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
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 prehistoric Aegean scripts
to have been deciphered, by English architect and self-taught linguist
Linear B consists of around 87 syllabic signs and over 100 ideographic
signs. These ideograms or "signifying" signs symbolize objects or
commodities. They have no phonetic value and are never used as word
signs in writing a sentence.
The application of
Linear B appears to have been confined to
administrative contexts. In all the thousands of clay tablets, a
relatively small number of different "hands" have been detected: 45 in
Pylos (west coast of the Peloponnese, in southern Greece) and 66 in
Knossos (Crete). It is possible that the script was used only by a
guild of professional scribes who served the central palaces.[citation
needed] Once the palaces were destroyed, the script disappeared.
1.1 Syllabic signs
Special and unknown signs
1.3 Spelling and pronunciation
2.2.1 Timeline of Bronze Age eastern Mediterranean scripts
2.2.2 Timeline of Linear B
2.2.3 Controversy on the date of the
3 Discovery and decipherment
3.1 Arthur J. Evans' classification of scripts
3.2 Early attempts
3.3 Alice Kober's triplets
3.4 Emmett L. Bennett's transcription conventions
3.5 Michael Ventris' identification as Greek
5 See also
9 External links
Linear B has roughly 200 signs, divided into syllabic signs with
phonetic values and ideograms with semantic values. The
representations and naming of these signs have been standardized by a
series of international colloquia starting with the first in Paris in
1956. After the third meeting in 1961 at the Wingspread Conference
Center in Racine, Wisconsin, a standard proposed primarily by Emmett
L. Bennett, Jr. (1918–2011), became known as the Wingspread
Convention, which was adopted by a new organization, the Comité
International Permanent des Études Mycéniennes (CIPEM), affiliated
in 1970 by the fifth colloquium with UNESCO. Colloquia continue: the
13th occurred in 2010 in Paris.
Many of the signs are identical or similar to those in Linear A;
Linear A encodes an as-yet unknown language, and it is
uncertain whether similar signs had the same phonetic values.
The grid developed during decipherment by
Michael Ventris and John
Chadwick of phonetic values for syllabic signs is shown below.
Initial consonants are in the leftmost column; vowels are in the top
row beneath the title. The transcription of the syllable (it may not
have been pronounced that way) is listed next to the sign along with
Bennett's identifying number for the sign preceded by an asterisk (as
was Ventris' and Chadwick's convention).[note 1] In cases where the
transcription of the sign remains in doubt, Bennett's number serves to
identify the sign. The signs on the tablets and sealings often
show considerable variation from each other and from the
representations below. Discovery of the reasons for the variation and
possible semantic differences is a topic of ongoing debate in
Recognised signs of shape V, CV[note 2]
Special and unknown signs
In addition to the grid, the first edition of Documents contained a
number of other signs termed "homophones" because they appeared at
that time to resemble the sounds of other syllables and were
transcribed accordingly: pa2 and pa3 were presumed homophonous to pa.
Many of these were identified by the second edition and are shown in
the "special values" below. The second edition relates: "It may be
taken as axiomatic that there are no true homophones." The unconfirmed
identifications of *34 and *35 as ai2 and ai3 were removed. pa2 became
Other values remain unknown, mainly because of scarcity of evidence
concerning them.[note 3] Note that *34 and *35 are mirror images
of each other but whether this graphic relationship indicates a
phonetic one remains unconfirmed.
Untranscribed and doubtful values
In recent times,
CIPEM inherited the former authority of Bennett and
the Wingspread Convention in deciding what signs are "confirmed" and
how to officially represent the various sign categories. In editions
of Mycenaean texts, the signs whose values have not been confirmed by
CIPEM are always transcribed as numbers preceded by an asterisk (e.g.,
CIPEM also allocates the numerical identifiers, and until such
allocation, new signs (or obscured or mutilated signs) are transcribed
as a bullet-point enclosed in square brackets: [•].
Spelling and pronunciation
The signs are approximations―each may be used to represent a variety
of about 70 distinct combinations of sounds, within rules and
conventions. The grid presents a system of monosyllabic signs of the
type V/CV. Clarification of the 14 or so special values tested the
limits of the grid model, but Chadwick in the end concluded that even
with the ramifications, the syllabic signs can unexceptionally be
Possible exceptions, Chadwick goes on to explain, include the two
diphthongs, 𐁁 (ai) and 𐁂 (au), as in
𐁁𐀓𐀠𐀴𐀍, ai-ku-pi-ti-jo, for Aiguptios
(Αἰγύπτιος, "Egyptian") and 𐁂𐀐𐀷, au-ke-wa, for
Augewās (Αὐγείας "Augeas").[note 4] However, a diphthong is
by definition two vowels united into a single sound and therefore
might be typed as just V. Thus 𐁉 (rai), as in
𐀁𐁉𐀺, e-rai-wo, for elaiwon (ἔλαιον),[note 5] is
of the type CV. Diphthongs are otherwise treated as two monosyllables:
𐀀𐀫𐀄𐀨, a-ro-u-ra, for arourans (accusative plural of
ἄρουραι, "tamarisk trees"), of the types CV and V. Lengths
of vowels and accents are not marked.
