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Linear B and Related Scripts

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Artifacts basically refer to objects that are made and shaped by man, particularly those that have a relation with archeology. They are mostly found in the form of weapons, tools, and ornaments which bear historical interest. Linear A and Linear B are some of the old artifacts writing discovered in Greek and Crete. Linear B is an ancient script commonly used in the ancient Mycenean culture, this ancient writing were inscribed on a clay tablets and can be traced back to the years of 1350 BC also known as the Neopalatial Period or the Bronze age. This paper attempts to analyze Linear B’s relation with other artifacts like Rosseta stone, its comparison with Linear A and then gives some details regarding Sir Walker Evans, Ventris and Chadwell who were some of the major founders of this ancient writings.

This ancient writing was first deciphered by Michael Ventris, an amateur philologist, jointly with John Chadwick another Philologist among other archeology scholars.

 Though Linear B was discovered on the Greece mainland, the writing system was designed for a language other than Greek. There are several constant clusters that miss from Linear B, These constants are such as the distinction of g and k, r and l, as well as p and b which are present in Greek. These raises issues of the possibility of the Mycenaean writer picking a Linear B script that existed already.

A good example of Linear B artifact is the Rosetta stone. It was discovered in Egypt near the town of Rosetta in 1799 by Captain Pierre-Francois Bouchard. He noticed that the stone had some linguistic clue when he found it while working on Napoleon’s fortresses for his invading army. This stone is basically a carved slab of black basalt that contains some writing that is organized in three alphabets. It was only but a portion of a larger stone since its three texts are incomplete. Among the 32 lines craved on it, 14 were damaged leaving only the last 14 lines to be seen clearly. An analysis of the discovered portion suggests that the Rosetta stone is approximately 59 inches in height. This stone is thus an original steel, that is a stone or a wooden slab that is generally wide and height in nature.

The priests who gathered at the Memphis were responsible for the issuing of the stone during the period of the dynasty of Ptolemaic. Its carvings date back up to 196 BC, when Ptolemy V was the Pharaoh at that time. This stele is a clear indication that the resident priesthood were issued with a tax exemption. The actual origin of this stele is unknown although there are possibilities that its origin is the royal town of Sais. The Rosetta stone is thought to have been re-used in the construction as quarries.

The Mycenean culture is well known to have used Linear B which was in form of a script, used for the first time around 1350BC and basically inscribed on clay tablets in Knossos, the Mycenaean site.  Michael Ventris, the philologist deciphered Linear B with the assistance of John Chadwick a fellow professional philologist and Alice Kober who was a scholar and described it as a form used in ancient Greek. 

It was Arthur Evans in 1900 who found the two ancient scripts Linear A and Linear B on some clay tablets. Comparing Linear A and Linear B, Linear A was a bit order than Linear B, dating back to the years 1550-1700 BC, whereas Linear B was around 1200-1500 BC. Even though Linear B was deciphered by John Chadwick and Michael Ventris back in the year 1950s. So far, scholar’s attempts to decode Linear B have been blocked totally.

Many scholars believe that Linear B was adapted from an earlier script probably Linear A. Attempts to decipherer Linear A have began though not entirely on the premise that ancient writing Linear A was used in writing of an old archaic Greek. Unlike Linear B, Linear A has not been linked with any language family.

Linear A is largely unknown and this has in turn forced scholars to develop a functional comparison of Linear A and Linear B. With over 90 symbols, Linear A has a handful of logograms similar with Linear B.  Linear B and Linear A share a lot of large number signs, almost 80%, that’s why most interpretation of Linear A have been done using values from Linear B somehow to a reasonable success. From research done on the two ancient language, it has been observed that Linear A could probably did not represent any Greek language unlike Linear B. Linear A language is not similar to any world known language.

Among the major similarity between Linear A and Linear B is based on the fact that both inscriptions give an accounting list of commodities.  Using Linear B one can far best understand Linear A. Here is a good example of an accounting list of goods from “Hagia Triada”.

