- Linear B
Infobox Writing system
Late Bronze Age
unicode= [http://www.unicode.org/charts/PDF/U10000.pdf U+10000–U+1007F] syllabic signs
[http://www.unicode.org/charts/PDF/U10080.pdf U+10080–U+100FF] logograms
Linear B is a script that was used for writing Mycenaean, an early form of Greek. It predated the
Greek alphabetby several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization. Most of the tablets inscribed in Linear B were found in Knossos, Cydonia, [C. Michael Hogan, "Cydonia", "The Modern Antiquarian", January 23, 2008 [http://letmespeaktothedriver.com/site/10881/cydonia.html#fieldnotes] ] Pylos, Thebesand Mycenae. [Linnea Holmer Wren, David J. Wren and Janine M. Carter (1994) "Perspectives on Western Art", Westview Press ISBN 0064301540] The succeeding period, known as the Greek Dark Ages, provides no evidence of the use of writing.
The script appears to be related to
Linear A, an undeciphered earlier script used for writing the Minoan language, and the later Cypriot syllabary, which recorded Greek. Linear B consists of around 87 syllabic signs and a large repertory of semantographic signs. These “signifying” signs stand for objects or commodities, but do not have phonetic value and are never used as word signs in writing a sentence.
The application of Linear B was confined to administrative contexts. In all the thousands of tablets, a relatively small number of different "hands" have been detected: 45 in Pylos (west coast of the
Peloponnese, in southern Greece) and 66 in Knossos( Crete). [cite book|first=J.T.|last=Hooker|title=Linear B: An Introduction|publisher=Bristol Classical Press UK |year=1980|id=ISBN 0906515696] From this fact it could be theorized that the script was used only by some sort of guild of professional scribes who served the central palaces. Once the palaces were destroyed, the script disappeared.
Linear B has roughly 200 signs, divided into syllabic signs with
phoneticvalues and logograms (or ideograms) with semanticvalues. The representations and naming of these signs has been standardized by a series of international colloquia starting with the first in Paris in 1956. After the third meeting in 1961 at the Wingspread conference center in Racine, Wisconsin, a standard proposed primarily by Emmett L. Bennett, Jr., became known as the Wingspread Convention, which was adopted by a new organization, CIPEM, affiliated in 1970 by the fifth colloquium with UNESCO. Colloquia continue: the 13th is scheduled for 2010 in Paris. [cite web|last=Palaima|first=T.G.|coauthors=Josē L. Melena|title=A Brief History of CIPEM| work|publisher=Comitē International Permanent des Ētudes Mycéniennes|url=http://www.linearb.org/pub/home/?doc=157.87|format=html|accessdate=2008-03-28]
Many of the signs are identical or similar to
Linear Asigns; however, Linear A, which encoded the unknown Minoan language, remains undeciphered and we cannot be sure that similar signs had similar values.
The tablets are classified by the location of their excavation.
*TH Thebes: 99 tablets + 238 published in 2002 (L. Godart and A. Sacconi, 2002; see under
*another 170 inscriptions in Linear B were found on vessels.
The publication of the
If it is genuine, the
The main archives for Linear B are associated with these stages of Late Minoan and Helladic pottery: [This table is heavily indebted to cite web|first=Cynthia|last=Shelmerdine|title=Where Do We Go From Here? And How Can the Linear B Tablets Help Us Get There?|url=http://www2.ulg.ac.be/archgrec/IMG/aegeum/aegaeum18(pdf)/34%20Shelmerdine.pdf|accessdate=2008-03-27|format=PDF]
LM II (1425-1390 BC):
* Knossos, Room of the Chariot Tablets.
LM IIIA2 (1370-1340 BC) or IIIB (1340-1190 BC):
* Knossos, main archive.
* Chania, tablet Sq 1, 6659, KH 3 (possibly Linear B).
LH/LM IIIB1 end: [LM III is equivalent to LH III from a chronological perspective.]
* Chania, tablets Ar 3, Gq 5, X 6.
* Mycenae, tablets from Oil Merchant group of houses.
* Thebes, Ug tablets and Wu sealings.LH IIIB2, end:
* Mycenae, tablets from the Citadel.
* Tiryns, all tablets.
* Thebes, Of tablets and new Pelopidou Street deposit.
* Pylos, all but five tablets.
This view stood until
The examination uncovered a number of difficulties. The Knossos tablets had been found at various locations in the palace and Evans had not kept exact records. Recourse was had to the day books of Evans' assistant, Duncan MacKenzie, who had conducted the day-to-day excavations. There were discrepancies between the notes in the day books and Evans' excavation reports. Worse, the two men had quarreled over the location and strata of the tablets, MacKenzie had called Evans a liar, and Evans had not only sacked him but made sure he did not excavate anywhere else.
