Aegean Syllabograms

Brian E. Colless


In the year 2000 (at the end of the 20th century of the current era [CE], not the first year of the the 21st century and 3rd millennium) I took up pencil and paper and worked at matching the signs of the Aegean scripts. My view (hypothetical and by analogy with Canaanite scripts) is that they constitute a single system.

There are at least five manifestations of this system in the Bronze Age, and one in the Iron Age.

PG Cretan pictophonographs/syllabograms/acrophonograms ("hieroglyphs")

PD Phaistos disk pictophonographs/syllabograms/acrophonograms

LA Linear A, stylized glyphs/syllabograms (derived from the pictographs)

LB Linear B, stylized glyphs/syllabograms (derived from the LA characters)

CC Cyprus cuneiform, Bronze Age Cyprian glyphs/syllabograms (derived from LA);
(the signs on clay are constructed from "tadpoles" or "wedges", hence cuneiform)
[also attested at Ugarit, on the mainland, in Syria]

LC Cyprus linear script, Iron Age (ultimately derived from Linear A, not LB)

For identification and labelling of signs:
    PG: CHIC.     LA: Raison-Pope     L(A)B: GORILA.     LB: Chadwick
    CC: Emilia Masson    LC: O. Masson

It is my intention to go through my system piece by piece, over time.
Cut them all out and paste them in your scrapbook!
I will suggest a Classical Greek "acrophone" whenever I can think of one.
Tell me if you know my suggestion is impossible for the Bronze Age.

Nahm uses CC (Classical Cyprian) for what I have been calling LC
(Cyprian Linear, Iron Age). For me CC is Cyprian cuneiform, Emilia Masson's
Cypro-Minoan 1-3, though the last of these comes from Ugarit in Syria.
(Please pardon my pedantic reluctance to designate anything as "Minoan"
until we know who and what Minos was! Minos might have been Mycenean?)

I may have to change to:
CA (archaic Cyprian), CB (Cypro-Minoan 1-3). CC (Classical Cyprian)

But, for the time being:
PD = Phaistos Disk (which may or may not have a connection with PG)
PG = Cretan pictograph/hieroglyph,
LA = Cretan Linear A,  LB = Mycenean Linear B (also 'Late Bronze')
CC = Cyprian cuneiform (Bronze Age). LC = Cyprian linear (Iron Age)

A    axíne: ax
PG42 LA52   L(A)B8  CC102    LC a                                                             
 (>|<)  |+|    |=|      (_*_)        >|<
     |       |        |        ) |  (
The Linear B character (08) is basically like Roman T with decorated ends
on the horizontal stroke; that is, a stem with a horizontal I on top of it.

The Linear A counterpart (52) has the stem cutting through the bar, or else
a short horizontal stroke above the stem. It is acknowledged that the
double ax sign on some Linear A inscriptions (IO Za 7, HT Wa 1148, IO Za 3)
is of the same family. The Hagia Triada example is simply a stem with two
triangles, while the others are pictographs.

Both these types occur in the inventory of PG42 (a very frequent sign, 72x).

Accordingly, it is easy to see that the Cyprian linear glyph for A (a vertical line with an x-cross on it, with the stem protruding at the top) is the double ax with the blade-lines omitted.

A Bronze Age Cyprian sign representing a double ax could be found in Emilia Masson's No 96 (a short stem with horizontal II on top), though No 102 is a more promising candidate (it is just like the LAB sign, but with a short stem and a dot above it).

The Phaistos disk has an ax-sign (but a single blade, and a single occurrence), like PG43 (6x PO?).

The Greek word axíne offers itself for acrophonic purposes (amphékes, two-edged, does not need to be invoked). English ‘ax’ is a Germanic cognate. Edwin Brown, in Minos (1992-3), supplies Hittite ates.  

O    omma, opthalmos, Ops: eye
 PG5 (48x)    LA80   L(A)B61  CC64,65  LC o  (PD -) 
                  |  “|       |  \’                        V
  (<*>)       | ) |       |   |        \ “ /          V
                      “                                      -
Date: Fri, 2 Mar 2001 17:52:36 +1300

The pictograph of an eye (ops, opthalmos) was the source of the LA and LB signs for the vowel O; the LA forms changed considerably, from frontal to side view, but they are recognizable as coming from that source). You can see, you need "lateral" thinking to realize this, you have to look sideways at the object! I had a mental set to do this because one of the pictograms in the Canaanite (Byblos) syllabary is the side-view of an eye, though it is depicting the white of the eye, lubnu.

The amazing coincidence is that O in the alphabet was originally an eye (Semitic 'ayin) though it was 'a in the Canaanite syllabary and the mono-consonantal sign '('ayin) in the Canaanite proto-alphabet. Someone has suggested (in Kadmos) that the inventor of the Greek alphabet knew this, and deliberately chose this sign.

Godart and Olivier have enough examples  of the O syllabogram to show the eyelashes and pupil.

Of course, it also looks like a lighted candle, or a bird's wing and an egg (like. Phaistos Disk 31?!). Edwin Brown invokes one form of it (PH2.2) as a bucranium, and ties it to Luwian uwa 'cow'.

In the Cyprian scripts CM64.1 (with 65,2) seems to be the one with four eyelashes and an eye, but viewed frontally! This does not help the theory that LA > CM.  But this form leads on naturally to the LC sign for O, two V's above a dash.

