I will shortly be adding my first translation of the Minoan Linear A Script writings,but first a little history of the daily life in the Minoan civilization which is an update of a previous post.
Minoan Crete is one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean sea, it’s largest town is Heraklion and it’s landscape varies between tall rugged mountains and gentle slopes and it’s plateaus are framed by the Aegean coastline to the North and the Lybian sea to the South. The temperature climate with it’s short mild winters and the warm dry summers, along with the fertility of the Cretan plains, produces sufficient food supplies to support the local population and for exports.
Crete also exported wine, olive oil, wool and textiles, herbs and the purple dye. Imports consisted of precious stones, copper most likely from Cyprus, Ivory, silver, gold and other raw materials. they also imported tin which was used in the production of bronze alloys
The Minoans had developed a strong Naval power and for centuries lived in contact with all the major civilizations of the time. Their commercial contact with ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia influenced their own culture and the Minoan civilization in turn appeared as the forerunner of the Greek civilization. The Minoans are credited as being the first European civilization
It is from Thera that we know most of the Minoan period from the archaeological evidence undertaken by the late Professor S. Marinatos where large complexes revealed large buildings , streets and squares with walls standing as much as eight metres high and the excellent masonry and exquisite wall paintings prove that this site was more than just a private house. It is thought that the area must have been inhabited by important officials, however most of the Minoans regardless of occupation or class, lived in large houses with several rooms. In addition to bedrooms, dining areas and so forth the houses actually had bathrooms with running water and “toilets”. While they did not have pipes and faucets like we do today,they built channels for conveying fresh water to homes and sewage away from homes.
The Minoans a variety of stones for their buildings which were locally available. The soft porous limestone which exists in ruch supplies was the most favoured stone for ashlar masonry and there are several varieties of limestone, yellowish or brownish, white, grey and a bluish colour as well as ironstone schist also marble a fine decorative material
The most famous Minoan sport, we see on the frescoes and many other works of art was clearly connected with bulls however, there is nothing to suggest any resemblance to the Spanish corrida-de-toros, because all the human Minoan participants are unarmed.. It would seem physically impossible for even the most highly trained athlete to perform a somersault over the back of a charging bull, even less be caught by another performer stationed behind the bull., so was the artist at fault in showing the correct perspective. The sport must have been for the performer to excite the bull to charge him, then at the crucial time to leap high in the air, allowing the bull to pass harmlessly underneath
At first small estates were able to exorcise adequate control without written records: but as areas grew, the need for an accounting system became imperative, small units ruled by a local baron became amalgamated, whether by peaceful means or imposed unions. The Minoans had devised a system for accounts and had gone on to use their own script also for recording dedications in shrines. Linear A has not yet been deciphered however, many scholars including myself are constantly working to decipher them. I will shortly be posting some Linear A scripts which I have translated as near as possible.
The usual burial custom of the Minoans was inhumation during the Neolithic period, then later in caves or rock shelters, overhanging the ledges of rock with the front roughly walled in. A popular method of burying during the Middle Minoan period, was to place the dead trussed tight, knees to chin into a pithos (large pot) , as in the cemetery of Pachyammos. These jars were then inverted and buried. The Larnax burial came in the Late Minoan period.
The Minoans had developed a strong naval power and for centuries lived in contact with all the major civilizations of the time. Their commercial contact with ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia influenced their own culture and the Minoan civilization in turn appeared as the forerunner of the Greek civilization. The Minoans are credited as being the first European civilization.
When I read an online article from the New York Times recently, covering the online abuse received by a mother for including her two children in her and her husbands’ low carb lifestyle, the trial of professor Tim Noakes instantly came to mind. For those unaware of Tim Noakes the world-renowned South African scientist and low-carb advocate was embroiled in a court case about giving nutritional advice online for a tweet on twitter dating back to 2014 and since then Prof Noakes has defended himself at a series of trials. He was also at risk of losing his medical licence. Prof Noakes won the case in April 2017, during which the panel heard that the tweet was scientifically correct and could cause no potential harm.
