Fred C. Woudhuizen


The island of Crete is characterized by three different scripts during the Bronze Age period, Cretan hieroglyphic, Linear A and Linear B. In this book, it will be shown how these scripts were deciphered and what languages are encoded in them.

As far as the deciphering processes are concerned, it will be argued that the combination of internal and external evidence is vital for all of them, though the emphasis on either category of evidence may vary per case, now internal clues taking the brunt of the argument, as in case of Linear B, then external ones, as in case of Linear A and Cretan hieroglyphic.

Considering the fact that Linear B has been intruduced to the island of Crete from the Greek mainland c. 1450 BC, it is little informative on the language or languages of the indigenous Minoans: it only reveals us that the vernacular of the newly arrived Mycenaean ruling cast was a form of Greek. If we want to know, however, what the Minoans themselves once spoke and wrote, we have to rely solely on the evidence from Linear A and Cretan hieroglyphic. As the author argues at length, the majority of the documents in both these latter scripts are mainly conducted in a Semitic dialect, but from frequent slips of the pen it turns out that this was used only as a lingua franca and that the mother tongue of the Minoan scribes happened to be Luwian—a language of southwest Anatolia. In accordance with this analysis, it comes as no surprise that the longest texts in Cretan hieroglyphic, those of the double-axe of Arkalokhori and the discus of Phaistos, are entirely conducted in the Luwian language.

At last, then, the longstanding mystery of who were the Minoans is unveiled.


The author, Fred C. Woudhuizen, is one of the world’s leading experts in Luwian hieroglyphic and has been engaged in the field of Cretan Bronze Age scripts for more than 25 years.


Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Kulturwissenschaft, Sonderheft 129.
€ 40.00. ISBN 3-85124-219-X.




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