 U   (h)ustrix: porcupine

PG95         LA97      L(A)B10   CC19,79 LC u

(+  U

The origin of the syllabogram U now seems very obvious to me, but this could be another of my delusions. This is the last one I recognized, when I had narrowed the choices down to a few pieces lying on the table, when I was completing my tables of Creto-Cyprian syllabic signs and their sound-values.  PA as the ship with its rigging you have already seen, as the second-last one in this process (see the table below).  SA is another one I discussed in 2005, and I was thinking that no one could dispute that, because Evans and Brice had already shown that it is a kalamari/ cuttlefish (sepia).

Let me say that I have enjoyed reading William Brice's insightful and helpful studies on the Cretan writing system, in Kadmos. Two of them are relevant here.

Brice's "Hieroglyphic antecedents of linear signs" (30, 1991, 46-48) has three good matchings:

    H85 (CHIC  PG20,21,22,90) is identified as a bee and connected with what we accept as the sign for *PI* (LA41,56a LA/B39); I go further and propose IE *pi/bi "bee" as its acrophonic origin (see the table below);

    H21 (CHIC  PG46, 80, 87) is recognized as an adz, and related to a stylized Linear A adz (LA88/A301); I see the next link in the chain as *SO* (LB12), and invoke sophia, in the sense of "handicraft skill" (see below);
    H40 (CHIC PG52,53) is correctly seen as a "spouted ewer", and it clearly goes with LA61 (LA/B24); I presume its value would thus be *NE*; the object is a libation vessel, and I think the word nektar may be the acrophonic agent for NE, since nektar was originally the drink (not food) of the gods.

In a later article, "The 'seated bird' sign, Evans No. 80"(36, 1997, 93-96), Brice brought together all the seals which have this mysterious character, and in doing so he was able to combine H80 (bird) and H10 (hand in profile); in fact these are listed together as CHIC PG95.

These eight seal-inscriptions are of particular interest, because they have long been exhibited as counterparts to the Linear A formula A-SA-SA-RA-ME on libation tables.

Brice says that this is "the only recurrent instance of a sign-group common to these two systems of writing". This statement may be right, or it could be wrong on two counts:
(1) there are in fact other such instances (though I cannot think of any);
(2) this is not the same sequence after all.

Both start with an ax (PG42 = LA52 = LB8 = A, see above).
Then a cuttlefish (PG19 = LA31 = LB31[sic!] = SA, see below).
Then another SA.
Next, the presumed bird (PG95).
Last, the spouted vessel (PG52,53, see above).   

If the two sequences have the same letters, then the presumed bird will be the forerunner of the RA/LA sign (LA/B60), which, however, I choose to link with the bent-arm character, PG7, but Faure accepts the bird for RA.  For a time I tried the bird as RA or RE (laros, "gull, cormorant") but eventually settled on RA as the arm, and RE as a lily (leirion, see below).

Furthermore, the libation vessel (PG52,53) will have to be ME, and Brice points out (quite plausibly) that the Linear sign for ME (LA84, LA/B13) apparently has the handle and spout. However, this goes against his earlier combination (1991, see above), linking the vessel with its more obvious counterpart, NE. And I see the origin of ME in a goat or sheep (PG16, with head, neck, and horns represented in the LA stylized form).

My suggestion is that PG95 (supposedly a seated bird) is the original pictosyllabogram for U. In that case, the seal-inscriptions say:
    A SA SA U NE  (not ASASARAME) or perhaps A SA NE U SA.

Moreover, ASASARAME appears as a single entity, between word-separaters, whereas the sequence on the seals has ASA separated from the SAUNE (on opposite sides, or in separate boxes, in #205).

It is nonetheless striking that there is a libation vessel in the pictorial inscriptions, perhaps functioning as a logogram.

Well now, what do we do with the "bird" (apart from guessing wildly that it became KU in Linear A, which looks remarkably like a bird in flight, but is more likely to be a dog with its tongue hanging out (see KU below)? First, to call it "seated" is strange, when we can see its leg(s). And, which end is which? Is its head at the thick end of the clearest pictures (#205, #202), where we can find a beak (or two?!)?

As a resident of New Zealand I can read this picture as a kiwi-bird, with the thin end as the beak. Obviously the kiwi is out of the question, but, now we know where the head is, it could be a rodent of the family Hystricidae, that is, a porcupine, with defensive spines or quills (the protrusions on the picture-signs would be quills, not beaks or feathers). Note the dot for an eye that the artist has given the example on #202 (CHIC, p. 421, though not on p. 226).

To establish that this PG95 is U, compare the one on CHIC #313 with the  example on KN Zb40.2, and #251 with Y Za2b. I am convinced!

The name Hystricidae offers a nice Hellenic word to go with the porcupine-sign: (h)usterix, "porcupine".

We may add to the cases of PG95 the example on CHIC 328 (Malia table), penultimate sign on the right.

My reading for this text would thus be (does | indicate start or end?):


Any trace of your favourite candidate for the LA language here?

RE/LE [leirion, lily; Latin lilium)]
5/7/03  (PD39) PG23 (14x) LA54 (3%)  L(A)B27  CC1.24? 2.33?  LC re (or le?)

My hesitant hypothesis for the acrophonic origin of the syllabogram RE: a Mediterranean word corresponding to Greek leirion and Latin lilium, 'lily'..

The Linear A (LA54) and Linear B (LAB27) RE-sign  is roughly  -(-  (but in a vertical stance!).

The LC (Cyprian Greek) RE is  =)  (vertical)

The CC forerunner might be E Masson's CM1.24   --) (roughly, and vertical)
though that could be LU.