The results of the reinvestigation were eventually published in a definitive work: cite book|first=L.R.|last=Palmer|coauthors=John Boardman|title=On the Knossos Tablets|city=Oxford|year=1963|publisher=Clarendon Press It consists of two works, Leonard Palmer's "The Find-Places of the Knossos Tablets" and John Boardman's "The Date of the Knossos Tablets." In this book Palmer plays the role, so to speak, of prosecuting attorney and Boardman of defending attorney; consequently, the dispute was known for a time as "the Palmer-Boardman dispute".
Like questions concerning the veracity of
The real issue is whether sufficient reason exists to question Evans, since there is as much evidence for 1400 as there is for 1200. Without a solid reason to doubt Evans, the community of classical scholars tends to support a date of 1400 by default; that is, LM IIIA:2. As for LH IIIB, it likely begins in the 1310s or 1300s BC, after
The colours of the scholars can be identified by the dates they give for the tablets. This article utilizes an outline developed by Cynthia Shelmerdine, who is in the Boardman camp. While stating two possibilities for the main archive of Knossian tablets, she accepts a 1400 date for the Room of the Chariot Tablets. There still might have been two conflagrations and tablet firings, one in 1200 and one in 1400. As an example of a scholar who is in the Palmer camp, see cite web|first=Jeremy B.|last=Rutter|year=2000|title=Lesson 25: The Linear B Tablets and Mycenaean Social, Political, and Economic Organization
work=Prehistoric Archaeology of the Aegean|url=http://projectsx.dartmouth.edu/classics/history/bronze_age/lessons/les/25.html#2|accessdate=2008-03-28 Rutter relies on a similarity of scribal hand between one of the Chania tablets and the Knossos tablets and dates all the tablets from 1350-1300 to 1200 BC.
Nearly every scholar presents their view as the generally accepted view or the one most proved by recent evidence. Regardless of how they may present their perceptions, the issue is very much open and the search for evidence continues.
The major cities and palaces used Linear B for records of disbursements of goods. Wool, sheep, and grain were some common items, often given to groups of religious people and also to groups of "men watching the coastline."
The tablets were kept in groups in baskets on shelves, judging by impressions left in the clay from the weaving of the baskets. When the buildings in which they were housed were destroyed by fires, many of the tablets were then fired.
The convention for numbering the symbols still in use today was first devised by
About the same time,
Using the knowledge that certain characters shared the same beginning or ending sounds, Kober built a table similar to the one above; her untimely death at age 43 in 1950 prevented her from possibly taking the final step or see others do it, namely to link the characters to actual phonetics.
Based on Kober's work, and after making some inspired assumptions, Ventris was able to deduce the pronunciation of the syllables. To the amazement of Ventris himself, the deciphering of Linear B proved that it was a written form of Greek, in direct contradiction to the general scientific views of the times. Chadwick, an expert in historical Greek, helped Ventris decipher the text and rebuild the vocabulary and grammar of Mycenaean Greek.
Ventris' discovery was of immense significance, because it demonstrated a Greek-speaking Minoan-Mycenaean culture on Crete, and presented Greek in writing some 600 years earlier than what was thought at the time.
Linear B is assigned
* has the
* Chapter 6, Linear B, pp 108-119: discusses Arthur Evans, his work, the Cypriot clues, the "syllabary," Alice Kober, the "Grid", and a sample tablet "transliterated, and translated into English."
* for a general outline of the Linear B deciphering story, from Schliemman to Chadwick.
*Greek-Language.com: [http://greek-language.com/historyofgreek/linear_b.html The Linear B Syllabary]
*Dartmouth: [http://projectsx.dartmouth.edu/classics/history/bronze_age/index.html The Prehistoric Archaeology of the Aegean] , [http://projectsx.dartmouth.edu/history/bronze_age/lessons/les/25.html The Linear B Tablets and Mycenaean Organization]
*UT-Austin: [http://www.utexas.edu/research/pasp/ Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory (PASP)]
* [http://www.ancientscripts.com/linearb.html AncientScripts.com: Linear B]
* [http://www.omniglot.com/writing/linearb.htm Linear B at Omniglot]
* [http://www.wazu.jp/gallery/Fonts_LinearBSyllabary.html Unicode Linear B Syllabary TrueType fonts] (some also include ideograms)
* [http://www.mockfont.com/old/ Free, but incomplete, non-unicode Linear B TrueType font among other ancient fonts.]
* [http://www.explorecrete.com/archaeology/linearB.pdf Markos Gavalas, MYCENAEAN (Linear B) - ENGLISH Dictionary] (explorecrete.com)
* [http://www.teicrete.gr/daidalika/ DAIDALIKA - Scripts and Languages of Minoan and Mycenaean Crete]
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