Scientists at the University of Bologna say they have finally begun to unravel part of the mysterious Linear A that has puzzled linguists and archaeologists for decades. In a statement released recently, the University’s professor of Aegean Philology, Dr. Silvia Ferrara says she and her colleagues conducted a new study of the 3,500-year-old Minoan system of fractions of the as yet undeciphered script.
Other experts have puzzled over the system of fractions used by the Minoans. Damage to the fragments of Linear A complicated the work of researchers, but this recent work focused on a narrow period from 1600 and 1450 B.C. The researchers correlated fraction sign shapes by usage, and then linked them to statistical, computational, and typological strategies to assign them mathematical values.
After a process of eliminating impossibilities, the scientists discovered computation yielded nearly four million possible solutions. Typological data were then used to compare the results with fractions commonly found in use in history. Statistical tests also helped to trim the list of possibilities. Ferrara and her team concluded that Linear A’s lowest fraction was 1/60.
The study also suggests that the Linear B script used by Mycenaean Greek culture between 1450 and 1200 B.C. reused some of these fractions as units of measurement. Readers may learn more from the original study at the Journal of Archaeological Science here.