Linear B

ancient writing system

Linear B is an ancient script, used to write Mycenaean Greek, as the oldest known form of Ancient Greek. This was proved by Michael Ventris in the early 1950s.[1] Linear B came before the Greek alphabet by several centuries.

Tablet with writing in Linear B script

The script is based on Linear A, a script which cannot be read today. The oldest texts written in Linear B date from about 1450 BC.[2] Linear B was found mainly in the palace archives at Knossos, Cydonia,[3] Pylos, Thebes and Mycenae.[4] The writing of Linear B language disappeared with the fall of the Mycenaean civilization.

There are about 87 signs in Linear B that represent syllables. In addition, there are many ideographic signs: These represent objects or commodities. They do not represent sounds, and are never used as word signs in writing a sentence.

Linear B seems to have only been used for administration. In all the thousands of clay tablets, a relatively small number of different "hands" (or writers) have been detected: 45 in Pylos (west coast of the Peloponnese, in southern Greece) and 66 in Knossos (Crete).[5] The script may have only been used by a guild of professional scribes. These scribes worked at the different palaces: when the palaces were destroyed, the script disappeared.


  1. Ventris, Michael & Chadwick, John 1973. Documents in Mycenaean Greek. 2nd ed, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-08558-6
  2. "New Linear B tablet found at Iklaina". Comité International Permanent des Études Mycéniennes, UNESCO. Archived from the original on 15 October 2013. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  3. Hogan, C. Michael (2008). "Cydonia". The Modern Antiquarian. Julian Cope. Retrieved 2009-01-12.
  4. Wren, Linnea Holmer; David J. Wren and Janine M. Carter (1986). Perspectives on western art: source documents and readings from the ancient Near East through the Middle Ages. Westview Press. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-06-430154-1.
  5. Hooker, J.T. (1980). Linear B: an introduction. Bristol Classical Press UK. ISBN 0-906515-69-6.