MM IB to LM IIIA 2500–1450 B.C.
Linear B ,
Final Accepted Script Proposal
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 Sir
Arthur Evans .
It is the origin of the
Linear B script, which was later used by the
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
Linear A uses the same or similar syllabic
values as Linear B, then its associated language, dubbed "Minoan ",
appears unrelated to any known language.
* 1 Script
* 2 Corpus
* 2.2 Outside
* 2.2.1 Other Greek islands
* 2.2.2 Mainland Greece
* 3 Chronology
* 4 Discovery
* 5 Theories of decipherment
* 5.1 Greek
* 5.2 Distinct Indo-European branch
* 5.4 Lycian
* 5.5 Phoenician
* 5.6 Indo-Iranian
* 5.7 Tyrrhenian
* 5.8 Single word decipherment attempts
* 7 See also
* 7.1 Notes
* 8 References
* 8.1 Citations
* 8.2 Sources
* 9 Further reading
* 10 External links
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
An interesting feature is that of how numbers are recorded in the
script. The highest number that has been recorded is 3000, but there
are special symbols to indicate fractions and weights.
Linear A incised on tablets found in Akrotiri , Santorini.
Linear A tablet,
Chania Archaeological Museum . Linear A
tablet from the palace of
Zakros , Archeological Museum of
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 easily on two sheets of paper.
According to Ilse Schoep, the main discoveries of
Linear A tablets
have been at three sites on Crete:
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.
Discoveries have been made at the following locations on
Hagia Triada (largest cache)
Kato Simi (also spelled Kato Syme)
Mochlos (also spelled Mokhlos)
Mount Juktas (also spelled Iouktas)
Psychro (also spelled Psykhro)
Pyrgos Tylissos *
* Troulos (or Trulos)
Prior to 1973, only one
Linear A tablet was known to be found outside
Crete (on Kea ). Since then, other locations yielded inscriptions.
According to Finkelberg, most—if not all—inscriptions found
Crete were made locally. This is indicated by such factors as
the composition of the material on which the inscriptions were made.
Also, close analysis of the inscriptions found outside
the use of a script that is somewhere in between
Linear A and Linear
B, combining the elements of both.
Other Greek Islands
* Hagios Stephanos,
See also: Chronology of
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:
c. 2100 – 1700 BC
Aegean islands (Kea ,
Melos , Thera ), and Greek mainland
c. 2500 – 1450 BC
Knossos ), and mainland (
Mycenae , Thebes ,
c. 1450 – 1200 BC
See also: Discovery of
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
Troad . 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.
THEORIES OF DECIPHERMENT
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 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.
DISTINCT INDO-EUROPEAN BRANCH
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
Crete about 10,000 years ago. There were similar population
movements to Greece. The relative isolation of the population which
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."
Since the late 1950s, a theory based on
Linear B phonetic values
Linear A language could be an
Anatolian language , close
Luwian . The theory for the
Luwian origin of Minoan, however,
failed to gain universal support for the following reasons:
* There is no remarkable resemblance between Minoan and Hitto-Luwian
* None of the existing theories of the origin of Hitto-Luwian
peoples and their migration to Anatolia (either from the
Caucasus ) are related to Crete.
* There was a lack of direct contact between Hitto-Luwians and
Minoan Crete; the latter was never mentioned in Hitto-Luwian
inscriptions. Small states located along the western coast of ancient
Asia Minor were natural barriers between Hitto-Luwians and Minoan
* Obvious anthropological differences between Hitto-Luwians and the
Minoans may be considered as another indirect testimony against this
There are recent works focused on the
Luwian connection, not in terms
Minoan language being Anatolian, but rather in terms of
possible borrowings from Luwian, including the origin of the writing
In an article from 2001, Professor of Classics (Emerita) at Tel Aviv
University, Margalit Finkelberg, 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."
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
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, 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. La Marle rebutted 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
Michael Ventris who, along with
John Chadwick , successfully
Linear B , also believed in a link between Minoan and
Etruscan. The same perspective is supported by S. Yatsemirsky in
SINGLE WORD DECIPHERMENT ATTEMPTS
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
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).
Linear A (Unicode block)
Linear A alphabet (U+10600–U+1077F) was added to the Unicode
Standard in June 2014 with the release of version 7.0.
Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
NOTES 1.^ As of
Unicode version 10.0 2.^ Grey areas indicate
non-assigned code points
* ^ Beginning date refers to first attestations, the assumed
origins of all scripts lie further back in the past.
* ^ Haarmann 2008 , pp. 12–46.
* ^ Palaima 1997 , pp. 121–188.
* ^ A B Younger, John (2000). "
Linear A Texts in Phonetic
Transcription: 7b. The Script". University of Kansas.
* ^ Packard 1974 , Chapter 1: Introduction.
* ^ Owens 1999 , pp. 23–24 (David Packard, in 1974, calculated a
sound-value difference of 10.80% ± 1.80%; Yves Duhoux, in 1989,
calculated a sound-value difference of 14.34% ± 1.80% and Gareth
Owens, in 1996, calculated a sound-value difference of 9–13%).
* ^ Younger, John (2000). "
Linear A Texts in Phonetic
Transcription: 5. Basic Statistics". University of Kansas. 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).
* ^ Schoep 1999 , pp. 201–221.
* ^ A B C D E F G H I Cacciafoco, Francesco Perono (January 2014).
Linear A and Minoan. The Riddle of Unknown Origins": 3–4. Retrieved
9 July 2017.
* ^ A B Finkelberg 1998 , pp. 265–272.
* ^ Book review by Daniel J. Pullen (Bryn Mawr Classical Review
2009) 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)."
* ^ Olivier 1986 , pp. 377f.
* ^ Robinson 2009 , p. 54.
* ^ Younger, John (2000). "
Linear A Texts in Phonetic
Transcription". University of Kansas. See "1. List of Linked Files"
for a comprehensive list of known texts written in Linear A.
* ^ A B Nagy 1963 , p. 210 (Footnote #24).
* ^ Georgiev 1963 , pp. 1–104.
* ^ Nagy 1963 , pp. 181–211.
* ^ Owens 2007 , pp. 3–4: "Η έρευνα απέδειξε
ότι η μινωική γλώσσα σχετίζεται με την
ελληνική περισσότερο από κάθε άλλη
ινδοευρωπαϊκή γλώσσα, χωρίς να
αποτελεί μια άλλη ελληνική διάλεκτο
αλλά ένα χωριστό παρακλάδι της
λέξεις που εντοπίζονται και στην
ελληνική γλώσσα αλλά και σε άλλες,
όπως τη σανσκριτική και τη χεττιτική,
τη λατινική, της ίδιας οικογένειας.".
* ^ Owens 1999 , pp. 15–56.
* ^ "The Language of the Minoans".
Crete Gazette. 2006.
* ^ Palmer 1958 , pp. 75–100.
* ^ Marangozis, John (2006). An introduction to Minoan Linear A.
* ^ Finkelberg, Margalit, "The Language of Linear A: Greek,
Semitic, or Anatolian?", in: Drews, Robert (ed.), Greater Anatolia dnt
eh Ind-Hittite Language Family, Journal of Indo-European Studies,
Monograph 38, Washington, DC, 2001.
* ^ Dietrich 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. Paris:
Geuthner, 2002; Les racines du crétois ancien et leur morphologie:
communication à l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, 2007.
* ^ Younger, John (2009). "Linear A: Critique of Decipherments by
Hubert La Marle and Kjell Aartun". University of Kansas. According to
Younger, 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
Mediterranean and northeast Africa), as if 'C looks like O so
it must be O.'"
* ^ La Marle, Hubert (September 2010). "An answer to John G.
Younger\'s remarks on Linear A". Academia.edu.
* ^ Facchetti not a bad guess, because the Etruscans, according to
ancient tradition, came from the Aegean to Italy.".
* ^ Yatsemirsky 2011 .
* ^ Younger, John (2000). "
Linear A Texts in Phonetic
Transcription: 10c. Place Names". University of Kansas.
* Chadwick, John (1967). The Decipherment of Linear B. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-39830-4 .
* Dietrich, Manfried; Loretz, Oswald (2001). In Memoriam: Cyrus H.
Gordon. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag. ISBN 3-934628-00-1 .
* Facchetti, Giulio M.; Negri, Mario (2003). Creta Minoica: Sulle
tracce delle più antiche scritture d\'Europa (in Italian). Firenze:
L.S. Olschki. ISBN 88-222-5291-8 .
