|MM IB to LM IIIA 1800–1450 BC|
|Linear B, Cypro-Minoan syllabary|
| "U+10600–U+1077F" (PDF).|
"Final Accepted Script Proposal" (PDF).
Linear A is a writing system used by the Minoans (Cretans) from 1800 to 1450 BC to write the hypothesized Minoan language. Linear A was the primary script used in palace and religious writings of the Minoan civilization. It was discovered by archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans. It was succeeded by Linear B, which was used by the Mycenaeans to write an early form of Greek. No texts in Linear A have been deciphered.
Linear A belongs to a group of scripts that evolved independently of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian systems. During the second millennium BC, there were four major branches: Linear A, Linear B, Cypro-Minoan, and Cretan hieroglyphic. In the 1950s, Linear B was deciphered as Mycenaean Greek. Linear B shares many symbols with Linear A, and they may notate similar syllabic values. But neither those nor any other proposed readings lead to a language that scholars can read.
Most hypotheses about the Linear A script and Minoan language start with Linear B.
Linear A has hundreds of signs, believed to represent syllabic, ideographic, and semantic values in a manner similar to Linear B. While many of those assumed to be syllabic signs are similar to ones in Linear B, approximately 80% of Linear A's logograms are unique;the difference in sound values between Linear A and Linear B signs ranges from 9% to 13%. It primarily appears in the left-to-right direction, but occasionally appears as a right-to-left or boustrophedon script.
Linear A may be divided into four categories:
Numbers follow a decimal system, units are represented by vertical dashes, tens by horizontal dashes, hundreds by circles, and thousands by circles with rays. Specific signs that coincide with numerals are regarded as fractions.
An interesting feature is the recording of numbers in the script: The highest number recorded in known Linear A texts is 3000, but there are special symbols to indicate fractions and weights.
Linear A has been unearthed chiefly on Crete, but also at other sites in Greece, as well as Turkey and Israel. The extant corpus, comprising some 1,427 specimens totalling 7,362 to 7,396 signs, if scaled to standard type, would fit easily on two sheets of paper. Linear A has been written on various media, such as stone offering tables, gold and silver hairpins, and ceramics. The earliest inscriptions of Linear A come from Phaistos, in a layer dated at the end of the Middle Minoan II period: that is, no later than c. 1700 BC. Linear A texts have been found throughout the island of Crete and also on some Aegean islands (Kythera, Kea, Thera, Melos), in mainland Greece (Ayos Stephanos), on the west coast of Asia Minor (Miletos, Troy), and in the Levant (Tel Haror).
The main discoveries of Linear A tablets have been at three sites on Crete:
Discoveries have been made at the following locations on Crete:
Until 1973, only one Linear A tablet had been found outside Crete (on Kea). Since then, other locations have yielded inscriptions.
Most—if not all—inscriptions found outside Crete appear to have been made locally, as indicated by the composition of the substrate and other indications. A and Linear B, combining elements from both.Also, close analysis of the inscriptions found outside Crete indicates the use of a script that is somewhere between Linear
Linear A became prominent during the Middle Minoan Period, specifically from 1625–1450 BC. It was contemporary with and possibly derived from Cretan hieroglyphs, and is an ancestor of Linear B. The sequence and the geographical spread of Cretan hieroglyphs, Linear A, and Linear B, the three overlapping but distinct writing systems on Bronze Age Crete and the Greek mainland, can be summarized as follows:
|Writing system||Geographical area||Time span|
|Cretan Hieroglyphic||Crete||c. 2100 – 1700 BC|
|Linear A||Crete, Aegean islands (Kea, Kythera, Melos, Thera), and Greek mainland (Laconia)||c. 1800 – 1450 BC|
|Linear B||Crete (Knossos), and mainland (Pylos, Mycenae, Thebes, Tiryns)||c. 1450 – 1200 BC|
Archaeologist Arthur Evans named the script "Linear" because its characters consisted simply of lines inscribed in clay, in contrast to the more pictographic characters in Cretan hieroglyphs that were used during the same period.
Several tablets inscribed in signs similar to Linear A were found in the Troad in northwestern Anatolia. While their status is disputed, they may be imports, as there is no evidence of Minoan presence in the Troad. Classification of these signs as a unique Trojan script (proposed by contemporary Russian linguist Nikolai Kazansky) is not accepted by other linguists.
