It is believed that Europe’s first great civilization was that of the enigmatic Minoans. They were the pioneers of international trade, their culture differentiated while at establishing congruent ties to archetypical ideas formulated in prehistoric times. They have been linked to hundreds of myths, to gods, goddesses, the Amazons, space aliens, and even called the Atlantians by some. So much is unknown of these extraordinary people because no one has come close to deciphering their written record. At least not up until recently.
Dr. Ester Salgarella, a specialist in Mycenaean epigraphy and Junior Research Fellow in Classics at St John’s College, Cambridge, has brought us one step closer to deciphering the language of the mysterious Minoans. Her groundbreaking work on the Minoan language known as “Linear A” has the world”s linguists and the archaeological community buzzing over previously hidden links to the better known “Linear B” script used by the early Mycenaean Greeks.
Salgarella, who’s the author of the recently published book “Aegean Linear Script(s): Rethinking the Relationship between Linear A and Linear B”, told Greek Reporter in an interview recently that the internet may lead to a kind of collective deciphering of the pre-historic writing. She’s even created, in collaboration with Simon Castellan, a tool to forward the study, an interactive paleographical data-based called SigLaA where professional and amateur decoders can try and unravel the code. Dr. Salgarella says that understanding the links between the earlier Minoan Linear A and Mycenaen Linear B can help sew the tapestry of language and culture of the mysterious Minoans.
The Minoans were a highly advanced civilization in the eastern Mediterranean during the Bronze Age named for the mythical King Minos of the Minotaur legend. It is widely thought that they were the world’s first Thalassocracy, ruling the seas from vast temple palaces on Crete. It is also widely believed that their maritime empire began its decline into the oblivion of history when the Thera volcanic event swept their fleets from the seas. Some even say the Minoans were the inspiration for Plato’s stories about Atlantis.
Now, Dr. Salgarella has set out on a new course for unraveling the meaning of Linear A. Her approach involves observing evidence from linguistics, inscriptions, archaeology, and paleography (the study of the handwriting of ancient writing) to compare Minoan Linear A and Mycenaen Linear B. She created the SigLA database in order to help in identifying the core signs of Linear A, and to help erase much of the confusion about the ancient script. Her unique structural analysis may finally help linguists crack the Minoan code.
Linear B, which was translated only with the help of the famous Rosetta Stone, has very similar phonetic values to those of its predecessor Minoan Linear A. However, the Minoan and Mycenean languages are different, even though many of the symbols are the same. Linear A was borrowed from the Minoans by the Mycenaean Greeks, and now Salgarella says the relationships of the languages are a key for decoding the older Minoan language. She told Greek Reporter:
“This combined paleographical and structural examination – using sign typology and associations – has led me to revise the current script classification and to argue that these two scripts are actually two sides of the same coin.”
She also asserts in her book that Linear B is most likely a derivative from Linear A. This assertion begs the question of how exactly did the derivation process happen? Salgarella thinks that by correlating the similarities and the differences in the two scripts, and by filling in the gaps, we may soon the key to unlocking a language that has puzzled experts for generations. More importantly, with Minoan Linear A decoded, archaeologists and other scientists will be able to fit vast pieces of the Minoan Civilization puzzle back together, as well as the human history they were a key part of.
This work, integrated into the research of experts like linguist and archaeologist Dr. Brent Davis and others, may soon reveal in great detail the magnificent world of these pre-historic people.