𐁌 (Twe), 𐁍 (two), 𐁃 (dwe), 𐁄 (dwo),
𐁅 (nwa) and the more doubtful 𐁘 (swi) and
𐁚 (swa) may be regarded as beginning with labialized
consonants, rather than two consonants, even though they may alternate
with a two-sign form: o-da-twe-ta and o-da-tu-we-ta for Odatwenta;
a-si-wi-jo and a-swi-jo for Aswios (Ἄσιος). Similarly,
𐁈 (rya), 𐁊 (ryo) and 𐁋 (tya) begin with
palatalized consonants rather than two consonants: -ti-ri-ja for -trja
The one sign Chadwick tags as the exception to the monosyllabic rule
is 𐁇 (pte), but this he attributes to a development
pte<*pje as in kleptei<*klep-jei.
Linear B does not consistently distinguish between voiced and unvoiced
stop consonants (except in the dental series) and between aspirated
and unaspirated stops even when these distinctions are phonemic in
Mycenaean Greek. For example, pa-te is patēr (πατήρ), pa-si
is phāsi (φησί);[note 6] p on the other hand never represents β:
βασιλεύς ("basileus", meaning in this period "court official
or local chieftain") is qa-si-re-u[note 7]); ko-ru is korus
(κόρυς, "helmet"), ka-ra-we is grāwes (plural of γρηύς),
ko-no is skhoinos ("rope"). Exceptionally, however, the dentals are
represented by a t-series and a d-series for unvoiced and voiced:
to-so for tosos (τόσος or τόσσος) but do-ra for dōra
(plural of δῶρον, "gift"). Aspiration, however, is not marked:
to-ra-ke for thōrākes (plural of θώραξ, "breastplate"). In
other cases aspiration can be marked but is optional: pu-te for
phutēr ("planter", from φυτεύω), but phu-te-re for phutēres
("planters"). Initial aspiration may be marked only in the case of
initial a and rarely: ha-te-ro for hateron (masculine
ἅτερος), and yet a-ni-ja for hāniai (ἁνίαι).
The j-series represents the semivowel equivalent to English "y", and
is used word-initially and as an intervocalic glide after a syllable
ending in i: -a-jo for -αῖος (-aios); a-te-mi-ti-jo for
Ἀρτεμίτιος (Artemitios). The w-series similarly are
semivowels used word-initially and intervocalically after a syllable
ending in u: ku-wa-no for kuanos (κύανος, "blue").
The r-series includes both the /r/ and /l/ phonemes: ti-ri-po for
tripos (τρίπος, i.e. τρίπους) and tu-ri-so for Tulisos
The q-series is used for monosyllables beginning with a class of
consonants that disappeared from classical Greek by regular phonetic
change: the labialized velar consonants (see under Mycenaean Greek).
These had entered the language from various sources: inheritance from
Proto-Indo-European, assimilation, borrowing of foreign words,
especially names. In Mycenaean they are /kʷ/, /gʷ/, and rarely
/kʷh/ in names and a few words: a-pi-qo-ro for amphiquoloi
(ἀμφίπολοι); qo-u-ko-ro for guoukoloi (βουκόλοι.
"cowherders"); -qo-i-ta for -φόντης.
Some consonants in some contexts are not written (but are understood):
word-initial s- and -w before a consonant, as in pe-ma for sperma
(σπέρμα, "seed"); syllable-final -l, -m, -n, -r, -s; only
word-final velars are notated by plene writing: a-to-ro-qo for
anthrōquos (ἄνθρωπος, "human being, person"). In the first
example, the pe-, which was primarily used as its value pe of grid
class CV, is being used for sper-, not in that class. This was not an
innovative or exceptional use, but followed the stated rules.
Similarly, a, being primarily of grid class V, is being used as an-
and could be used for al, am, ar, and so on.
Clusters of two or three consonants that do not follow the initial s-
and -w rule or the double consonants: ξ (ks or x), ψ (ps)
and qus (which later did not exist in classical Greek) were
represented by the same number of signs of type CV as the cluster had
consonants: ko-no-so for Knōsos,[note 8] ku-ru-so for khrusos
(χρυσός, "gold"). The consonants were the same as in the
cluster. The vowels so introduced have been called "empty", "null",
"extra", "dead" and other terms by various writers as they represent
no sound. The sign was not alphabetic: rules governed the selection of
the vowel and therefore of the sign. The vowel had to be the same as
the one of the first syllable following the cluster or if at the end
of the word, preceding: ti-ri-po with ti- (instead of ta-, te- and so
on) to match -ri-. A rare exception occurs in words formed from
wa-na-ka, wanax (ϝάναξ, Homeric and Classical ἄναξ):
wa-na-ka-te for wanaktei (dative), and wa-na-ka-te-ro for wanakteros,
the adjectival form.
Linear B also uses a large number of ideograms. They express:
The type of object concerned (e.g. a cow, wool, a spear)
A unit of measure.
They are typically at the end of a line before a number and appear to
signify the object the number applies to. Many of the values remain
unknown or disputed. Some commodities such as cloth and containers are
divided into many different categories represented by distinct
ideograms. Livestock may be marked with respect to their sex.
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 numbering, with the provision that three or four
letter codes (written in small capitals), based on Latin words that
seemed relevant at the time, are used where the meanings are known and
Unicode (as of version 5.0) encodes 123
Linear B ideograms.
The ideograms are symbols, not pictures of the objects in
question—e.g. one tablet records a tripod with missing legs, but the
ideogram used is of a tripod with three legs. In modern transcriptions
Linear B tablets, it is typically convenient to represent an
ideogram by its Latin or English name or by an abbreviation of the
Latin name. Ventris and Chadwick generally used English; Bennett,
Latin. Neither the English nor the Latin can be relied upon as an
accurate name of the object; in fact, the identification of some of
the more obscure objects is a matter of exegesis.