Egyptian evidence related to the Keftiu (Cretan/Crete) language consists of a spell against Asian chickenpox and a writing name exercise called Keftiu. The spell, probably originated from the reign of Amenhotep III (1390–1352 BC), evolves as follows: sntÈk|pwpyw| yÈymªntÈÈrk|k|r, or, in the vocal transliteration adopted by Wolfgang Helck: santaka pupiwa ya’ayamantarakú ka ra.
Egyptian writing of Keftiu (Cretan/Crete) names such as mÈd|d|m, or mi-da is evidence for the language of the Keftiu, essentially indicating that it contains Semitic vocabulary. (see below).
In 1945, E. Pugliese Carratelli first introduced the classification of Linear A and Linear B parallels. However, in 1961 W.C. Brice modified the Carratelli system that was based on a wider range of Linear A sources, but Brice did not suggest Linear B equivalents to the Linear A signs. Louis Godart and Jean-Pierre Olivier introduced in the 1985 Recueil des inscriptions en linéaire A (GORILA), based on E.L Bennett's standard numeration of the signs of Linear B, introduced a joint numeration of the Linear A and B signs. The Egyptian exercise in writing the names of Keftiu even informs us of another Minoan ethnic identity in the form of mÈd|d|m whose first element cannot be associated with the name Midas, since it was already labeled by a linearly inscribed Hagia Triada (or HT 41.4) dating to c. 1350 BC. This Egyptian evidence of the Keftiu language essentially indicates that words in its vocabulary are Semitic, but in the language predominantly of the Luwians. One might conclude from this that a Semitic language was used in Minoan Crete as a lingua franca for a largely Luwian population.[ citation needed ]
The majority of signs in the Linear A script appear to have graphical equivalents in the Linear B syllabary. Comparison of the Hagia Triada tablets HT 95 and HT 86 shows that they contain identical lists of words and some kind of phonetic alteration. Scholars that approached Linear A with the phonetic values of Linear B produced a series of identical words. The Linear B–Linear A parallels: ku-ku-da-ra, pa-i-to, ku-mi-na, di-de-ro →di-de-ru, qa-qa-ro→qa-qa-ru, a-ra-na-ro→a-ra-na-re.
It is difficult to evaluate a given analysis of Linear A as there is little point of reference for reading its inscriptions. The simplest approach to decipherment may be to presume that the values of Linear A match more or less the values given to the deciphered Linear B script, used for Mycenaean Greek.
In 1957, Bulgarian scholar Vladimir I. Georgiev published his Le déchiffrement des inscriptions crétoises en linéaire A ("The decipherment of Cretan inscriptions in Linear A") stating that Linear A contains Greek linguistic elements. Georgiev then published another work in 1963, titled Les deux langues des inscriptions crétoises en linéaire A ("The two languages of Cretan inscriptions in Linear A"), suggesting that the language of the Hagia Triada tablets was Greek but that the rest of the Linear A corpus was in Hittite-Luwian. In December 1963, Gregory Nagy of Harvard University developed a list of Linear A and Linear B terms based on the assumption "that signs of identical or similar shape in the two scripts will represent similar or identical phonetic values"; Nagy concluded that the language of Linear A bears "Greek-like" and Indo-European elements. Michael Ventris' decipherment of Linear B in 1952 suggests an old form of Greek: it is derived from Linear A. Therefore, we can assume that the signs related to the Linear A express the same value as the Linear B. In all Linear B values for related words give a large number of identical forms or identical root forms, but alternate with the final vowel, or almost identical forms among linear texts, mainly those of Hagia Triada.
Extracting conclusions or arguments from a simple morphology can hardly be considered methodologically satisfactory. Yves Duhoux in the "Linear A as Greek" discussion at AEGEANET in March 1998:
I would like to remind you of some basic facts related to the Greekness of Linear A's language: (1) The word for "total" is different in Linear A and in Linear B: LB to - so(- de); LA > B ku-ro. (2) The Linear B language is significantly less "prefixing" than Linear A. (3) Votive Linear A texts, where we are pretty sure to have variant forms of the same "word", show morphological (I mean: grammatical) features totally different from Linear B. The conclusion must be that even if one can find some casual resemblances between words in both languages (remember this MUST statistically happen: e.g. English and Persian use the same word "bad" to express the meaning of BAD, although it is proven that both words have no genetic relation at all), they are probably structurally different.
