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Linear B

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Tablet with writing in Linear B

Linear B is an ancient script, used to write Mycenaean Greek, the oldest known form of Ancient Greek. This was proved by Michael Ventris in the early 1950s.[1]

The script is based on Linear A, a script which cannot be read today. The oldest texts written in Linear B date from about 1450 BC.[2] Linear was found mainly in the palace archives at Knossos, Cydonia,[3] Pylos, Thebes and Mycenae.[4] It disappeared with the fall of the Mycenaean civilization.

There are about 87 signs in Linear B that represent syllables. In addition, there are many ideographic signs: These represent objects or commodities. They have no phonetic value -and are never used as word signs in writing a sentence.

Linear B seems to have only been used for administration. In all the thousands of clay tablets, a relatively small number of different "hands" (or writers) have been detected: 45 in Pylos (west coast of the Peloponnese, in southern Greece) and 66 in Knossos (Crete).[5] The script may have only been used by a guild of professional scribes. These scribes worked at the different palaces. When the palaces were destroyed, the script disappeared.


  1. Ventris, Michael & Chadwick, John 1973. Documents in Mycenaean Greek. 2nd ed, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-08558-6
  2. "New Linear B tablet found at Iklaina". Comité International Permanent des Études Mycéniennes, UNESCO. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  3. Hogan, C. Michael (2008). "Cydonia". The Modern Antiquarian. Julian Cope. Retrieved 2009-01-12.
  4. Wren, Linnea Holmer; David J. Wren; Janine M. Carter (1986). Perspectives on western art: source documents and readings from the ancient Near East through the Middle Ages. Westview Press. p. 55. ISBN 0-06-430154-0, 9780064301541 .
  5. Hooker, J.T. (1980). Linear B: an introduction. Bristol Classical Press UK. ISBN 0-906515-69-6 .