People and Animals
105 Ca S-
"Adjunct to ox" (1973)
106b C- D-
106a C- D-
107b C- Mc
Units of Measurement
By Dry Measure
120 E- F-
122 F- U-
"some kind of grain"
123 G- Un
By liquid measure
By weight or in units
Counted in units
205 K Tn
241 Sd Se
242 Sf Sg
243 Sa So
This section's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date
information. Please update this article to reflect recent events or
newly available information.
Last update: Since e.g. L. Godart and A. Sacconi (2002), a source
cited herein, there have been many more discoveries; see for example
the Dāmos database which lists many more items. (March 2014)
Linear B have been found on tablets and vases or other
objects; they are catalogued and classified by, inter alia, the
location of the excavation they were found in.
Number of items and/or notes
Two tablet fragments.
Fragment of a tablet.
ca. 4,360 tablets (not counting finds of Linear A)
99 tablets + 238 published in 2002 (L. Godart and A. Sacconi, 2002);
See also: Thebes tablets
Kastron of Palaia Hill
Kastron or Castron both is a, and means, "castle"; the location is
occasionally called Kastro-Palaia in English.
Another 170 inscriptions in
Linear B have been found on various
vessels, for a total of some 6,058 known inscriptions.
Linear B tablets are probably those from the Room of
Chariot Tablets at Knossos, and date to the latter half of the 15th
Century BC. The Kafkania pebble, though from an earlier context,
is not genuine. The earliest inscription from the mainland is an
inscribed clay tablet found at
Iklaina dating to between 1400 and 1350
It is claimed that a
Linear B inscription is attested on an amber bead
found as far at Bernstorf, in Germany.
See also: Chronology of Linear A
Timeline of Bronze Age eastern Mediterranean scripts
The Aegean is responsible for many of the early
Greek language words
that have to do with daily life such as words for tools and items that
are seen every day. 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, the Aegean islands, and
Greece are summarized as follows:
Time span[note 10]
ca. 1625s−1500 BC
Aegean Islands (Kea, Kythira, Milos, Santorini), and Laconia)
ca. 2500−1450 BC
Crete (Knossos), and mainland (Pylos, Mycenae, Thebes, Tiryns)
ca. 1425s−1200 BC
Timeline of Linear B
The main archives for
Linear B are associated with these stages of
Late Minoan and Helladic pottery:
Locale or tablet
Room of the Chariot Tablets
LH IIIA1/early LH IIIA2
tablets Sq 1, 6659, KH 3 (possibly Linear B)
LH/LM IIIB1 end[note 11]
tablets Ar 3, Gq 5, X 6
Oil Merchant group of houses
Ug tablets and Wu sealings
LH IIIB2, end
tablets from the Citadel
Of tablets and new Pelopidou Street deposit
all but five tablets
Controversy on the date of the
Knossos archive was dated by
Arthur Evans to the destruction by
conflagration of about 1400 BC, which would have baked and preserved
the clay tablets. He dated this event to the LM II period. This view
Carl Blegen excavated the site of ancient
Pylos in 1939
and uncovered tablets inscribed in Linear B. They were fired in the
conflagration that destroyed
Pylos about 1200 BC, at the end of
LHIIIB. With the decipherment of
Linear B by
Michael Ventris in 1952,
serious questions about Evans' date began to be considered. Most
notably, Blegen said that the inscribed stirrup jars, which are oil
flasks with stirrup-shaped handles, imported from
Crete around 1200
were of the same type as those dated by Evans to the destruction of
1400. Blegen found a number of similarities between 1200 BC
Knossos and suggested the Knossian evidence be reexamined, as
he was sure of the 1200 Pylian date.
The examination uncovered a number of difficulties. The Knossos
tablets had been found at various locations in the palace. Evans had
not kept exact records. Recourse was had to the day books of Evans'
assistant, Duncan Mackenzie, who had conducted the day-to-day
excavations. There were discrepancies between the notes in the day
books and Evans' excavation reports. Moreover, the two men had
disagreed over the location and strata of the tablets. The results of
the reinvestigation were eventually published by Palmer and Boardman,
Knossos Tablets. It contains two works, Leonard Robert
Palmer's The Find-Places of the
Knossos Tablets and John Boardman's
The Date of the
Knossos Tablets, representing Blegen's and Evans'
views respectively. Consequently, the dispute was known for a time as
"the Palmer-Boardman dispute". There has been no generally accepted
resolution to it yet.
The major cities and palaces used
Linear B for records of
disbursements of goods. Wool, sheep, and grain were some common items,
often given to groups of religious people and to groups of "men
watching the coastline".
The tablets were kept in groups in baskets on shelves, judging by
impressions left in the clay from the weaving of the baskets. When the
buildings they were housed in were destroyed by fires, many of the
tablets were fired.
Discovery and decipherment
Tablet KN Fp 13, discovered by Arthur Evans.
Tablet MY Oe 106 (obverse) exhibited at the Greek National
Bottom: tracing of the inscription (obverse).
Right: Tracing of the reverse side depicting a male figure.
Arthur J. Evans' classification of scripts
The British archaeologist Arthur Evans, keeper of the Ashmolean
Museum, was presented by Greville Chester in 1886 with a sealstone
Crete engraved with a writing he took to be Mycenaean.
