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Minoan Writing and Inscriptions
Minoan Writing and Inscriptions
About Crete - The Minoans - Minoan Writing and Inscriptions

The original Minoan script appeared about 2000 B.C. and was ideographic. An ideographic script consists of ideograms which are drawings of objects or concepts. Although their meaning can be recognized by people, the ideograms do not have any phonetic significance. This ideographic Minoan script is called Hieroglyphic, but it bears no relationship to the Egyptian hieroglyphics. The Minoan hieroglyphs were representations from the animal world, from the human body, and from everyday life. Evans listed 135 hieroglyphic signs. The hieroglyphic script of the Minoans has not been deciphered. The most important hieroglyphic inscription in Crete is the famous Disk of Festos, a clay disk covered on both sides with hieroglyphs arranged in a spiral which were impressed on the clay when the disk was still wet. The disk contains forty-five different types of signs, some of which can be identified with hieroglyphs of the Old Palace Period.

Another script, called Linear A, was in use concurrently with the hieroglyphic script in Festos, and it was extensively used later in the New Palace Period. Its signs have been derived from ideograms, but they are no longer recognizable objects, but lines grouped in abstract formations. The Linear A script contains about seventy different characters, and it has not been deciphered yet. A deciphered portion of the script involves a decimal arithmetic system with fractions. A script developed in Cyprus between 1500 B.C. and 1100 B.C., called Cypro-Minoan has all of its characters identical to those of Linear A. Linear A inscriptions have also been found in Milos and Thira. Tablets with Linear A inscriptions are displayed in the Iraklion Museum and other archaeological museums of Crete.

After 1450 B.C. a new script, termed Linear B, appeared in Knossos. The symbols of the script have many similarities and common elements with the Linear A script. The script was deciphered in 1952 by Ventris and Chadwick, and it was shown to be the Greek language, which was considered to be proof that the Myceneans were in Crete during this time period. If the decipherment is correct, then the Linear A was the main Minoan script, while Linear B was imported to Knossos by the Myceneans. The tablets found at Knossos provide information about the organization of the kingdom, such as the property of the king, offerings to deities and troop movements. These tablets have been preserved because the fire at Knossos fired the clay, which otherwise would have disappeared. Some tablets with Linear B are displayed in the Iraklion Museum.

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