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Evidence for Greek Dialect in the Mycenaean Archives

  • Michael Ventris and John Chadwick
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With the fuller publication of the material found by Blegen at Ano Englianos in 1939 (The Pylos Tablets, Dr. Emmett L. Bennett, Jr., Princeton, 1951) and by Evans at Knossos in 1899–1904 (Scripta Minoa, Vol. II, ed. Sir John Myres, Oxford, 1952), it has at last been possible to undertake a systematic study of the Minoan–Mycenaean texts written in Linear Script B. Their decipherment is now the central problem in Aegean archaeology, accentuated by the discovery, in the summer of 1952, of many new tablets by Blegen at Pylos and by Wace at Mycenae.

Evans believed that Linear B (first found in the L.M. II palace of Knossos, c. 1400 B.C., and thereafter the exclusive script of the Mainland down to the ‘Dorian invasion’) was an administrative revision of Linear A, designed to express the same ‘Aegean’ language; and that Minoan colonisation of the Mainland was responsible for its occurrence at Pylos, Tiryns, Thebes, and Eleusis.

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page 84 note * The Knossos tablets are referenced by Evans' numbering (e.g. 840, 0403), those from Pylos by Bennett's alphabetic classification (e.g. An42, Jn03). We are very grateful to Professor Wace for giving us advance photographs of the new Mycenae tablets, which are referred to by their inventory numbers in the 1952 dig. The substance of this article has grown out of an idea suggested by M. V. in May 1952, and owes much to the generous advice, criticism, or encouragement of Professors D. L. Page, Sir John Myres, Gudmund Björck, Arne Furumark, and I. J. Gelb.

page 84 note † Windekens, A. J. van, Le Pélasgique, Louvain, 1952. Its surviving forms are supposed to show the satem characteristics of σ- for for the labio-velar and retention of initial and intervocalic *s-. On all three criteria our Mycenaean dialect appears to ally itself withGreek rather than with this highly dubious language.

page 98 note § Cuneiform economic tablets, particularly those from Ur and Nuzi, suggest many useful context parallels. Compare the large series which record issues of Bronze to smiths making various objects. For the phraseology, cf. the Sumerian tablet B.M. 18344 (CT III, Pls. 9 f.): geme-guruš še-ba dib-ba: “male and female serfs receiving barley wages”: / geme-guruš še-ba nu-dib-ba: “serfs not receiving barley wages:”.

page 98 note ¶ A similar context is seen on contemporary Nuzi tablets (e.g. AASOR XVI (1935–36) No. 87): “5 imer of Barley, given to Kipali for sowing on 5 imer of land belonging to Uzna; the lands of Uzna are for ‘partnership’, and Kipali shall not dispose of them.” At Pylos, too, the acreages are presumably proportional to the amounts of seed.

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The Journal of Hellenic Studies
  • ISSN: 0075-4269
  • EISSN: 2041-4099
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-hellenic-studies
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