Logograms of the Linear B script

Logograms for woman and man

The standard form of the Linear B logograms of woman (MUL) and man (VIR), after J. Chadwick et al., Corpus of Mycenaean Inscriptions from Knossos I–IV, Cambridge 1986–1998.

Linear B, the oldest securely deciphered script in Europe, documents an early, archaic dialect of the Greek language. The script is an essential instrument of the central administrative organisation; its functional scope extends exclusively to the recording of economic processes within the individual Mycenaean palatial polities (c.1400 to 1200 BC). A significant element of the script underlining the tablets’ registering function are the sematographic characters for which the terms logogram or ideogram are used. They represent an explicit guidance within the documents by clearly identifying the object to be recorded, and thus facilitate the classification of the content of the text. A characteristic feature of logograms is their immediate connection to numerals and units of measurement.

The primary objective of this project is a critical analysis and debate of competing identifications suggested so far, in conjunction with a uniform methodology of determination of content and a systematic analysis of logograms and abbreviations, which will be dealt with in their entirety for the first time. Primary attention will be paid to their function and design as well as their genesis in the writing systems preceding Linear B. In the framework of this study, the influence of Aegean iconography on the design of the logograms will be taken into account in addition to the palaeographical tradition. Another key aspect is a comparative study of the ideographic character inventory of individual sites. The basis is a digital database that contains a large quantity of additional information besides the 7300 drawings of all logograms and abbreviations contained in the Mycenaean texts.



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  • J. Weilhartner, Zur Darstellung von Mensch und Tier auf Linear B-Tafeln und Siegelbildern der ägäischen Bronzezeit. In: E. Trinkl (Hrsg.), Akten des 14. Österreichischen Archäologentages am Institut für Archäologie der Universität Graz vom 19. bis 21. April 2012. Wien 2014, 445–456.
  • J. Weilhartner, Genderdimorphism in the Linear A and Linear B Tablets. In: M.-L. Nosch, R. Laffineur (Hrsg.), KOSMOS. Jewellery, Adornment and Textiles in the Aegean Bronze Age. Proceedings of the 13th International Aegean Conference, University of Copenhagen, Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre for Textile Research, 21–26 April 2010. Liège 2012, 287–296.
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