Heinrich Schliemann had encountered signs similar to these, but had
never identified the signs clearly as writing, relating in his major
Mycenae that "of combinations of signs resembling inscriptions
I have hitherto only found three or four ...." In 1893 Evans
purchased more sealstones in Athens. He verified from the antiquarian
dealers that the stones came from Crete. During the next year he
noticed the script on other artefacts in the Ashmolean. In 1894, he
Crete in search of the script. Almost immediately on
arrival, he jumped into a trench at
Knossos and saw the sign of the
double axe on a palace wall. He knew he had found the source of the
script. Subsequently, he found more stones being worn by Cretan women
as amulets. They were called γαλόπετρες "milk-stones" and
had come from the various ruins.
Starting in 1894, Evans published his theories that the signs
evidenced various phases in the development of a writing system in The
Journal of Hellenic Studies, the first article being "Primitive
Pictographs and a Prae-Phoenician Script from Crete". In these
articles Evans distinguished between "pictographic writing" and "a
linear system of writing". He did not explicitly define these terms,
causing some confusion among subsequent writers concerning what he
meant, but in 1898 he wrote "These linear forms indeed consist of
simple geometrical figures which unlike the more complicated pictorial
class were little susceptible to modification," and "That the linear
or quasi-alphabetic signs ... were in the main ultimately derived from
the rudely scratched line pictures belonging to the infancy of art can
hardly be doubted."
Meanwhile, Evans began to negotiate for the land purchase of the
Knossos site. He established the Cretan Exploration Fund, with only
his own money at first, and by 1896 the fund had purchased one-fourth
of Kephala Hill, on which the ruins were located, with first option to
buy the rest. However, he could not obtain a firman excavation permit
from the Ottoman government. He returned to Britain. In January 1897,
the Christian population of
Crete staged its final insurrection
against the Ottoman Empire. The last Ottoman troops were ferried off
the island by the British fleet on December 5, 1898. In that year
also, Evans and his friends returned to finish paying for the site. By
this time, the Fund had other contributors as well. In 1899, the
Constitution of a new Cretan Republic went into effect. Once Arthur
had received permission to excavate from the local authorities,
excavation on the hill began on 23 March 1900.
According to Evans' report to the
British School at Athens
British School at Athens for that
year, on April 5, the excavators discovered the first large cache
Linear B tablets among the remains of a wooden box in a
disused terracotta bathtub. Subsequently, caches turned up at multiple
locations, including the Room of the Chariot Tablets, where over 350
pieces from four boxes were found. The tablets were 4.5 cm
(1.8 in) to 19.5 cm (7.7 in) long by 1.2 cm
(0.47 in) to 7.2 cm (2.8 in) wide and were scored with
horizontal lines over which text was written in about 70 characters.
Even in this earliest excavation report, Evans could tell that "...a
certain number of quasi-pictorial characters also occur which seem to
have an ideographic or determinative meaning."
The excavation was over for that year by June 2. Evans reported: "only
a comparatively small proportion of the tablets were preserved in
their entirety," the causes of destruction being rainfall through
the roof of the storage room, crumbling of small pieces, and being
thrown away by workmen who failed to identify them. A report on
September 6 to the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain
and Ireland began to use some of the concepts characteristic of
Evans' later thought: "palace of Knossos" and "palace of Minos".
Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1900, notes that
Evans took up Stillman's theme that the palace was the labyrinth of
mythology in which the half-bovine son of King
Minos lurked. In the
report, the tablets are now called a "linear script" as opposed to the
"hieroglyphic or conventionalized pictographic script". The linear
script has characters that are "of a free, upright, European
character" and "seem to have been for the most part syllabic". Evans
reasserts the ideographic idea: "a certain number are unquestionably
ideographic or determinative."
The years after 1900 were consumed by excavations at
Knossos and the
discovery and study by Evans of tablets there and elsewhere, but
nothing substantially new occurred. Evans planned a comprehensive work
on Cretan scripts to be called Scripta Minoa. A year before the
publication of volume I, he began to drop hints that he now believed
the linear script was two scripts, to be presented in the forthcoming
In Scripta Minoa I, which appeared in 1909, he explained that the
discovery of the
Phaistos Disc in July 1908 had caused him to pull the
book from the presses so that he could include the disk by permission,
as it had not yet been published. On the next page he mentioned
that he was also including by permission of
Federico Halbherr of the
Italian Mission in
Crete unpublished tablets from
Hagia Triada written
in a linear script of "Class A". To what degree if any Halbherr was
responsible for Evans' division of the "linear script" into "Class A"
and "Class B" is not stated. The
Knossos tablets were of Class B, so
that Evans could have perceived Class A only in tablets from
elsewhere, and so recently that he needed permission to include the
Evans summarized the differences between the two scripts as "type" or
"form of script;' that is, varieties in the formation and arrangement
of the characters. For example, he says "the clay documents belonging
to Class A show a certain approximation in their forms to those
presenting the hieroglyphic inscriptions ... the system of numerals is
also in some respects intermediate between that of the hieroglyphic
documents and that of the linear Class B."
The first volume covered "the Hieroglyphic and Primitive Linear
Classes" in three parts: the "pre-Phoenician Scripts of Crete", the
"Pictorial Script" and "the Phaistos Disk". One or two more volumes
Linear A and
Linear B tablets were planned, but Evans
ran out of time; the project required more than one man could bring to
it. For a good many of the years left to him, he was deeply enmeshed
in war and politics in the Balkans. When he did return to Knossos,
completion and publication of the palace excavations took priority.
His greatest work, Palace of Minos, came out in 1935. It did include
scattered descriptions of tablets. He died in 1941, soon after Nazi
forces invaded Crete.
