Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Alberto Bernabé, Eugenio R. Luján, Donum Mycenologicum: Mycenaean Studies in Honour of Francisco Aura Jorro. Bibliothèque des Cahiers de l'Institut de Linguistique de Louvain (BCILL), 131. Leuven; Walpole, MA: Peeters Publishers, 2014. Pp. x, 276. ISBN 9789042929098. €55.00 (pb).

Reviewed by John Bennet, University of Sheffield (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

The name Francisco Aura Jorro is perhaps not the most familiar within the general field of Classics outside his native Spain, but as compiler of the first complete Mycenaean dictionary,1 his contribution to Mycenaean studies and the history of the Greek language is enormous. His Diccionario Micénico is an essential scholarly tool for anyone working in these fields and the reason for that is the phenomenal wealth of learning that lies behind its two volumes. It is fitting, therefore, that his colleagues in Madrid have brought together sixteen contributions in the field of Mycenaean studies that reflect that breadth of learning, with a focus on those aspects of Mycenaean studies that depend on the language of the inscriptions.

Rather than select individual contributions for discussion, I summarise each briefly. The collection comprises papers in multiple languages: six are in Spanish, four in English, three, two and one in Italian, French and German respectively. The contributors represent a mixture of senior, mid- and early-career scholars, with an understandable bias in a celebratory volume towards the more senior.

Arranged alphabetically by author's name, the contributions can be divided into three categories. Seven deal with strictly linguistic topics. Alberto Bernabé opens the collection with a review of the occurrences of various Mycenaean words ending in -e-wi-ja; he distinguishes four types, all derived from words ending in -eús: toponyms derived from a personal-name, including three of the Pylos Further Province place-names, like a-te-re-wi-ja; derivations from agent nouns, denoting a particular activity, such as pe-di-je-wi-ja; forms derived from names and probably functioning as ethnics, like a-ke-re-wi-ja; and finally forms of doubtful meaning, including the puzzling ki-ri-te-wi-ja, which Bernabé derives from a form *kritheús and suggests denotes women connected in some way with barley, who are involved in cult. José-Luis García-Ramón continues his series of studies on Mycenaean onomastics, focusing on one (in)famous Pylian name: e-ke-ra2-wo, much discussed as possibly the name of the ruler of Pylos (otherwise known by his title of wanax), but confining his discussion to the formation of the name, which he derives from an unattested noun *ἐγχειρία plus an onomastic suffix -wōn-, 'he who undertakes/attacks', a derivation and a sense not found in Aura Jorro's Diccionario. Eugenio Luján examines the distribution of -s stems in Mycenaean as opposed to later Greek. Of the four types attested in classical Greek (neuter nouns in -os/-es-, or in -as, adjectives in -es, and masculine or feminine nouns in -ōs), all appear in Mycenaean, the last only in personal names. Mycenaean adds, on the other hand, nouns in -es (mostly personal names), plus two adjective forms: comparatives in -yos- and perfect participles in -wos-. José Melena, another distinguished Spanish Mycenologist who has made his own substantial contribution to the discipline, discusses the evidence for the phonetic values that lie behind the 'untransliterated' Linear B signs known as *63 and *65, continuing his series of studies aimed at extending our ability to render the Linear B syllabary in full. Using the pattern of occurrence in the texts we have, he suggests the values /ji/ and /ju/ at the time of the script's creation, but, as a result of sound changes in Greek, coming to stand for either /hi/ or /dʒi/ and /hu/ or /dʒu/ by the time or our most recent documents. Rachele Pierini explores a single Mycenaean syllabogram, *25, conventionally transcribed a2, but with the known value /ha/. She examines the dossier of this sign's occurrences with a view to the origins of the sounds it represented, and how its deployment changed over the period of use of Linear B from the earliest Cretan texts at Knossos to the latest, on the mainland, at Pylos. Starting from a commercial text inscribed on a lead sheet, dated c. 450-440 BC, and containing several compound forms of the verb δίδωμι, 'give', Rosa-Araceli Santiago Álvarez explores the uses of basic forms of the verb and its compounds in apu- in the Linear B documents; she points out that the usage in Mycenaean is formalised within a transactional vocabulary related to the operation of the palaces, in which there is a fundamental distinction between 'giving' (denoted by the simple verb) and 'payment' (denoted by forms prefixed by apu-). Finally, Rupert Thompson re-examines the evidence for the use of the -pi 'instrumental' ending with the preposition pa-ro in the light of a recently published tablet from Thebes TH Uq 434, which appears to contradict his earlier analysis.2 In fact, he regards TH Uq 434 as additional evidence that in Mycenaean Greek, there are indications of a syncretism of instrumental and dative-locative case forms, which could carry an ablatival sense following a preposition.

