Linear B at Thebes


I stopped by the graduate library at the University of Washington today, and they finally have the 2005 transliterations from Aravantinos, del Freo, Godart and Sacconi.

I'll start work tonight on finally reconciling the various discrepancies between the 3 earlier sources I've used, and adding missing inscriptions from the Thebes section. We'll have a more accurate transliteration and inventory + information on which transliterations to correct from prior sources in case you have only an earlier text to work from.

25 October 2012: Added TH Av
25 October 2012: Added TH Ev
31 October 2012: Updated TH Fq
31 October 2012: Added TH Ft
31 October 2012: Added TH Gf
5 November 2012: Added TH Gp
5 November 2012: Added TH Ka
5 November 2012: Updated TH Of
5 November 2012: Added TH Oh
13 November 2012: Updated TH Ug
13 November 2012: Added TH Uo
13 November 2012: Added TH Up
14 November 2012: Added TH V
14 November 2012: Added TH Wu
14 November 2012: Added TH X ... and finished!

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More great advice on decipherment and interpretation

In A Companion to Linear B: Mycenaean Greek Texts and their World vol. II, Yves Duhoux has written a must-read introduction for any aspiring philologist: "Interpreting the Linear B Records: Some Guidelines".

His guidelines apply to far more than just Linear B. Whether its Linear A, the Byblos syllabary, Proto-Elamite ... these guidelines are universal to creating a secure decipherment, and provide a methodical framework for sanity checking the strength of a hypothesis. They reinforce much of what Emmett L. Bennett, Jr., Alice Kober, Saul Levin and David W. Packard have also said on the topic.

I highly recommend reading the article (and the book!).

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Linear B Data Project Update – lexicon definitions are growing

One or more definitions are now available for all of the in-tact lexical elements in the following Knossos Linear B series:

KN Ag, KN Ai, KN Ak, KN Am, KN Ap, KN As
KN C, KN Ca, KN Ce, KN Ch, KN Co
KN D, KN Da, KN Db, KN Dc, KN Dd, KN De, KN Df, KN Dg, KN Dh, KN Dk, KN Dl, KN Dm, KN Dn, KN Do, KN Dp, KN Dq, KN Dv
KN F, KN Fh, KN Fp, KN Fs
KN G, KN Ga, KN Gg, KN Gm, KN Gv
KN L, KN Lc, KN Ld, KN Le, KN Ln
KN Nc, KN Np
KN Oa, KN Od, KN Og

and the following Mycenae Linear B series:


and the following Pylos Linear B series:


and the following Thebes Linear B series:

You can view these definitions by clicking on the links for each morpheme / lexical element / sign group / logogram / etc. within each transliteration.

My plan is to get at least one definition for all of the morphemes in the transliterations based on either Chadwick & Ventris 19731 or Davies & Duhoux 2008 / 20112 before going back and adding additional definitions and hypotheses where disagreement exists from additional publications.

1Chadwick, John and Michael Ventris, 1973 Documents in Mycenaean Greek
2Davies, Anna Morpurgo and Yves Duhoux (editors), 2008 A Companion to Linear B: Mycenaean Greek Texts and their World vol. I; 2011 A Companion to Linear B: Mycenaean greek Texts and their World vol. II

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KN Dl 47 at the Ashmolean Museum

With kind permission from the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford, photos of the inscription and verso graffito of KN Dl 47 are now up to bring life to its transliteration.

Please consider making a small donation to the museum to thank the Photo Library and upcoming Camera Dome project for their efforts in making these photographs more accessible.

Support the Ashmolean Museum

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The Alice Kober papers are now available!

With many thanks to the folks at PASP (Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory) at the University of Texas at Austin, directed by Dr. Palaima, the Kober papers are now available and online:

The Alice E. Kober Papers

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The Ambiguities of Linear B Spelling

As all Mycenologists know, it is infinitely difficult to argue that a specific Mycenaean name is or is not capable of a Greek interpretation; the ambiguity of the spelling is an all-powerful obstacle.
- Anna Morpurgo Davies1

To read more about the ambiguities of Linear B spelling - it confounds more than just anthroponyms! - I highly recommend Roger D. Woodard's 1997 Greek Writing from Knossos to Homer: A Linguistic Interpretation of the Greek Alphabet and the Continuity of Ancient Greek Literacy.

One of my favourite examples is pe-ma σπέρμα, in which two consonants are dropped from the spelling.

1 Davies, Anna Morpurgo, 1999 Floreant Studia Mycenaea, Proceedings of the Tenth Mycenaean Colloquium "The Morphology of Personal Names in Mycenaean and Greek: Some Observations"

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po-ni-ki-jo, what art thou?


po-ni-ki-jo is a favourite Linear B word of mine. The number of definitions suggested for it seems proportionate to the number of Mycenologists who have studied it. Hooker thought perhaps it was a palm tree, Chadwick & Ventris believed it was a spice and Melena believes it's a plant used as a dye - and that's just naming a few theories!

