Undeciphered(presumed ideographic, possibly with a syllabic component)
|MM I to MM III 2100–1700 BC|
|Languages||Unknown; possibly "Minoan"|
Cretan hieroglyphs are a hieroglyphic writing system used in early Bronze Age Crete, during the Minoan era. They predate Linear A by about a century, but the two writing systems continued to be used in parallel for most of their history. As of 2023[update], they are undeciphered.
As of 1989, the corpus of Cretan hieroglyphic inscriptions included two parts:
- Seals and sealings, 150 documents with 307 sign-groups, using 832 signs in all.
- Other documents on clay, 120 documents with 274 sign-groups, using 723 signs.
More documents, such as those from the Petras deposit, have been published since then. A four sided prism was found in 2011 at Vrysinas in western Crete.
These inscriptions were mainly excavated at four locations:
- "Quartier Mu" at Malia (Middle Minoan II period = MM II)
- Malia palace (MM III)
- Knossos (MM II or III)
- the Petras deposit (MM IIB), excavated starting in 1995 and published in 2010.
The first corpus of signs was published by Evans in 1909. The current corpus (which excludes some of Evan's signs) was published in 1996 as the Corpus Hieroglyphicarum Inscriptionum Cretae (CHIC). It consists of:
- clay documents with incised inscriptions (CHIC H: 1–122)
- sealstone impressions (CHIC I: 123–179)
- sealstones (CHIC S: 180–314)
- the Malia altar stone
- the Arkalochori Axe
- seal fragment HM 992, showing a single symbol, identical to Phaistos Disk glyph 21.
The relation of the last two items with the script of the main corpus is uncertain; the Malia altar is listed as part of the Hieroglyphic corpus by most researchers.
Since the publication of the CHIC in 1996 refinements and changes have been proposed.
Some Cretan Hieroglyphic (as well as Linear A) inscriptions were also found on the island of Samothrace in the northeastern Aegean.
It has been suggested that there was an evolution of the hieroglyphs into the linear scripts. Also, some relations to Anatolian hieroglyphs have been suggested:
The overlaps between the Cretan script and other scripts, such as the hieroglyphic scripts of Cyprus and the Hittite lands of Anatolia, may suggest ... that they all evolved from a common ancestor, a now-lost script perhaps originating in Syria.
Symbol inventories have been compiled by Evans (1909), Meijer (1982), and Olivier & Godart (1996).
The glyph inventory in CHIC includes 96 syllabograms representing sounds, ten of which double as logograms, representing words or portions of words.
There are also 23 logograms representing four levels of numerals (units, tens, hundreds, thousands), numerical fractions, and two types of punctuation.
Many symbols have apparent Linear A counterparts, so that it is tempting to insert Linear B sound values. Moreover, there are multiple parallels (words and phrases) from hieroglyphic inscriptions that occur also in Linear A and/or B in similar contexts (words for "total", toponyms, personal names etc.)
It has been suggested[vague] that several signs were influenced by Egyptian hieroglyphs.
The development of hieroglyphs passed 3 important stages:
- Arkhanes script (signs look like pictograms, although their number and frequency rather suggest a syllabic script); this script was only described as a distinct stage in development of the Cretan hieroglyphic in the 1980s. Most of these seals contain a repetitive "Arkhanes formula" of 2-3 signs.
- Hieroglyphic A (best represented in archaeological records; similar to Arkhanes, but images of animals are reduced to heads only)
- Hieroglyphic B (mostly on clay, characters are essentially simplified, may have served as a prototype for Linear A and possibly the Cypro-Minoan script). Only this latter version of the hieroglyphic includes signs that can possibly match ideograms known from Linear A.
The sequence and the geographical spread of Cretan hieroglyphs, Linear A, and Linear B, the five overlapping, but distinct, writing systems of Bronze Age Crete and the Greek mainland can be summarized as follows:
|Writing system||Geographical area||Time span[a]|
|Cretan Hieroglyphic||Crete (eastward from the Knossos-Phaistos axis)||c. 2100–1700 BC|
|Linear A||Crete (except extreme southwest), Aegean islands (Kea, Kythera, Melos, Thera), and Greek mainland (Laconia)||c. 1800–1450 BC|
|Linear B||Crete (Knossos), and mainland (Pylos, Mycenae, Thebes, Tiryns, Agios Vasileios - the ancient name of the latter is unknown)||c. 1450–1200 BC|
|Cypro-Minoan||Cyprus||c. 1550–1050 BC|
|Cypriot||Cyprus||c. 11th–4th centuries BC|
The Aegean and Cretan Hieroglyphs fonts support Cretan hieroglyphs.
- ^ Beginning date refers to first attestations, the assumed origins of all scripts lie further back in the past.
- ^ Yule (1981), pp. 170–171.
- ^ Olivier (1990).
- ^ Hallager, Papadopoulou & Tzachili (2012).
- ^ Tsipopoulou & Hallager (2010).
- ^ Evans (1909).
- ^ Olivier & Godart (1996).
- ^ Macdonald (1999).
- ^ Jasink (2009).
- ^ Montecchi, Ferrara & Valério (2021).
- ^ Finkelberg (1998), pp. 265–272.
- ^ a b Castleden (2002), p. 100.
- ^ Woudhuizen (2002).
- ^ Best (2002).
- ^ Decorte (2018).
- ^ Olivier (1986), pp. 377–389 (377f.).
- ^ Robinson (2009), p. 55–.
- ^ Haarmann (2008).
- ^ Redmond (2007), pp. 2–.
- ^ Jahandarie (1999), pp. 200–.
- ^ Wheatley (2008), pp. 381–.
- ^ Unicode Fonts for Ancient Scripts by George Douros
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- Media related to Cretan hieroglyphs at Wikimedia Commons
- The Cretan Hieroglyphic Texts
- Cretan Hieroglyphic Texts Explorer