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Akkadian Tablets in Minoan Dress

  • Cyrus H. Gordon (a1)

1. In the September number of ANTIQUITY (no. 123, pp. 124–130), I suggested that the language of Linear A was Semitic. I leaned toward narrowing down the probabilities to West Semitic, but indicated the possibility of East Semitic (= Akkadian or Assyro-Babylonian) too. The clue to the identification of the language proved to be ga-ba MAN 62 (= Akkadian gabba awîlū 62) ‘ all the men = 62 ’ (p. 128, n. 14aa). Subsequently I observed that the regular Mycenaean Greek totalling formula (e.g. to-so MAN 17 ‘ so many men: 17 ’) was as exact an equivalent of my Akkadian reading as one could expect in so different an idiom. From that moment on I approached Linear A with Akkadian in mind.

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1 All Mycenaean Greek words can be found, with full documentation, in the ‘ Vocabulary ’ of Ventris and Chadwick, Documents in Mycenaean Greek. The passage I have quoted is from text 39 :10, on p. 172.

2 First noted by the late Professor J. L. Myres. I have learned this, and many other valuable clues, from the essay on Linear A, in Ventris and Chadwick, op. cit., pp. 31–6.

3 By coincidence, only the roots gmr ‘ complete ’ and kmr ‘ heap ’ supply suitable meanings and both of them would fall together in Minoan script; ki-tu-mu-ru could stand for gitmuru as well as kitmuru. I prefer kmr because two nouns derived from it (viz., kimratu and kumurrū) denote ‘ (arithmetical) total ’.

4 This sign may prove to be mo of Linear B.

5 In the Nuzu tablets, the opposite of umalli (which can be apocopated to umal; see Orientalia, 7, 1938, p. 222, § 5.20) ‘ he has paid out ’, is ukal ‘ he has withheld ’ which has been mistaken for the D-conjugation of kwl. Nuzu Akkadian, while unclassical in many ways, is meticulous regarding the tenses. If Nuzu ‘ he has withheld ’ were from kwl, the preterite tense would have been ukīl. The simplest way to explain Nuzu ukal is to regard it as the apocopated form of ukallā (from kl) like umal (from ml’).

6 This form explains ku-lu-ù on an Old Akkadian tablet ( Gelb, I.J., Old Akkadian Inscriptions, Chicago, 1955, p. 265). Five names of people, present and accounted for, appear on the obverse; while on the reverse, after a large blank space, three more names are followed by ku-lu-ù. Here ku-lu-ù (= kullu’ū ‘they have been withheld ’) signifies that the three persons on the reverse have not been handed over.

7 Elsewhere these logographic numbers seem to be fractions. In Akkadian the formation parus designates ordinals as well as fractions. Thus šalšu (with nominative case ending: šalšu) means ‘ (the) third (one) ’ as well as ‘ (one) third ’.

8 Our Linear A evidence suggests Aegean affinities (via the Philistines) for the Judean calendar in which the months are numbered from Ist through 12th.

9 Just as UDum Ikam is read ūm Ikam ‘ Ist day ’ in Akkadian, MU Ikam ‘ Ist year ’ should now be read šattu Ikam instead of šattu Ikam. I shall explain the formation on another occasion.

10 Called to my attention by O. G. S. Crawford.

11 Republished, with the HT texts, by Carratelli, G. Pugliese, Mounmenti Antichi, 40 (4a), 1945, col. 593–4.

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  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
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