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The exhibit

Palace of Knossos. 1375-1300 BC

Linear B is a writing system representing the earliest known form of the Greek language. The script is essentially syllabic, meaning that each sign represents a syllable. The texts of the Linear B tablets were deciphered in 1953 by the architect Michael Ventris, who, together with philologist John Chadwick, proved that Linear B was an early form of Greek. Although Linear B has many of the same symbols as the preceding Linear A, it appears to have been created when scribes adapted Linear A to a new language, Greek. Linear B texts were inscribed on clay tablets and are mainly administrative and economic documents. A large number of Linear B tablets were found in the Palace of Knossos. Most of them are dated to the 14th century BC, before the destruction of the palace. Here we see the largest Linear B page tablet from Knossos, in which at least 67 men are recorded under headings denoting administrative districts. These are the districts of the Knossian official bearing the title ra-wa-ke-ta, who was second only to the king, and of local officials with the rank of “basileus” (qa-si-re-u) at the place named se-to-i-ja and another region whose name has been lost. The text is arranged in 24 lines about a centimetre high. The syntax is simple, as each male name is followed by the logogram for “man” and the number 1. The texts of the tablets are invaluable, since by studying them carefully we can gain direct and indirect information on the administrative and economic organisation and the religious life of the Creto-Mycenaean world.
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