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Sunday, May 22, 2022

What is Known about Linear A | MINOAN Hieroglyphic


 MINOANS!

What Is Known about Linear A

  • 7a. Chronology

    Hieroglyphic is probably the first script to appear; seals dating from primarily MM I contexts (MM IA or IB) include CMS II.1 nos. 391, 393, and 394 from Archanes Phournoi (the signs on these seals are often referred to as comprising "the Arkhanes script"; Schoep 2002, 23: early form of Linear A?).

    Hieroglyphic documents come from four main deposits in Crete: Malia, Quartier Mu (MM II late); Petras (MM IIB); Malia Palace (MM [IIB-]III); and the Knossos Hieroglyphic Deposit (an assemblage of material from the end of the Long Corridor in the West Wing and surrounding area). Since the sealstones that impressed the KN sealings were all hard stone seals, the impressed sealings at least should date to MM IIB-III. No Hieroglyphic document can be dated later than MM III.

    Linear A documents appear either contemporary with or soon after the first appearance of Hieroglyphic writing. The earliest document may be ARKH Zc 8, a painted larnax rim which the excavators first dated to an EM II-MM IA context (1975) but later called it "Old Palace period" (1997; i.e., MM IB at the earliest). The first sign looks Hieroglyphic, like the bull head #012 ; the other two signs are definitely Linear A: TA-JE. If the inscription is indeed a mix of scripts, it may well be very early.

    The other earliest documents date to MM IIA (KN 40 from Knossos, South House, carrying a badly legible fraction) or MM II (ARKH Zf 9; PH 6-19, 22, 24-28, 30 [Haghia Photini], Wb 33-36, Wc 37-41, 43, 44, 46, 52, 55, Wg 45, and Wy 42; and SAM Wa 1).

    Hieroglyphic was therefore probably invented first, in MM IA and appears first on seals from Archanes and Ayia Triada; Linear A follows immediately in MM IB, or soon after, in MM II, and appears first on documents primarily from Phaistos. From then until MM III, Hieroglyphic and Linear A were being written contemporaneously, with Hieroglyphic documents at Malia Quartier Mu (MM II) and Malia Palace (MM III, and Knossos Palace?) and with Linear A documents at Phaistos (MM II), Malia Palace (MM III), and Knossos Palace (MM IIIB). From this evidence, it is possible that Hieroglyphic originated in central Crete first (or possibly at Malia), in MM IA and Linear A originated at Phaistos slightly later in MM II.

    Although the two scripts share several signs, which may have similar phonetic values, it is not clear why two such different scripts should have developed more or less contemporaneously unless they represent two different administrative practices and/or two different languages or dialects (Schoep 2002, 22-23).

    A few Linear A inscriptions come from Final Palatial contexts. Three occur on objects that probably were made earlier but were found in later contexts: ARM sealstone, KH 94 and Wc 2117 & 2118 (all from fills), and the MM III pithos KN Zb 35 (LM II context). Three others, however, were probably all written after the LM Ib destructions: the LM II pithoid jar KN Zb 40, the inscribed block KN Ze 16 on the Kephala tholos (LM II?), and the painted inscription on PO Zc 1, a terracotta statuette from Poros (LM III A:1-2 by form and context). It is therefore possible that Linear A survived the LM Ib destructions, though barely .

    In the Neopalatial period, and probably as early as LM IA, Linear A was developing in such a way as to produce Cypro-Minoan and, eventually, Linear B. The earliest CM document, the "Grand" tablet from Enkomi comes from a 16th century context. The earliest Linear B documents seem to be those from the Room of the Chariot Tablets at Knossos (LM II or possibly LM III A1). This would be the time T.G. Palaima would identify for the creation of Linear B, when, on the Mainland, major Mycenaean centers had major administrative buildings on their heights, the larger tholoi were being constructed, and trade was expanding. According to Palaima, Linear B was created probably at a single moment, either "from above" (a directive) or "within the close confines of palatially oriented bureaucracies which then sanctioned the invention and continued to apply it to narrow record-keeping tasks" (1988: 341).