Knossos tablets had remained in the museum at Irakleion, Crete,
where many of them now were missing. The unpublished second volume
consisted of notes by Evans and plates and fonts created by Clarendon
Press. In 1939,
Carl Blegen had uncovered the
Pylos Tablets; pressure
was mounting to finish Scripta Minoa II. After Evans' death, Alice
Kober, assistant to
John Myres and a major transcriber of the Knossos
tablets, prompted Myres to come back from retirement and finish the
Emmett L. Bennett, Jr. added more transcriptions. The second
volume came out in 1952 with Evans cited as author and Myres as
editor, just before the discovery that
Linear B writes an early
form of Greek. An impatient Ventris and Chadwick declared: "Two
generations of scholars had been cheated of the opportunity to work
constructively on the problem."
Despite the limited source materials, during this time there were
efforts to decipher the newly discovered Cretan script. Australian
Florence Stawell published an interpretation of the
Phaistos Disc in the April 1911 issue of The Burlington Magazine.
She followed this with the book A Clue to the Cretan Scripts,
published in 1931. Stawell declared all three Cretan script forms to
represent early Homeric Greek, and offered her attempts at
translations. Also in 1931, F. G. Gordon's Through Basque to Minoan
was published by the Oxford University Press. Gordon attempted to
prove a close link between the
Basque language and Linear B, without
In 1949, the distinguished Professor
Bedřich Hrozný of Prague
published Les Inscriptions Crétoises, Essai de déchiffrement, a
proposed decipherment of the Cretan scripts. Hrozny was
internationally renowned as the translator of Hittite cuneiform
decades previously. His Minoan translations into academic French,
proved to be considerably subjective, and incorrect.
From the 1930s to 1950s there was correspondence between, and papers
published by, various international academic figures. These included
Johannes Sundwall, K. D. Ktistopoulos, Ernst Sittig and V. I.
Georgiev. None of them succeeded with decipherment, yet they added
to knowledge and debate.
Alice Kober's triplets
About the same time, Professor
Alice Kober studied
Linear B and
managed to construct grids, linking similar symbols in groups of
threes. Kober noticed that a number of
Linear B words had common
roots and suffixes. This led her to believe that
Linear B represented
an inflected language, with nouns changing their endings depending on
their case. However, some characters in the middle of the words seemed
to correspond with neither a root nor a suffix. Because this effect
was found in other known languages, Kober surmised that the odd
characters were bridging syllables, with the beginning of the syllable
belonging to the root and the end belonging to the suffix. This was a
reasonable assumption, since
Linear B had far too many characters to
be considered alphabetic and too few to be logographic; therefore,
each character should represent a syllable.
Dr. Kober also showed that the two symbol word for 'total' at the end
of livestock and personnel lists, had a different symbol for gender.
This gender change with one letter, usually a vowel, is most frequent
in Indo-European languages. Kober had rejected any speculation on
the language represented, preferring painstaking cataloguing and
analysis of the actual symbols.
Emmett L. Bennett's transcription conventions
The convention for numbering the symbols still in use today was first
United States Professor Emmett L. Bennett, Jr.. Working
alongside fellow academic Alice Kober, by 1950 Bennett had deciphered
the metrical system, based on his intensive study of
Linear B tablets
unearthed at Pylos. He was also an early proponent of the idea that
Linear A and B represented different languages. Bennett's book The
Pylos Tablets became a crucial resource for Michael Ventris, who later
described it as "a wonderful piece of work".
Michael Ventris' identification as Greek
In 1935, the
British School at Athens
British School at Athens was celebrating its fiftieth
anniversary with an exhibition at Burlington House, London. Among the
speakers was Arthur Evans, then eighty-four years old. The teenaged
Michael Ventris was present in the audience. In 1940, the
18-year-old Ventris had an article Introducing the Minoan Language
published in the American Journal of Archaeology.
After wartime service as a navigator with RAF Bomber Command, and a
post-war year in Occupied Germany, he returned to civilian life, and
completed qualification as an architect. Despite having no university
qualification, Ventris continued with his amateur interest in Linear
B, corresponding with known scholars, who usually but not always
Michael Ventris and
John Chadwick performed the bulk of the
Linear B between 1951 and 1953. At first Ventris chose
his own numbering method, but later switched to Bennett's system. His
initial decipherment was achieved using Kober's classification tables,
to which he applied his own theories. Some
Linear B tablets had been
discovered on the Greek mainland. Noticing that certain symbol
combinations appeared only on the tablets found in Crete, he
conjectured that these might be names of places on the island. This
proved to be correct. Working with the symbols he could decipher from
this, Ventris soon unlocked much text and determined that the
underlying language of
Linear B was in fact Greek. This contradicted
general scientific views of the time, and indeed Ventris himself had
previously agreed with Evans' hypothesis that
Linear B was not Greek.
Ventris' discovery was of significance in demonstrating a
Greek-speaking Minoan-Mycenaean culture on Crete, and thus presenting
Greek in writing centuries earlier than had been previously
Chadwick, a university lecturer in
Ancient Greek philology, helped
Ventris develop his decipherment of the text and discover the
vocabulary and grammar of Mycenaean Greek.
Linear B Syllabary (
Linear B Ideograms
Unicode block), and Aegean Numbers (
Linear B was added to the
Unicode Standard in April, 2003 with the
release of version 4.0.
Linear B Syllabary block is U+10000–U+1007F. The Linear B
Ideograms block is U+10080–U+100FF. The
Unicode block for the
related Aegean Numbers is U+10100–U+1013F.
Linear B Syllabary
Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
1.^ As of
Unicode version 10.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points
Linear B Ideograms
Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
1.^ As of
Unicode version 10.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points
Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
1.^ As of
Unicode version 10.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points
^ In the
Unicode character names, Bennett's number has been rendered
into a three-digit code by padding with initial zeros and preceding
with a B (for "Linear B").
