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Linear A

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Tablets with Linear A found on the island of Thera
Close-up of a tablet containing writing in Linear A.

Linear A is a script that was used on Crete. No one has been able to translate this script yet. It is one of two writing systems used in Minoan Crete. The other script is called Cretan hieroglyphs today. Linear A was used from about the 17th century BC until the 15th century BC. Linear B is a script based on Linear A. It has been translated. Archaeologist Arthur Evans found both Linear A and B.

Linear A has about fifty signs that are similar to those in Linear B. About 80% of the signs in Linear A are unique.[1][2] Using the knowledge from Linear B to read Linear A produces text which cannot be read. The language used has been called Eteocretan language. It does not seem to be related to any known language. Today, about 70 characters (probably representing syllables) are known. The meaning of about 100 ideographic characters is known. These are combined with the syllables. Also, there are a few numerals whose value is known.

Most texts seem to be lists. A few are probably short dedications, as they are found on libations. So far, no long texts have been found. Straight lines, such as those used for Linear A, are not very practical to use on clay tables. For this reasons, most writing was probably done on other things, such as papyrus or parchment. The problem with these items is that they are not as durable as clay. For this reason, most writing on papyrus and parchment has probably been lost.


  1. Younger, John. "Linear A Texts in phonetic transcription". University of Kansas. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  2. Packard, David W. (1974), "Chapter One: Introduction", Minoan Linear A, Berkeley / Los Angeles / London: University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-02580-6