    Some Hieroglyphic signs, not Linear A signs, are the prototypes for Linear B signs (e.g., CHIC sign 40 for Linear B ro2 and 78 for Linear B do); it is therefore possible that Linear B was developing earlier than LM/LH II and incorporating more than one source.

    Other linear scripts may have similarly developed from Linear A farther east: see the inscription from Lachish (Finkelberg 1996). 

    *

    Character of the Script and Documents

    7b. The Script

    In comparison to Cretan Hieroglyphic, Linear A is fairly neat, written (almost?) always from left to right (a few examples of sinistroverse or boustrophedon writing: IO Za 9 & 11; KN Za 19; PL Zf 1; VRY Za 1)) in more or less straight rows from top to bottom of the clay document; occasionally the tablets are partially ruled. The signgroups are separated by a dot or short stroke. The longest texts are HT 93a & b, HT 117a & b.

    Linear A contains more than 90 signs in regular use and a host of logograms, many of which are ligatured with syllabograms and/or fractions, and about 80% of these do not appear in Linear B. While many of the regular signs are also found in Linear B, some signs are unique to A (e.g., A *301 and following), while some signs found in Linear B are not found in Linear A (e.g., AB 12, 14-15, 18-19, 25, 32-33, 35-36, 42-43, 48, 52, 62-64, 68, 71-72, 75, 83-85).

    There is probably much Minoan retained in Linear B. Signs AB *22 PA3 and *56 (unknown phonetic value, logogram B *107 CAPrid) were retained in Linear B for representing foreign (Minoan) sounds, and there have been attempts to identify Minoan names in Linear B (Billigmeier 1969, Firth 1993). Some Minoan words are retained in Linear B and even become Hellenized, like Linear A MA+RU becoming Linear B's logogram *145 LANA and Greek μαλλός, mallós.

    It is well-known that Linear A uses three main vowels, A, I, U; Linear B adds e- and o-series, and complex phonemes (e.g., dwo, two).

    The complex phoneme nwa, however, is attested in Linear A on SY Za 4 and may be implied in the word KU-PU3-NA-TU; compare Linear B ku-pa-nu-we-to, a man's name on KN As 1517.8 (thanks to Gretchen Leonhardt for bringing this to my attention).

    Meléna 2014, 115: "The use of graphic glides after /i/ and /u/ when followed by a vowel" (e.g., -ija, -pwa) is probably coming from Linear A (e.g., Linear B se-to-i-ja, many KN tablets, duplicating Linear A SE-TO-I-JA, PR Za 1).

    Compare
    Linear BLinear A
    *76 ra2 /rja/PA-SA-RI-JA (HT 24a.4), KU-PA3-RI-JA (HT 24a.1)
    a-pu-wa (TH Fq 229.3)A-SU-PU-WA (ARKH 2.5-6)
    *86 dwa??DA-WA-[•]-DU-WA-TO (KN Za 10a-b)
    *19 ru2?? /rju/*309a+RI-JU (logogram on TY 2.3, .6)
    *92 sja?? (PY Ma 397[+]1048.1: a-•-ta2 = a-*92-ta2)A-SI-JA-KA (HT 28.1, b.1-2) and common ending -SI-JA-SE

    7c. The Documents

    Linear A was written on a variety of supports, unlike Linear B: stone offering tables, gold and silver hair pins, and pots (inked and inscribed). The clay documents consist of tablets, roundels, and sealings (one-hole, two-hole, and flat-based). Roundels relate to a "conveyance of a commodity, either within the central administration or between the central administration and an external party" (Schoep 2002, 122) with the roundel being the record of this transaction that stays within the central administration as the commodity moves out of the transacting bureau (see Hallager 1996a). Two-hole sealings probably dangled from commodities brought into the center, one-hole sealings apparently dangled from papyrus/parchment documents, and flat-based sealings were pressed against the twine that secured papyrus/parchment documents (see CMS II6-II8 for photographs of the imprints that survive on the underside of flat-based sealings). These papyrus/parchment documents, presumably carrying inked texts, were probably of more importance than the clay tablets and roundels that have survived.

