Minoan Language and writing

Minoan Language and writing

Minoan Language and writing

 Clay tablets dating to around 3000 BC were found with the various Cretan scripts. Clay tablets seem to have been in use from around 3000 BC or earlier. Two clay cups from Knossos have been found to have remnants of ink, and inkwells similar to the animal-shaped inkstands from Mesopotamia have also been found.

Sometimes the Minoan language is referred to as Eteocretan, but this confuses the language written in Linear A scripts and the language written in a Euboean-derived alphabet after the Greek Dark Ages. While the Eteocretan language is believed to be a descendant of Minoan, there is not enough source material in either language to allow conclusions to be made.

The earliest dated writing found on Crete is the Cretan hieroglyphs. It is not known whether this language is Minoan or not and its origin is still a topic of debate. These hieroglyphs are often associated with the Egyptians, but they also show relation to several other writings from the region of Mesopotamia. The hieroglyphs came into use from MMI; they were used at the same time as the emerging Linear A from the 18th century BC (MM II). The hieroglyphs disappeared at some point during the 17th century BC (MM III).

In the Mycenean period, Linear A was replaced by Linear B, recording a very archaic version of the Greek language. Linear B was successfully deciphered by Michael Ventris in 1952, but the earlier scripts remain a mystery. The overwhelming majority of tablets are written in the Linear B script, apparently being inventories of goods or resources. Others are inscriptions on religious objects associated with a cult. Because most of these inscriptions are concise economic records rather than dedicatory inscriptions, the translation of Minoan remains a challenge.

Discos Phaitos

Discos Phaitos

Phaistos Disc

The Phaistos Disc (also spelled Phaistos Disk, Phaestos Disc) is a disk of fired clay from the Minoan palace of Phaistos on the Greek island of Crete, possibly dating to the middle or late Minoan Bronze Age (2nd millennium BC). It is about 15 cm (5.9 in) in diameter and covered on both sides with a spiral of stamped symbols. Its purpose and meaning, and even its original geographical place of manufacture, remain disputed, making it one of the most famous mysteries of archaeology. This unique object is now on display at the archaeological museum of Heraklion.

The Phaistos Disc captured the imagination of amateur and professional archeologists, and many attempts have been made to decipher the code behind the disc’s signs. While it is not clear that it is a script, most attempted decipherments assume that it is; most additionally assume a syllabary, others an alphabet or logography. Attempts at decipherment are generally thought to be unlikely to succeed unless more examples of the signs are found, as it is generally agreed that there is not enough context available for a meaningful analysis.

Discovery

The Phaistos Disc was discovered in the Minoan palace-site of Phaistos, near Hagia Triada, on the south coast of Crete; specifically the disc was found in the basement of room 8 in building 101 of a group of buildings to the northeast of the main palace. This grouping of 4 rooms also served as a formal entry into the palace complex. Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier recovered this remarkably intact “dish”, about 15 cm in diameter and uniformly slightly more than one centimetre in thickness, on 3 July 1908 during his excavation of the first Minoan palace.

It was found in the main cell of an underground “temple depository”. These basement cells, only accessible from above, were neatly covered with a layer of fine plaster. Their content was poor in precious artifacts but rich in black earth and ashes, mixed with burnt bovine bones. In the northern part of the main cell, in the same black layer, a few inches south-east of the disc and about twenty inches above the floor, Linear A tablet PH 1 was also found. The site apparently collapsed as a result of an earthquake, possibly linked with the eruption of the Santorini volcano that affected large parts of the Mediterranean region during the mid second millennium BC.

Phaistos Disc

Phaistos Disc

Typography

The inscription was apparently made by pressing pre-formed hieroglyphic “seals” into the soft clay, in a clockwise sequence spiraling towards the disc’s center. It was then fired at high temperature. The unique character of the Phaistos Disc stems from the fact that the entire text was inscribed in this way, reproducing a body of text with reusable characters.

The German typesetter and linguist Herbert Brekle, in his article “The typographic principle” in the Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, argues that the Phaistos Disc is an early document of movable type printing, since it meets the essential criteria of typographic printing, that of type identity:

An early clear incidence for the realization of the typographic principle is the notorious Phaistos Disc (ca. 1800–1600 BC). If the disc is, as assumed, a textual representation, we are really dealing with a “printed” text, which fulfills all definitional criteria of the typographic principle. The spiral sequencing of the graphematical units, the fact that they are impressed in a clay disc (blind printing!) and not imprinted are merely possible technological variants of textual representation. The decisive factor is that the material “types” are proven to be repeatedly instantiated on the clay disc. Source Wikipedia.

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