Another possibility is CM2.33  >>  (vertical) /\

The LC LE is:  8
The CC LE is perhaps CM2.76:   8 (oblique stance).

Which of these (LE or RE) comes from the LAB27 RE is problematic.

The character closest to LAB27 is Paphian RI  --<-  (vertical), with no LI attested; but the LE is not 8.

A Linear A counterpart for this is on PS Za 2.1 (presumably RE).

For the original picto-syllabogram in the Cretan 'hieroglyphic' signs we could try:
CHIC  023 (14x) with 3 petals or leaves, and a curvy stem.
A similar LA non-linear form is on KO Za 1b.

On the other hand, we could choose CHIC 031 (as the editors do on their table of comparisons of H,A,B signs) and/or 032
...   ooo
\|/  \|/
 |     0
PG31 PG32
What do the little dots and circles represent? Olives, perhaps?
PG31 is very close to LAB28 (the i syllabogram)

\|/  | | |
 -   ===T
 |     |
LB28 LA100 (=LAB28)

CHIC O32 is similar to LA34,which has two strokes on each branch,and might be LB29 (PU2,phu).

Arthur Evans (Scripta Minoa I, 213f) says that "HS88" (= CHIC 023) has stamens on either side of a central petal, indicating crocus or saffron, rather than lily; the lily has two highly recurved side petals. Evans mentions "HS90" (fleur de lis), but he suggests iris rather than lily.

Looking at CHIC #058 (p. 111) from Knosos:

 #058.b: 047-070-031  078-032-034
 #058.d2: 078-032-070-023-045
This document makes some significant distinctions: PG23,31,32 (all plants).
And PG23 looks most like a lily, and perhaps the best choice for RE(LE).
Faure has both PG23 and PG31 for RE, with two standing birds for RA.

CHIC #202 and #205 (seals) have a bird sign, and texts which are comparable
with LA a-sa-sa-re-me (PK Za 11b-c; PR Za 1c; IO Zb 10):

042 double ax (A); 019 sepia (SA); 052 ewer (NE? YO?);
095, bird wing and foot, head hidden (RE?, RA?).
It is tempting to invoke Greek laros (gull, cormorant, shag) at this point.
But see U above.

Note also Phaistos Disc sign 32 (3x), a standing bird, and  31 (5x), a bird in flight. Also PD39 (4x), a crocus,, or lily.

The uncertainties are great in this area of the table, and RE/LE will certainly need to be revisited.

NA    nâma flow (of tears)  [dakruôn therma nama, Sophokles)
    (PD3)    PG78        LA26    L(A)B6    CC8    LC na
    2    3        4pp    18
        (*)        __    ==        ==    ==
         |           *      Y            |       |
                     |       |
The numerals indicate number of occurrences (for LB only initial syllables).

In the absence of pictures, word-portraits will be given.

The LC and CC characters are two parallel equal horizontal lines on a vertical stem, which does not trespass into them (contrast LinABC TO).

LB NA has the pair of lines, but they are separated from the stem by (for example) two horizontal dots, a cross, an arrowhead.

The LA counterpart, from which the LB and CC/LC NA are probably derived, exhibits forms like the LC; also a horizontal stroke, over a circle or dot, over a vertical stroke; or with a circle or dot in the middle of the stem; sometimes three or four vertical dots replace the stem.  This bears some resemblance to LinAB DI.

The LA forms with dots led E. Brown (in his Minos study of LA signs as being based on Anatolian acrophones) to suggest snow falling from the sky, and noting the common (s)n- words for this in Indo-European.

The Phaistos Disk sign included here has a human face in profile with two circles on the cheek. This has been interpreted by Evans and others as a tatoo.

I tried the possibility of pock-marks (nosos, disease), but moved to nama, "flow" (of tears), though libas ("stream") is also used in this way.

Be that as it may, I put "tear-flow" forward as the image behind the Linear A sign, Among the pictographs there is apparently no counterpart to the PD head;but PG78 (dotted circle or arc on a stem) could be an eye with a stream of tears flowing down.

But, if it were in fact a FLOW of tears, then the retort I have received that tears would be shown at the eye not on the cheek is not valid. (Lamentations 1.2, "She weeps bitterly, tears on her cheeks"; LXX ta dakrua autes epi tôn siagôn autes.)

Note in passing that libas "flow" can also be used of tears (dakruôn libades, "streams of tears").

NI [nikuleon: a type of Cretan fig]
31/08/03  PG24 (1x)  LA60 (1.5%)  L(A)B30 CC 99,100?  LC ni

X X  *  *
 \ /   \ /
  |     |
The NI/fig character originated in pictograph 024 (and logogram *155) and became AB30, and also passed into the Cyprian scripts, where it developed beyond recognition.

But what makes the fig-tree character (024) figgy?
Does X or * represent a fig? Or a figleaf?
Arthur Evans (Scripta Minoa I, 220) sees a branch of a fig-tree, with one example showing the characteristic form of the leaf.

Anyway, accepting pictograph 024 as stylized from the start, we can follow its course through LA60 to LB30.

Its career on Cyprus is first attested on the four-lined Enkomi tablet (the earliest document?) There it looks like two leaning palm trees, like the LA example on PH16a.2 (no common stem).

The evidence suggests, in general, that the Cyprus syllabary is an adaptation of LA, not LB.