    Most of the clay documents are page-shaped tablets, usually smaller than Linear B tablets; there are a few bars taken over from Hieroglyphic, but this shape is discontinued after MM III. While there are a few oblong tablets (e.g., from Malia), there are no palm-leaf tablets like those of Linear B.

    Those tablets that are written on both sides (opisthographic) are simply turned over (along the vertical axis) from the front (recto) to the back (verso), like a modern book page, unlike the Cypro-Minoan tablets from Enkomi, which turn over along the horizontal axis like a notepad. Schoep 2002, 73, says the opisthographic "Linear A tablets always rotate around their horizontal axis"; this probably just a simple mistake.

    As Linear A was written on a variety of supports, so too we find the documents in a wide variety of settings: private houses at Khania and at Ano Zakros, decentralized bureaux (the Casa del Lebete at Haghia Triada, the Northeast House at Knossos, and Zakros Hogarth's House A), and central administrative areas (the Villa Reale at Haghia Triada and the palaces at Knossos, Malia, and Zakros). Most of the documents come from "living" archives (e.g., Zakros palace, Haghia Triada's Magazines 5-7, HT 24 recording wool and found with loomweights) or "discard" archives (Knossos Temple Repositories and West Magazines, Malia Palace). Often the discard archives are found fallen from an upper storey (e.g., Knossos West Magazines and Zakros Hogarth's House A), and some were stored in chests of wood (e.g., Khania; bronze hinges from Knossos Temple Repositories, Zakros rooms XVI, XXVIII, Tylissos House A room 5) or clay or mudbrick (Zakros House A, Khania house I, Palaikastro Building V) (Schoep 2002, 25-26).

    Almost all tablets are palimpsests (i.e., they have been written on, erased, and written on again). "The presence of palimpsests suggests that the information originally held on the tablet was discarded, perhaps because it had been copied onto another document and/or updated" (Schoep 2002 79).

    Almost all documents consist of lists, with headings, of one or two word entries, each followed by a logogram followed by a number and/or fraction. Once, possibly twice, the logogram is followed by a word and then by a number; this "constantly happens in Linear B" (Hooker 1975). On HT 88.2, the ideogram FIC (for "figs") is followed by the word KI-KI-NA, which may designate a type of fig (black vs. green) or an aspect (fresh vs. dried). On KN Za 19, the ideogram *188 or TALENT is followed by MI-NA, which may be the name of the weight, the "mina" (cf. ZA 21a.7).

    Most words seem to be names (person- , place-) (Hooker 1975); when in doubt as to whether a name is an anthroponymn or toponymn (which is almost always), I tend to write "NAME." A few words may be verbs or transaction words (see below).

    We should imagine the several stages in recording information in the Minoan bureaucracies:
    The types of transactions recorded should be fairly limited:
    • inventories -- of storerooms (food, raw materials, finished products), stables, workshops, lands belonging to the administration, their goods & flocks. "Inventories form the basis of target records" (Schoep 2002, 90-91).
    • assessments -- the central administration telling outlying regions what they should produce; a kind of taxation
    • collections, contributions -- inward movement of goods and contributions to the administration (in response to assessments, taxes, levies), deliveries, sacrifices, etc.; commodities recorded as in-coming from the outlying regions, either actually arrived (KU-RO, total) or in arrears (deficits, KI-RO).
    • allocations, disbursements, distributions -- recording the outward movement of agricultural commodities, goods, animals and raw materials for various purposes (finishing, pay, rations, trade, etc.); commodities given back out to people or places as rations or payments for services rendered. Mixed commodities and combined documents (Schoep's type IB & V) with VIR and "the Aegean triad" (FIC, GRA, VIN) probably record allocations (e.g., HT 100). See PE 1, KH 7, HT 27, HT 39.

