Linear A

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Linear A
Linear A cup.png
Type
Undeciphered? (presumed syllabic and ideographic)
Languages'Minoan' (unknown)
Time period

MM IB to LM IIIA

2500 - 1450 B.C.[1][2][3][4]
StatusExtinct
Child systems
Linear B, Cypro-Minoan syllabary[5]
Sister systems
Cretan hieroglyphs
ISO 15924Lina, 400
DirectionLeft-to-right
Unicode alias
Linear A
U+10600–U+1077F
 
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Linear A
Linear A cup.png
Type
Undeciphered? (presumed syllabic and ideographic)
Languages'Minoan' (unknown)
Time period

MM IB to LM IIIA

2500 - 1450 B.C.[1][2][3][4]
StatusExtinct
Child systems
Linear B, Cypro-Minoan syllabary[5]
Sister systems
Cretan hieroglyphs
ISO 15924Lina, 400
DirectionLeft-to-right
Unicode alias
Linear A
U+10600–U+1077F

Linear A is one of two currently undeciphered writing systems used in ancient Greece. Cretan hieroglyphic is the other. Linear A was the primary script used in palace and religious writings of the Minoan civilization. It was discovered by archaeologist Arthur Evans. It is the origin of the Linear B script, which was later used by the Mycenaean civilization.

In the 1950s, Linear B was largely deciphered and found to encode an early form of Greek. Although the two systems share many symbols, this did not lead to a subsequent decipherment of Linear A. Using the values associated with Linear B in Linear A mainly produces unintelligible words. If it uses the same or similar syllabic values as Linear B, then its underlying language appears unrelated to any known language. This has been dubbed the Minoan language.

The script[edit]

Linear A has hundreds of signs. They are 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.[6][7]

Corpus[edit]

Linear A incised on tablets found in Akrotiri, Santorini.
Linear A tablet - Chania Archaeological Museum

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 1427 specimens totalling 7362-7396 signs, if scaled to standard type, would fit on only two sheets of paper.[8]

Crete[edit]

According to Ilse Schoep, on Crete, the main discoveries of Linear A tablets have been at three sites:

Haghia Triadha in the Mesara with 147 tablets; Zakro/Zakros, a port town in the far east of the island with 31 tablets; and Khania/Chania, a port town in the northwest of the island with 94 tablets.[9]

Discoveries have been made at the following locations on Crete,

Outside of Crete[edit]

Prior to 1973, only one Linear A tablet was known to be found outside of Crete (on Kea).[10] Since then, other locations yielded inscriptions.

Other Greek Islands
Mainland Greece
Bulgaria
Turkey
Israel

According to Finkelberg, most—if not all—inscriptions found outside of Crete were made locally. This is indicated by such factors as the composition of the material on which the inscriptions were made.[10] Also, close analysis of the inscriptions found outside of Crete indicates the use of a script that is somewhere in between Linear A and Linear B, combining the elements of both.

Chronology[edit]

Linear A was a contemporary and possible child of Cretan hieroglyphs and the 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:[13]

Writing systemGeographical areaTime span[a]
Cretan HieroglyphicCretec. 2100–1700 BC[14][15]
Linear AAegean islands (Kea, Kythera, Melos, Thera), and Greek mainland (Laconia)c. 2500–1450 BC[16][17][18]
Linear BCrete (Knossos), and mainland (Pylos, Mycenae, Thebes, Tiryns)c. 1450–1200 BC

Discovery[edit]

Archaeologist Arthur Evans named the script 'Linear' because its characters consisted simply of lines inscribed in clay, in contrast to the more pictographic and three-dimensional characters in Cretan hieroglyphs that were used during the same period.[19]

Several tablets inscribed in signs similar to Linear A were found in the Troad. While their status is disputed, they may be imports, as there is no evidence of Minoan presence in Troad. Classification of these signs as a unique Trojan script (proposed by contemporary Russian linguist Nikolai Kazansky) is not accepted by other linguists.

