About

Welcome to Deaditerranean, a place for the discussion of the Dead Languages of the Mediterranean. This is a place for academic and independent researchers to meet and discuss the latest research on ancient languages of Cretan literacy: the Cretan hieroglyphs, Linear A (Minoan) and Linear B (Mycenaean Greek).

This site is maintained by Kim Raymoure. I'm an independent researcher, and have been studying ancient Cretan literacy since 2003. This is a labor of love. To say that it is a passion of mine is an understatement. I've created this site for my own reference, but have chosen to make it public in the hopes that others will also find it useful.

My undertaking of 2012 & 2013 is the Linear B data project.

25 Responses to About

  1. Akhnaten says:

    Hi Kim,

    I’m interested in the at least approximate identity of goddess Pipituna and also, whether the Minoans had an equivalent or possibly a precursor of Apollo. Some suggest, that Pipituna and “the goddess of the wind” are one and the same, given the context of “Rapato Meno” tablet from Knossos (https://linearbknossosmycenae.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/%EF%BB%BFthe-famous-linear-b-tablet-rapato-meno-the-priestess-of-the-winds-the-goddess-pipituna-knossos-kn-fp-13/).
    Yves Bonnefoy in his book “Greek and Egyptian Mythologies” (p. 32) writes that one of the twelve gods who were simultaneously mentioned in Knossos is Payawon – “the Striker”, the future Apollo Paean. I’m not sure about the credibility of these claims. Here’s the link to this book:
    https://books.google.com/books?id=ANC8Cwuk46sC&pg=PA32&lpg=PA32&dq=he+Priestess+of+the+Winds+pipituna&source=bl&ots=nGyc8SHycK&sig=h56aYcGIlztHeLVLPYlO2_LOFlU&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=pipituna&f=false

    Could you please share your opinion on this subject and maybe refer to a good book where I could look for the answers. Any link to a comprehensive catalogue of clay figurines of Minoan gods and goddesses would be much appreciated.

  2. Metagrafeus says:

    Here is a transliterator I’ve created for Linear B, in case you’re interested. Be sure that any feedback will be appreciated. Have fun transliterating: http://linear-b.kinezika.info

  3. Peter Blodow says:

    Hello Kim, my local public library did very well and got me all three volumes of Duhoux’ book on mycaenean texts in very short time. I have read a lot in them, at the time only browsing, firstly in order to decide whether I will buy one of them myself or leave it at temporary use. I have learned a lot about ancient greek already and how it differs from the classical greek I studied at school. Especially the transformation of those syllabic expressions into alphabetical greek is great guesswork, exactly what I need being an old crossword puzzler.
    Reading the table 7.1 in Vol.1 on page 222 – 226, § 7.9.3, it ocurred to me that several ideograms could not be matched with alphabetic greek words. One item, though, the second from top on p. 226, described as a ladle, seems to be easily explainable. It is read po-ro-e-ke-te-ri-ja. I would declare it as a compound of spolo- (spolâs, spoládos leather harness) and kénteria (kéntein pierce), so in my opinion it is an awl or leather prick. The ideogram resembles this very obviously, showing a handle with a protruding tip, rather than a ladle.
    Best regards from Bavarian spring
    Peter Blodow
    16.3.2016

  4. Peter Blodow says:

    Well, Kim, you got me. I ordered these books from out local library, they’ll find them somewhere in a university library, I hope (they always did) . It’s not exactly what I desired, but maybe the authors did part of what I aimed at to do myself, so I’m looking forward to what may come. Thanks for the advice!
    4.3.2016
    Peter

    • Awesome. And don’t worry, my Bavarian friend. Duhoux is just the editor where French-nativeness is concerned; the articles are from a wild cast of international authors from every possible language.

      Oh, which reminds me, I’ve read some English translations of this man’s work. I don’t always agree with his stuff (esp. not the -qo-ta stuff), but his biblographies are thorough and may skew German :) https://uni-koeln.academia.edu/DanielK%C3%B6lligan

      • Peter Blodow says:

        Kim, I got the first two volumes of the Duhoux books you recommended (our county public library got them from the Bavarian State Library for me, and they look brand new as if nobody ever opened them before I did). The text is not as dry-scientific as I was afraid it would be. I have been reading the first 70 pages and then started to move around more freely since I am afraid I will not be able to get it all done within the time I could borrow the books. I will place my greek dictionary beside it on the table now. I think my reading already opened my view on ancient greek as it descended from Indoeuropean. A pure dictionary, which was what I intendet at first, would not have been nearly as helpful since you have to be sort of a detective with that syllabic spelling.
        Indeed, a golden entrance to the Mycenaean matter. Thanks again for the recommendation.
        9.3.2016
        Peter Blodow

