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Minoan Names

Another entry on the work Richard Vallance has been doing on the decipherment of Linear A.  One of the most fascinating aspects of the research has been the various eponyms, or personal names, that have turned up.  With these names come questions:

  1. Are the names male or female?  With some, I think we can say that they're definitely male.  Dumirewe the shepherd, for example.  With many others, however, it's unclear, because we don't know how the Minoan names differentiated between men and women.  Is "Turunuseme" a man or a woman?  What about "Adunitana?"

  2. How do we normalize these names?  Linear B is an early form of Greek, so it's much easier to normalize, or get the spoken/regular form of the name, because Greek is still a living language.  E-ke-ro, for example, becomes "Hector."  A-pi-er-a becomes "Amphiera," a woman's name. What do we do about the names we find on Linear A tablets.  Was "Siramaritai" (which I suspect is a woman's name) pronounced just so, or might it have been pronounced "Sirmarta," or "Siramarti?"  (Personally, I think "Siramaritai" is pretty just as it is."

Hopefully one of my readers who has more insight into Linear A and B can speak further as to this question.

Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae

It's taken me this long to talk about Richard Vallance's Linear A and B linguistics blog because it's not only dense with the kind of material that makes aficionados of ancient languages go weak at the knees, but also a bit intimidating for the average layperson. I remember taking a semester of linguistic theory for my Master's, and even my eyes glaze over at the talk of supersyllagrams and ideograms. If you're thinking Michael Ventris as I mention all this, you're on the right track. Richard's blog even has material relating to the late pioneer in the decipherment of Linear B.

Linguistic technobabble aside, there are some fascinating things to learn about Linear A and B from Richard's blog. Prior to this, I did not know that Linear A tablets differ in appearance from Linear B tablets; Linear A tablets are a bit taller than long, shaped more like Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets than Linear B tablets, which are more rectangular and cigar-shaped. Richard also has some beautiful photographs of parts of the various phases of the Knossos palace that you don't often see; he chose to photograph more of drainage gutters and different kinds of masonry than decorated rooms.

Richard's recently done some work in attempting to decipher Linear A based on, I believe, the similarities between certain Linear A and B signs.  I say I believe because I'm not knowledgeable enough about ancient languages or decipherment to fully understand how he gets from point A to point B, but Richard is the kind of guy who thoroughly documents his process and rationale, he's affiliated with a number of respectable academic institutions and individuals, and his work does look promising.  Minoan Linear A seems to be more of the same kind of inventorying that we see in Mycenaean Linear B.  If you're into linguistic geekery, check out his work:

Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae

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