Theories of decipherment[edit]

Linear A incised on a vase, also found in Akrotiri.

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 Mycenean Greek.[20]

Greek[edit]

Vladimir I. Georgiev published his Le déchiffrement des inscriptions crétoises en linéaire A ("The decipherment of Cretan inscriptions in Linear A") in 1957 stating that Linear A contains Greek linguistic elements.[21] In 1963, he published an article, "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.[21]

Luwian[edit]

Since the 1960s, a theory based on Linear B phonetic values suggests that Linear A language could be an Anatolian language, close to Luwian.[22] In 1997, Gareth Alun Owens published a collection of essays entitled Kritika Daidalika, which support the view that Linear A might represent an archaic relative of Luwian. Owens based this assertion on the perceived Indo-European but non-Greek roots of a small number of words he was able to read by using the known Linear B or Cypriot sound values of certain Linear A signs. He does not claim a systematic decipherment of Linear A, and remarks in the book that he intended his Luwian hypothesis to provoke discussion rather than to settle the issue.

The theory for the Luwian origin of Minoan, however, failed to gain universal support for the following reasons:

Phoenician[edit]

In 2001, the journal Ugarit-Forschungen, Band 32 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.[23] This was a continuation of attempts by Cyrus Gordon in finding connections between Minoan and West Semitic languages. His methodology drew widespread criticism. While one or two terms may apparently be of Semitic origin (such as KU-RO indicating totals corresponding to Semitic kullu "all"), there is insufficient evidence to secure a connection between the language of Linear A and Semitic idioms. Contrary to most other scripts used for Semitic languages, Linear A presents many written vowels.[citation needed]

Indo-Iranian[edit]

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.[24] 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.[24] 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.[24] However, the La Marle interpretation of Linear A has been rejected by John Younger of Kansas University showing that La Marle has invented erroneous and arbitrary new transcriptions based on resemblances with many different script systems at will (as Phoenician, Hieroglyphic Egyptian, Hieroglyphic Hittite, Ethiopian, Cypro-Minoan, etc.), ignoring established evidence and internal analysis, while for some words he proposes religious meanings inventing names of gods and rites.[25][26] La Marle's rebutted in "An answer to John G. Younger's remarks on Linear A".[27]

Indo-Iranian hypothesis also has support among some other scholars. For example, in 2006, speaking at "The Cretan Literature Centre", Dr Gareth Owens said:

″..we recognise a clear relationship between Linear A and Sanskrit, the ancient language of India.″[28]

Tyrrhenian[edit]

G. M. Facchetti has 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. G. M. Facchetti proposed some possible similarities between the Etruscan language and ancient Lemnian, and other Aegean languages like Minoan.[29] Michael Ventris who, along with John Chadwick, successfully deciphered Linear B, also believed in a link between Minoan and Etruscan.[30] The same perspective is supported by S. Yatsemirsky in Russia.[31]

Single word decipherment attempts[edit]

Some researchers suggest that a few words or word elements may be recognised, 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.[32] 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).[6]

Unicode[edit]