        • Absolutely delighted that you’re getting good things out of it. Welcome to one of my favourite conversations on Earth. :)

          They’re old now, but two of the books of my heart, and still some of the best writing I’ve read on due diligence in decipherment are David W. Packard’s Minoan Linear A and Saul Levin’s The Linear B Decipherment Controversy Re-examined. I suspect, based on what you’ve alluded to so far, you’ll mostly be nodding your head with them like I did when I read. Their criteria are peerless – along with Duhoux’s discussion on decipherment diligence in the series I recommended – and large swaths of Linear B are not up to par. Since we don’t have better alternatives yet, we keep a lot of “maybes” hanging around, and I daydream of a day with less “maybes.” I hope unearthing more of the corpus happens in our lifetimes so we can further the evidence to prove and disprove the more tentative (or, well, honestly: fanciful) pieces of the decipherment.

  5. Peter Blodow says:

    Hello,
    I just came across this website by way of a Wikipedia link. Great idea to start something like this! I thought this may be a good opportunity to ask a question that came to my mind when iI was reading John Chadwicks “Mycaenean world” (in German). He mentions lots of ancient greek words that occurred to him deciphering Linear B tablets. Although I remember (well to medium well) my 6 years of greek lessons in school, almost none of them sound familiar to me, and they don’t appear in my dictionaries and grammars (Langenscheidt, Köbler, Fruechtel), even subtracting the effects of the missing digamma, contractions, ellipses, liquida metathesis etc . Is there an (affordable) dictionary of ancient Greek, especially concerned with cretian and mycaenian words, preferably even available on the internet?

    24.2.2106
    Peter Blodow
    Dipl.-Phys.
    Ehrenberg, Bavaria

    • Hi, Peter!

      Some of the best sources are pretty hard to find. Do you have access to a university library with a decent language program nearby? I’ve relied heavily on the University of Washington graduate library over the years for a lot of my sources, and they have a great program that allows non-students, for a fee, to check out books.

      The most commercially available books are a series beginning with volume 1 here:
      http://www.amazon.de/Companion-Linear-Mycenaean-Bibliotheque-Linguistique/dp/9042918489/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1456365779&sr=8-2&keywords=yves+duhoux

      If you can’t get those or they don’t satisfy, let me know, because I have a lot more opinions about which books are the goods ones to read for really digging in. I also admire your observation, because I agree… I have a lot of concerns about the current decipherment because a lot of the words originally suggested by Ventris and Chadwick are still accepted, but the evidence, at least I think, is sometimes barely even tenuous. Many times a word will be suggested that is phenomenally esoteric and uncommon when researched with the Perseus Library, etc. So good on you for the observation and asking a great question!

      • Peter Blodow says:

        Hi Kim,
        thanks for your reply. The book you suggested is not exactly what I asked for since it seems to be a mere collection of ancient texts, not really a dictionary. In order to dig into those texts I would probably need a dictionary, although it would be most interesting …. To make it worse, it seems to be written by a frenchman, and I suspect what comes out when english texts about Greek, written by a french author, are read and interpreted by a German. I can hardly imagine how these books (there are three volumes of it) can be filled with Mycaenean texts, as there are but a few hundred clay tablets, mostly containing tiring stock lists. May the Mycaeneans have used words that are not known today or even in ancient Greek, the point is that I can’t even find most of those ancient Greek words which are supposed t be the meaning of the Mycaeneans. Unfortunately, Chadwick, in most cases, doesnt’ give these classic words in his book, only their meaning in German, so I can’t follow them back into their Indoeuropean surrounding (which would be the most intersting part of it).

        Though I could easily obtain these books locally, ordering them from our local library by mail, but only for limited time. And have you looked at the price, in case I decided to buy them? Hard to convince my wife of such a purchase …
        29.2.2016
        Greetings
        Peter Blodow

        • All the really good source and reference material is either expensive or hard to find. As for a straight up dictionary, the best – and I’ll warn you, I’ve been on a waiting list for two years to purchase the second volume so library is the only option, though you may have a bit more success in Europe – is hands-down the two volume set of Diccionario Micénico by Francisco Aura Jorro, and it’s written in Spanish.

          The series I mentioned really is great, as the articles go into the underlying evidence for why certain Greek translations have been chosen for Linear B. I do still think it’s a great starting point, and more accessible than a lot of the other reference material. The bibliographies alone are worth it.