For low carb advocate Abby Durlewanger, putting her kids on a low-carb, low-sugar ketogenic diet was an easy choice.The mother of two fromHouse…
The UK government is to announce a ban on junk food advertising before 9 pm on TV and online from 2023 in a bid to tackle the UK’s growing obesity crisis. The online ad ban would also affect all forms of digital marketing, including Facebook, Google, Instagram and Twitter.
Boris Johnson having changed his view on personal health after his hospitalisation with coronavirus last year is said to blame his own health issues for contributing to the outcome. Overweight people are at greater risk of severe illness or death from Covid19. Research shows that one in three children leaving primary school are overweight or obese and almost two-thirds of adults in England. A government consultation last year estimated that children under 16 were exposed to fifteen billion junk food advertisements online in 2019, compared with 700 million two years earlier.
As we look 30 years into the future, it is said that we will need to feed two billion more people and the question of diet has taken on a worrying urgency and the foods we consume over the approaching decades will have profound implications for the planet. Some scientists claim that a diet that is high in meat and dairy will deplete the planet’s resources and therefore push for everyone to consume grains, nuts, fruit and vegetables.
Before the advent of agriculture approximately 10,000 years ago, all humans existed on hunting and gathering but as farming expanded, the hunter gather became constrained to forests, arid grasslands, remote islands and arctic Tundra’s. Only a few of these tribes still exist and the race is on to learn as much as we can about the ancient diet and way of life of the hunter gatherer before these “living fossils” disappear completely.
It’s been almost 20 years since we moved to the Island of Crete. When I first blogged about this most of you will remember that my partner and I were running a small business called “Apicius Sauces” and because the sauces were made from original ancient recipes we were able to sell them at most Museums around the country in England and at the Re-enactment markets where we occupied a small stall. In 2002 we closed the business which had been running for nine years and moved to Crete,Greece.
Once we were settled in our first home in Crete we realized just how much there was to do in order to become a citizen which involved much paper work having to be signed especially where the medical aspect is concerned and seeing that we did not speak the Greek language. However, the offices concerned were very helpful and we finally received our medical books with a special Ika no which you always have to take with you when visiting the doctor or hospital. On that note I must praise all the medical staff on how they take pride, especially in their job on looking after the elderly people. For instance, we have an automatic monthly appointment with our doctor who checks to make sure we are alright in health with the medication he prescribes for us, I am diabetic and my partner has a small heart problem. Also every three months he sends us to the medical centre for blood tests. In fact, the Greek people in shops, offices, hospitals etc., are always willing to help
There are several pharmacies in the town of Agios Nikolaos but we have always used the same pharmacy for the past 19 years, therefore they know our medical history and treat us like one of the family,so if I ask for anything which contains sugar, whoever is serving at the time will say Oh ! no no Rita you can’t have that . I consider they are looking after our well being, which brings me to where the Covid pandemic is concerned. Greece is doing it’s very best and I feel that if some do not want the vaccine they should appreciate what is being done through hard work and sleepless nights of all medical staff who are helping to prevent those people from catching the virus.
To continue with Life on the Island of Crete
While working as a volunteer at the Institute for Aegean Prehistory Study Center for East Crete I was fortunate enough in being able to work on the ancient Minoan and Mycenaean pottery where I became familiar with the shapes, sizes and names of the individual pots. After ten years I felt it was time to retire. However, I still needed a project of some sort to work on from home, this is when I began the study of the ancient Mycenaean Linear B script writings which some of my blogging friends will already know. These scripts were written on clay tablets and many of them were found by Sir Arthur Evans while excavating the Archaeology site of Knossos. I have worked on the Linear B tablets for the past 5 years and finally achieved a BA degree with the help from my teacher Richard Vallance. Now, I have decided I would like to study the Minoan Linear A scripts, even though they have not yet been deciphered and hopefully i will be able to translate at least some of the tablets.