* Finkelberg, Margalit (1998). "Bronze Age Writing: Contacts between
East and West". In E. H. Cline and D. Harris-Cline. The Aegean and the
Orient in the Second Millennium. Proceedings of the 50th Anniversary
Symposium, Cincinnati, 18–20 April 1997. Liège 1998 (PDF). Aegeum.
18. pp. 265–272.
* Georgiev, Vladimir I. (1963). "Les deux langues des inscriptions
crétoises en linéaire A". Linguistique Balkanique (in French). 7
* Haarmann, Harald (2008). "The Danube Script and Other Ancient
Writing Systems: A Typology of Distinctive Features". The Journal of
Archaeomythology. 4 (1): 12–46.
* Nagy, Gregory (1963). "Greek-Like Elements in Linear A". Greek,
Roman, and Byzantine Studies.
Harvard University Press (4): 181–211.
* Olivier, J. P. (1986). "Cretan Writing in the Second Millennium
B.C.". World Archaeology. 17 (3): 377–389. doi
* Owens, Gareth (1999). "The Structure of the Minoan Language"
(PDF). Journal of Indo-European Studies. 27 (1–2): 15–56.
* Owens, Gareth Alun (2007). "Η Δομή της Μινωικής
Γλώσσας " (PDF) (in Greek). Heraklion: TEI of Crete
* Packard, David W. (1974). Minoan Linear A. Berkeley and Los
Angeles: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-02580-6 .
* Palaima, Thomas G. (1997) . "Cypro-Minoan Scripts: Problems of
Historical Context". In Duhoux, Yves; Palaima, Thomas G.; Bennet,
John. Problems in Decipherment. Louvain-La-Neuve: Peeters. pp.
121–188. ISBN 90-6831-177-8 . CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter
* Palmer, Leonard Robert (1958). "Luvian and Linear A". Transactions
of the Philological Society. 57 (1): 75–100. doi
* Robinson, Andrew (2009). Writing and Script: A Very Short
Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-956778-2
* Schoep, Ilse (1999). "Tablets and Territories? Reconstructing Late
Minoan IB Political Geography through Undeciphered Documents".
American Journal of Archaeology . 103 (2): 201–21.
JSTOR 506745 .
doi :10.2307/506745 – via
JSTOR . (Registration required (help)).
* Yatsemirsky, Sergei A. (2011). Opyt sravnitel\'nogo opisaniya
minoyskogo, etrusskogo i rodstvennyh im yazykov (in Russian). Moscow:
Yazyki slavyanskoy kul'tury. ISBN 978-5-9551-0479-9 .
* Best, Jan G. P. (1972). Some Preliminary Remarks on the
Decipherment of Linear A. Amsterdam: Hakkert.
* Marangozis, John (2006). An introduction to Minoan Linear A.
* Montecchi, Barbara (January 2010). "A Classification Proposal of
Linear A Tablets from Haghia Triada in Classes and Series". Kadmos. 49
(1): 11–38. doi :10.1515/KADMOS.2010.002 .
* Nagy, Gregory (October 1965). "Observations on the Sign-Grouping
and Vocabulary of Linear A". American Journal of Archaeology. 69 (4):
295–330. doi :10.2307/502181 .
* Palmer, Ruth (1995). "
Linear A Commodities: A Comparison of
Resources" (PDF). Aegeum. 12.
* Thomas, Helena. Understanding the transition from
Linear A to
Linear B script. Unpublished PhD dissertation. Supervisor: Professor
John Bennet. Thesis (D. Phil.). University of Oxford, 2003. Includes
bibliographical references (leaves 311–338).
* Woodard, Roger D. (1997). Greek Writing from
Knossos to Homer. New
York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-510520-6 . (Review)
Wikimedia Commons has media related to LINEAR A .
Linear A Texts in Phonetic Transcription by John Younger (Last
Update: 20 February 2010).
Linear A Research by Hubert La Marle
* DAIDALIKA – Scripts and Languages of Minoan and Mycenaean Crete
* Omniglot: Writing Systems ;background:none
* Cycladic civilization
* Mycenaean civilization
Greek Dark Ages
* Archaic period
Ancient Greek colonies
* City states