Ancient Greek History

Get to Know Cretan Hieroglyphs

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Most people don’t realize this, but a form of hieroglyphs originated in Ancient Greece. Hieroglyph characters may represent a sound, syllable, or a word, and are prevalent in ancient writing systems including the Mayan and Egyptian systems. Cretan Hieroglyphs are hieroglyphs from ancient Crete that date back to the earliest Bronze Age of the Minoan Era.

The Minoan civilization existed between 2,700 BC to 1,100 BC. These hieroglyphs are older than the Linear A writing system by about 100 years. However, both systems were used by the Cretans during the Minoan age. Linear A writing systems were quite distinctive from the Mesopotamian and Egyptian writing systems which were prominently used during that era.

Collection of Written Texts

Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan, described the Cretan Hieroglyphs as both texts and signs and sign groups. Olivier de Sardan is a leading French/Nigerian anthropologist and a professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Marseilles.

The texts or seals and sealings consist of 150 documents that epitomize 307 sign groups that consist of more than 800 signs. The additional records or sign groups consist of more than 700 signs.

Location of the Excavations

The Cretan Hieroglyphs were excavated from four locations on the island. The Malia documents were discovered in the town of Malia on the northeastern section of the island in the region of Heraklion. Deposits of documents were also found at the Malia Palace, at Knossos, and Petras.

The Malia Palace, which was constructed in 1900 BC, is on Crete’s northern coast. The Knossos site is the most significant archaeological site on Crete from the Bronze Age and is believed to be the oldest city in Europe. Petras in the northeastern section of Crete was an ancient city inhabited by the Minoans. Three Linear A documents, written between 1800 and 1450 BC were unearthed at the site.

Archaeological Discoveries

Archaeologists unearthed clay documents with inscriptions, seal-stones; which are carved gemstones, and seal-stone impressions. Large quantities of Minoan seal-stones were discovered at Mallia, Knossos, and Phaistos, in the south-central region of the island. The carvings on the seal-stones depicted goddesses, animals, and dance.

Additional artifacts that were discovered on the island were:

  • Arkalochori Axe
  • Malia Altar Stone
  • Phaistos Disc

The Arkalochori Axe is a Minoan, Bronze Age ax from the Second Millennium BC, which is believed to have been used in religious ceremonies. The Malia Altar Stone was the discovery of a farmer near Malia. The stone bears one of the longest inscriptions in Cretan Hieroglyphs ever discovered on the island.

The Phaistos Disc was discovered at the Phaistos Palace on Crete and is one of archaeology’s great mysteries. The disc was fired from clay and features symbols on both sides in a spiral design. Archaeologists have not been able to discover the origin of the disc or the meaning of the symbols.

The Cretan Hieroglyphs are one of archaeology’s most significant discoveries. The hieroglyphs provide contemporary archaeologists with data about life during the Minoan Era and are proof that ancient civilizations were able to express themselves through writing and art.


Wikipedia – Cretan Hieroglyphs

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