Measurement Conundrum
Something I find especially fascinating about po-ni-ki-jo is its occurence with the M and N weight measurements on the KN Ga series. Elsewhere, M appears as a weight measurement for such commodities as AES, AUR, LANA and ROTA. That we're measuring both po-ni-ki-jo and AES with this same measurement already causes me a double-take. If AES is indeed bronze, it would take a lot of an organic substance, like a dye, to measure up to the weight of bronze - and yet AES is in the M 5 range on PY Jn, as is po-ni-ki-jo on KN Ga and *142 on KN Mc. Is po-ni-ki-jo a commodity? And if it's an organic commodity, what kind of quantities are we looking at to make something like leaves weigh as much as bronze?

po-ni-ki-ja, po-ni-ki-pi: Variants or Separate Sign Groups?
Also fascinating: many Mycenologists do not equate po-ni-ki-ja (KN Sd, KN Se, KN Sf) with po-ni-ki-jo (KN Bg, KN Ga). Ethnic adjectives often have i-ja and i-jo endings in feminine and masculine, cf. ko-no-si-ja, ko-no-si-jo. My guess is that the lack of a common ideogram or sign group is the cause of the separate treatment, but I'm wary of this logic. There's plenty of precedence for i-ja / i-jo variants in Linear B; my instinct says that separating the two may be hasty.

On PY Ta 714, po-ni-ki-pi appears as an instrumental plural with descriptive adjectives like ku-ru-so and ku-wa-no. Chadwick & Ventris relegate this to a variant of po-ni-ke-qe "with a palm-tree". Could either sign group be instead a variant of po-ni-ki-jo?

Classification Complexity
Just from this little bit of preliminary context, po-ni-ki-jo has potential as a commodity, a transaction term, an ethnic adjective and perhaps even a descriptive adjective with an instrumental form. Goodness!

Have you read any interesting articles on po-ni-ki-jo?

What are your theories on its classification?

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Regressive Spelling in Linear B

After reading Woodard's excellent work, I was curious to see if any consonant rows in Linear B showed consistent signs of regressive spelling statistically. The liquid L/R* consonant row is by far the most consistent in showing signs of regressive spelling of Greek consonant clusters.

Regressive and progressive spelling are part of the gymnastics of getting a consonant-vowel (CV) alphasyllabary to consistently represent alphabetic consonant clusters.

Regressive spelling of a consonant cluster:
The Greek τρι- three is ti-ri- in Linear B, cf. ti-ri-po. Since our /t/ value in the Greek needs no vowel but alphasyllabaries like Linear B include them by default (ta, te, ti, to, tu), we assign the vowel of the first vowel that follows. /ri/ gives us /ti/ regressively and resolves to /tri/.

ra* re ri ro* ru
*a- *a-ra
*e- *e-ra
*i- *i-ra
*o- *o-ra
*u- *u-ra

* ra2, ra3 and ro2 excluded from the analysis

Some Linear B sign groups that demonstrate the R* regressive spelling:

R* Linear B Greek
ra ka-ra-u-ko Γλαῦκος
re ko-pe-re-u Κοπρεύς
ri ti-ri-po τρίπους
ro po-ro-u-te-u Πλουτεύς
ru du-ru-to-mo δρυτόμος

This kind of statistical work gives us added confidence in the vowels associated with each of the CV values for the R* syllabograms and the vowels of the CV values which precede them.

This method may prove useful to decipherment work, but it requires two prerequisites:

(1) it must be an alphasyllabary representing alphabetic consonant clusters
(2) it must use regressive and/or progressive spelling rather than an ignorable vowel in one of the CV syllables or a vowel-less consonant symbol.

#2 is difficult - if not impossible - without a decipherment to confirm the feature.

Cypriot and Mycenaean Greek (Linear B) meet both criteria.


Woodard, Roger D., 1997 Greek Writing from Knossos to Homer: A Linguistic Interpretation of the Greek Alphabet and the Continuity of Ancient Greek Literacy

kar WNXVII.21-25 + PostgreSQL + Google Refine

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Reference: Linear B Spelling Alternations

1 November 2012 UPDATE: I'm adding these to the individual pages on the Linear B symbols under a new section called "Alternations". This page will no longer be updated. -kim.

Spelling alternations have been incredibly helpful in confirming a symbol's membership in the consonant rows of Ventris' grid. Here's a quick reference for some spelling alternations we see in Linear B, based on Chadwick and Ventris' 1973 index and / or near neighbor collisions and distance algorithm checks using Google Refine followed by some contextual analysis. Declensions are generally excluded.

Vowels and Semi-Vowels

A - A2 Alternations

pa-we-a: KN Lc (lots); KN Ld 571, 572, 573, 574, 575+, 579, 599; KN L 592+, 594
pa-we-a2: KN Ld 787+; MY L 710; MY Oe 127

a-ke-te-re: PY Jn 832, Scribe 2
a2-ke-te-re: KN V 118+

a-ne-u-te: PY Cn 40, Scribe 21
a2-ne-u-te: PY Cn 599

Continue reading

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The statistics of the phonetic value of AB65 /ju/

As Palmer notes in A Companion to Linear B: Mycenaean Greek Texts and their World vol. 1, "The phonetic value of *65 is probably ju, but this reading has not yet been officially adopted; hence the transliteration ju? is adopted here."