Since the late 1950s, some scholars have suggested that the Linear A language could be an Anatolian language.
Palmer (1958) put forward a theory, based on Linear B phonetic values, suggesting that Linear A language could be related closely to Luwian. The theory, however, failed to gain universal support for the following reasons:[ according to whom? ]
There are recent works focused on the Luwian connection, not in terms of the Minoan language being Anatolian, but rather in terms of possible borrowings from Luwian, including the origin of the writing system itself.
In an article from 2001, Margalit Finkelberg, Professor of Classics emerita at Tel Aviv University, demonstrated a "high degree of correspondence between the phonological and morphological system of Minoan and that of Lycian" and proposed that "the language of Linear A is either the direct ancestor of Lycian or a closely related idiom."
Cyrus H. Gordon first proposed in 1966–1969 that the texts contained Semitic vocabulary that was based on the lexical items such as kull -. meaning 'all' (Akkadian kalu, kullatu, Hebrew kol). A like Semitic copula u-. However, Gordon's copula u- is based on an incomplete word, and even if some of Gordon's identifications were true, a complete case for a Semitic language has not yet been built.Gordon uses morphological evidence to suggest that u- serves as a prefix in Linear
In 2001, the journal Ugarit-Forschungen published the article "The First Inscription in Punic – Vowel Differences in Linear A and B" by Jan Best, claiming to demonstrate how and why Linear A notates an archaic form of Phoenician. This was a continuation of attempts by Cyrus Gordon in finding connections between Minoan and West Semitic languages.
Another recent interpretation, based on the frequencies of the syllabic signs and on complete palaeographic comparative studies, suggests that the Minoan Linear A language belongs to the Indo-Iranian family of Indo-European languages. Studies by Hubert La Marle include a presentation of the morphology of the language, avoid the complete identification of phonetic values between Linear A and B, and also avoid comparing Linear A with Cretan hieroglyphs. La Marle uses the frequency counts to identify the type of syllables written in Linear A, and takes into account the problem of loanwords in the vocabulary.
However, La Marle's interpretation of Linear A has been subject to some criticism; it was rejected by John Younger of the University of Kansas who showed that La Marle had invented at will erroneous and arbitrary new transcriptions, based on resemblances with many different script systems (as Phoenician, Hieroglyphic Egyptian, Hieroglyphic Hittite, Ethiopian, Cypro-Minoan, etc.), ignoring established evidence and internal analysis, while for some words La Marle proposes religious meanings inventing names of gods and rites. La Marle made a rebuttal in "An answer to John G. Younger's remarks on Linear A" in 2010.
Italian scholar Giulio M. Facchetti attempted to link Linear A to the Tyrrhenian language family comprising Etruscan, Rhaetic, and Lemnian. This family is reasoned to be a pre-Indo-European Mediterranean substratum of the 2nd millennium BC, sometimes referred to as Pre-Greek. Facchetti proposed some possible similarities between the Etruscan language and ancient Lemnian, and other Aegean languages like Minoan.
Michael Ventris who (with John Chadwick) successfully deciphered Linear B also believed in a link between Minoan and Etruscan.The same perspective is supported by S. Yatsemirsky in Russia.
According to Gareth Alun Owens, Linear A represents the Minoan language, which Owens classifies as a distinct branch of Indo-European potentially related to Greek, Sanskrit, Hittite, Latin, etc.At "The Cretan Literature Centre", Owens stated:
Beginning our research with inscriptions in Linear A carved on offering tables found in the many peak sanctuaries on the mountains of Crete, we recognise a clear relationship between Linear A and Sanskrit, the ancient language of India. There is also a connection to Hittite and Armenian. This relationship allows us to place the Minoan language among the so-called Indo-European languages, a vast family that includes modern Greek and the Latin of Ancient Rome. The Minoan and Greek languages are considered to be different branches of Indo-European. The Minoans probably moved from Anatolia to the island of Crete about 10,000 years ago. There were similar population movements to Greece. The relative isolation of the population which settled in Crete resulted in the development of its own language, Minoan, which is considered different to Mycenaean. In the Minoan language (Linear A), there are no purely Greek words, as is the case in Mycenaean Linear B; it contains only words also found in Greek, Sanskrit, and Latin, i.e. sharing the same Indo-European origin.