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[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
 0123456789ABCDEF
U+1060x𐘀𐘁𐘂𐘃𐘄𐘅𐘆𐘇𐘈𐘉𐘊𐘋𐘌𐘍𐘎𐘏
U+1061x𐘐𐘑𐘒𐘓𐘔𐘕𐘖𐘗𐘘𐘙𐘚𐘛𐘜𐘝𐘞𐘟
U+1062x𐘠𐘡𐘢𐘣𐘤𐘥𐘦𐘧𐘨𐘩𐘪𐘫𐘬𐘭𐘮𐘯
U+1063x𐘰𐘱𐘲𐘳𐘴𐘵𐘶𐘷𐘸𐘹𐘺𐘻𐘼𐘽𐘾𐘿
U+1064x𐙀𐙁𐙂𐙃𐙄𐙅𐙆𐙇𐙈𐙉𐙊𐙋𐙌𐙍𐙎𐙏
U+1065x𐙐𐙑𐙒𐙓𐙔𐙕𐙖𐙗𐙘𐙙𐙚𐙛𐙜𐙝𐙞𐙟
U+1066x𐙠𐙡𐙢𐙣𐙤𐙥𐙦𐙧𐙨𐙩𐙪𐙫𐙬𐙭𐙮𐙯
U+1067x𐙰𐙱𐙲𐙳𐙴𐙵𐙶𐙷𐙸𐙹𐙺𐙻𐙼𐙽𐙾𐙿
U+1068x𐚀𐚁𐚂𐚃𐚄𐚅𐚆𐚇𐚈𐚉𐚊𐚋𐚌𐚍𐚎𐚏
U+1069x𐚐𐚑𐚒𐚓𐚔𐚕𐚖𐚗𐚘𐚙𐚚𐚛𐚜𐚝𐚞𐚟
U+106Ax𐚠𐚡𐚢𐚣𐚤𐚥𐚦𐚧𐚨𐚩𐚪𐚫𐚬𐚭𐚮𐚯
U+106Bx𐚰𐚱𐚲𐚳𐚴𐚵𐚶𐚷𐚸𐚹𐚺𐚻𐚼𐚽𐚾𐚿
U+106Cx𐛀𐛁𐛂𐛃𐛄𐛅𐛆𐛇𐛈𐛉𐛊𐛋𐛌𐛍𐛎𐛏
U+106Dx𐛐𐛑𐛒𐛓𐛔𐛕𐛖𐛗𐛘𐛙𐛚𐛛𐛜𐛝𐛞𐛟
U+106Ex𐛠𐛡𐛢𐛣𐛤𐛥𐛦𐛧𐛨𐛩𐛪𐛫𐛬𐛭𐛮𐛯
U+106Fx𐛰𐛱𐛲𐛳𐛴𐛵𐛶𐛷𐛸𐛹𐛺𐛻𐛼𐛽𐛾𐛿
U+1070x𐜀𐜁𐜂𐜃𐜄𐜅𐜆𐜇𐜈𐜉𐜊𐜋𐜌𐜍𐜎𐜏
U+1071x𐜐𐜑𐜒𐜓𐜔𐜕𐜖𐜗𐜘𐜙𐜚𐜛𐜜𐜝𐜞𐜟
U+1072x𐜠𐜡𐜢𐜣𐜤𐜥𐜦𐜧𐜨𐜩𐜪𐜫𐜬𐜭𐜮𐜯
U+1073x𐜰𐜱𐜲𐜳𐜴𐜵𐜶
U+1074x𐝀𐝁𐝂𐝃𐝄𐝅𐝆𐝇𐝈𐝉𐝊𐝋𐝌𐝍𐝎𐝏
U+1075x𐝐𐝑𐝒𐝓𐝔𐝕
U+1076x𐝠𐝡𐝢𐝣𐝤𐝥𐝦𐝧
U+1077x
Notes
1.^ As of Unicode version 7.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Beginning date refers to first attestations, the assumed origins of all scripts lie further back in the past.