The subsequent development of NI in Cyprus is not easy to follow.
It finishes up in Linear C as an oblique reversed E with its corner balancing on a horizontal baseline (this is an intelligence test!). [__ < E]

In its intervening cuneiform period ('Cypro-Minoan' 1-3) a likely candidate is CM1.99 (so Werner Nahm), and its equivalent CM3.100 (let your brain close the gaps in the lines of the drawing).

For WN, CM2.65 is the missing link, though it lacks the stand, and might be expected to become LC O (ultimately a V over a V above a baseline, here in side view: >>| )

On the matter of frequency of the fig-sign in the 3 Cretan forms of writing (PG, LA, LB), there is only one instance of the picto-syllabogram, in doc. #043.a2: 024-050 (spear?); but it is found more frequently as a logogram.

In LA texts its statistics are (in 2560 syllables in 799 attested words):
4 initial occurrences, 20 medial, 15 final, total 39 (= 1.52%) [G.M. Facchetti, Statistical data and morphematic elements in Linear A, Kadmos 38, 1, 1999, 1-11].

Is there an equivalent and accessible statistical study on LB?
In Linear B documents NI is not found at the beginning of a word (Ventris-Chadwick glossary), but that is all I can say.

As for an acrophonic source for NI, a word that has been offered is Greek #nikuleon# ('a type of fig (Cretan)', L&S supplement). Ventris and Chadwick, Documents, 563a (glossary): NI ideographic use, in Linear B; "taken over from Linear A, perhaps as abbreviation of Minoan word appearing as Greek gloss nikuleon (Neumann, 1962)"; "on evidence of KN 94 = F 841 equivalent to su-za 'figs'". Doc. p. 583a: su-za = sutsai (<*sukyai).


PG006       [LA ?]     LB48      [not in Cyprus scripts?]
    “X”                “X”

From the glossary of Ventris and Chadwick:
qi-48-so (MN), qa-48-so (Kn,PN), cp. qa-nu-wa-so (Kn, MN) = Qanuasos? (Panuasas?)

Is there any possible connection with ne(w)os, "new", for NWA? Could the acrophonic origin of the sign be an ancient word corresponding to neozeuktos, "newly-yoked, newly-wed"?!!

The 12 cases of PG006 certainly show hands, with the palms facing the viewer, with the thumbs on the outside, not together in the middle, which is what I see when I look at my own hands  (see #268 and #276); and they seem to belong to the same person, since two right hands could not produce that picture, with the thumbs pointing outwards in opposite directions. Right?

So, what could the message be from this sign? A symbolic gesture? Or simply "hands"?

The origin of K in the Greek alphabet is a hand (Canaanite kap, "hand", "palm"), a wrist and 3 digits (just like PG006 in #323).  And Y is a hand and forearm (yad, or yod).

PA   [baris boat]

(PD25)    PG40      LA2          L(A)B3    CC 6   LC pa

My system for tracing the signs from the Cretan pictosyllabograms through Linear A syllabograms to Bronze Age Cyprian syllabograms to their Iron Age counterparts (The Cypriot syllabary) is now just about complete (though not yet perfect), and I am itching to share the details with you.

One very big puzzle is the PA-sign, which has the same shape at all stages
-|-|- (hoist it into a vertical telegraph-pole stance for viewing!)

Finding a pictosyllabogram corresponding to that is almost impossible.

It has to be distinguished from the tree-sign (TE, see below), again to be viewed vertically:

-|-|-|-  (which has three crossbars).

The only thing I have left to match with the PA is the ship, with rigging. Taking the boat as PA (rather than NE or NAU or RYO) seems astonishing , but it could have been simplified down from the mast and the ropes.

Comparing the tree, we could say that just as the branches (which go upwards obliquely) have been horizontalized on the trunk, so the ropes (which go diagonally downwards) have been horizonatalized on the mast (and the rest of the boat has sunk without trace!).

Of course, I always like to give a word for acrophonic purposes: Greek BARIS: Egyptian boat.

PI    *pi/bi bee (Latin apis)
20/6/01 (PD34?)    PG20,21,22,90 LA41,56a L(A)B39  CC49-51  LC pi   

Linear A 41 and 56a lead on clearly to Linear B 39 (AB39): a bisected curvy triangle with two projections at or near the apex (LA oblique, LB vertical). We are looking down on a winged creature with feelers. A bee or a wasp?

Phaistos Disk 34 has such features, but it might be a fly rather than a bee.

In Scripta Minoa, Arthur Evans found bees among the "hieroglyphs".

Personally, I would suggest PG 20, 21, 22, 90.
Pictograph 20 is an assortment of eleven winged things, viewed from the side.
PG21 has five winged creatures viewed from above (or behind if they are soaring upwards).
PG22 is similar, with the addition of antennae.
PG90 might be a stick-figure version of a bee (such as I see in the Canaanite syllabary, for NU, from nubtu "bee").

I offer Latin apis and Germanic bi- (English bee) for the acrophonic source, following Faure, Edwin Brown, and Steven Fischer. Greek melissa does not work here. Incidentally, the cat sign MA (as I see it) could get confused with PI along the way (LA 95 has a large ambiguous case).

The Cyprus sign (LC PI) is a V in a V, one representing the antennae, the other the wings, I suggest.

