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A Lost Civilisation

16 Jun

As an archaeologist  the story of Arthur Evans excavation at the great Palace of Knossos fascinated me. It  was only when I came to live in Crete to work on Minoan pottery that my attention was drawn to the Clay tablets which featured Linear B script which Sir Arthur had discovered.

Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos in l907

Sir Arthur Evans

 

These tablets, around 800 or more, some found as fragments and  some whole,  tell us so much about a lost civilization. It wasn’t until I began learning to read and write these ancient scripts “still learning” ,that I realized the huge task which Arthur Evans had ahead of him in trying to decipher the writings upon the tablets, the strain on his eyes must have been enormous. However, Arthur Evans was not able to crack the code but he did lay the ground for Michael Ventris who eventually deciphered the tablets in l953. Actually, this was the very year I got married but did not know anything about this subject then of course .

When Schliemann excavated the mainland Kingdom of Mycenae in the l870s, Evans was sure that such a civilization could not have existed without some form of writing and sure enough he was right. In l951, some forty clay tablets were uncovered at Mycenae ,in  fact ,not far from where Schliemann had excavated, confirming that Evans had long been of the opinion that an advanced literate civilization had flourished. Some of these script writings have been found at Tiryns on the mainland and Thebes. Unfortunately the ancient scribes destroyed their work at the end of each year and the granules of unfired clay were then mixed with water leaving a paste from which the next years tablets were formed. Scholars have been of the opinion that before each set of tablets was destroyed, the years records may have been transferred to a more permanent place, written on parchment and stored, but this material would have disappeared long ago ,so whether the Mycenaeans actually did this can never actually be proved so we only have evidence of the final year of each Palace before any catastrophe that happened and the Mycenaean Age was reduced to ash.

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THE LINEAR B TABLETS.

So far these ancient scripts tell us a lot about what the Minoan civilization did in their every day life. They tell us that most workers listed were men, but from those on which lists of women’s names appear, it is clear that certain occupations, such as textile work, were reserved for them. Women spun sheep fleece into woolen yarn and flax into linin then wove it into cloth on looms;  men collected the cloth, fulled  it and dyed it.The tablets also record tanners, and leather workers. Men made the leather into harnesses, while women stitched it into shoes and bags.

There were sword makers for times of war, also bow makers, chariot makers and  chariot wheel repair men. Linear B also tells us there were wood cutters, carpenters, shipbuilders, and net makers, bath attendants, hunters, herdsmen  and bee keepers.

This subject of the Linear B ancient scripts is still a scholars nightmare as there are hundreds of fragments still to decipher if ever they can be pieced together. This is a long term project which my teacher Richard Vallance  has already discovered more evidence enabling further understanding of the ancient Linear B tablets. Take a look at Richards web site at http://www.linearbknossosmycenae.wordpress.com

Linear B tablet documenting the delivery of wheels to Knossos

Linear B tablet documenting the delivery of wheels to Knossos

Linear B tablet KNSc 230 from the room of chariot tablets Knossos

Linear B tablet from the room of the Chariots

Mycenaean Wman weaving

Serena Malyon’s  interpretation of a Minoan woman weaving.

Pylos Tablet Tn 996 Linear B  Showing numbers of bath - tubs and other vessels.

Copy of tablet showing womans names.

 

Linear b tab recording precious metal vessels in the shape of bulls head & Cups.

Last but not least of these Linear B tablets. This one recording precious metal vessels.

Lions Hunt dagger

This Lions Hunt dagger shows the exquisite work of the Bronze age Minoans.

 

 

 

 

 

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6 Comments

Posted by on June 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

6 responses to “A Lost Civilisation

  1. Silver in the Barn

    June 16, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    Absolutely fascinating. How tragic that they destroyed their tablets each year. Imagine how much more we would know about them if they had not. How do we know that they did this? So interesting, Rita.

     
    • ritaroberts

      June 18, 2014 at 8:19 am

      Thanks Dora for you nice comment. Its a fascinating subject isn’t it.

       
    • ritaroberts

      June 18, 2014 at 8:25 am

      Hi Barbara ,Thanks for reading. You must have missed the part where it says That we don’t know conclusively. Scholars are of the opinion that the years tablets were moved to a more permanent place written on some sort of parchment which would have been destroyed long ago, so we only have the years records on the tablets albeit mostly in fragments which is what I am learning about now. Glad you enjoyed this post.

       
      • Silver in the Barn

        June 18, 2014 at 11:15 am

        Ha! That was always my problem in school too. Missing the key bits. I sent you an email to the address on file with wordpress last week so that you would have my email address. That way you can send me the photo of your old mountain dog. If you can’t find that email, let me know. Always enjoy your posts!

         
      • ritaroberts

        June 18, 2014 at 12:30 pm

        Hi again Barbara, No I did not see your e mail but it may have gone into spam. Can you send it again with a title I should recognize. Thanks and I will send pic of my Ben.

         
  2. dorannrule

    June 17, 2014 at 1:01 am

    Thanks as always for sharing this fascinating exploration Rita! An eye to past civilizations and their works can help us to understand each other going forward.

     

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