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Open Seminar: The Undeciphered Script of the Minoans: What we know about Linear A, what we don't
Open Seminar: The Undeciphered Script of the Minoans: What we know about Linear A, what we don't
11.06.2015 19.00 h
Greek Centre Melbourne (Mezzanine) - Melbourne


Lecturer: Dr Brent Davis
Entry: Free


The Minoans' enigmatic writing system, conventionally called 'Linear A', remains stubbornly undeciphered, despite more than a century of scholarly effort. Given the importance of the Minoan civilisation, the decipherment of this script has always been of the utmost importance to archaeology.

The script is clearly an indigenous Minoan invention, possibly based on an earlier Minoan script called Cretan Hieroglyphic. Like Linear B, Linear A was used extensively for administrative recordkeeping... but unlike Linear B, it was also used to inscribe ritual objects—especially stone offering tables, which are found by the hundreds at ritual sites throughout eastern and central Crete.

Nearly 50 of these stone offering tables contain various versions of the so-called 'libation formula', a long series of Linear A signs. Parts of this formula never vary from vessel to vessel, while other parts always vary from vessel to vessel. By comparing these variants of the formula, it becomes possible to make some well-supported statements about the nature of the language behind Linear A—a crucial step toward decipherment, as the first key to deciphering the script is to identify the language behind it.



Dr Davis received his undergraduate degree in Linguistics from Stanford University. In 2011, he completed his PhD at the University of Melbourne on Minoan ritual vessels and Linear A; his thesis was published as a book in 2014. With a background in both archaeology and linguistics, his interests include not only the cultures of the eastern Mediterranean, but their languages as well. He has published numerous articles and chapters on ancient cultures and scripts, as well as on archaeological theory, and he has undertaken several years of archaeological fieldwork in Israel at Tell-es Safi/Gath, the site of a major Philistine city.


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