The web site of the newspaper Η Καθημεριμινή reports on new finds from the Christos Doumas excavation at Akrotiri on Santorini. Celebrated in the media as “Greece’s Bronze Age Pompeii”, the remains at Akrotiri provide an insight into what a Minoan town looked like – I’ve written about it before.
Below the image is my translation of the newspaper report. My interpolations to ease reading are in italics. As ever this should be viewed as an approximate translation – I’ve combined Mr Google and my various dictionaries. I’m not convinced that the references in the text agree with the sequence of pictures in this article (Figure 6 appears to be missing from the Η Καθημεριμινή article). The original article and related pictures are here.
“Significant new evidence has been revealed during the continuing excavation at Akrotiri on Thera under the…
The world’s oceans hold their secrets close, including clues about how people lived tens of thousands of years ago.
For a large portion of humanity’s existence, sea levels were significantly lower (up to 130 metres) than they are today, exposing millions of square kilometres of land. And the archaeological record is clear: people in the pastlived on these coastal plainsbefore the land slipped beneath the waves.
Archaeology already tells us these drowned landscapes played significant roles in human history. Major events such as human migrations across the globe and the invention of maritime technology took place along these now-drowned shorelines.
But these sites can be hard to find.
Intwopaperspublished this week our team reports on a breakthrough in detecting and excavating one particular type of coastal archaeological site — shell middens — on what…
It was after making surprising studies related to ancient Greece that Heinrich Schliemann attempted an archaeological dig at Mycenae in August 1876. The nature of the discoveries at Mycenae were so dramatic that Mycenaean became the name for the whole culture that spread across Greece. Although Schliemann discovered no writing, his student Arthur Evans did. On Crete he found tablets with two types of scripts which he named Linear A and Linear B. Later Linear B Tablets were found on the mainland associated with the Mycenaean culture. In 1952 Michael Ventris identified a decipherment of Linear B as an old form of Greek and new information became available about the nature of the Mycenaean culture.
The texts turned out to be accounting lists rather than poetry of mythology. This writing system system was most likely confined to a minority of the population who were professional scribes. I correlated the information from clay tablet lists in the Linear B with archaeological information wherby many facts about the Mycenaean culture are revealed.
One reason that Linear B was able to be deciphered is that the language of the Mycenaeans was an early form og Greek, while the languages of the Minoans does not seem to have been Greek. When the Mycenaean culture collapsed around 1200 BCE the ability to write Linear B was lost. Later a new form of writing based on the Phoenician alphabet was then developed, which included the feature of vowels which had already previously made its appearence in both the Undeciphered Minoan Linear A scripts and in Mycenaean Linear B This new alphabet probably was developed by Greek merchants who needed to record transactions. But its usefulness quickly spread. Many early Greeks may have learned to write so they could read and cast curses and send written prayers to divinities.
By 800 BCE the myths had been recorded in the various emerging dialects of the new scripts. The myths were based on the Mycenaean past but they had been preserved by itinerant story tellers who memorized the stories of their predecessors. It was common for them to use contemporary examples to make the stories more realistic. Thus the myths contain information about ancient Greece in the Mycenaean period, predating the myths themselves by some 400 to 700 years (1200 to 1300 BCE). Examples can be found in the works of Homer. Using Homer it is easy to identify the Mycenaeans with the Achaeans whom he refers to. In Homer’s lliad, Book 2, line 494 there is a catalog of ships, which lists the various communities which provided them. Mycenae is one of these, the other places Homer mentions correspond closely to the findings of Mycenaean ruins.
