Linear B translated: PY Fn 7

Today’s tablet is PY Fn 7, joined from a set of previously unconnected fragments by Jose Melena (Minos 31, 1996-1997):

Fn 7 (Hand 3)

.1                                            ]2 OLIV T 2
.2                                            ] OLIV T 1
.3   to-]ko-do-mo HORD [   ]Z 3   VIR 20[
.4   pi-ri-e-te-re  HORD []Z 3      VIR 5
.5   pa-te-ko-to[  ]HORD[  ]V 2  [ ]
.6           vacat
.7   qa-ra2-te , o[-pi-me-]ne[                ]OLIV 6
.8   pa-ka , o-pi-me-ne , [
.9   pa-te-ko-to , o-pi-me-ne [  ]HORD 1[
.10 pi-ri-e-te-si , o-pi-me-ne[   ]HORD 1 T 4[
.11 to-ko-do-mo , o-pi-me-ne[  ]HORD 7[ ]5

.1                                   ]2, OLIVES: 19.2 liters
.2                                     ] OLIVES: 9.6 liters
.3   wall-builder(s): BARLEY: 1.2 liters, MEN: 20
.4   sawyer(s): BARLEY: 1.2 liters, MEN: 5
.5   all-builder: BARLEY: 3.2 liters
.7   to Kwallans, monthly: [            ]OLIVES: 576 liters
.8   to pa-ka, monthly: [
.9   to the wall-builders, monthly: BARLEY: 96 liters
.10 to the sawyers, monthly: BARLEY 134.4+ liters
.11 to the all-builder: BARLEY: 720 liters


  • We should probably imagine that line 1 recorded the daily allocation of olives (and probably barley) to the man named Kwallans (cf. Πάλλας), and line 2 the daily allocation of olives (and probably barley) to the man (or woman) named pa-ka (there are too many possibilities here, so I have left it transliterated). The math works out, since 19.2 * 30 = 576.
  • We should probably imagine equal quantities of barley and olives being allocated to the two named individuals; that is common practice in such texts, and the 2 in the break in line 1 is consistent with that hypothesis.
  • We then have listed the daily allocations to three professions and their number: 20 wall-builders, 5 sawyers (i.e., people who saw, from Greek πρίω), and a single all-builder. These are all listed in the dative singular or nominative plural (it’s impossible to tell which). to-ko-do-mo is a compound noun, /toikhodomos/ (cf. τοῖχος, δέμω), pi-ri-e-te-re (elsewhere spelled pi-ri-je-te-re) is in the nominative singular /pri(h)etēr/ (cf. πριστήρ, from πρίω), and pa-te-ko-to is /pantektōn/ (cf. πᾶν, τέκτων).
  • After a blank line, the scribe has calculated the monthly allocation to each group, using the word o-pi-me-ne, /opimenei/ (cf. ἐπὶ μηνί).
  • The tablet clearly deals with architectural laborers. I’ve suggested that we have five teams, each with a sawyer (carpenter) and four wall-builders (masons), all of which are supervised by the “all-builder,” who must be some kind of architect/foreman. The sawyers cut beams and other wooden elements, the wall-builders were masons who built the walls. Mike Nelson has shown how walls at the Palace of Nestor in LH IIIB were built: a mix of mortar was poured into a heavy timber framework.
  • I’ve further argued that the named individuals, allocated large quantities of barley and olives, are responsible for providing what is obviously missing from these architectural teams: unskilled labor. Masons in Ottoman and early modern Greece typically employed local unskilled laborers and animals, who hauled and prepared materials, supervised by a skilled specialists, and I suggested that something similar is happening here. (You can download my article here:

3 thoughts on “Linear B translated: PY Fn 7

  1. Ben

    One difficulty with this and other more or less traditional translations (for this and other tablets) is that it is based on a reading of the signs which – in the light of the photos on Calibra and elsewhere – can only be viewed as incomplete, inconsistent, and inaccurate. Here, for example, the proposed “qa-ra2” ignores adjoining incisions that are no less visible or deliberate. The reading o-pi-me-ne is conjectural in its every occurrence, given the lacunas, and among other things ignores the different configurations of “o”. The configuration of “pi” and “ri” also varies markedly between lines and fragments. The perceived numerals in the first four lines, despite being vertical or horizontal incisions appear to be very different lengths. The reading to-ko-do-mo in the “final” line ignores both other incisions and aberrant formation (e.g. of “ko” with a needlessly broken descender). The traditional interpretation resorts to unattested Greek forms and words, for its perceived “sawer” and “all-builder”. And where interpretation still breaks down, proper names are invoked instead. Nor does the traditional approach make any attempt to explain the raised as well as abraided moulding on the right side of the tablet, where its sign reading – including all the purported ideograms – is particularly heroic.

    1. nakassis Post author

      “can only be viewed as incomplete, inconsistent, and inaccurate” – I’m sorry, but I cannot agree. I’ve worked very closely with all of the Pylos texts for just over 5 years now (I’m talking about autopsy in the workrooms of the National Museum in Athens), and Melena’s work is really unimpeachable. It’s the result of decades of close work with the tablets. It may be hard to believe on the basis of bad black-and-white photographs, but Melena’s readings are always incredibly good. I’ve tried very hard to disagree with them, but working in person with the tablets and looking at much better (high-resolution RTI files) images always convinces me that Melena is right. On the basis of my work, I would NEVER claim to be able to read a Linear B tablet with a problematic reading based on a static black-and-white image. You can’t tell which signs are deliberate without an understanding of the topography of the text, which static images cannot reliably provide.

  2. Ben

    Thank you for so swift a reply. I question nobody’s individual competence. Where visual elucidation or discussion is currently still difficult, my adjectives and examples were intended to highlight the effect, as I see it, of an inherited reading or approach, to which many have contributed, one way or the other, over the years, and similar points could be made in respect of all other tablets. I also much look forward to the results of the on-going imaging project. The Knossos sample from the Ashmolean added considerable utility – while it was still available! But
    I should have made clearer where I am “coming from”. I don’t doubt that – given a prior assumption about the administrative nature of the “tablets”, and the priority or exclusivity of “signage” – certain sign “readings” look plausible, even certs. In a sense they have to. Nor do I doubt that some are right. However, as part of a process of reduction, incisions or other features that do not fit have been discounted, ever since Evans, on various further assumptions, such as damage, dirt, erasure, palimpsest, photographic distortion, scribal hands, scribal aberration, doodles. But however limited the B&W photos may be, the fact remains (to my, perhaps differently sceptical eyes) that some or many of those diverse other incisions (and other interventions) are plausibly deliberate, and aside from sometimes qualifying the reading of some (not all) signs, they generate various credible visual images, either on signal scale or as part of larger patterns, which is inconsistent with scribal practice or administrative function.
    Plainly, the plausibility and functionality of individual tablets’ translation as administrative text are also relevant issues. But, I appreciate that you will be too busy to continue this dialogue, so, with my thanks again for taking the time to respond, unless of course you see a need, I suggest we let it rest.


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