Looking at the above image, the text begins with some form of an introductory sign sequence, (in Linear B, the text is readable as ka-u-de-ta), the introductory sequence is then followed by a logogram for the commodity “wine” , from there the sequence is followed by a group of signs and then numbers. The logogram illustrates the table records. Every group is likely to illustrate the name of an individual and then the quantity of wine allocated to the person, regardless of whether receiving or giving. The main significant difference between Linear B and Linear A is the fact that Linear A was mostly used for personal objects regarding religious dedications in the Greek votive inscriptions. Below is a stone ladle found Troullos and offers one the best examples of Linear A.

To read this text one would need to apply Linear B. The sequence used is highly interesting since it appears in other votive inscriptions of other different variants.

Apparently Liner B kept its secrets for a very long time from those working on its solution. Its decipherment never aligned with the publication of Sir Arthur Evans on Linear B. These tablets were discovered by Blegen in Pylos. The tablets were attributed to the final stage of Mycenaean Age, which related to the Heroic Age of Troy although it ended abruptly. 

Despite the discovery of Linear B tablets in Greece’s mainland, the language that they were written in was never thought to be Greek. The main reason behind this doubt is due to the fact the Ionian age was separated by five hundred years from the Mycenaean Age. Another underlying fact behind this reasoning is that it was not until the eight century that the Greek writing first appeared. Consequently, the philologist’s efforts to read the tablets turned out unfruitful, and all the hints that were associated to the results were apparently negative. The eight century marked the end of the Mycenaean culture and later the rise of the Ionic times although no centuries intervened. This thus shows that there is a close link between the Mycenaean heritage and the Ionic culture. With this regard, Linear B script proves not to Greek.

The earliest form of Greek was the Mycenaean Greek and used the syllabic script of Linear B for writing. Linear B came earlier than the Greek alphabet by several centuries and consequently ceased to exist with the fall of Mycenaean civilization. The major areas where Liner B inscribed clay tablets were found are Thebes, Cydonia, Knossos, Pylos as well as Mycenae. It is rather unfortunate that the Greek Dark Ages succeeds this period and apparently does not give any evidence related to writing.

Linear B was never used unless it was an administrative context. Basically only a small number of unlike ‘’hands’’ were perceived among the thousand clay tablets. Among these, Pylos was found to have 45, and Knossos 66. This brought up the thought that only the professional scribes who apparently served in the central palaces were given the privilege of using the script, and unfortunately the script disappeared when the palaces were destroyed.

There are approximately 200 signs associated with Linear B and are divided into syllabic signs which contain phonetic values as well ideograms which consists of semantic values. These signs have been represented and the standardization of their naming has been made possible through the international colloquia, the very first being in Paris in 1956. The Wingspread Convention proposed by Emmett L. Bennett,Jr. was adopted by a new organization and affiliated in 1970 by the fifth colloquia.

There are also a large number of ideograms used by Linear B and express both the type of object concerned as well as a unit of measure. These ideograms appear at the end of a line just before a number for the sole purpose of determining the given number applies to what object. Unfortunately there are many values which remain unknown in the system. Clothes and containers for instance are grouped into different categories represented by distinct ideograms with animals being categorized with respect to their sex. 

Ventris and Bennett were the first individuals to devise the numerical references for the ideograms. They divided these numerical references into functional groups that corresponded to Bennett’s index breakdown.

The numerical references for the ideograms were originally devised by Ventris and Bennett, divided into functional groups corresponding to the breakdown of Bennett's index. These groups are numbered beginning 100, 110, 120 etc., with some provision of spare numbers for future additions; the official CIPEM numberings used today are based on Ventris and Bennett's.

In conclusion, the decipherment of Linear B has been very essential in the study of artifacts particularly the interpretation of Linear A. It is clear that the language used in Linear B is in no way related to the Greek language. Apparently Linear B misses some major constants and are present in Greek thus eliminating any doubt of its relation to Greek language. There is a clear distinction between Linear A and Linear B based on the fact that unlike Linear B, Linear A was used to for personal objects regarding religious dedications in the Greek votive inscriptions. On the other hand, Linear A has not been linked with any language family unlike Linear B. 

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