Some researchers suggest that a few words or word elements may be recognized, without (yet) enabling any conclusion about relationship with other languages. In general, they use analogy with Linear B in order to propose phonetic values of the syllabic sounds. John Younger, in particular, thinks that place names usually appear in certain positions in the texts, and notes that the proposed phonetic values often correspond to known place names as given in Linear B texts (and sometimes to modern Greek names). For example, he proposes that three syllables, read as KE-NI-SO, might be the indigenous form of Knossos. Likewise, in Linear A, MA+RU is suggested to mean wool, and to correspond both to a Linear B pictogram with this meaning, and to the classical Greek word μαλλός with the same meaning (in that case a loan word from Minoan).
The Linear A alphabet (U+10600–U+1077F) was added to the Unicode Standard in June 2014 with the release of version 7.0.
| Linear A   |
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, the earliest attested form of Greek. The script predates the Greek alphabet by several centuries. The oldest Mycenaean writing dates to about 1450 BC. It is descended from the older Linear A, an undeciphered earlier script used for writing the Minoan language, as is the later Cypriot syllabary, which also recorded Greek. Linear B, found mainly in the palace archives at Knossos, Cydonia, Pylos, Thebes and Mycenae, disappeared with the fall of Mycenaean civilization during the Late Bronze Age collapse. The succeeding period, known as the Greek Dark Ages, provides no evidence of the use of writing. It is also the only one of the Bronze Age Aegean scripts to have been deciphered, by English architect and self-taught linguist Michael Ventris.
Michael George Francis Ventris, was an English architect, classicist and philologist who deciphered Linear B, the ancient Mycenaean Greek script. A student of languages, Ventris had pursued the decipherment as a personal vocation since his adolescence. After creating a new field of study, Ventris died in a car crash a few weeks before the publication, with John Chadwick, of Documents in Mycenaean Greek.
In Greek mythology, Minos was the first King of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa. Every nine years, he made King Aegeus pick seven young boys and seven young girls to be sent to Daedalus's creation, the labyrinth, to be eaten by the Minotaur. After his death, Minos became a judge of the dead in the underworld.
The Phoenician alphabet is an alphabet consisting of 22 consonant letters only, leaving vowel sounds implicit, although certain late varieties use matres lectionis for some vowels.
The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age Aegean civilization on the island of Crete and other Aegean Islands, flourishing from c. 3000 BC to c. 1450 BC until a late period of decline, finally ending around 1100 BC. It represents the first advanced civilization in Europe, leaving behind massive building complexes, tools, artwork, writing systems, and a massive network of trade. The civilization was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans. The name "Minoan" derives from the mythical King Minos and was coined by Evans, who identified the site at Knossos with the labyrinth and the Minotaur. The Minoan civilization has been described as the earliest of its kind in Europe, and historian Will Durant called the Minoans "the first link in the European chain".
Knossos is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and has been called Europe's oldest city.
The Anatolian languages are an extinct branch of Indo-European languages that were spoken in Asia Minor, the best attested of them being the Hittite language. Undiscovered until the late 19th and 20th centuries, they are considered the earliest group of languages to branch off from the Indo-European family. Once discovered, the presence of laryngeal consonants ḫ and ḫḫ in Hittite and Luwian provided support for the laryngeal theory of Proto-Indo-European linguistics. While Hittite attestation ends after the Bronze Age, hieroglyphic Luwian survived until the conquest of the Neo-Hittite kingdoms by Assyria, and the alphabetic Anatolian languages are fragmentarily attested until the early first millennium AD, eventually succumbing to the Hellenization of Asia Minor.
The Phaistos Disc is a disk of fired clay from the Minoan palace of Phaistos on the island of Crete, possibly dating to the middle or late Minoan Bronze Age. The disk is about 15 cm (5.9 in) in diameter and covered on both sides with a spiral of stamped symbols. Its purpose and its original place of manufacture remain disputed. It is now on display at the archaeological museum of Heraklion.
Mycenaean Greek is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language, on the Greek mainland, Crete and Cyprus in Mycenaean Greece, before the hypothesised Dorian invasion, often cited as the terminus ad quem for the introduction of the Greek language to Greece. The language is preserved in inscriptions in Linear B, a script first attested on Crete before the 14th century. Most inscriptions are on clay tablets found in Knossos, in central Crete, as well as in Pylos, in the southwest of the Peloponnese. Other tablets have been found at Mycenae itself, Tiryns and Thebes and at Chania, in Western Crete. The language is named after Mycenae, one of the major centres of Mycenaean Greece.