The intervening Bronze-Age Cyprian forms could be lurking in Emilia Masson's 49-51. CM 49.2 is the most likely to end up as LC pi (V in V). CM 50-51 have an inverted V with ears or feelers, and this is closer to the Cretan forms.
TE    *tere- (tree? cp. términthos, terébinthos: turpentine tree)
27/7/00 (PD35)    PG25        LA92    L(A)B4    CC7     LC te

The Linear B glyph (04) looks like a stylized tree with three straight branches (shooting horizontally) on each side of its trunk.

The Linear A (presumed) counterpart (92) has two, three, or more pairs of straight branches, pointing upwards.

The LC te-sign looks like a compromise between the LA and LB characters: 
the stem has a horizontal base, and a branch on each side (pointing NW and NE).

In the CC repertory ("Cypro-Minoan") No 7 (also one of the archaic signs)
is a stem with three parallel cross-bars; the stem is protruding at the top and the bottom. This may be a variant of No 6, with only two cross-bars (much more frequent), presumably related to LB3 (pa) and LC pa.

However, the archaic Cyprian signs include a close counterpart for LC te:
Emilia Masson's No V (Roman five) has a base and a stem with two pairs of oblique branches. No IV is a stem with six cross-bars, but the stem is not protruding at either end, unlike the LB and LC pa.

Among the Cretan pictographs, PG25 offers eighteen examples of an equivalent for the LA sign, with four or more pairs of oblique branches.

Whether this is a picture of a terebinth tree is debatable, and possibly even falsifiable! Perhaps it is a generic tree (dendron?). But the relative size of the object is not apparent, and it might be a fern or a branch.

One of the PG25 glyphs (266.b) has a small base, suggesting a tree; the rest could be any sort of plant or part thereof. In this case, we could invoke terkhnos/trekhnos (to), twig, young shoot; but this comes very close to thalos (shoot, branch) already proposed for DA (see table below).

The nearest pictograph on the Phaistos disk is PD35, a stem with five leaves (perhaps a piece of mint, possibly an olive branch, but hardly a whole tree)
TO    tóxon: bow (with arrow)
    (PD11)     PG48        LA39    L(A)B5    LC to    CC8b,9?
My suggestion is that the Linear A and B sign ultimately derive from a picture of a bow and arrow, Greek toxon.

The Phaistos Disk glyph (PD 11, 1x) is a bow.

Pictophonograph 48 (likewise one example only) is apparently a bow and arrow (though it might be a bird with a long neck, hence LA/B KU?!).

If neither of these pictographs are connected with toxon (bow), then my case for LA/B TO is difficult to argue.

Nevertheless, the LB form could be a reduction of an original drawing of a bow and arrow: two parallel horizontal lines represent the bow, while the arrow is the vertical line below them and bisecting them (the top line is thus the bowstring).

The Linear A version has the lower horizontal line shorter than the upper one.

The Linear C form (Iron Age Cyprus) is like an italic F, and the top line can protrude slightly to the left.

For the Cuneiform C (Bronze Age Cyprus), I would distinguish two types in No 8 in Masson's scheme: 8a (NA?) has no intrusion of the stem into the two parallel lines (representing an eye, I suggest). 8b (TO?) does have an intrusion (the end of the arrow touching the string?) The two stand side by side, apparently, on  Enkomi Tablet 53.5 side b, line 11. Masson also has a reversed italic F in this category, and this is certainly reminiscent of the LC sign. Her No 9 is an inversion of 8b, and it should be considered as a possible variant of the sign; but it also appears on the same tablet, line 22.

DA    thálos: shoot, branch
    (PD19)    PG029    LA30    L(A)B1    LC ta    CC4

The Linear B glyph (01) is a vertical stroke with a short horizontal stroke meeting it (at right angles) on the right side at the centre: |-.

The Linear A counterpart (30) often has the side-stoke pointing North-East, thus tending towards a Y shape, though not as much as LA31 (sa).

The Linear C ta-sign (Iron Age Cyprus) corresponds to the Linear B da-sign (though the general feeling is that this Cyprian script developed independently, from Linear A).

The CC ("Cyprian cuneiform", or Cypro-Minoan, Bronze Age) inventory includes a comparable example, No 4 on Emilia Masson's table.

The closest Cretan pictographs are types 27 and 29: the first of the three examples of PG27 has a leafless stem and a leafy shoot (pointing NE); the twenty-one PG29 cases have leafy stems as well as leafy shoots (some pointing NE, others NW).

The Phaistos Disk has three instances of a forked branch with no foliage (PD19)

DI   diktuon: network; net (for fishing or hunting)
6/6/03        PG39    LA51    L(A)B7 (not in CC or LC) LC [di=ti]

Its evolutionary history is simplified by its non-occurrence in Cyprus; there DI is covered by LAB 37 (TI), which is a bisected angle (/|\), though in LA78 (and also Phaistos Disk 18?), the middle line can be omitted.

Note that there are variations in shape for DI, and actually the LA and LB forms are much the same. The Knossos gold ring (LA) has a bar with 3 rows of dots (3, 2, 1).

          |X|       _____   _____
          |X|         \|/          '''
          |X|          |            |

The picto-syllabogram proposed as progenitor of DI (LA/B7) is CHIC No 39.
Could it represent a net? It only occurs 7 times. Is the linear character a
net with a stick-handle (like a butterfly-net)? Did such things exist at that time?

A suggested acrophonic source for DI is Greek diktuon: network, net (for fishing or hunting).

Arthur Evans (Scripta Minoa Vol I, 200) saw this (PG39) as trellis-work or a fence.