          All of this is very much a Welcome to Studying Mycenaean Greek and What to Expect ;)

  6. Adam Brown says:

    Hi Kim…
    Do you have anything to add to this thread….

    Quote:

    “At Knossos in a LMIIIA context (14th century BC), seven Linear B texts while calling upon “all the gods” make sure to grant primacy to an elsewhere-unattested entity called qe-ra-si-ja and, once, qe-ra-si-jo. If the endings -ia(s) and -ios represent an ethnic suffix, then this means “The One From Qeras[os]”. If the initial consonant were aspirated, then *Qhera- would have become “Thera-” in later Greek. “Therasia” and its ethnikon “Therasios” are both attested in later Greek; and, since -sos was itself a genitive suffix in the Aegean Sprachbund, *Qeras[os] could also shrink to *Qera. An alternate view takes qe-ra-si-ja and qe-ra-si-jo as proof of androgyny, and applies this name by similar arguments to the legendary seer, Tiresias, but these views are not mutually exclusive. If qe-ra-si-ja was an ethnikon first, then in following him/her/it the Cretans also feared whence it came”.

    Thanks…
    Adam

    • I’d have to hit the library to see if there’s any more recent work on it; I only have Chadwick and Ventris’ original “best guess” on the definition page for qe-ra-si-ja and the definition from Paleolexicon.

      In this case, though, there’s just too little context to be sure. More than anything, the KN Fp tablets make me question an entire category of tentative LB translations because the parallels there raise such problematic issues on those tablets.

      I’ve always found the theonym theme for KN Fp to be a little flimsy … the inflections / tenses are all over the map. There are too many questions easily asked of the tentative translation most offer … For instance, if da-da-re-jo-de is Daedalus or a place dedicated to him, why is it either a toponym allative or a connetive enclitic without another connective enclitic in the sequence, why is a mortal and/or a structure for that mortal in a list of theonyms…? Why aren’t the others also allatives? pa-de, maybe, but what about the rest? It’s harder to confirm parallels when the inflections don’t match. :-/

      I think the KN Fp tablets have to make more sense before we can really pull apart and try to understand qe-ra-si-ja. I think there’s a lot worth questioning in the currently accepted interpretations …

      There’s also the problem of reverse engineering the toponym from qe-ra-si-ja if it is indeed an ethnic adjective. -si-ja could equally derive from qe-ra-to. We don’t have qe-ra, qe-ra-so or qe-ra-to in the LB lexicon to give us any vague hint of what its root might have been. I fear there’s just not enough information yet to make a good solid argument in any direction.

  7. Ben Wilson says:

    Do researchers use software tools when decoding unknown or partially understood scripts? If so what do they do with it Are there any aspects of the work which currently don’t have any software support but would benefit from it?

  8. Keith Kevelson says:

    Just a hobbyist, but I was wondering if anyone has ever noticed the similarity between the Linear A syllables “Du-pu-re” and the Roman Deity “Jupiter?” I read Valerio’s paper identifying the syllables as a precursor to the Greek ‘Zeus,’ and I was stunned to see that the phonetic similarity to “Jupiter” wasn’t addressed simply because of the sounds. Valerio links “du-pu-re” to the ‘labrys.’

    Less specifically, would the pu-re part be cognate to the word for ‘father’ found in many IE languages?

    http://www.academia.edu/218699/2007_-_Diktaian_Master_A_Minoan_Predecessor_of_Diktaian_Zeus_in_Linear_A

    • Hi, Keith! I haven’t read any theories linking du-pu-re to Jupiter, but there’s 60+ years of publications in a variety of languages, and I’ve by no means read them all! Here’s some information that might be of help with your questions. I hope it helps and you have a chance to study this further and decide if there’s any good evidence to support it.

      RE: Using Linear B phonetic values for Linear A via “comparative palaeography” (the comparison of two writing systems) …

      I love what David W. Packard had to say about this years ago: “Use of this convention does not imply endorsement of the phonetic values, but even specialists will find it easier to remember KU.MI.NA.QE than 98-76-26-91.”

      Very little has come from trying to use Linear B values in Linear A, so take the phonetic transliterations of Linear A using Linear B values with a grain of salt. It’s a convenience and can confuse where we’re at in our (really limited!) understanding of Linear A. Packard’s 1974 book Minoan Linear A is, while a bit out dated and a lot technical, still a really great read; very methodical. Younger’s transliterations at the University of Kansas are also an excellent reasonably up-to-date source for the latest theories on Linear A as accepted by the community (which also use the Linear B values for convenience).