We should instead adopt j? for now, based on current evidence. A statistical analysis shows that the /j*/ is solid, but the vowel /*u/ is not.

Here are some statistics to demonstrate *65's phonetic value. From what we can see in the numbers, it is the vowel rather than the consonant that remains uncertain. *65's membership in the /j*/ row is solid based on the numbers.

Based on 3,381 Linear B sign groups from my Linear B data project, we discover that the j* row is distinct from the other consonant rows by its overwhelming tendency to be preceded by an *i consonant-vowel (CV) syllable, cf. ko-no-si-ja, i-je-re-u, mi-jo-qa, etc. This also undoubtedly helped Michael Ventris, sometime after the 3rd state of his trial grids, to identify the j* row as the semi-vowel it is.

/ja/ *57 is preceded by an *i CV 63% of the time. Compare with only 9% *a.
/je/ *46 is preceded by an *i CV 75% of the time. Compare with only 13% *a.
/jo/ *36 is preceded by an *i CV 61% of the time. Compare with only 14% *a.
/j?/ *65 is preceded by an *i CV 55% of the time. Compare with only 18% *a.

ja je jo j?
*a- *a-ja
*e- *e-ja
*i- *i-ja
*o- *o-ja
*u- *u-ja

*a is greater than *i for almost all consonant rows except the j* row.1

Here, the numbers show a solid confirmation for including *65 in the j* row.

What about the vowel /*u/, though?

Looking at the other consonant rows, we find non-zero values for the incidence of a *u CV preceding the row's *u value - demonstrating the regressive and progressive alphasyllabary spelling rules of consonant clusters (see Woodard 1997). All numbers are low because the *u CV symbols are used less frequently in Linear B than other vowels.

*u-du 4%
*u-ju 0% of 11 sign groups that include /ju/
*u-ku 2%
*u-mu 0% of 22 sign groups that include /mu/; see non-zero value below
*u-nu 12%
*u-pu 2%
*u-pu2 8%
*u-ru 30%
*u-su 12%
*u-tu 5%

We also find non-zero values for the incidence of a *u CV following the row's *u value - including the nasal /m/ that fails above, which can begin consonant clusters like -μφ- and -μν-.

du-*u 22%
ju-*u 0% of 11 sign groups that include /ju/
ku-*u 17%
mu-*u 14%
nu-*u 2%
pu-*u 0% of 63 sign groups that include /pu/; see non-zero value above
pu2-*u 9%
ru-*u 2%
su-*u 6%
tu-*u 7%

The vowel for *65 cannot be confirmed by the expected regressive and progressive spelling rules we would hope to confirm the vowel with, whereas all other *u CV values show a non-zero value of *u CVs preceding and / or following the relevant CV value.

What vowels are regressive and progressive candidates for *65?

*a-ju 18%
*e-ju 18%
*i-ju 55% - the high number here coincides with the j* semi-vowel confirmation also seen in /ja/, /je/ and /jo/
*o-ju 9%

ju-*a 36%
ju-*e 27%
ju-*i 0% - confirming that the high number of *i above confirms the J* semi-vowel rather than any *i regressive or progressive spelling of a consonant cluster
ju-*o 27%

The numbers, alas, are entirely ambiguous. The vowel of AB65 must remain a mystery for us until further sign groups using the symbol are found to improve our statistical data.

AB65's consonant row is confirmed by the frequency of its preceding phoneme boundary with *i CV symbols. AB65's vowel is ambiguous. We should adopt j? as its phonetic transliteration until further evidence surfaces.

1 In no other consonant row is the preceding *i % significantly greater than *a as it is in the j* row.
d* row: *i-da 19% is slightly greater than *a-da at 17%.
n* row: *i-ni 32% is greater than *a-ni 24%, probably due to regressive and / or progressive spelling rules (see Woodard 1997). *i-nwa 45% is greater than *a-nwa 18%, but /nwa/ only occurs 11 times in the sign group sample data, and is skewed by its small sample size and a variety of declensions on the sign groups pe-ru-si-nwa and ti-nwa- where the i-nwa boundary doesn't vary.
q* row: *i-qa 8% is slightly greater than *a-qa at 5%. *i-qo 21% is greater than *a-qo 7% and is the largest discrepancy, which is still significantly smaller than the j* discrepancies.
s* row: *a-su and *i-su are equal at 14% each.
z* row: *i-za 21% is greater than *a-za 12%. *i-zo 21% is slightly greater than *a-zo 15%.

Palmer, Ruth, 2008 A Companion to Linear B: Mycenaean Greek Texts and their World (ed. Yves Duhoux and Anna Morpurgo Davies) "How to Begin?"

Woodard, Roger D., 1997 Greek Writing from Knossos to Homer: A Linguistic Interpretation of the Greek Alphabet and the Continuity of Ancient Greek Literacy

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