With regard to the LAB7 sign, Evans (Scripta Minoa Vol I, 223) noticed an example among the pictographs (see now CHIC, p. 421, from document 019), and Faure has this as the original DI on his table of picto-syllabograms. Evans suggested it is a rain sign, which is plausible; compare the forms of NA, which I see as a flow of tears running down from an eye. Nevertheless, it is possible that this particular pictograph is our first example of the stylized net that will appear as LAB7.

John Younger has no suggestion for the original DI (he has the network sign as PA3); but he  proposes that LA318 (5x) is another DI sign:

A difficulty for this identification is that LA318 occurs on Hagia Triada tablet 94a.4, with LAB6 on the other side (94b.2).

KA    kaneion: cane basket (Latin canistrum)
7/9/02        PG47        LA29    L(A)B77    CC25    LC ka

Nestor’s cup was set down on a table in a “bronze basket” (khalkeion kaneon, with an onion, honey, and barley meal; see Odyssey 9.217 for “bread in beautiful baskets”). This brought to mind my idea that the origin of the LA/LB sign for KA is the pictophonogram/ syllabogram PG 047, apparently representing a cane basket. There are about two dozen examples (CHIC, 405-406); all but two or three suspect cases have a handle at the top of the character; and half a dozen of them have cross-hatching, which I take to be the weave of the reeds. Arthur Evans (Scripta Minoa, I, 202) suggested it was a sieve or strainer. Looking only at the LA sign, Edwin Brown (Minos 1993) plumps for a four-spoked chariot wheel.

In passing, notice that this circled cross crops up as in other scripts and symbol-systems. In the mysterious collections of marks from the Danube region and from Troy it appears in the company of the swastika; and some of the LA and LB KA-characters look like a swastika inside a circle.

In the Sumerian pictographs it represents “sheep”(UDU); it also takes the form of a square divided into four parts; this makes me think of a sheep-pen as what it might depict.

Its nearest Egyptian hieroglyphic equivalent (O 49) says niwt, “town”(with streets, allegedly). One wickerwork basket sign  (V 93, side-view, without handle) is nb (also used for “lord”), and another (V 31, with handle) says k !

In the early Greek alphabet, this sign (with either a plus sign or a multiplication sign) functioned as Theta. It was borrowed from Phoenician Tet; Taw or Tau, the common T was a cross with no circle. The origin of Tet, which is not a frequently occurring sound in Semitic languages, is the rare proto-alphabetic pictograph of a cross attached to a circle. I think the cross has moved inside the circle in the evolution of the sign. Ultimately it would go back to the Egyptian hieroglyph for nfr (“good, beautiful”), representing the heart, mouth, and wind-pipe (as the places where emotional reactions to beauty are felt, I presume). The West Semitic word t.ab, “good, beautiful” lies behind the proto-alphabetic acrophonogram (B.E. Colless, Origin of the alphabet, Abr-Nahrain, Vol 26, 1988,[30-67],41-42); also Vol 28, 1990, 4; and Vol 30, 1992, 74-75, for its occurence in the Canaanite logo-syllabary or “Byblos script”).

I do not propose to insert a connecting line between all these coincidences!

PG 047 is certainly the best counterpart for the LinearA/B sign for KA, a circle encompassing a cross, which can be understood as a simplification of the cross-weaving. 

Greek kane(i)on and Latin canistrum offer themselves as a Euro-Asiatic (Indo-European) source for the acrophonogram KA. In the Chadwick-Ventris glossary I have found ka-ne-ya (“made of basketry”, adjective neuter plural, = kaneia). Is there a basket noun attested yet?

*[Bartonek, p, 214, Nr 463, = kanee(i)on “Rohrkorb, Schuessel” (fuer Brot), vgl. kanna “Rohr”]

Of course, the language of the PG and LA inscriptions is not known, though the LB accountancy texts are definitely Eurasian (Indo-European), specifically Mycenean Hellenic. These LA tablets have some Afrasian (Semitic) glosses, it seems, but the few sentences on other objects may be Eurasian (Anatolian, possibly Lycian?) though not Hellenic.

Anyway, I am working on the assumption that the language that produced the acrophonic pictographs of Crete was not Afrasian (Egyptian or Semitic), nor Caucasian (Hurrian), but Eurasian, possibly Anatolian Indo-Hittite, or even a language close to Latin and Greek (from a time when these two were closer to each other).

The development of the Aegean KA sign is straightforward: the handle is detached and the hatching is reduced to a cross in Linear A and B; in Cyprus the bottom of the circle is erased and the top is given a peak (CC form); and the Linear C form sheds the bottom line of the cross, leaving an arrow standing on a horizontal base.

KI  kithara: lyre, harp
28/9/04         PG57         LA103  L(A)B67     CC70    LC ki

For drawings of the 49 instances of PG57 see CHIC 411-412.
John Younger had made a case for identifying Pictograph 57 (CHIC numbering) as KI.

What does PG57 (49x) represent, though? I could imagine it is phallic, but a few of the depictions make it look like a stringed instrument, and the CHIC category for 056-058 is 'Writing, Music'. The implication here is that PG56 is a writing-tablet (not an ingot), PG58 is a lyre (PU?), and PG57 is also presumed to be a musical instrument.

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This could easily have turned into LAB40 WI (with the external cross drawn into the heart of the figure, as with the prototype of Theta; see above, KA), or even LAB81 KU (which I identify as a dog with its tongue hanging out, PG18, and OG17)!