      RE: /du/’s values in Greek
      j? is a trouble maker, which is the visual equivalent (via comparative palaeography) in Linear B of Linear A’s /du/. The phonetic value in Linear B of /ju/ has not been fulling accepted, so we’re already walking on shaky ground about its phonetic value. BUT! I have done some analysis on this symbol, and wrote a (probably overly technical and underly entertaining) blog post about it. I can confirm that the symbol in Linear B is a semivowel (our English “y” in “yellow” and “yam”) but can’t confirm the vowel that follows it. Scholars use ju? to denote the phonetic value in Linear B because it remains problematic and not possible to confirm with our current evidence. Definitely not a hard sound like z or dz or d, though. :-/ The numbers really strongly support its presence in the semivowel row.

      RE: father (astute question! It’s great that you had a look at the etymology of Jupiter :> )
      pa-te is the IE cognate in Linear B, and the symbols for /pa/ and /te/ used in Linear B also appear in Linear A (/pa/ additionally appears in the Cypriot syllabary) and may (or may not) represent the same sounds. In Linear B, at least, the final /r/ in Greek πατήρ isn’t spelled unless the word is inflected, and there’s no evidence for the dental /t/ dropping that I can think of anywhere in Linear B. Sometimes consonants are indeed dropped, but it’s almost always nasals like /m/ and /n/ like the loss of μ being specifically spelled in a-pi-po-re-we, liquids like /l/ and /r/ (cf. ka-ko) or the occasional s in words like pe-ma.

      RE: the linguistic gymnastics of du-pu[…]
      There is a word in Linear B which tends to be linked with ‘labyrinth’ that, if I recall correctly, uses the same linguistic ideas that Valerio uses in his hypothesis. Have a look at da-pu2-ri-to-jo, and note that Chadwick and Ventris were dubious of the gymnastics involved here, but also note that it hasn’t been refuted by scholars in the last 60 years and seems to have attained general acceptance in the 2011 Companion book. That may mean there’s articles out there in an academic journal which confirm these particular shifts from /d/ to /l/ and from /pu2/ to /bu/. (I personally haven’t encountered anything that’s convinced me, but I also don’t have any better ideas on what da-pu2-ri-to-jo means in the context of po-ti-ni-ja.)

      I hope all this helps. More enthusiastic hobbyists who love Linear A and B and are curious about the patterns we notice are always a good thing! Linear B still has so many interesting open questions that I think will eventually pave a better path to Linear A. Your comments and ideas are welcome.

  9. gabriele kaske says:

    kalimera, just found your side, could you help out with a linear b translation for salt or better sea salt? thanks and in case you come to Kardamyli, you are always welcome for a tea or so….regards Gabriele

    • Γεια σας! Thank you for the kind offer of tea. Maybe next time I am on my way to Crete I will have the chance to visit Kardamyli. The photos of Kardamyli look beautiful.

      This is a great question. There is no known translation for salt in Linear B given our current understanding of the language, but I think I have a solution for you. Is it for a product name?

      a2-ra AROM

      This is a bit of creative fabrication. I will explain.

      There is a Homeric Greek root that also appears in Arcado-Cyprian and Mycenaean: ἁλ-. One of its definitions means ‘sea’.

      In Linear B, we have words like o-pi-a2-ra ‘coastal region’ from this root, literally ‘on / at the sea’. We don’t see a2-ra by itself in Linear B, but we’re reasonably certain that o-pi-a2-ra is in fact the prefix o-pi- + a2-ra.

      We also have an ideogram, a symbol representing an idea, which represents spices / condiments, in general. This is AROM, and is associated with spices like coriander (Linear B ko-ri-a2-da-na). Coriander, even in modern English, harkens back to this very ancient word, with hardly any change in pronunciation. I love words like this.

      What’s fun is, if I fast forward into Classical Greek, the word for salt is ἅλας or ἅλς and there’s some evidence that Homer uses the word interchangeably for both salt and sea, so my reconstruction might actually be reasonable! :)

      If you go with this phrase and would like a handwritten version instead of the stiff Unicode that you’ll see on each symbol’s page, I can have a look at some of the prettier versions of the symbols written by Mycenaean scribes and email you something. Let me know if you’re interested. I’d be happy to do it (pretty much anything Mycenaean and Minoan makes me happy).

      Kind regards,
      -kim.

