The medical adeptnesss of the Minoans is revealed by these Egyptian documents: there was even a special plant ("Keftian bean") imported from Crete as remedy for certain illnesses. But the most important part of the cited papyri are the magic incantations that were used to 'cure' certain diseases by the physicians (or should I say shamans?) of old. In the current post, I will write about only two of these magical phrases - these are the one of the best known examples of Keftian incantations. One of them is the incantation to treat the 'Asiatic' disease on the Hearst Medical Papyrus; the second one is the spell from the London Medical Papyrus to treat the Samuna-illness.
The first incantation reads as follows (as on the papyrus):
|Spell for the Asiatic disease in Keftiu language:|
This utterance is said with...
Unfortunately, there are no word-dividers, nor determinatives, so it is hard to analyse this sentence. Just to break this monster into separate words is a hard task by itself. Perhaps (and I cannot stress enough: very tentatively) the phrase can be reconstructed as follows:
santi kapawa piyawaya iya mantil kakail
Almost everything in this phase is just pure theory, but a few things seem more-or-less certain: The i-r parts seem to be endings (moreover, similar endings), so I made them terminal. The phrase also features the sequence k3-pw, which looks similar to the KA-PA and KU-PA phrases found on the Linear A tablets. The i-j- part seems to start a word, so I reconstructed them as *iya (that is also found in Linear A in the form of I-JA). It can either be separate or form the beginning of the next word (*iya mantil, *iyamantil or *i yamantil). Since this is a sentence, it must contain at least one verb. This could be either iya or any of the phrases preceding it (e.g. santi or piyawaya). Remember, we expect some sort of 'optative' mood, so the supposed Linear A verbal endings -TI and -SI do not help.
Fortunately, the second incantation is much better. Since it contains determinatives, one can not only properly separate the words, but also directly understand something of their meanings. This incantation reads the following:
|Incantation of the Samuna-illness:|
w-b-q-i (det: ILLNESS) s3-t-t (det: ?)
s3-b-w-j-7-3-jj-d3-3 (det: TO GO)
hw-m-c-k3-3-t-w (det: MAN)
r-t3-jj The Great God and 'a-m-c-j3, God!
This sentence is to be said four times!
This phrase could be a real treasure trove of Minoan words, if properly reconstructured, analysed and understood. A possible transliteration of the sentence is presented below:
wappakwi sat(et) sappawaya-iyattsaa hawamekaatu Ratsiya (GREAT GOD) Ameya (GOD)
I used double consonants to indicate the places where the Egyptian scribe used a voiced consonant (something which is not indicated on Linear A documents, since it is probable that there was inherently no distinction between voiced and voiceless stops). I intentionally entered a dash within the verb (you will see soon why). The presence of determinatives is a great help to understand at least the approximate meaning of the words.
Let us start with the first word: wappa-kwi - if we take off the last few sounds that are likely a suffix, it is very similar to the Hittite word-stem *huwapp- meaning 'wicked', 'bad', 'evil', etc. Though this is often thought of as a Proto-Indo-European word, a good alternative could be that this very stem is of Aegean origin. As we see, its meaning is perfectly fit with the determinative: the meaning of wappakwi seems to be the term 'disease' in general.
The second word: s3-t-t is a fairly obscure one. In his original publication, Haider interpreted this word as s3-t + det:BREAD. But it does not fit the context, unless this is indeed a 'bread-illness' (i.e. resulting from alimentary reasons). However, this is unlikely, and we are left to wonder if this word is an Egyptian phrase inserted into the text (similar to Netcher = 'god'), but without a determinative. Unfortunately, it is hard to find a fitting word in Egyptian language, and translation attempts like 'daughter of the father' (s3-t-jt ?= s3-t-t) were so far unable to give a truely fitting translation. The only thing we can say is that this term likely gives some detail of the disease.
