Iklaina Tablet(s) Followup

Posted with permission of Dr. Michael Cosmopoulos , who also had this posted to AegeaNet:

Dear colleagues,

Thank you for sharing our excitement at the discovery of a Linear B tablet from Iklaina. In the last few days it has led to some good publicity for the Aegean Bronze Age. But since media reports rarely transmit information with complete accuracy, we’d like to offer the following brief account of the context and content of the tablet. A full publication will appear as soon as practicable by Cynthia Shelmerdine.

Context and date: The tablet was found in a burned refuse pit containing diagnostic pottery of LH IIB/LH IIA1/early LH IIIA2 date and is, therefore, earlier than the tablet from the Petsas House at Mycenae. Palaeographically the signs resemble those on tablets from the Room of the Chariot Tablets at Knossos, and the four (not five) early tablets from Pylos. Phylogenetic analysis by C. Skelton (cf. her article in Archaeometry 50, 2008, 158-176) bears out a date earlier than the main Pylos archive.

Content: The tablet is broken at bottom, one side, and perhaps also at the top, which is uneven. On the front side (recto), a probable man’s name is preserved in the first extant line, followed by the number 1. We read in the fragmentary second line ]n.u.-o-wo[ , probably the end of another name (cf. the name ]ṛ.u.-o-wo on Knossos Sc 130). The back side (verso) is determined by the more slanting ductus of the signs, a point observed by J.L. Melena. It preserves a participial ending, attested at Knossos and Pylos as perfect active in form, with an intransitive-passive sense. The closest parallel is te-tu-ko-wo-a (‘fully finished’), attested at Knossos with reference to cloth (KN L 871.b, restored on KN X 7846), and in the variant te-tu-ko-wo-a2 at Pylos with reference to wheels (PY Sa 682). te-tu-]ko-wo-a is a plausible restoration on the Iklaina tablet, though of course not certain.

Thus the tablet may present a personnel list on one side, and a verb form possibly linked to manufacturing on the other. The really interesting point is that this is the first tablet ever found at a secondary center in a Mycenaean state. We think that Richard Hope-Simpson and John Bennet are right in identifying Iklaina as the district capital a-pu2 (Alphys, vel sim.) in the Hither Province of Pylos. If the date of the tablet is not later than LH IIIA1/early LH IIIA2, as the evidence suggests, it represents either a phase of independent written accounting predating a Pylian takeover, or the very early stages of state bureaucracy. Either way, it opens a window into a state of administration barely attested at Pylos itself.

Here’s our original coverage in case you missed it: Oldest Writing In Europe – From Iklaina. John Noble Wilford’s recent coverage for the New York Times is also worth a look: Greek Tablet May Shed Light on Early Bureaucratic Practices.


This Day in Ancient History: ante diem viii idus apriles

Pompey the Great in middle age. Marble bust in...
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ante diem viii idus apriles

  • ludi Megalesia (day 3)
  • 648 B.C. — solar eclipse possibly referred to in a fragment of a poem by Archilochus (Zeus, the father of the Olympic Gods, turned mid-day into night, hiding the light of the dazzling Sun; and sore fear came upon men.)
  • 46 B.C. — Julius Caesar defeats supporters of Pompey at Thapsus