    The scribes identified at Haghia Triada did not specialize in recording certain commodities (except perhaps Hand 9 recording people, Schoep 2002, 167 n. 264, 199 n. 110); and it is not possible usually to assign documents to a single series since most documents record a variety of commodities. The texts also differ from site to site; for instance, Haghia Triada and Zakros tablets contain more lexical information but fewer logograms than do the documents from Khania. We must imagine that practices differed from site to site and/or that we have texts from the different stages of processing information.

    Packard 1974 classifies the Haghia Triada documents into 9 categories based on subject matter and format:
    Packard's system is not easily applied to ZA & KH docs, which lack A, B, E, G, and F.

    Schoep 2002 classifies the documents, especially those from Haghia Triada, into 5 main categories (I have included this information with the presentation of the individual documents):
    It is likely that the mixed commodities documents compiles information drawn from individual accounts, the lists of personnel relate to a census or work-force, and the single commodity documents summarize compiled information.

    Many lists are preceded by a short heading of no more than 2 words (3 words on HT 96a, HT 117a), followed by a single sign (e.g., AB 04 TE, AB 28 I, A 307 =? AB 39) -- these are probably transaction indications (e.g., assessments, contributions, disbursements). There may be subheadings to sections of the document (HT 93a.3-4 and 4-5; HT 120.3-4; KH 7a.3; HT 27a.4-5). PH 6 is unusual in that it presents 5 signgroups over 4 lines with NO ideograms or fractions. Longer, non-transaction, prose-like statements are rare; most of these constitute the presumed religious inscriptions, ZA Zb 3 (5 signgroups, 1 logogram), and the hairpins (ARKH Zf 9; CR(?) Zf 1; KN Zf 31; PL Zf 1).

    In the lists, commodities are almost always listed by ideograms, single signs that stand for objects (occasionally the commodity is not mentioned, being implied somehow); logograms are often ligatured with syllabograms and/or fractions to denote aspects of the object.

    Numbers then follow. Most fall into one of several categories: fractions, which may often indicate allocations (commodities leaving the administrative center in small quantities), the number 1 (probably personnel), whole large numbers (e.g., 20, 50, possibly alluding to assessments), and large random numbers (probably referring to contributions, either actual or in deficit).
  • 1. information on individual transactions
    2. compiling these individual transactions, say by region or person
    3. summarizing these individual transactions, say by commodity
    4. making permanent or final records
    5. discarding the preliminary documents

    A series: words followed by 1
    B series: logogram 100/102 VIR & ligatures
    C series: agricultural products
    D series: logogram 120
    E series: *550, 552, 551, *89, *21f
    Fa: HT 16, 20, 24, 38; Fb (HT 31
    G series: logograms in heading: Ga VIN, Gb other logograms
    H series: no logograms
    X series: fragments
    Ia: Mixed Commodities, with heading and transaction sign (TS); these probably compile information from individual accounts
    Ib: Miscellaneous Commodities, list(s) and numbers; these probably compile information from individual accounts
    Ic: Miscellaneous Commodities, list(s) and numbers, and a word ("total," "deficit") and number at the end; these probably compile information from individual accounts

    II: Specialized, one logogram (and variants)

    III: Single Commodity, one logogram for the whole list

    IV: No logograms, always whole numbers, never fractions; therefore probably a list of personnel (such lists may also appear in the previous types of documents)

    Va: Combined commodities, a separate section of 100/102 VIR and word & number; again, always whole numbers, never fractions, and therefore mainly about personnel (and rations?: *303, figs, wine, OLE; e.g., HT 27, 89, 94, 100)
    Vb: Combined word & number and list & number sections


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