Comfort Classics: Anna P. Judson

I did an interview in Cora Beth Knowles’ “Comfort Classics” series about one of my favourite Linear B tablets – featuring labyrinths, doodling, and cake-baking! You can read it here:

Classical Studies Support

The world is in a state of upheaval at the moment, and we’re all looking for things to make us feel less anxious. Maybe Classics can help.

Today’s interview is with Anna P. Judson

Is there a source from the ancient world that you find yourself coming back to when you want to feel better?

This Linear B clay tablet from the Mycenaean palace of Pylos, with a drawing of a labyrinth on the back.

When did you first come across this tablet?

I must have first seen a picture of it sometime during my MPhil degree in 2011-12, when I started learning to read Linear B and spent a lot of time practicing on drawings and photographs of tablets. Later on I was able to see the real thing on a study visit to Greece – it’s on display in the National Archaeological…

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Author: Anna P. Judson

Classics researcher at Cambridge

2 thoughts on “Comfort Classics: Anna P. Judson”

  1. Dear Anna, I’ve only just discovered your blog, being a recent convert to Linear B studies. I have a couple of questions, if you have the time: Why are most of the tablets considerably longer along the horizontal plane than the vertical? And: Is it possible that the scribes were a caste of Minoan origin, ie non-native speakers of Greek, who couldn’t hear syllable-final consonants in Greek speech, or other features such as voiced stops, which were not a feature of their native language, and therefore didn’t transcribe these features? Thanks, Steve.

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    1. Hi Steve! To answer your questions: 1) the horizontal tablets (called “palm-leaf” tablets) are used for individual records (e.g. relating to one person/one group of people/one set of items). Page-shaped/vertical tablets are for summaries of multiple records or for more complicated records that need more space, and there’s just less need for that – e.g. if you have a set of palm-leaf tablets on the same topic kept together in a box, that could effectively form one ‘document’ without the need to copy onto a single page-shaped tablet. 2) It’s definitely likely that at least the first generation(s) of writers at Cretan sites were bilingual, possibly first-language Minoan-speakers. The features you refer to are often attributed, not so much to Minoan speakers not being able to perceive such features (possible in the case of e.g. voicing, less likely in the case of final consonants), but to those not being represented in Minoan Linear A due to their absence from the language. I have several problems with this explanation: 1) it assumes that Linear A exactly represented all phonological features of the Minoan language, which writing systems rarely do exactly; 2) even if true, it assumes that Linear B writers basically just couldn’t be bothered to make necessary changes to their writing system, which clearly they did in some instances (e.g. inventing new signs); the related Cypriot Syllabary, used on Cyprus much later (c.10th-3rd centuries BCE) has made some changes (e.g. separate sign series for L and R) but not others (still no voicing distinction), so clearly writing Greek in this way was perfectly straightforward for native speakers/writers (frankly, Linear B spelling is complicated, but less so than English). I talk about this issue a bit (relating to the origins of the ‘extra’ Linear B signs in particular – a2, dwe, et al) in a book chapter I wrote a few years ago:

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