^ In linguistics C and V in this type of context stand for consonant
^ Sign *89 is not listed in Ventris & Chadwick's (1973) tables but
it does appear in the appendix of Bennett (1964) as part of the
^ Ventris and Chadwick use Roman characters for the reconstructed
Mycenaean Greek and give the closest later literary word in Greek
characters. Often the phonetics are the same, but equally as often the
reconstructed words represent an earlier form. Here the classical
Greek was formed by dropping the w and lengthening the e to ei.
^ The w is dropped to form the classical Greek.
^ Classical words typically have the η of the Attic-Ionic dialect
Linear B represents the original α.
^ Representing guasileus, the b coming from gu
^ Double letters, as in Knossos, were never represented; one was
^ Note that the codes do not represent all the glyphs, only the major
^ Beginning date refers to first attestations, the assumed origins of
all scripts lie further back in the past.
^ LM III is equivalent to LH III from a chronological perspective.
Linear B tablet found at Iklaina". Comité International
Permanent des Études Mycéniennes, UNESCO. Retrieved 29 April
^ Hogan, C. Michael (2008). "Cydonia". The Modern Antiquarian. Julian
Cope. Retrieved 12 January 2009.
^ Wren, Linnea Holmer; Wren, David J.; Carter, Janine M. (1987).
Perspectives on Western Art: Source Documents and Readings from the
Ancient Near East Through the Middle Ages. Harper & Row.
p. 55. ISBN 978-0-06-438942-6.
^ "Cracking the code: the decipherment of
Linear B 60 years on".
Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge. 13 October 2012.
Retrieved 31 May 2017.
^ Hooker, J.T. (1980). Linear B: An Introduction. Bristol Classical
Press UK. ISBN 0-906515-69-6.
^ Ventris and Chadwick 1973, p. 60.
^ Palaima, T.G.; Melena, Josē L. "A Brief History of CIPEM". Comité
International Permanent des Études Mycéniennes. Archived from the
original on 10 February 2009. Retrieved 28 March 2008.
^ Ventris and Chadwick (1973), page 37, quotes Bennett: "where the
same sign is used in both
Linear A and B there is no guarantee that
the same value is assigned to it."
^ Ventris and Chadwick (1973), Fig. 4 on page 23 states the "Proposed
values of the Mycenaean syllabary", which is mainly the same as the
table included in this article. The "grid" from which it came, which
was built up in "successive stages", is shown in Fig. 3 on page 20.
^ Ventris and Chadwick (1973), Fig. 9 on page 41 states Bennett's
numbers from 1 through 87 opposite the signs being numbered. The table
includes variants from Knossos, Pylos,
Mycenae and Thebes opposite the
^ a b Ventris and Chadwick (1973), page 385.
^ Ventris and Chadwick (1973), pages 391-392.
^ Ventris & Chadwick (1973), pages 385-391.
^ Ventris and Chadwick (1973), page 43.
^ The examples in this section except where otherwise noted come from
the Mycenaean Glossary of Ventris & Chadwick (1973).
^ Ventris & Chadwick (1973), pages 388-391.
^ Ventris & Chadwick (1973), page 44.
^ Ventris & Chadwick (1973), page 45. The authors use q instead of
k: qu, gu and quh, following the use of q- in transcription.
^ Cf. Chadwick, John, The Decipherment of Linear B, 1958, p.82
^ This table follows the numbering scheme worked out by Ventris and
Bennett and presented in Ventris and Chadwick (1973) in the table of
Figure 10, pages 50-51. The superscript a refers to Bennett's "Editio
a", "a hand from Pylos, of Class III". The superscript b refers to
Bennett's "Editio b", "a hand of Knosses". The superscript c refers to
Bennett's "Editio c", "a hand of Pylos, of Class I". The
non-superscript letters represent the class of tablets, which precedes
the individual tablet number; for example, Sa 787 is Tablet Number 787
of the class Sa, which concerns chariots and features the WHEEL
^ Figure 10 in Ventris and Chadwick (1973) states only the English
names of the ideograms where they exist, but the Latin is given where
it exists in Bennett, Jr. Editor, Emmett L. (1964). Mycenaean Studies:
Proceedings of the Third International Colloquium for Mycenaean
Studies Held at "Wingspread," 4–8 September 1961. Madison:
University of Wisconsin Press. pp. 258–259, "Ideogrammatum
Scripturae Mycenaeae Transcriptio". CS1 maint: Extra text:
authors list (link) The "m" and "f" superscript are male and female.
^ Given in capital letters if it repeats Ventris and Chadwick (1973)
Figure 10; otherwise, in lowercase. Note that not all the
appear in Figure 10.
^ Ventris and Chadwick (1973) page 391: "100 MAN is now used for all
forms of the ideogram, so that 101 and 103 are now suppressed."
^ Ventris & Chadwick either edition do not follow the Wingspread
Convention here but have 105a as a HE-ASS and 105c as a FOAL.
^ The 1956 edition has "Kind of sheep"
^ Chadwick (1976) page 105.
^ "Double mina", Chadwick (1976) page 102.
^ Ventris & Chadwick (1973) page 392.
^ Ventris and Chadwick (1973) page 324 has a separate table.
^ Driessen, Jan (2000). The Scribes of the Room of the Chariot Tablets
at Knossos. Salamanca: Ediciones universidad de Salamanca.