  10. John Thorley says:

    I have only recently found this site, which certainly contains some interesting material. Can I add some information that may perhaps cast a rather different light on some aspects of research into Linear A. A few years ago, a friend who is a retired university mathematician and I (I am a classicist) did a chi square analysis of then known Linear A texts, using John Younger’s transcriptions from his website. Chi square analysis is a well known mathematical technique, used in many fields including linguistics, by which two or more different sets of data can be compared to see if they are either random samples from a common set of data or data from totally unrelated sources. The results from Linear A texts from different sites are interesting. The most obvious finding is that the texts from Hagia Triada (around half the total known texts) are statistically quite different from all other texts, i.e. mathematically speaking the Hagia Triada texts are not from the same set as texts from any other site. All the other non-Hagia Triada texts, including the so-called religious texts and from as far apart as Khania and Zakros, are statistically from the same ‘set’. It may appear at first sight that the Hagia Triada texts are written in a different language from all other texts, though since much that is written in Linear A may well be lists of names and not prose text it would perhaps be more accurate to say that the underlying lingusitic tradition at Hagia Triada is different from that in other parts of Crete (I have friends called Llewellyn and McLeish, but they speak English). Other more tentative conclusions are that there appear to be differences within the non-Hagia Triada texts from different sites that may indicate different dialectal and/or orthographic usages. For instance, some sites use M more than N, or the reverse, but when totalled the usage appears to reflect no more than dialectal or orthographic practice. There are similar alternations in some vowels.

    In fact the main conclusion about texts from Hagia Triada being different from all other texts is not at all dependent on any particular phonetic transcription of the signs of Linear A; the conclusion would be the same if they were simply allocated numbers. Other conclusions do of course assume John Younger’s phonetic transcription.

    For anyone interested in the mathematics of all this, do contact me by email (jt275@etherway.net) and I can let you have the full results. Incidentally, this analysis does not help to decipher the language(s), though it may cast some light on the phonetic structure.

    John Thorley

  11. kiminoa says:

    Hi, Matt! These are great questions – welcome to the Linear A decipherment endeavour :)

    The phonetic syllables being used to represent Linear A in discussions are a convention – they borrow their sounds from similar symbols in Linear B, which was deciphered in the 50s as a form of Mycenaean Greek. We’re actually not at all sure if some or any of the phonetic values from Linear B are valid for Linear A. We are pretty sure, though, that many of them can’t be or we’d already be reading :>

    Linear A is a beautiful and complicated writing system. I’ve been studying it for about 6 years now, and I believe there is a lot of implicit information about it which we can glean from many of the rigid structures which appear in some of the inscriptions. Linear B is extremely explicit – it will repeat the same city name again and again just to make sure all readers understand the context intended for a commodity. Not so with Linear A. Linear A is much more concise (imagine writing on clay in the rain; I suppose I would be too!), but there is a lot of very consistent structure throughout the texts and the more we understand that context, the more we can begin to understand what information was obvious to Minoans but isn’t readily obvious to us. http://minoablog.blogspot.com/ also has some great articles on the topic, as does http://paleoglot.blogspot.com. Many great things to ponder as we consider this puzzle.

    There are many excellent publications out there on why a decipherment of Linear A is problematic, far better written than I can hope to express, but here’s my take on it: (1) many of the Linear A inscriptions are badly damaged and our body of inscriptions is somewhat small (2) there are likely logograms and phonetic symbols and a bunch of symbols for which it seems likely that both could be true (called “syllabograms”) and while discerning some of these is straightforward thanks to Linear A’s fairly rigid structure, it’s not always the case …

    This blog is here most all of to start interesting and creative conversations about Linear A. I studied in isolation for too long. Feedback is so important! There are so many smart people out there – linguists, mathematicians, artists, archaeologists, hobbyists – who have great things to contribute to the discussion from angles which I would never begin to view things from. I look forward to hearing some of your thoughts on the topic!

  12. Matt Harmston says:

    Hi Kim,
    I have been looking at your site and others with great interest about Linear A. I would like to ask some questions if that is o.k. ?. Why is Linear A undeciphered when it shares a lot of symbols with Linear B which is deciphered ?. Is it because we can read Linear A but it makes no sense ?. As an example we can read the word but there is no direct translation to an english or any other language so consequently we can’t decipher it and the only way we could is by discovering which language tree it directly comes from which may prove exceedingly difficult as proved by its still undeciphered status. I hope you don’t mind my enquiry as i am very interested and want to get it right in my head. I also apologise if i’m being a bit of a dunce with any of this.

    Thanks,
    Matt.

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