Semitic Crete

SEMITIC LANGUAGE IN ANCIENT CRETE

BRIAN E. COLLESS

The idea that Semitic influence (and presence) was strong in ancient Crete has risen up to the top of my consciousness again; it periodically blazes up in my mind, and I get excited about finding Semitic words in Linear A texts, but then the flames die down.

But suddenly I find myself reading Cyrus Gordon and Jan Best again, and seeing that a Semitic approach to some (or all?) of the Linear A texts is possible, feasible, viable.

Long ago, Judith Weingarten sent this information to me:

Online Abstracts and Abstract Archive Session 3G: Prehistoric Crete and the Eastern Mediterranean

Tristan Carter, Roy King, and Peter Underhill, Stanford University

It has long been accepted that the population history of Crete began with
the island's colonization at the start of the Neolithic, ca. 7000 B.C. The
original homeland of these farmers has never been entirely clear, with the
material culture of Knossos' basal levels offering no obvious overseas
parallels, while its suite of plant and animal domesticates are attested at
communities throughout central Anatolia, Cyprus, and the Levant at this
time. To what extent this population remained constant over the next six
millennia, i.e. up until the end of the Bronze Age, is a far more
contentious issue. Many scholars have argued that Crete received an influx
of new peoples towards the end of the fourth millennium B.C., marking the
transition from the Neolithic to Early Bronze Age. These alleged migrants
have been claimed variously to have come from North Africa, Syro-Palestine,
or northwest Anatolia, as evidenced by the appearance of new pottery styles,
burial practices, and settlement patterns. This paper presents the results
of a new genetic study from Crete?-?specifically Y-chromosome
haplotypes?-?in the larger context of eastern Mediterranean molecular
biology. Firstly, our data indicates that central Anatolia can be
discriminated genetically as the origin of Crete's first farmers, i.e. the
region of Çatalhöyük. Secondly, the data suggests that prior to the
construction of the First Palaces, Crete was indeed the recipient of further
populations from both Syro-Palestine and northwest Anatolia. It is important
to recall however, "that population history is only a part of history."

More recently they have released their study of the genetic data.
King, R., Ozcan, S., Carter, T., Kalfoglu, E., Atasoy, S., Triantiphyllidis, K., Kouvatsi, A., Lin, A., Chow, C., Zhivotovsky, L., Tsopanomichalou, M. and Underhill, P. (2008), Differential Y-chromosome Anatolian influences on the Greek and Cretan Neolithic, Annals of Human Genetics 72(2): 1-10

Tristan Carter, Roy King, and Peter Underhill, Stanford University:
[1] central Anatolia can be discriminated genetically as the origin of Crete's first farmers, i.e. the region of Çatalhöyük.
[So, that explains the bull cult!?]

[2] prior to the construction of the First Palaces, Crete was the recipient of further populations from both Syro-Palestine and northwest Anatolia.

The NW Anatolians (speakers of Indo-European [or"Asio-European", or "Euro-Asiatic" on the model of Afro-Asiatic]) could have brought that Greco-Latin language I have invented for the Cretan Pictophonographic (affectionately known as "Hieroglyphic") texts, which apparently had the word QA-TI (quanti? for "sum total"?) at Knossos and Mallia, in the north (1900-1600, Chadwick's dating).

In the "Mycenean" period (C15-C13, Chadwick), in Linear B tablets, the totaling formula was TO-SO ("so much, so many"). (I still ask whether Minos was 'Mycenean', and whether the name 'Minoans' really  belongs to the Hellenes of Knossos; a word that might be translated Minoan appears in Ugaritic, in the Mycenean period. I have even seen a suggestion that Minos led the fierce Dorian invaders in C12.)

The "Syro-Palestinians" (presumably Semites, meaning people with a Semitic language) would have used the term KU-RO (Semitic kullu, 'totality', 'all') in Linear A administrative documents, at Phaistos / Hagia Triada, in the south (C18-C15). (However, there are other suggestions for the origin of KU-RO.)