The Cypriot or Cypriote syllabary is a syllabic script used in Iron Age Cyprus, from about the 11th to the 4th centuries BCE, when it was replaced by the Greek alphabet. A pioneer of that change was King Evagoras of Salamis. It is descended from the Cypro-Minoan syllabary, in turn, a variant or derivative of Linear A. Most texts using the script are in the Arcadocypriot dialect of Greek, but also one bilingual inscription was found in Amathus.
Eteocretan is the pre-Greek language attested in a few alphabetic inscriptions of ancient Crete.
The Minoan language is the language of the ancient Minoan civilization of Crete written in the Cretan hieroglyphs and later in the Linear A syllabary. As the Cretan hieroglyphs are undeciphered and Linear A only partly deciphered, the Minoan language is unknown and unclassified: indeed, with the existing evidence, it is impossible to be certain that the two scripts record the same language, or even that a single language is recorded in each.
Anatolian hieroglyphs are an indigenous logographic script native to central Anatolia, consisting of some 500 signs. They were once commonly known as Hittite hieroglyphs, but the language they encode proved to be Luwian, not Hittite, and the term Luwian hieroglyphs is used in English publications. They are typologically similar to Egyptian hieroglyphs, but do not derive graphically from that script, and they are not known to have played the sacred role of hieroglyphs in Egypt. There is no demonstrable connection to Hittite cuneiform.
Cretan hieroglyphs are a hieroglyphic writing system used in early Bronze Age Crete, during the Minoan era. They predate Linear A by about a century, but the two writing systems continued to be used in parallel for most of their history. As of 2020, they are undeciphered.
The Byblos script, also known as the Byblos syllabary, Pseudo-hieroglyphic script, Proto-Byblian, Proto-Byblic, or Byblic, is an undeciphered writing system, known from ten inscriptions found in Byblos, a coastal city in Lebanon. The inscriptions are engraved on bronze plates and spatulas, and carved in stone. They were excavated by Maurice Dunand, from 1928 to 1932, and published in 1945 in his monograph Byblia Grammata. The inscriptions are conventionally dated to the second millennium BC, probably between the 18th and 15th centuries BC.
Many people have claimed to have deciphered the Phaistos Disc.
The Cypro-Minoan syllabary (CM) is an undeciphered syllabary used on the island of Cyprus during the late Bronze Age. The term "Cypro-Minoan" was coined by Arthur Evans in 1909 based on its visual similarity to Linear A on Minoan Crete, from which CM is thought to be derived. Approximately 250 objects—such as clay balls, cylinders, and tablets and votive stands—which bear Cypro-Minoan inscriptions, have been found. Discoveries have been made at various sites around Cyprus, as well as in the ancient city of Ugarit on the Syrian coast.
Gareth Alun Owens is a British-Greek academic, currently serving as Associate Director and «Erasmus/Socrates» Manager/Tutor of the International Relations Office of the Hellenic Mediterranean University and as Associate Professor of Hellenic Culture -- History, Language and Civilization. He is notable for his contributions to Linear B studies and for his attempts to coordinate the efforts of academics to decipher Linear A.
The Pre-Greek substrate consists of the unknown language(s) spoken in prehistoric Greece before the coming of the Proto-Greek language in the area during the Bronze Age. It is possible that Greek acquired some thousand words and proper names from such a language(s), because some of its vocabulary cannot be satisfactorily explained as deriving from Proto-Greek and a Proto-Indo-European reconstruction is almost impossible for such terms.
Jan Gijsbert Pieter Best is a Dutch pre- and protohistorian, comparative linguist, archaeologist, and author. For about 30 years, he was Professor at the University of Amsterdam, where he taught ancient history, and Mediterranean prehistory and protohistory.
If there are 4,002 characters (font Times, pitch 12, no spaces) on an 8½ × 11 inch sheet of paper with 1 inch margins, all extant Linear A would take up 1.84 pages. ... (14.34 pages for Linear B).
Its location on the Laconian coast, easily accessible from Kythera, undoubtedly encouraged early contacts with Crete whether directly or indirectly (see the Linear A sign catalogued in chapter 11).
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