But in our search for the meaning of PG57 we could invoke another nautical character, Egp. hieroglyph P6, mast (for a sail, as in P5, which has a wide sail attached), with four horizontal strokes. P7 has an arm across the mast, creating a striking resemblance to the PG57 of #294 (2x). This must be sheer coincidence, I suppose.

Looking at PG57 as KI, and thus presumably the prototype of LAB67 (LA103),
we then have to dismiss the view that LAB67 is a container. Edwin Brown regards it as a kizzul, a vessel for oils, with a swizzle stick (I would ask what function could that have before fizzy drinks were invented? to force oil and honey through, he says).

Again we are drawn to Egypt, where W1 is a sealed oil-jar, with a tapering shape, with one horizontal line across it, and showing the ends of the cord that ties the seal. It functions as a determinative for unguent and ointment. And it appears in the Canaanite syllabary (in my decipherment, Abr-Nahrain 30, 1992,58 and 66) as DU (from dudu 'jar'):
 \ /
This is fine for LAB67 as a kizzul (Brown admits there are also Greek words for vessels with initial ki-), but not so clear for PG57, unless we assume that most of the scribes of the pictographs had forgotten what it represented, but the Linear A scribes knew and portrayed it more clearly, or according to the current shape of the vessel.

There is another avenue to explore to find an origin for LAB67. Was it a rhyton (conical filler), for scented oils, with wool in the bottom for filtering the oil. (See Albert Leonard on Mycenean pottery, BASOR 241, 1981, 87-101; Fig 1A, no. 199, and p. 99b).

None of the four vessel-pictographs (O52 ewer, 053 jug, 054 double-handled pot, 055 grain-container?) has a conical shape.

I also have an enigmatic note on my page of jottings on KI: "conical libation vase from Knossos". Is that on a wall-painting?

Nevertheless, I feel confident that the three 'linear' syllabograms (A, B, C) for KI have evolved from that pictograph, PG57. It is in fact a musical instrument with strings. It is striking that there is (yet again) a Greek word for it, beginning with the syllable KI, namely kithara.

The triangle standing on its apex, with a crossbar and an external appendage, is found at all stages. The LB and LC versions both provide the value KI, which we can transfer to the corresponding LA and PG signs.

KU    kuôn, kun-: dog
        PG18, PG17    LA98    L(A)B81    CC110    LC ku

 KU as 'dog' has been regarded as questionable; one objection is that the LA sign looks like a bird (kuknos, swan, or gups, vulture); but I can only see one occurrence of a flying bird among the pictographs (CHIC *168, one instance only; I have taken 021-022 as a bee; see  PI); so I will retain the dog as KU. However, there is a little standing bird on document #314 (Neapolis) which the editors do not count as a character; they also ignore cats.

If we look at the types of examples for LB81 and LA98 with this picture in mind, we detect the dog's eye and tongue (not a bird's tail and head). Please try this experiment and see if you come up with the same result! I feel very confident about it, myself! But I have also said that Linear B RU, RE, SI, I, and NE are possible candidates for the panting dog. Nevertheless, KU emerges as the winner of this competition!

The pictograph PG18 (12x) has both features: (1) eye, (2) tongue protruding from the jaws, whereas the mouth is closed in PG17 (6x, they are porcine, not canine).

Remember, in my view the Cretan "pictographs/grams" function as "phonograms", more specifically "syllabograms".  So PG18 would say KU (and perhaps also PG 17).

So far I have invoked Greek cognates to explain these "acrophonograms". My basic
feeling is that the language was "Eurasian" or "Euro-Asiatic" (commonly known as Indo-European), closely related to Hellenic and Latin. (This is in response to Anthony Svoronos, message of 11/10/2000)

The LC ku, when turned on its side, reveals the same features.

Some of the LA signs have such an incline on them, and this passed into CC;
see Emilia Masson's Cypro-Minoan 110, which seems to be the predecessor of
LC ku.

[Having had some success in tracing the letters of the Greek alphabet back
through the Phoenician alphabet to the Canaanite pictographs, my mind is
alerted to such alterations of stance. Every one knows that A (Alpha) goes
back to the pictograph (consonantal phonogram for the Semitic glottal stop)
of an ox-head ('aleph);in time the horns leaned further back till the snout
was pointing horizontally; in the Greek and Roman A the head has become
completely inverted, with the horns at the bottom.]


8/6/05         PG46, 80, 87  LA88/A301 LB12      CC67,60  LC so

/  |

 here is what I propose for the development of the sign for SO.

I begin with Margalit Finkelberg's interesting study on the LA language:
"Minoan Inscriptions on Libation Vessels", MINOS 25 (1990-1991) 43-85.

On p.45, MF lists the LB signs that are not represented in LA, according to Godart and Olivier. Her main point is to show that -o syllables are conspicuously lacking (and this would assist her case for an Anatolian Indo-European connection for the Linear A language, particularly with Lykian). Her case is slightly marred from the outset by the occurrence of the O-sign (an eye in my view, see the table below) in a word osuqare, for which she suggests the meaning 'ladle'. G&O also have a list of unidentified LA syllabograms, which could go with some more -O syllabograms, starting with 301. MF actually needs to know the value of 301, because it appears frequently in the statements she is attempting to decipher.

Allowing that her Lykian hypothesis is correct, MF reaches a point (p.79, item 13) where the argument really needs the value of 301 to be known:
    Minoan: 301-u-ti = Lykian: se uwe ti "and thus for himself"
    Minoan: -301- ... -nu  = Lykian: se/me ne "and/but it/him"
    Minoan: -301--ja  = Lykian: se/me ije "and/but to/in it/him"

The case would be strengthened if 301 were SE or ME.
Unfortunately, SE is securely fixed as LAB09 and ME as LAB13.
However, SO and MO are free!