The third word is very interesting due to two reasons. First, it is undoubtedly a verb, as the Egyptian determinative denote intransitive verbs related to movement. Yet it seems to terminate with an ending quite different from those obberved in Linear A. This strange ending can likely be explained by the optative or commanding sense of the phrase ('let [it] lift off', 'may [it] chase away' or similar). The other really interesting feature is the considerable length of this word. Since simple words in Minoan Linear A tend to be at most 2-3 syllable long, this phrase is likely a compound word. The first half of the term: sappawaya- is heavily reminiscent of the phrase SU-PU2-*188 (perhaps *supphuwe) common on Linear A tablets. Apart from tablets recording goods 'brought in' or 'carried away' (i.e. HT 8), the term can also be found as a name of a name for a vessel-type on HT 31 in the form SU-PU. Very recently, I had a truely perverted idea on the meaning of this name. We know all too well, that the Greek vessels bore names according to their composition or function: so there were Tripods (τριπους = 'three legs'), Kraters (κρατήρ= 'holder') or Amphores (αμφορεύς= Gr *amphi-phoreus ='carry-around' or 'twin carrier'). If so, then the (relatively amphore-like) vessel SU-PU might have been the Minoan equivalent of Greek amphores, with its name being a translation of the Greek word 'carrier'. This would fit well with the interpretation of the (related) SU-PU-*188 as a transaction term, and the meaning of sappawaya-ijattsaa as a verb expressing some sort of movement. The only problem of this interpretation lies in the fact, that sappawaya-ijatsaa actually appears to be intransitive, thus cannot mean 'carry off'. Otherwise the scribe would have used the determinant 'to carry' and not the one 'to go'.
The fourth word, hawamekaatu (also transliterated as humekatu) is some sort of a mystery. According to its determinative, its meaning should be something fairly general, like '[off this] man'. Otherwise the scribe would have used a determinative for a specific type of men or that of some body part. It is almost certainly a declined case expressing some sort of directionatlity (for example, an ablative, locative or alike) However, the Cretan scripts offer no parallel at this time. The only faintly similar word is KU-MI-NA(-QE) in Linear A and Komn in Eteocretan (from the Drerian inscriptions). Yet the former (and likely the latter as well) seem to denote a type of goat, thus having nothing to do with hawamekaatu.
As for the last two words, they stand with an explanatory Egyptian text, instead of determinatives. This makes their meaning crystal-clear: there are two gods mentioned, one by the name Ameya (supposedly a divinity specifically responsible for healing), and another one, Ratsiya, who appears to be an important 'chief divinity'. At this point, the classic Greek religion offers direct identification of these theonyms with Maia and Rhea. The former one was a figure of little importance in the classical era, yet Maia was noted for being the mother of Hermes (the god of craftsmanship), and occasionally even worshipped as a goddess of mountain-peaks. On the other hand, Rhea was renown for being mother to many of the Olympic Gods, including Zeus. Temples of Rhea stood at the centre of Knossos and Phaistos, exacly at the site of the former palaces, during the classical era. Since the Egyptian scribe has noted these theonyms with a male pronoun, we must theorise that this was an error on his side, being foreign to the Minoan religion (in Egypt, both the head of the pantheon and some gods associated with healing were males).
Read together, we may tentatively translate the second incantation as follows:
"Let God[dess] Ameya and Great God[dess] Ratsiya lift the [?] illness off this man.
These texts are not the only records of the 'Keftian' (Cretan) language in Egyptian texts, though undoubtedly the most complete ones. There is also a writing-board (used by scribes to practice) that records "how to make names of Keftiu", with a few names following it in a row - however, the afffinity of the latter names are disputed. I will show the entire list on the picture below, for those interested at deciphering the structure of these personal names.
Some of them appear outight semitic, especially the one starting with b-n- ('son [of]'). Other ones appear to be genuinely Egyptian (e.g. s-n-n-f-r). Only few of the names appear to be originating from outside the Middle East: mainly the ones that begin with iw-. Yet even those fit poorly with any name found on the Linear A tablets, and even the comparison with archaic Greek names staring with eu- ('good') appears to be more acceptable than the Minoan affinity of any of these words. So this table is indeed what it was meant to be by its author: a list of randomly gathered names just for practicing their shapes.