete...

 lurked. In the report, the Linear B tablets (not yet known by that name) are now called a "linear script" as opposed to the "hieroglyphic or conventionalized pictographic script." The linear script has characters that are "of a free, upright, European character" and "seem to have been for the most part syllabic." Evans reasserts the ideographic idea: "a certain number are unquestionably ideographic or determinative."

The years after 1900 were consumed by excavations at Knossos and the discovery and study by Evans of tablets there and elsewhere but nothing substantially new occurred. Evans planned a comprehensive work on Cretan scripts to be called Scripta Minoa. A year before the publication of volume I he began to drop hints that he now believed the linear script was two scripts, to be presented in the forthcoming book.

In Scripta Minoa I, which appeared in 1909, he explained that the discovery of the Phaistos Disk in July, 1908, had caused him to pull the book from the presses so that he could include the disk by permission as it had not yet been published. On the next page he mentioned that he was also including by permission of Frederico Halbherr of the Italian Mission in Crete unpublished tablets from Haghia Triada written in a linear script of "Class A." To what degree if any Halbherr was responsible for Evans' division of the "linear script" into "Class A" and "Class B" is not stated. The Knossos tablets were of Class B, so that Evans could only have perceived Class A in tablets from elsewhere, and so recently that he needed permission to include the examples.

Evans summarized the differences between the two scripts as "type" or "form of script;' that is, varieties in the formation and arrangement of the characters. For example, he says "the clay documents belonging to Class A show a certain approximation in their forms to those presenting the hieroglyphic inscriptions ... the system of numerals is also in some respects intermediate between that of the hieroglyphic documents and that of the linear Class B."

The first volume covered "the Hieroglyphic and Primitive Linear Classes" in three parts: the "pre-Phoenician Scripts of Crete", the "Pictorial Script" and "the Phaistos Disk." One or two more volumes publishing the Linear A and Linear B tablets were planned but Evans ran out of time; the project required more than one man could bring to it. For a good many of the years left to him he was deeply enmeshed in war and politics in the Balkans. When he did return to Knossos completion and publication of the palace excavations took priority. His greatest work, Palace of Minos, came out in 1935. It did include scattered descriptions of tablets. His life was finished in 1941, during additional turmoil in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Knossos tablets had remained in the museum at Irakleion, Crete, where many of them now were missing. The unpublished second volume consisted of notes by Evans and plates and fonts created by Clarendon Press. In 1939 Carl Blegen
Carl Blegen
Carl William Blegen was an American archaeologist famous for his work on the site of Pylos in modern day Greece and Troy in modern day Turkey...

 had uncovered the Pylos Tablets; pressure was mounting to finish Scripta Minoa II. After Evans' death, Alice Kober
Alice Kober
Alice Kober was an American classical scholar and archaeologist best known for laying the groundwork for the decipherment of Linear B....

, assistant to John Myres
John Myres
Sir John Linton Myres was a British archaeologist. He conducted excavations in Cyprus in 1904. He became the first Wykeham Professor of Ancient History, at the University of Oxford, in 1910, having been Gladstone Professor of Greek and Lecturer in Ancient Geography, University of Liverpool from 1907...

 and major transcriber of the Knossos tablets, prompted Myres to come back from retirement and finish the work. E.L. Bennett added more transcriptions. The second volume came out in 1952 with Evans cited as author and Myres as editor, just before the discovery that Linear B writes an early form of Greek. An impatient Ventris and Chadwick declared: "Two generations of scholars had been cheated of the opportunity to work constructively on the problem."

Alice Kober


About the same time, Alice Kober
Alice Kober
Alice Kober was an American classical scholar and archaeologist best known for laying the groundwork for the decipherment of Linear B....

 studied Linear B and managed to construct grids, linking symbols that seemed to have a strong grammatical relationship. Kober noticed that a number of Linear B words had common roots and suffixes. This led her to believe that Linear B represented an inflected language, with nouns changing their endings depending on their case. However, some characters in the middle of the words seemed to correspond with neither a root nor a suffix. Because this effect was found in other, known languages, Kober surmised that the odd characters were bridging syllables, with the beginning of the syllable belonging to the root and the end belonging to the suffix. This was a reasonable assumption, since Linear B had far too many characters to be considered alphabetic and far too few characters to be logographic
Logogram
A logogram, or logograph, is a grapheme which represents a word or a morpheme . This stands in contrast to phonograms, which represent phonemes or combinations of phonemes, and determinatives, which mark semantic categories.Logograms are often commonly known also as "ideograms"...

; therefore, each character should represent a syllable.

