Linear B - Ancient Mycenaean Language

May 5th, 2023 - Vera

There are many ancient languages that have been lost to time, but some have left behind traces that offer insights into the civilizations and cultures that used them. One such language is Linear B, an ancient script used in the Mycenaean civilization of ancient Greece.

Linear B was used by the Mycenaeans during the Late Bronze Age, from around the 15th century BCE to the 12th century BCE. The script was discovered in the early 20th century by archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, who found tablets inscribed with the script at the Palace of Knossos on the island of Crete.

The Mycenaeans were a powerful civilization that dominated much of Greece and parts of the eastern Mediterranean from the 15th to the 12th century BCE. They were known for their impressive palace complexes, their skilled metalworking and craftsmanship, and their involvement in the Trojan War, as recounted in Homer’s epic poem, the Iliad.

Linear B is unique in that it is an early form of Greek, written in a script that is different from the familiar Greek alphabet. The script consists of a combination of signs and symbols that represent syllables, rather than individual letters.

The signs and symbols used in Linear B represent a range of things, including people, animals, and objects, as well as abstract concepts like numbers and quantities. The tablets that have been found with the script on them include inventories of goods and supplies, administrative records, and even a few religious texts.

One of the challenges of studying Linear B is that there are relatively few surviving examples of the script, and many of the tablets that have been found are fragmentary or damaged. In addition, the script itself is difficult to decipher, as it does not use the same symbols or signs as later Greek scripts.

Despite these challenges, scholars have made significant progress in deciphering Linear B and understanding the Mycenaean civilization. Some of the most important discoveries made through the study of Linear B include the fact that the Mycenaeans had a sophisticated bureaucracy and system of record-keeping, as well as evidence of their trade networks and military campaigns.

Linear B has also shed light on the Mycenaean language itself, which appears to be an early form of Greek with some unique features. For example, the language includes a number of loanwords from other ancient languages, including Egyptian and Hittite, which suggest that the Mycenaeans were involved in trade and diplomacy with other cultures.

Overall, the study of Linear B and the Mycenaean civilization has contributed greatly to our understanding of the ancient world, and the script remains an important area of research for scholars in a range of fields, including archaeology, linguistics, and ancient history. While the language itself may never be fully understood, the tablets and records that have been found with the script on them offer valuable insights into the lives, customs, and beliefs of the Mycenaeans, and the legacy of their civilization continues to be felt in Greece and beyond.

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