Linear B

Linear B (as opposed to the older linear script A) is the syllabary of Mycenaean culture of Greece. It was used from the 15th century BC to the 12th century BC from Knossos on Crete and the Greek mainland. Their use is attested from periods SM II to LM III B of the Minoan culture.

Known are about 90 syllabic signs, 160 signs with word meaning as well as various numeral. It was written from left to right.

The font is in Unicode in the blocks Linear B syllabic signs and Linear B ideograms and is thus standardized for use on computer systems.


The font in 1878 was known by a Fund in Crete. The term was coined by Sir Arthur Evans, the excavator of Knossos, and refers to the appearance of the scribed with individual lines in clay tablets characters. Because of the close relationship with the Linear A script have been discovered clay tablets and similar initially held for Minoan.

Finds of clay tablets (in brackets the Sigle ) also mainly come yet from the palace archives of Pylos (PY), which were discovered by Carl Blegen. More tablets, which point to a palace administration, come from the sites of Ikalaina in Messinia ( IK ), A. Vasileios in Laconia ( HV), Mycenae (MY) and Tiryns (TI ) in the Argolid, Thebes (TH ) in Boeotia, Volos (VOL) in Thessaly, sowi Chania ( KH) on Crete. In addition, vases were painted with characters found in many places, so among other things, at Tiryns, Midea, Mycenae, Eleusis, Kreusis, Orchomenus and in Thessaly Dimini on the mainland as well as Chania, Knossos, Malia and Prinias in Crete.

Outside of Greece comes to date a non-secure vases inscription from Sidon (Lebanon). These come from the Bronze Age fortification at Bernstorff two amber amulets found in 2000 with three signs of early Linear B script. Should the authenticity of this find are clear evidence he provided important evidence for the trade routes of the 15th century BC


The basics of deciphering were placed between 1940 and her early death in 1950 by the classical philologist Alice Kober. Based on their systematic groundwork succeeded in 1952 the British architect and linguist Michael Ventris, along with John Chadwick deciphering. It turned out that the retrieved texts were written in an early form of the Greek language ( Mycenaean - Greek). This was a scientific sensation, since it had been believed until then, it also RELATES TO the non Indo-European language of the Minoans, which had previously been written with Linear A. Apparently it is in Linear B to an adaptation to the language of Mycenaean conquerors. Moreover, we previously took on, Mycenaeans had not yet spoken Greek, but support this language immigrated until the Iron Age in Hellas.

The finds are not to literary texts, but mainly to take notes on economic and administrative purposes that were not intended for permanent storage. The clay tablets were therefore only obtained because they have been burned accidentally by fire disasters and so preserved for a long time. Therefore, they only report on the economic situation and the administration of the last months before the disaster. Once a year, a revision was performed, in which the contents of all the clay tablets together and was most likely recorded on perishable materials.

The characters of the linear scripts with their complicated structures and small details are not very suitable for carving in clay. It is believed, therefore, that was mainly written to others, but not very durable materials such as papyrus or parchment.

Syllabic signs


𐀒 𐀜 𐀰 = ko -no- so / KNOSOS /, the Palace of Knossos

𐀀 𐀖 𐀛 𐀰 = a-mi -ni - so / Amnisos /, Amnissos, the port of Knossos

𐀞 𐀂 𐀵 = pa - i-to / Phaistos /, Phaistos in Crete

𐀢 𐀫 = pu - ro / Pulos /, the palace of Pylos

𐀳 𐀣 = te -qa / Thēgwai /, the palace of Thebes

𐀁 𐀔 𐁀 = e -ma- a2 / Hermahās /, the God Hermes

𐀷 𐀙 𐀏 = wa -na- ka / wanaks / "king" ( ancient Greek ἄναξ )

𐀣 𐀯 𐀩 𐀄 = qa -si -re- u / qwasileus / "a kind of official " ( in later Greek βασιλεύς "king" )

𐀁 𐀨 𐀺 = e -ra- wo / elaiwon / "olive oil"

𐀟 𐀗 = pe -mo / Spermo / " seed Same"

𐀴 𐀪 𐀡 = ti -ri - po / tripos / " tripod "

𐀞 𐀨 𐀍 = pa -ra- jo / palaios / " old "

Writing rules

Since in Linear B only simple syllables (either vowel or consonant vowel) can be written, the orthography the sound shape reflects poorly. A program written in Linear B Greek word often has several possible interpretations. The case is, however, quite clear and follows in the majority of cases the following rules:

  • Vowel length is not specified: the two O- vowels in KNOSOS (classical Κνωσός ) are not distinguished.
  • Diphthongs on U ( AU, EU) are written with a syllabary characters plus the vowel U ( LEU is therefore re -u). For AU in word-initial syllable there is a special character.
  • In diphthongs on I falling I made ​​( from PHAI is so pa, although they will offer this for the example word PHAISTOS also irregular the letters pa - i-to 𐀞 𐀂 𐀵 ). In the letters AI can be written with either a or a special character ai.
  • Follow on U or I more vowels, then one adds a glide w or j a. This also applies to diphthongs from U or I, although I is not even written in the latter ( LAIO to write as ra -jo, KUA results ku - wa).
  • Be double consonants ( geminal ) written as a simple consonants (SSO becomes so )
  • Consonant clusters whose first component is a plosive, be resolved into two syllables with the same vowel ( KNO gives ko - no).
  • Cluster of Kontinuant plosive shortened to contrast to a simple syllable by omitting the continuants (STO results to).
  • In clusters of two continuants both consonants are generally written (MNI is to mi -ni ). There are exceptions, however, in which the first consonant in the override fails. This is systematically always the case when the second consonant S, but there are also cases that can not be predicted with a simple rule.
  • The distinction between voiced, voiceless aspirated and closure sounds can not be played back ( KA / KHA / GA are written with ka and PA / PHA / BA with pa) in Scripture generally. Only for the voiced dental D has its own set of syllabic signs, so that one DA with here and TA / THA writes with ta.
  • Between L and R are not distinguished.
  • Consonant at the end of a word usually fall out. In the rare cases that a word ends in - qs, -ps or -ks, the plosive is written with the vowel of the penultimate syllable: In the last example word you spell that word final QA with the preceding vowel than qo.