Using the knowledge that certain characters shared the same beginning or ending sounds, Kober built a table similar to the one above; her untimely death at age 43 in 1950 prevented her from possibly taking the final step or see others do it, namely to link the characters to actual phonetics.

Emmett L. Bennett


The convention for numbering the symbols still in use today was first devised by United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 Professor Emmett L. Bennett, Jr., who, by 1950, had deciphered the metrical system. He was also an early proponent of the idea that Linear A and B represented different languages.

Ventris and Chadwick


Michael Ventris
Michael Ventris
Michael George Francis Ventris, OBE was an English architect and classical scholar who, along with John Chadwick, was responsible for the decipherment of Linear B.Ventris was educated in Switzerland and at Stowe School...

 and John Chadwick
John Chadwick
John Chadwick was an English linguist and classical scholar most famous for his role in deciphering Linear B, along with Michael Ventris.-Early life and education:...

 performed the bulk of their decipherment of Linear B between 1951 and 1953. At first, Ventris chose his own numbering system, and agreed with Evans' hypothesis that Linear B was not Greek; however he later switched back to Bennett's system.

Based on Kober's work, and after making some inspired assumptions, Ventris was able to deduce the pronunciation of the syllables. Some Linear B tablets had been discovered on the Greek mainland, and there was reason to believe that some of the chains of symbols he had encountered on the Cretan tablets were names. Noting that certain names appeared only in the Cretan texts, he made the inspired guess that those names applied to cities on the island. This proved to be correct. Armed with the symbols he could decipher from this, Ventris soon unlocked much text and determined that the underlying language of Linear B was in fact Greek, in direct contradiction to the general scientific views of the times, and to Ventris' own hunch that it would turn out to be Etruscan
Etruscan language
The Etruscan language was spoken and written by the Etruscan civilization, in what is present-day Italy, in the ancient region of Etruria and in parts of Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna...

. Chadwick, an expert in historical Greek, helped Ventris decipher the text and rebuild the vocabulary and grammar of Mycenaean Greek.

Ventris' discovery was of immense significance, because it demonstrated a Greek-speaking Minoan-Mycenaean culture on Crete, and presented Greek in writing some 600 years earlier than what was thought at the time.

Interestingly, in 1935, the British School at Athens
British School at Athens
The British School at Athens is one of the 17 Foreign Archaeological Institutes in Athens, Greece.-General information:The School was founded in 1886 as the fourth such institution in Greece...

 was celebrating its fiftieth anniversary with an exhibition at Burlington House
Burlington House
Burlington House is a building on Piccadilly in London. It was originally a private Palladian mansion, and was expanded in the mid 19th century after being purchased by the British government...

, London. Among the speakers was Sir Arthur Evans, then in his eighty-fourth year and the teenager Michael Ventris
Michael Ventris
Michael George Francis Ventris, OBE was an English architect and classical scholar who, along with John Chadwick, was responsible for the decipherment of Linear B.Ventris was educated in Switzerland and at Stowe School...

 was present in the audience.

Timeline of Cretan scripts


The sequence and the geographical spread of Cretan hieroglyphs, Linear A and Linear B, the three overlapping, but distinct writing systems on Bronze Age Crete and the Greek mainland can be summarized as follows:
Writing system Geographical area Time spanBeginning date refers to first attestations, the assumed origins of all scripts lie further back in the past.
Cretan Hieroglyphic
Cretan hieroglyphs
Cretan hieroglyphs are hieroglyphs found on artifacts of Bronze Age Minoan Crete . Symbol inventories have been compiled by Evans , Meijer , Olivier/Godart...

Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

ca. 1625−1500 BC
Linear A
Linear A
Linear A is one of two scripts used in ancient Crete before Mycenaean Greek Linear B; Cretan hieroglyphs is the second script. In Minoan times, before the Mycenaean Greek dominion, Linear A was the official script for the palaces and religious activities, and hieroglyphs were mainly used on seals....

Aegean islands
Aegean Islands
The Aegean Islands are the group of islands in the Aegean Sea, with mainland Greece to the west and north and Turkey to the east; the island of Crete delimits the sea to the south, those of Rhodes, Karpathos and Kasos to the southeast...

 (Kea
Kea (island)
Kea , also known as Gia or Tzia , Zea, and, in Antiquity, Keos , is an island of the Cyclades archipelago, in the Aegean Sea, in Greece. Kea is part of the Kea-Kythnos peripheral unit. Its capital, Ioulis, is inland at a high altitude and is considered quite picturesque...

, Kythera, Melos, Thera
Santorini
Santorini , officially Thira , is an island located in the southern Aegean Sea, about southeast from Greece's mainland. It is the largest island of a small, circular archipelago which bears the same name and is the remnant of a volcanic caldera...