Until its conquest by the Mycenaeans the Minoan culture was dominant and many aspects of the Minoan culture were most likely adopted by the Mycenaeans. This includes many place names, personal names, as well as agricultural records of livestock and crops, also military matters, crafts, textiles and even religion. The Greek language, which was in a formative period when the Mycenaeans conquered the Minoans, was spread throughout the Greek area. While the Minoans did not seem interested in military lifestyles, the Mycenaeans were most interested in weapons and hunting. The Minoans focused on the sea while the Mycenaeans possessed a small horse, called a poro = foal,, which they rode on land. The Minoans developed a high culture which centered on their palaces, while the Mycenaeans seem to have borrowed most of their culture from Crete. Like the Minoans the Mycenaeans also developed palace culture.
The Mycenaean Scribes and Linear B
Source: John Chadwick 1976
The study of Linear B handwriting has been extremely helpful to the task of distributing the tablets into their correct files. Just as modern handwriting differs, so too Mycenaean scribes hand characteristic hands; the way in which they make some of the common elements of signs allows us to clarify them. For instance, an inverted V forms the basis of several signs and scribes can be grouped accordingly to whether the sides of the V are straight or convex. Careful examination of the ridges formed by the way various scribes pressed the stylus in the clay reveals that we can tell the order in which intersecting strokes are written. The cross element, which recurs in a number of signs ( e.g. KA) may be made with the vertical stroke crossing the horizontal stroke or vice versa, or the strokes may even be curved.
Equally significant at this level are the way adjacent strokes are spaced, joined or left un-joined, the position and shape of minor elements and the doubling of lines. Using this approach, Bennett (1958 ) and Olivier (1967) were able to identify securely the personal handwriting of a large number of the more prolific scribes at Knossos and Pylos.
As a rue, all of the tablets were written by the same scribe in a single file, though exceptions occur; and there are cases where two scribes have written on the same tablet, as if the appropriate clerks have each been ordered to add their own quota of information (Cf. Pylos tablet PY Ed 411). The number of different hands at each site is quite large, probably as many as 70 at Knossos, at least 40 at Pylos. This means that the scribes were literate officials who can write a tablet as and when required, but who also have other duties to attend to. Some senior officials seem rarely to have written a tablet themselves, no doubt leaving their subordinates to do most of the work, but occasionally they too take the stylus in their own hands.
While the total number of documents at each site yields a very small average production per scribe,in fact some scribes are prolific where others do very little. It is most likely that most of them had other duties than writing, since one scribe could easily have written all the surviving documents from either Pylos or Knossos in just a few weeks. No doubt moments of boredom would set in for these scribes working in the offices, just as in modern day offices. At such moments, a Mycenaean clerk would turn his tablet over and perhaps draw a sketch or pattern just something different to break the boredom. In fact we have one among several examples of this kind on a clay tablet representing what we would call doodling.
If each official was in charge of a particular department, then bringing together all the tablets he wrote may allow us to see what his particular responsibility was. At Pylos for instance, there was an official who seems to have written nothing but the tablets dealing with chariot wheels (Sa) and a label (Wa 1148). The label may not have otherwise been associated with this group, but the handwriting itself shows that it belongs here. At Knossos, we again find one and the same official dealing with wool, cloth and women workers: he was obviously concerned with the organisation of the textile industry.
Once written, a tablet dries rapidly and further entries cannot be made. It follows that a large tablet with many entries could not have been used unless all the information on it was available at the same time, if in fact the information came at the same time, it would have been necessary to use small individual tablets for each piece of information which could then be filed in a particular order, similar to a card index. Once the file was complete, the information could, if required, be re-copied onto large tablets such as the one you see below called The Woman’s Tablet.
I found this a very interesting tablet to translate which I have almost finished translating. It contains information, as you can see, of women’s names, some of whom were slaves working at Knossos.
There are however problems caused by scribal errors. Mycenaean writers were no more reliable than we are, and were quite capable of leaving out a sign quite by accident, writing the wrong sign, or spelling the same name two different ways, thus making translations difficult to decipher, as I myself have discovered. However, these errors could hardly have caused much trouble to the people who were intended to read these documents in Mycenaean times.
