In 1900 the archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans (1851-1941) discovered a large number of clay tablets inscribed with mysterious symbols at Knossos on Crete. Believing he had discovered the palace of King Minos, together with the Minotaur’s labyrinth, Evans dubed the inscriptions and the language they represented as ‘Minoan’.
Evans spent the rest of his life trying to decipher the inscriptions, with only limited success. He realised that the inscriptions represented three different writing systems: a ‘hieroglyphic’ script, Linear A and Linear B The hieroglphic script appears only on seal stones and has yet to be deciphered. Linear A, also undeciphered, is thought to have evolved from the hieroglyphic script, and Linear B probably evolved from Linear A, though the relationship between the two scripts is unclear.
- Linear A was used between about 1800 and 1450 BC.
- Linear A is mixed script consisting of 60 phonetic symbols representing syllables and 60 sematographic symbols representing sounds and concrete objects or abstract ideas.
- Many of the symbols resemble those used in Linear B and have been assigned the same pronunciation.
- Linear A was written in horizontal lines running from left to right on clay tablets which were probably used for keeping records of transactions.
There is no concensus on how to transliterate the Linear A symbols – the method shown below is one possible transliteration.