School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Theses
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ItemMinoan stone vessels with Linear A inscriptionsDavis, Brent Eric ( 2011)Minoan stone vessels with Linear A inscriptions are ritual vessels whose stone and inscriptions denoted the permanence of the dedicants’ devotion. The vessels were dedicated to deities, and were used in a variety of Minoan rituals, some of which can be tentatively reconstructed. Most of the vessels come from peak sanctuaries, the most important of which probably doubled as observatories for marking the passage of the equinoxes and solstices; thus the concentration of inscribed vessels at these sites suggests that the vessels played a part in seasonal rituals whose timing was determined by the sun and moon. The seasonality of these rituals suggests that they were focused on aspects of the cycle of life: fertility, birth, death and renewal. However, offerings left with the vessels also suggest that people visited these sanctuaries for other, more personal reasons—for example, to give thanks for good fortune, to request healing, or to seek divine protection before a dangerous journey. Inscribed stone vessels may have played a part in any of these rituals. A smaller number of inscribed stone vessels come from Kato Syme, a very important shrine built high on a flank of Mt Dikte, on the spot where a perpetual spring issues from the mountain. This spring is an important water source for the valleys and arable lands below; thus the location of the sanctuary again suggests that the inscribed vessels found there were used in rituals focussed on the divine source(s) of fertility. Most inscribed stone vessels can be interpreted as receptacles for liquid and/or solid offerings. The so-called Minoan ‘ladles’ are a special case: I interpret them as pouring vessels meant to be held in cupped hands. Iconographic evidence suggests that ‘ladles’ may have been used in male maturation rites. Though Linear A remains undeciphered, linguistic analysis of the inscriptions on the vessels is still possible on several fronts. Clues to the phonology of Minoan can be found in the structure of Linear A itself, and in the way in which it was borrowed by the Mycenaeans to create Linear B. Mycenaean spellings of Minoan words and names also contain clues as to the sounds of Minoan, while alternating Classical spellings of some Minoan words suggest that Minoan had some sounds that were not native to Greek. The morphology of Minoan can be investigated through statistical analyses of the frequency with which the various Linear A signs occur. Inflection in human languages usually involves affixes; thus signs that appear inordinately often at the beginnings or ends of Linear A words are likely to be prefixes and suffixes. Finally: most inscribed Minoan stone vessels contain a version of the so-called ‘Libation formula’, a lengthy sequence of Minoan words; comparing these versions yields valuable clues about the nature of Minoan syntax. The results of these investigations suggest that Minoan is a non-Indo-European, non-Semitic language with a fairly standard set of phonemes, an agglutinative morphology incorporating both prefixes and suffixes, and (possibly) VSO word order.