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ "The Danube Script and Other Ancient Writing Systems:A Typology of Distinctive Features". Harald Haarmann. 2008. 
  2. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=K2zOhNL5skcC&pg=PA2
  3. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=0R52Nzw_0c4C&pg=PA200
  4. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=Lb7jyuLpd0YC&pg=PA381
  5. ^ Palaima 1989.
  6. ^ a b Younger, John. "Linear A Texts in phonetic transcription". University of Kansas. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  7. ^ Packard, David W. (1974), "Chapter One: Introduction", Minoan Linear A, Berkeley / Los Angeles / London: University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-02580-6 
  8. ^ Younger "if there are 4002 characters (font Times, pitch 12, no spaces) on an 8 1/2 x 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.
  9. ^ Ilse Schoep, Tablets and Territories? Reconstructing Late Minoan IB Political Geography through Undeciphered Documents. American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 103, No. 2 (Apr., 1999), pp. 201-221
  10. ^ a b Margalit Finkelberg, Bronze Age Writing: Contacts between East and West. In E. H. Cline and D. Harris-Cline (eds.). The Aegean and the Orient in the Second Millennium. Proceedings of the 50th Anniversary Symposium, Cincinnati, 18–20 April 1997. Liège 1998. Aegeum 18 (1998) 265-272.
  11. ^ Book review by Daniel J. Pullen of W. D. Taylour, R. Janko, Ayios Stephanos: Excavations at a Bronze Age and Medieval Settlement in Southern Laconia. British School at Athens, 2008. "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)." brynmawr.edu
  12. ^ Linear A script from the Eastern Rhodopes? (May 2005)
  13. ^ Olivier 1986, pp. 377f.
  14. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=zcXH52jICOEC&pg=PT55
  15. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=g8eIAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA100
  16. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=K2zOhNL5skcC&pg=PA2
  17. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=0R52Nzw_0c4C&pg=PA200
  18. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=Lb7jyuLpd0YC&pg=PA381
  19. ^ Andrew Robinson, Writing and Script: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 54
  20. ^ A site maintained by John Younger of Kansas University has a comprehensive list of known texts written in Linear A.
  21. ^ a b Nagy 1963, p. 210 (Footnote #24).
  22. ^ See the works of Sir Leonard R. Palmer.
  23. ^ Dietrich, Manfried and Loretz, Oswald (ed.) Ugarit-Forschungen, Band 32: Internationales Jahrbuch fur die Altertumskunde Syrien-Palastinas. Verlag Butzon & Bercker, 2001. ISBN 3-934628-00-1.
  24. ^ a b c La Marle, Hubert. Linéaire A, la première écriture syllabique de Crète. Geuthner, Paris, 4 volumes, 1997–1999, 2006; Introduction au linéaire A. Geuthner, Paris, 2002; L'aventure de l'alphabet: les écritures cursives et linéaires du Proche-Orient et de l'Europe du sud-est à l'Âge du Bronze. Geuthner, Paris, 2002; Les racines du crétois ancien et leur morphologie: communication à l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, 2007.
  25. ^ Younger, John G. Linear A Texts. University of Kansas. 15 August 2009 (Retrieved 22 December 2009).
  26. ^ Younger, John. Critique of Decipherments by Hubert La Marle and Kjell Aartun. University of Kansas. 15 August 2009; last update: 5 July 2010 (Retrieved 25 August 2011): [La Marle] "assigns phonetic values to Linear signs based on superficial resemblances to signs in other scripts (the choice of scripts being already prejudiced to include only those from the eastern Mediterranean and northeast Africa), as if "C looks like O so it must be O.".
  27. ^ An answer to John G. Younger's remarks on Linear A by Hubert La Marle (September, 2010) -- www.academia.edu
  28. ^ The Language of the Minoans cretegazette.com
  29. ^ Facchetti, Giulio M. & Negri, Mario. Creta Minoica. Sulle tracce delle più antiche scritture d'Europa. Leo S. Olschki Editore, 'Biblioteca dell'Archivum Romanicum. Serie II: Linguistica' nº 55, 2003. ISBN 88-222-5291-8.
  30. ^ Chadwick 1967, p. 34. "The basic idea was to find a language which might not be related to Minoan. Ventris' candidate was Etruscan; not a bad guess, because the Etruscans, according to ancient tradition, came from the Aegean to Italy."
  31. ^ Yatsemirsky, Sergei A. Opyt sravnitel'nogo opisaniya minoyskogo, etrusskogo i rodstvennyh im yazykov (Tentative comparative description of Minoan, Etruscan and related languages). Moscow, Yazyki slavyanskoy kul'tury, 2011. ISBN 978-5-9551-0479-9
  32. ^ Younger, John. "Linear A Texts in phonetic transcription". University of Kansas. Retrieved 29 April 2013. 

Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]