Fred C. Woudhuizen


In this second volume of the series on the earliest Cretan scripts the lines of approach as set out in the first volume are worked out to the full. With respect to Cretan hieroglyphic, the various components making up the signary of this script, one originating from Luwian hieroglyphic and the other originating from Egyptian hieroglyphic, are enlarged with further examples. As a result of the thus improved understanding of the signary, the number of legends of seals which can be read in toto has increased dramatically. In so far as Linear A is concerned, work on the Byblos script has facilitated a leap for-ward in understanding the various versions of the libation formula, of which previously only isolated sections could be grasped, but which now can be translated word for word in their entirety. Finally, if we realize that after the introduction of Linear B into the island at c. 1450 BC the three earliest Cretan scripts co-existed for about a century, it seems worthwhile to look for interactions between all these writing systems, with fascinating results as to the longstanding Knossos problem.


The question as to “who were the Minoans” is most adequately to be answered by revealing what they themselves have to say to us in their own scripts and their own languages. In doing so, we will come across evidence for Minoan scribes who may aptly be addressed as polygraphs and polyglots, in like manner as their colleagues from the Levant, Anatolia, and the Near East more in general. Undoubtedly, the local Cretan scripts were devised for domestic purposes, in the same way as this is the case with the Byblian pseudo-hieroglyphic and the Ugaritic cuneiform alphabet. But in order to do so, the Minoan scribes needed first hand knowledge of the most important writing systems of the Near East, namely Egyptian hieroglyphic, Akkadian cuniform, and Luwian hieroglyphic. And this they had to acquire for the simple reason to be able to provide their superiors, Minoan kings and entrepreneurs, their entry-ticket into international trade.


All in all, it appears that there are at least four languages encoded in the earliest Cretan scripts: Semitic, Luwian, Pelasgian, and Greek. The cradle of Europe thus turns out to be linguistically more complex than previously (i.e. before this series) imagined.


Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Kulturwissenschaft, Sonderheft 129. € 48.00. ISBN 978-3-85124-225-6.


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