And 301 could be SO. It looks like an implement (adz or hoe, with hatchings to indicate lashings, as Brice has said, in one of his studies in Kadmos); it has a good pictorial predecessor in PG46 (so Brice: Hieroglyph 21 = L88). Arthur Evans (Scripta Minoa I, 189) had identified the pictogram as an adz.

The next step is to seek its counterpart in LB12 SO (which in fact has the handle and blade, and vestiges of the lashings). Am I the first to make this connection?

In the Cyprus script, the LC sign for SO is a long way from this:
(The gaps need to be filled by squeezing the 3 parts together!)

In the Cyprian cuneiform inventory of the Bronze Age (what Evans called 'Cypro-Minoan') a predecessor for LC SO would be, very plausibly, CM 1.67, and also CM 2.60 (a simplified form, omitting the two vertical strokes that became the upper V in the LC sign).

There could be grounds for suspicion here that the Cyprian SO has not been borrowed from LA 301 (adz), given that the Cyprian SU is apparently Cretan DU (a man with a shepherd's crook?). The Cyprian syllabary has T-signs but no D-signs,though Linear A DA ( |- ) is used for TA (whereas TE, TI, TO, TU are clearly equivalent to the LA signs). Perhaps Cyprian SO is the Linear A DE (a house on legs?). Or maybe the adz has fallen on its back, so to speak; the sign has conceivably been rotated 90 degrees.
Now, if you will bear with me, I will try to find a word that would work acrophonically to produce SO. One word starting with s- is Greek sminué, double-pronged hoe or mattock. More promising is skeparnon, a carpenter's adz or ax.

But I propose that SO comes from sophia. When you have picked yourself up off the floor, after rolling around in malicious glee, I will try to explain.

In my experience of Egyptian and Canaanite writing systems, abstract nouns can be used with the signs: Egp. nfr 'beauty', and 'ankh 'life' (the 'ankh sign passed into the Canaanite syllabary, and also into the Aegean syllabary, where it stands for za).

Sophia means 'cleverness, skill' (in handicraft, such as carpentry, in art, and in other cultural pursuits) as well as 'wisdom'. The word is applied to Hephaistos and Daidalos. If the picture represents an adz, a carpenter's tool, then it could symbolize 'handicraft skill'.

Here is my periodic table (so called because it gets periodic additions)

A    axíne: ax
21/9/00 (PD15)    PG42        LA52    L(A)B8    CC102,101 LC a

O    omma, opthalmos,Ops: eye
2/3/01            PG5 (48x)    LA80     L(A)B61   CC64    LC o

U   (h)ustrix: porcupine
10/12/05         PG95         LA97      L(A)B10   CC19,79 LC u

RE [leirion, lily; Latin lilium)]
5/7/03  (PD39) PG23 (14x) LA54 (3%)      L(A)B27  CC33    LC re

NA    nama: flow (of tears) [dakruOn therma nama, Sophokles)
14/4/00 (PD3)     PG78     LA26          L(A)B6    CC8    LC na

NI nikuleon: a type of Cretan fig
31/08/03       PG24 (1x)  LA60 (1.5%)  L(A)B30 CC99,100,65  LC ni

16/11/01        PG06            LB45

PA  baris: boat
22/6/05  (PD25)  PG40      LA2          L(A)B3    CC6      LC pa

PI    *pi/bi bee (Latin apis)
20/6/01 (PD34?)    PG20,21,22,90 LA41,56a L(A)B39  CC50,51  LC pi

TE    *tere- (tree?) terkhnos, pl. young trees
27/7/00 (PD35)    PG25        LA92    L(A)B4      CC7,62   LC te

TO    toxon: bow (with arrow)
2/6/00    (PD11)     PG48        LA39    L(A)B5  CC13,78  LC to

DA    thalos: shoot, branch
11/7/00  (PD19)    PG27,29      LA30    L(A)B1    CC4     LC ta

DI  diktuon: network; net (for fishing or hunting)
6/6/03            PG39        LA51    L(A)B7 (not in CC or LC)

KA    kaneion: cane basket (Latin canistrum)
7/9/02            PG47        LA29    L(A)B77     CC25     LC ka

KI  kithara: lyre, harp
28/9/04         PG57          LA103  L(A)B67      CC70     LC ki

KU    kuôn, kun-: dog
2/12/00        PG18, PG17    LA98    L(A)B81     CC110     LC ku

SA  sêpia: cuttlefish, kalamari
17/7/05         PG19         LA31    L(A)B31 CC16/48/57/82 LC sa   

SO  [sophia: handicraft skill, represented by an adz]
8/6/05         PG46, 80, 87  LA88/A301 LB12      CC67,60   LC so

PD = Phaistos Disk (which may or may not have a connection with PG)
PG = Cretan pictograph/hieroglyph  (CHIC numbering)
LA = Cretan Linear A (numbering by Brice and Raison-Pope)
LB = Mycenean Linear B (also 'Late Bronze')
CC = Cyprian cuneiform (Bronze Age, "Cypro-Minoan", Emilia Masson's numbers)
LC = Cyprian linear (Iron Age), a Hellenic syllabary

For a more nearly complete table go to Cretan Scripts

Brian Colless
Massey University, Aotearoa/ New Zealand