They were the people who provided the idea of an acrophonic logosyllabary, which had been invented and used for constructing a script for their own West Semitic language.

I think I am getting a clearer picture on this, now that I know that the West Semitic logo-syllabary (attested around 2300 BCE, in Tuba in Syria, and in Gubla/Byblos) is older than the Anatolian and Cretan scripts.

Egypt and Mesopotamia would always be having a basic influence in the Aegean region, through commercial and cultural exchange,  but the West Semitic writing system (invented under the stimulation coming from both these
quarters) was the one that offered the idea of an acrophonic syllabary, and this was taken up in Crete and Anatolia.

Homer (Odyssey 19.17), speaking of the beautiful fertile island Crete amid the wine-hued sea, declares that it has many peoples and languages. He lists Akhaians, Eteokretans, Kydonians, Dorians, Pelasgians. Of its ninety cities he singles out Knossos, where Minos had reigned.

If these people were holding on to their ancient identity (like Chinese, Armenian, and Jewish migrants) then the *Pelasgians* might be the NW Anatolian settlers. Ioannis Fidanakis has declared that Thracians (Thrakiotes) were Hellenes in the days when Hellenes were all known as "Pelasgians".

Would Homer's *Akhaians* be the "Mycenean" Hellenes of Knossos, and the *Dorians* their successors?

The *Kydonians* could go with Linear B Kudoniya, Egyptianp Ktwny (modern Khania?).

That leaves the *Eteocretans*, the 'authentic' group, the genuine article. We would think that these were the original Neolithic farmers, but then there would be no name to apply to the Semitic immigrants. In the Hellenistic era, Eteocretan inscriptions written in the Greek alphabet have been plausibly interpreted by Cyrus Gordon as West Semitic (Phoenician).

I am playing with the idea that the language of the Eteocretans and/or the Pelasgians was Greco-Italic, but maybe it was Semitic. Greek and Latin are cousins, and at one time they would have been the same language, so to speak.

Italy is not far from Crete and Greece. There is a Canaanite syllabic inscription from Trieste (Venice was always trading with Cyprus, as in the days of Otello?!), which shows the movement of peoples.

Certainly the Bronze-Age Cyprian script (based on Linear A) moved onto the mainland (Ugarit, Philistia). And I have found the word shekel on a stone-weight from Enkomi (te-ke-lo = theqel/sheqel).

Could Minos have been a Phoenician?! At Knossos a bowl (KN Zc7) says A-KA-NU-ZA?-TI?
Cyrus Gordon saw Semitic 'agganu ('bowl, goblet) in AKANU.
ZATI could be Semitic zayt (Ugaritic zt), 'olive oil', genitive case, hence 'olive-oil bowl'.
Gordon argues that it is a magic bowl, inverted and under the floor as in Babylonia.  And likewise for the other bowl (KN Zc6), which I have suggested to bear the label KRA-TI-RI (mixing vessel).

Pelasgians at Knossos invented the script, not Semites (though RI, a picture of a human leg would go with riglu 'leg')?

Is the Phaistos Disk Semitic?

Is the so-called "Mycenean" invasion or revolution in Crete (we are now told by Nafplioti that there is no evidence of new settlers pouring in) the establishing of the real Minoan period, the legendary time when Minos had hegemony and received tribute from the mainland (and victims to feed the Minotaur)?

Nafplioti, A. (2008). "Mycenaean" political domination of Knossos following the Late Minoan IB destructions on Crete: negative evidence from strontium isotope ratio analysis (87Sr/86Sr). Journal of Archaeological Science, 35(8), 2307-2317. DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2008.03.006

I am gathering the Semitic clues, and will continue to present them on my Collesseum.

Jan Best and Fred Woudhuizen, Lost Languages of the Mediterranean (1989), 1-34, The Language of Linear A.

Cyrus H. Gordon, Evidence for the Minoan Language (1966)