A further six chapters draw on the Linear B texts to explore social or cultural phenomena at various scales. Maurizio del Freo re-reads one Knossos text (KN Og 1527) listing small quantities (3 kg, perhaps significantly the unit in which wool is weighed in the Linear B documents) of lead as a possible distribution for the production of lead weights, drawing in as additional evidence a sealing (KN Ws 1703), which, he suggests, might relate to weight(s) of 20 g for weighing wool for textile decoration. Yves Duhoux also re-interprets an existing tablet from Thebes (TH X 105) as containing a distribution of metal vessels to two individuals, one named (or 'titled' as?) wa-na-ka-te; this involves the interpretation of the word ko-na as either khonnon or khonnā, based on a Hesychian gloss. Also drawing on Thebes documents, those involving somewhat puzzling references to various types of animals, Irene Serrano Laguna suggests these refer to human actors in animal dress performing in a ritual context. In support of this she cites representational and other evidence from the Minoan-Mycenaean and later Greek worlds, as well as Hittite parallels. Carlos Varias García reviews the 'dossier' of documents from Mycenae (included as a short appendix to his paper) that mention the theonyms si-to po-ti-ni-ja or plain po-ti-ni-ja; he concludes that both refer to the same deity, the 'Mistress of the Grains'. Jörg Weilhartner explores four Mycenaean occupational terms ending in -po-ro, -phoros in relation to the participation in cult processions, based on the suffix's frequent attestation in the names of later Greek festivals or the designation of participants who hold objects in their hand (supported by a useful table of occurrences). Finally, Julien Zurbach offers a helpful review of the evidence at the important site of Miletos for script use in the Mycenaean period (phases V-VII), illustrating the five surviving marked pots, and also drawing in parallels from Değirmentepe. The material, meagre as it is, does not offer any clear indication of the linguistic situation there, which Zurbach suggests was complex, perhaps not unlike that at Knossos in the early phase of its Mycenaean administration.

The final group comprises three articles. Massimo Perna offers an amusing account of the difficulties encountered by those familiar with editing Aegean scripts, when charged with producing a corpus of the 1,350 known inscriptions in the Cypriot syllabic script: the fact that many inscriptions are on stone, the quality of the stone, 'restorations' or 'improvements' in legibility in more recent times, coping with objects that do not present a simple, flat surface, false inscriptions and, finally, the sheer size of some examples, making the normal convention for Aegean scripts of 1:1 representation in corpora impossible. Anna Sacconi reviews the evidence that Linear B was written on other media than clay, arguing that the flat-based nodules attested in Neopalatial Crete that sealed small, folded animal-skin documents demonstrate this and may have survived in the Final palatial period in a small number of examples from the 'Room of the Chariot Tablets' at Knossos (although some have called into question whether these actually belong to the same type 3). She also argues that the use of a different verb for 'write' in first-millennium BC Cyprus (αλείφω or αλίνω, as opposed to γράφω) implies a continuity of practice, in a culture that continued to use a related syllabic writing system, from the Mycenaean period. Finally, you need not take this reviewer's word for the value of Aura Jorro's contribution, because Thomas Palaima's piece in the volume is an appreciation of his scholarly work, which demonstrates, concisely and with affection, exactly how important his work was (and remains) to the field of Mycenaean studies.

It is only appropriate, given the meticulous scholarly rigour of its dedicatee, that this volume is provided with no less than six indices : Linear B texts, other Aegean inscriptions, other inscriptions (i.e. non-Aegean), Linear B words, Linear B abbreviations and ideograms, and finally alphabetic Greek words. As is, I hope, clear, the articles in this volume are quite specialised (not to mention their multiple languages, a tribute to the editors' linguistic competence), so the indices should help anyone to navigate to a particular point or discussion. On the whole this is a welcome collection of papers of a generally high standard. Like most contributions in volumes of this type, they tend to focus on relatively restricted points, but in a number of instances, they represent refinements on, or extensions of earlier publications. Ultimately, of course, they all act as footnotes to the magnum opus of the dedicatee himself.4


1.   Aura Jorro, Francisco and Francisco R. Adrados, edd. 1985. Diccionario Griego-Español. Diccionario Micénico. Vol. 1 (1985) and 2 (1993). Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas. This is in no way to undervalue or ignore the lexicon produced early in the history of the field by the late Anna Morpurgo Davies: Mycenaeae Graecitatis Lexicon, Rome: Edizioni dell' Ateneo, 1963.
2.   Rupert Thompson. 2000. 'Prepositional Usage in Arcado-Cypriot and Mycenaean: A Bronze Age Isogloss?', Minos 35: 395-430.
3.   Erik Hallager. 2005. 'The Uniformity in Seal Use and Sealing Practice during the LH/LM III Period', in A.-L. D'Agata and J.A. Moody, edd., Ariadne's Threads: Connections between Crete and the Greek Mainland in Late Minoan III (LM IIIA2 to LM IIIC). Proceedings of the International Workshop held at Athens, Scuola Archeologica Italiana, 5-6 April 2003, 252-53.
4.   An Addenda volume is promised (p. ix), by the dedicatee in collaboration with Bernabé, Luján and Varias, while extensive indices both of Linear B words (direct and inverse) and of logograms, adjuncts, abbreviations and marks used in the texts are already available on-line, although the url given in the book (p. ix) appears to be incorrect; the correct one (last accessed 19/03/2015) is here.

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