Friday, February 6, 2015

Linear A

Linear A – Un-deciphered Writing System

Linear A is what archaeologist has called the un-deciphered writing systems or script used in ancient Greece. It is one of the two scripts used at the time of the Proto-palatial period and Linear A was used in the central southern region – Mesara of Crete, while Cretan hieroglyphic was used on the northern and north-eastern region of Crete. Some consider these as simultaneous scripts while others see Cretan hieroglyphics as being developed earlier.

Linear A was the primary script which was used in palace and religious writing of the Minoan civilization.It was discovered by Sir Arthur Evans, an archaeologist, which is an origin script of the Linear B script and later used by the Mycenaean civilization. Linear B was deciphered in 1960 and was found to encode an early form of Greek and though the two systems have several similar symbols, it did not lead to any subsequent decipherment of Linear A. With the values connected with Linear B in Linear A, it produced unintelligent words and if the same or similar syllabic value as Linear B is used then its underlying languages seemed unrelated to any language known which has been dubbed the Minoan language.

Europe’s First Known Syllabary 

Linear A, invented in around 1800 BC, is Europe’s first known syllabary, a writing system which used different symbols, representing syllables instead of pictograms to convey complete ideas. It comprised of around 100 various symbols and was probably used for administrative functions besides religion. The scripts were found on a broad range of items which included inscriptions on metal, stone, ceramic vessels, stamp seals and roundels which were used by Cretan administrative people and as part of inscriptions, were painted and carved on tombs and altars.

A study in the possible signs in Linear A which could represent the spice saffron was reported in 2011 in the Oxford Journal of Archaeology, where archaeologist Jo Day indicates that though Linear A is yet to be deciphered, there seems to be recognized ideograms in Linear A which are similar to the Linear B ideograms specially for agricultural commodities like figs, olives, wine, humans and certain livestock. Linear B form for saffron is known as CROC, the Latin name for saffron is Crocus sativus.

Disappearance – Outcome of Invading Mycenaean

At the time of cracking the Linear A code, Evans thought he saw some similarities to CROC though did not report any specifics and none are listed in any of the other previous attempts made by Olivier and Godart or Palmer, to decipher Linear A. Jo Day is of the opinion that a plausible candidate for Linear A version of CROC could be a sign with four variants namely A508, A509, A510 and A511, found primarily at Ayia Triadha, some examples of Khania and the Villa at Knossos and others, which are dated to the late Minoan IB era.

Towards 1450 BC, Linear A disappeared and was replaced by language, Linear B which has been deciphered and found to be a form of archaic Greek. Scholars are debating about the origins, possible language and disappearance of Linear A. Some state that the disappearance was the outcome of invading Mycenaean who were responsible in destroying the Cretan culture while others like John Bennett consider the Linear A script was retooled to include more signs to record a new language.

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