Sometimes a repeated formula is slightly varied; so how can we be sure if this was without significance or was intended to convey a different meaning. Linguists were puzzled for a long time by a form ( wo – zo – e ) until another tablet was found bearing the same formula, which showed that the mysterious word was an error and should have been the infinitive wo -ze = ( to work). If the parallel work had not turned up, we might still be racking our brains to explain the erroneous form; so at least some of the words that still defeat us may be due to errors.
It often happened that the scribe discovered his error(s) and managed to correct it/them while the clay was still wet. Sometimes we can make out what underlies a deletion, or observe that a sign or two were added as an afterthought, after the surrounding words were complete. When a scribe runs out of space, as was often the case because the tablets were so small, he may squeeze a word above the line, continue over the right edge, and even go around the back, as on tablet Py Va 1324. As a rule the back is not inscribed, but can be used if the space on the front proves inadequate. Sometimes it looks as if the back was inscribed with a text unrelated to the front; it is hard to see any correlation between the miscellaneous catalogue of jars, bowls and other vessels on the front of tablet MYU 611 and the note of olives, figs and wines on the back – they could not be merely the containers.
There are occasionally entries on the lower edge of a tablet or sometimes to the side. and it cannot be emphasized strongly enough that what mattered most to the users of these documents was the numerals. The numbers and quantities are the important details which cannot be confided to memory, the remainder of the text is simply a brief note of what the numerals refer to, or headings to enable the reader to identify the person or place associated with the quantity recorded. Below is an example of my translation of a quantity of swords recorded on one tablet from Knossos.
Lastly the incomplete condition of the archive that has come down to us presents us with many problems; but over time we have found means in some cases to overcome this deficiency, such as the discovery of “supersyllabograms” by Richard Vallance, my Linear B teacher, where we have two or more sets of tablets containing the same information…many of which are found on the tablets relating to military affairs which I have worked on. It is on occasion relatively easy to us one tablet to supplement the gaps in another or others.
Please Note: While studying the Linear B scripts I have translated many of the tablets which I found fascinating and those from the Military Affairs I found the most interesting.
As my readers are aware I have now completed my course of the Linear B script writings, but that is not to say there is always more to learn.
The archaeological site of Mycenae is one of the most important sites in the region of the North East Peloponnese in Greece. It is renowned for it’s technical and artistic achievements which were popular throughout the Mediterranean world during the Bronze Age. The palatial administration system,the architecture and artifacts produced, are the testimonies preserved in the Linear B tablets which give us an insight of the Mycenaean culture.
Apart from pottery,other objects found on the ancient site of Mycenae, are ivory carvings,many golden ornaments, bronze weapons,jewelry and house artifacts, such as cups. Many of these were found in shaft graves, such as the golden mask of Agamemnon which is believed to be the death mask of Agamemnon.
In this post it is the beautiful artifacts which have been found at Mycenae I am going to write about. But first a little bit about the craftsmen.
The craftsmen of the Early Mycenaean period attempted to imitate the Cretan art of the Minoans, for their elegant products. It is thought that the craftsmen may have been students in the Cretan workshops,it is also likely that Minoan artists moved to centers of the Greek mainland to carry out their work.
During the prosperity phase of the Mycenaean palaces, the arts, especially the fine arts were under the protection of the central power. The art workshops were now situated in special areas of the palaces where the products were on demand from the kings. At this stage both ivory and seal carving was introduced to the Greek mainland as well as internal wall paintings
The most significant Mycenaean achievement was the invention of the new writing system we know as Linear B where the decipherment of this writing verified that the official language of the Mycenaean palaces was the Greek language.The Mycenaean texts are of purely record keeping.
Those high-faluting French, Mexican and Swedish lassies just could resist a Gringo goatherd, who could serenade them, while they walked along a verdant pasture. I now have over 50 indigenous American musical instruments. The most recent arrival . . . from the Andes Mountains of Bolivia . . . is a five feet tall Toyo-Zampaño. It is hand-made by a Aymara Indian craftsman, from seasoned river canes that grow along the banks of Lake Titicaca.