Linear Scripts

Linear Scripts,

forms of Minoan writing. The earliest Minoan writing consisted of pictographs, called Cretan hieroglyphs, which date from about 2000 B.C. The first linear script, Linear A, dates from about 1700 B.C. and was also partly pictorial in nature. It appears on clay tablets written between 1750 B.C. and 1400 B.C. and has been classified as a West Semitic script. Linear A was replaced by Linear B, a new script, about 1450 B.C. Since Linear B also appeared on the Greek mainland, many scholars believed it to be an early form of Greek. This hypothesis was verified in 1952 when Linear B was finally deciphered by Michael Ventris, a British architect. The content of the Minoan texts that have been unearthed is predominantly economic and religious.


See D. W. Packard, Minoan Linear A (1974); J. Chadwick, Decipherment of Linear B (1970) and, with others, Corpus of Mycenaean Inscriptions from Knossos (4 vol., 1987–99).

Linear Scripts


(Linear A and Linear B), ancient writing systems of the island of Crete.

One of the dialects of the ancient Greek language is attested to in the Linear B texts (written in the Minoan-Mycenaean syllabic script). The inscriptions, which date from the 15th and 14th centuries B.C. and were discovered on the island of Crete in the late 19th century, were first published by the British scholar A. Evans in 1909. Tablets with similar inscriptions and dating from approximately the 13th century B.C. were found in the southern part of the Peloponnesos in 1939. Linear B was deciphered in 1953 by the British scholars M. Ventris and J. Chadwick.

The Minoan-Mycenaean writing symbols, which correspond to separate vowels or groups consisting of a consonant followed by a vowel, were, in the opinion of some scholars, evidently borrowed and adapted to the needs of the Greek language. Certain symbols are identical to symbols of the Cypriote syllabic script (sixth century to the second century B.C.) and Linear A, which dates from approximately the 18th to the 15th century B.C. Linear A, which has not yet been deciphered, most likely is not Indo-European.


Georgiev, V. Slovar’ krito-mikenskikh nadpisei. Sofia, 1955.
Lur’e, S. la. Iazyk i kul’tura mikenskoi Gretsii Moscow, 1957.
Furumark, A. Linear A und die altkretische Sprache. Berlin, 1956.
Meriggi, P. Primi elementi di minoico A. Salamanca, 1956.
Sundwall, J. “Minoische Beiträge.” Minos, 1955, no. 3; 1956, no. 4.
Chadwick, J., and M. Ventris. Studies in Mycenaean Inscriptions and Dialect. London, 1956.
Chadwick, J., and M. Ventris. Documents in Mycenaean Greek. Cambridge, 1956.
Minoica. Berlin, 1958.
Peruzzi, E. Le iscrizioni minoiche. Florence, 1960.


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