Ancient Greek History

Linear B Script: Alphabet of the Mycenaeans

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KnossosThe Mycenaean Civilization came well after the Minoans lost their dominance. Whether or not the Mycenaeans invaded the Minoans and how the Minoan Civilization actually fell is up for debate. In general, the Mycenaeans seem to have admired aspects of the Minoan culture, and evidence of that fact can be found at Mycenaean dig sites. One of the ways that the Mycenaeans seemed to have continued the Minoan culture is through the language and the script, Linear B, is an example of this. Here’s more information about Linear B script:

Precursor to Linear B

When the Mycenaeans first encountered the Minoans, they were likely speaking a similar language. At the time, the Minoans had a form of writing known as Linear A script, which they used to express the sounds of their language. Not enough examples of Linear A have been found, which means that it hasn’t been translated. Still, historians do know enough about it to have figured out that Linear A was the precursor to Linear B. Also, Linear B is considered to be the oldest, most well preserved form of the Greek language that exists now.

Origins of Linear B

As mentioned above, Linear B is believed to have been derived from Linear A. At the time when the Linear B script was developed, much of the region that now includes modern day Greece and Turkey (Asia Minor) already spoke the Greek language. Linear B script was created as a visual way to represent the sounds of the Greek language. Examples of Linear B script have been found in places such as Knossos, Mycenae, Pylos, Thebes, and Tiryns. It is believed that Linear B was in use in Ancient Greece in Mycenae from around 1400 B.C. to 1200 B.C.

Preserved Clay Tablets

At the time, it was engraved on clay tablets and was often used to keep records and to engage in trade. The clay tablets were never considered permanent and the writing was often wiped clean and new information was logged on them. For whatever reason, some of the tablets did become permanent, which is why we are able to ¬†find examples of Linear B today. For instance, if a clay tablet with Linear B were discarded in a refuse pile and left to bake in the sun, it would then become permanent. Although this wasn’t the Mycenaeans’ intent, this did allow the language to be preserved so that we could learn about it today.

Deciphering Linear B Script

Back in the late 19th Century A.D, the clay tablets that had Linear B written on them were first discovered. However, at the time of their discovery, the etchings weren’t recognized as a script. Finally, in the 1950’s, the tablets were successfully translated. Enough examples of the Linear B had been found in order to piece together the meaning of the script. Examples of Linear B tablets are currently on display at the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion, Greece.

Linear B is an important part of the life of the Ancient Greeks since the Mycenaeans were considered the first true Ancient Greek civilization.


Wikipedia – Linear A

Wikipedia – Linear B

Ancient History Encyclopedia – Linear B Script

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This post was written by Greek Boston