Linear B

po_LinearB

po_LinearB-2

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 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 three “Linears” (the third being Linear C, aka Cypro-Minoan 1) to be deciphered, by young English architect and self-taught linguist, Michael Ventris.

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). From this fact, it could be thought that the script was used by only a guild of professional scribes who served the central palaces. Once the palaces were destroyed, the script disappeared.