^ Palaima, Thomas G. (2003). "OL Zh1: QVOSQVE TANDEM". Minos. 38:
^ Than, Ker (30 March 2011). "Ancient Tablet Found: Oldest Readable
Writing in Europe". National Geographic. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
Linear B in Bavaria?". archaiologia.gr. Archived from the original
on 30 April 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
^ Neer, Richard (2012). Greek Art and Archaeology. New York: Thames
& Hudson. p. 44. ISBN 978-0500288771.
^ Olivier, J.‐P. (February 1986). "Cretan writing in the second
millennium B.C.". World Archaeology. 17 (3): 377–389.
^ "The Danube Script and Other Ancient Writing Systems:A Typology of
Distinctive Features". Harald Haarmann. 2008.
^ Shelmerdin, Cynthia W. (1998). "Where Do We Go From Here? And How
Linear B Tablets
Help Us Get There?". In Cline, Eric H.;
Harris-Cline, Diane. The Aegean and the Orient in the Second
Millennium: Proceedings of the 50th Anniversary Symposium, Cincinnati,
18-20 April 1997 (PDF). Aegaeum. Universite de Liege, Histoire de
L'art Et Archeologie de la Grece Antiquei. Archived from the original
(PDF) on 3 October 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2008: The table is heavily
indebted to this chapter.
^ Palmer, L.R.; Boardman, John (1963). On the
Knossos Tablets. Oxford:
^ Ventris & Chadwick 1973, p. 8.
^ Schliemann, Heinrich; Gladstone, William Ewart (1880). Mycenæ. New
York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 114.
^ Evans, A.J. (1894). "Primitive Pictographs and a Prae-Phoenician
Crete and the Peloponnese". Journal of Hellenic Studies.
14: 270–372, 394. doi:10.2307/623973. JSTOR 623973.
^ Evans, Arthur J. (1898). "Further Discoveries of Cretan and Aegean
Script". Journal of Hellenic Studies. XVII: 327–395.
doi:10.2307/623835. JSTOR 623835.
^ Clowes, William Laird; Markham, Clements Robert; Mahan, Alfred
Thayer; Wilson, Herbert Wrigley; Roosevelt, Theodore; Laughton,
Leonard George Carr (1903). The Royal Navy. VII. London: Sampson, Low,
Marston and Company. pp. 444–448.
^ Brown, Cynthia Ann (1983).
Arthur Evans and the Palace of Minos
Ashmolean Museum Edition: illustrated ed.). Oxford: Ashmolean Museum.
pp. 15–30. ISBN 9780900090929.
^ a b c Evans, Arthur J. (1901). "Knossos: Summary Report of the
Excavations in 1900: I The Palace". The Annual of the British School
at Athens (VI: Session 1899–1900): 3–70.
^ Evans, Arthur J. (1900). "Crete: Systems of Writing". Journal of the
Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. XXX (New
Series, III) (90): 91–93.
^ "Archaeology: Crete". Appletons' Annual Cyclopedia and Register of
Important Events of the Year 1900. Third Series, V; Whole Series, XI.
1901. pp. 25–28.
^ Evans, Arthur J. (1909). Scripta Minoa: The Written Documents of
Minoan Crete: With
Special Reference to the Archives of Knossos.
Volume I: The Hieroglyphic and Primitive Linear Classes with an
Account of the Discovery of the Pre-Phoenician Scripts, their Place in
Minoan Story and their Mediterranean Relations: with Plates, Tables
and Figures in the Text. Oxford: The Clarendon Press.
^ Scripta Minoa I, page ix.
^ Scripta Minoa I, page 36.
^ Evans, Arthur J. (1952). Scripta Minoa: The Written Documents of
Minoan Crete: With
Special Reference to the Archives of Knossos.
Volume II: The Archives of Knossos: Clay Tablets Inscribed in Linear
Script B Edited from Notes, and Supplemented by John L. Myres. Oxford:
The Clarendon Press.
^ Documents in Mycenaean Greek, page 11.
^ Chadwick, Decipherment... p.28
^ Chsdwick, Decipherment.., pp27-8
^ Chadwick, Decipherment pp30-32
^ Fox, (2013) pp.163-7
^ Robinson, (2002) p.71
^ Fox, (2013) pp.107-9
^ Emmett L. Bennett Jr - obituary - Daily Telegraph, London, 23
^ Stambaugh, Stephanie. "Linear Scripts and the Phaistos Disk".
mansfield.edu. Archived from the original on 11 February 2009.
^ Robinson, pp32-3
^ Chadwick, Decipherment 1961 Pelican edition pp47-9
Jacquetta Hawkes Dawn of the Gods 1972 Sphere Books pp49-51]]
Carpenter, Rhys, (1957) "Linear B", Phoenix, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Summer,
1957), pp. 47–62
Chadwick, John (1958). The Decipherment of Linear B. Second edition
(1990). Cambridge UP. ISBN 0-521-39830-4.
Chadwick, John (1976). The Mycenaean World. Cambridge UP.
Chadwick, John (1987).
Linear B and Related Scripts; "Reading the
Past". Third impression (1997). University of California Press/British
Museum. ISBN 0-520-06019-9. has the
Enkomi clay tablet,
circa 1500 BCE., examples of
Linear B tablets, and translated, the
Linear B syllabary, the
Cypriot syllabary and discussions
thereof, and short sections on Linear A, and the Phaistos Disk.
Fox, Margalit (2013). The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack
an Ancient Code. Ecco. ISBN 978-0062228833.
Levin, Saul (1964). The
Linear B Decipherment Controversy Re-examined.
State University of New York Press. OCLC 288842.