), and Greek mainland (Laconia
Laconia
Laconia , also known as Lacedaemonia, is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Peloponnese. It is situated in the southeastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula. Its administrative capital is Sparti...

)
ca. 18th century−1450 BC
Linear B Crete (Knossos
Knossos
Knossos , also known as Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square...

), and mainland (Pylos
Pylos
Pylos , historically known under its Italian name Navarino, is a town and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. It was the capital of the former...

, Mycenae
Mycenae
Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 km south-west of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos is 11 km to the south; Corinth, 48 km to the north...

, Thebes
Ancient Thebes (Boeotia)
See Thebes, Greece for the modern city built on the ancient ruins.Ancient Thebes was a Boeotian city-state , situated to the north of the Cithaeron range, which divides Boeotia from Attica, and on the southern edge of the Boeotian plain...

, Tiryns
Tiryns
Tiryns is a Mycenaean archaeological site in the prefecture of Argolis in the Peloponnese, some kilometres north of Nauplion.-General information:...

)
ca. 1375−1200 BC

Unicode


Linear B was added to the Unicode
Unicode
Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems...

 Standard in April, 2003 with the release of version 4.0.

The Linear B Syllabary block is U+10000 ... U+1007F.
The Linear B Ideograms block is U+10080 ... U+100FF.
The Unicode block for the related Aegean Numbers is U+10100 ... U+1013F.

See also

  • Aegean civilization
    Aegean civilization
    Aegean civilization is a general term for the Bronze Age civilizations of Greece around the Aegean Sea. There are three distinct but communicating and interacting geographic regions covered by this term: Crete, the Cyclades and the Greek mainland. Crete is associated with the Minoan civilization...

  • Aegean numerals
    Aegean numerals
    Aegean numbers was the numeral system used by the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations....

  • Linear A
    Linear A
    Linear A is one of two scripts used in ancient Crete before Mycenaean Greek Linear B; Cretan hieroglyphs is the second script. In Minoan times, before the Mycenaean Greek dominion, Linear A was the official script for the palaces and religious activities, and hieroglyphs were mainly used on seals....

  • Linear C
  • Mycenaean Greek
  • Proto-Greek

Further reading

  • Carpenter, Rhys, (1957) "Linear B", Phoenix, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Summer, 1957), pp. 47-62 has the Enkomi
    Enkomi
    This article is about the town and ancient settlement near Famagusta. For the suburb of Nicosia , see: Engomi.Enkomi is a village near Famagusta on Cyprus. It is the site of an important Bronze Age city, possibly the capital of Alasiya...

     clay tablet, circa 1500 BCE., examples of Linear B tablets, and translated, the basic Linear B syllabary, the Cypriot syllabary and discussions thereof, and short sections on Linear A
    Linear A
    Linear A is one of two scripts used in ancient Crete before Mycenaean Greek Linear B; Cretan hieroglyphs is the second script. In Minoan times, before the Mycenaean Greek dominion, Linear A was the official script for the palaces and religious activities, and hieroglyphs were mainly used on seals....

    , and the Phaistos Disk.}}
  • Palaima, Thomas G.
    Thomas G. Palaima
    Thomas G. Palaima is a Mycenologist, the Raymond F. Dickson Centennial Professor and the founding director of the Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory in the Department of Classics at the University of Texas at Austin....

    , "Unlocking the Secrets of Ancient Writing: The Parallel Lives of Michael Ventris and Linda Schele and the Decipherment of Mycenaean and Mayan Writing", University of Texas at Austin
    University of Texas at Austin
    The University of Texas at Austin is a state research university located in Austin, Texas, USA, and is the flagship institution of the The University of Texas System. Founded in 1883, its campus is located approximately from the Texas State Capitol in Austin...

    , Eleventh International Mycenological Colloquium, 2000. Chapter 6, Linear B, pp 108–119: discusses Arthur Evans, his work, the Cypriot clues, the syllabary, Alice Kober, the "Grid", and a sample tablet transliterated, and translated into English. for a general outline of the Linear B deciphering story, from Schliemman to Chadwick.
  • Ventris, Michael; Chadwick, John (1953) "Evidence for Greek Dialect in the Mycenaean Archives", The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 73, (1953), pp. 84-103.

External links



.
  • Palaeolexicon -
  • Palaima, Thomas G
    Thomas G. Palaima
    Thomas G. Palaima is a Mycenologist, the Raymond F. Dickson Centennial Professor and the founding director of the Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory in the Department of Classics at the University of Texas at Austin....

    , A Linear B Tablet from Heidelberg, Université de Liège
  • Unicode
    Unicode
    Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems...

    code pages for the Linear B syllabary and ideograms, including sample glyphs.