Unfortunately, many of the Linear A tablets are damaged, broken off, abraded or simply fragmentary. This very fact makes it difficult to read an entire tablet from its start to the end, and even more difficult, to understand the precise context of listings. Yet while individual names are difficult to restore, terms that recur repeatedly again and again are much easier to guess at. For example, it does not take heavy imagination to reconstruct the word [?-?]-TI-JO as PA-I-TI-JO (*Phaistios = 'of Phaistos') on Linear B tablet As1516.
A similar method can also be applied to certain Linear A tablets. A heavily fragmented tablet from Phaistos (PH31) dealing with flocks of animals was already partly restored by John Younger. It defintitely made his job easier that most of the names seem to be toponyms that very frequently recur on other tablets from the neighbouring Haghia Triada. In my current post, I shall attempt a similar reconstruction of entries on Haghia Triada tablet HT122.
|Tablet PH 31 (reconstructed)|
|QA-QA-RU||CAPm+KU (? goat)||1|
|KU-RO||CAPm+KU (? goat)||1|
Tablet HT122 is one of those rare Linear A finds that list people instead of agricultural goods. (Such a theme is commonly seen in Linear B.) Moreover, a majority of entries on both sides of HT122 contain reference to multiple men or women. This is very difficult to explain other than assuming a list of towns under the control of the Phaistos polity, each one contributing to the personnel serving the kingdom. Sadly, the header of side A (that seems to be the starting point of this list) is largely broken off, so we cannot learn the purpose of gathering these people. Many of its entries were also obliterated when the tablet broke into pieces. Luckily, some of the names can still be restored, and we shall see very soon how.
At the beginning of row 3, two terms were rendered largely illegible. But unlike the completely missing entry in the preceding row, small traces of the lower halves of signs are still clearly visible. Therefore we can be certain that whatever signs word PA-?-? contained at positions ?, they all had a long, straight vertical line at their lower end. Signs with this property are not that common: Only 20 syllabograms: A, I, U, DA, DI, ME, MU, NA, NI, PA, PO, RE, RO, RU, SA, SE, SI, TE, TO and ZA have this property. We also know - from the context - that the missing name should have been a toponym. This restriction leaves only one possible reconstruction: the missing term is none other than PA-I-TO, the town of Phaistos!
And we are not done yet! Substitution of the term PA-I-TO - together with the numerals following it - leaves a space for only one sign to precede the ?-DI ending of the next word. This time, the context of other place-name listing tablets helps us out: One of the more commonly seen term listed alongside with PA-I-TO is the putative toponym MA-DI. That would definitely fit here as well. One can even notice that the corner of the left ear of the 'cat-head' sign MA is still visible on the neighbouring fragment - a further nice bit of confirmation for the correctness of substitution.
Some of the numeral values pertaining to the damaged entries can also be guessed at. We know that the sum of individual values was 31 (apart from KU-DA, that is not added to KU-RO, but instead carried over to side B and directly added to PO-TO-KU-RO). The numeral following PA-I-TO is completely missing, but we can still see two strokes following the completely obliterated name directly above it. That name itself was likely 3 syllabograms long (e.g. KU-DO-NI or RI-RU-MA), but cannot be restored just based on this property. Though we know that it contributed to the sum with 2+x persons. Now, if PA-I-TO sent y, then the equation x+y=10 must be satisfied. From the symmetric position of the two visible strokes, the numeral of the missing entry should have been even (odd numerals are mostly arranged in a way that strokes are not placed directly above each other). So - for example - if PA-I-TO gave 6 servants, then the unknown town must have given 4. Or reversed. Anyway, a numeral higher or equal to 8 is unlikely, compared with other values (it would not even fit the narrow space between PA-I-TO and MA-DI).
Further down the tablet - in line 7 - there is another name largely obliterated by abrasion and fragmentation. Only the second sign is legible. Out of the first sign, only a single, barely visible oblique stroke remains. This makes our guess at ?-DU rather difficult. Based on the shape and peculiar direction of that single stroke, a RA sign could nicely fit in there. That would yield a reading of RA-DU, that is, the town of Lato, on east-central Crete (mentioned as RA-TO in Linear B). The same name is also found on tablet HT58 , starting with QE-TI RA-DU (despite the lack of word-dividers, we can be almost certain that word QE-TI was separate, as it is on the header of tablet HT7). The only problem with this interpretation is the fact that the ancient city of Lato (next to modern Aghios Nikolaos) lies much closer to the sites of Mallia and Knossos, than to Phaistos - making its status as tributary to the latter less plausible.
|Tablet HT122 (side B) - restored|
|JE-DI •||*346 • VIR (people)||40?|
The other side of the same tablet is - fortunately - much more complete. There is only one entry that is partly missing in line 2. Judged from the broken TA syllabogram at its start and considering its length, the name was probably TA-NA-TI - known from quite a few Linear A tablets. The only really interesting feature of side B is the large discrepancy of numbers at individual entries (always less than 10) and the whopping 65 after KU-RO. Even if we suppose that TA-NA-TI sent at least 10 men, on the end of the first line (following JE-DI) there should have been a numeral of 40. Otherwise the names seem to be wildly varied: sometimes abbreviated into a single syllable (DI), sometimes complimented with additional information. A-RA-JU U-DE-ZA looks like a precise reference to another U-DE-ZA town, near A-RA-JU. Similar geographical references are found on other Linear A tablets (e.g HT10: KU-NI-SU • SA-MA) as well as in Linear B (e.g. KO-NO-SO • TE-PE-JA on L641). It is tempting to see it as an attempt to separate towns with identical names, as a modern example of the German towns by the name Frankfurt shows (officially referred to as Frankfurt am Main and Frankfurt an der Oder).
What have we learnt today? We have used our knowledge to successfully restore a tablet dealing with some sort of workforce assignment. This is just an illustration of what deeper understanding of Linear A tablets can give us. If we further our research into toponyms, we can definitely do even more. In the next post, we shall examine another source of evidence: libation tables and inscibed jars, to further us in our goal: to be able to draw a true map (with the names of towns in place) of Minoan Crete!