McDorman, Richard E. (2010). Language and the Ancient Greeks and On
the Decipherment of
Linear B (A Pair of Essays).
Palaima, Thomas G., "Unlocking the Secrets of Ancient Writing: The
Parallel Lives of
Michael Ventris and Linda Schele and the
Decipherment of Mycenaean and Mayan Writing", University of Texas at
Austin, Eleventh International Mycenological Colloquium, 2000.
Robinson, Andrew (1995). The Story of Writing. Paperback edition
(1999). Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-28156-4. Chapter 6,
Linear B, pp 108–119: discusses Arthur Evans, his work, the Cypriot
clues, the syllabary, Alice Kober, the "Grid", and a sample tablet
transliterated, and translated into English.
Robinson, Andrew The Man Who Deciphered Linear B: the story of Michael
Ventris (2002) Thames & Hudson ISBN 0500510776
Singh, Simon (2000). The Code Book. Anchor.
ISBN 0-385-49532-3. for a general outline of the Linear B
deciphering story, from Schliemann to Chadwick.
Ventris, Michael (1988). Work notes on
Minoan language research and
other unedited papers. Edizioni dell'Ateneo 1988 Roma.
Ventris, Michael; Chadwick, John (1973). Documents in Mycenaean Greek
(Second ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ventris, Michael; Chadwick, John (1953) "Evidence for Greek Dialect in
the Mycenaean Archives", The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 73,
(1953), pp. 84–103.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Linear B.
Look up Category:
Mycenaean Greek nouns in Wiktionary, the free
Ager, Simon (1998–2009). "Linear B". Omniglot. Retrieved 6 January
Clark, Curtis (1992–1998). "TrueType Fonts: Ancient alphabets and
mythic symbols: Linear B". Curtis Clark. —Not Unicode
Aurora, Federico; Haug, Dag Trygve Truslew. "DĀMOS: Database of
Mycenaean at Oslo". et al. University of Oslo.
Fox, Margalit. "Alice E. Kober, 43; Lost to History No More". New York
Times (11 May 2013). Retrieved 13 May 2013.
Linear B at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
Linear B online transliterator
Lo, Lawrence (1996–2005). "Linear B". AncientScripts.com. Retrieved
5 January 2009.
McCreedy, David; Weiss, Mimi. "Gallery of
Unicode Fonts: Linear B
Syllabary". WAZU, Japan. Retrieved 11 January 2009.
Owens, Dr. Gareth (2005–2008). "Daidalika - Scripts and Languages of
Minoan and Mycenaean Crete" (in English and Greek). Technological
Educational Institute (TEI) of Crete. Retrieved 9 January 2009.
Palaeolexicon - "Word study tool of Ancient languages, including
Linear B". Palaeolexicon.com.
Palaima, Thomas G, A
Linear B Tablet from Heidelberg, Université de
Palaima, Thomas G.; Pope, Elizabeth I.; Reilly III, F. Kent (2000).
The Parallel Lives of
Michael Ventris and Linda Schele and the
Decipherment of Mycenaean and Mayan Writing (PDF). Austin: University
of Texas. ISBN 0-9649410-4-X. Retrieved 13 January 2009.
Palmer, Dr. Michael M (2002–2009). "The
Linear B Syllabary". Chapel
Hill, NC: Greek-Language.com.
Raymoure, K.A. (2012). "
Linear B Transliterations". Minoan Linear A
& Mycenaean Linear B. Deaditerranean.
Rutter, Jeremy B. (1996). "The Prehistoric Archaeology of the Aegean".
Hanover, NH: The Foundation of the Hellenic World, Dartmouth College.
Archived from the original on 1 January 2009. Retrieved 5 January
Types of writing systems
History of writing
Languages by writing system / by first written accounts
Old North Arabian
Boyd's syllabic shorthand
Thomas Natural Shorthand
New Tai Lue
Pau Cin Hau
New York Point
New Epoch Notation Painting
Chinese family of scripts
Oracle bone script
Khitan large script
Khitan small script
Ditema tsa Dinoko
Great Lakes Algonquian syllabics
Nwagu Aneke script
Old Persian Cuneiform
Unicode braille patterns
(see for more)
Devanagari (Hindi / Marathi / Nepali)
Chinese (Mandarin, mainland)
English (Unified English)
Inuktitut (reassigned vowels)
Taiwanese Mandarin (largely reassigned)
Thai & Lao (Japanese vowels)
Gardner–Salinas braille codes (GS8)
Symbols in braille
Canadian currency marks
Gardner–Salinas braille codes (GS8/GS6)
International Phonetic Alphabet
International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)
Nemeth braille code
Optical braille recognition
Refreshable braille display
Slate and stylus
Thakur Vishva Narain Singh
William Bell Wait
Braille Institute of America
Braille Without Borders
Schools for the blind
American Printing House for the Blind
Other tactile alphabets
New York Point
Electronic writing systems
Internet slang dialects
Lolspeak / LOLspeak / Kitteh
Martian language (Chinese)
Padonkaffsky jargon (Russian)
See also English internet slang (at Wiktionary)
Origin and genealogy
Mycenaean Greek (c. 1600–1100 BC)
Ancient Greek (c. 800–300 BC)
Koine Greek (c. 300 BC–AD 330)
Medieval Greek (c. 330–1453)
Modern Greek (since 1453)
Attic and Ionic
Jewish Koine Greek
Koine Greek grammar
Cyrillization and Romanization
Promotion and study
Hellenic Foundation for Culture
Center for the Greek Language
Morphemes in English
Terms of endearment