Literacy in the Aegean Bronze Term Paper

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It is interesting, that Greeks kept a sort of unpleasant feeling about the old script, maybe because it was psychological associated with cruel royal scribes and tax collectors. Five centuries later, Greeks developed their own alphabet. (Schmandt-Besserat, 1992)

Bronze Age Scribes

The Bronze Age scribes of Crete and Greece were using ideogram and syllables together with variation to detail reflecting their internal structures of their society. When a word is written syllabically and followed by an ideogram, it conveys the same meaning. The term 'double writing' is reflected in the Linear B. writing system of the Minoans and Mycenaean. The writings of a language evolve into an alphabet or a syllabary from many forms of ideograms, syllabic elements and definitive orders of consonantal signs. The origin of script is often disputed; with the influence of migration and trade from several cultures the contributing factors are immense. Heinrich Schliemann proved the Bronze Age existed in the Aegean area. This discovery confirmed that pre-classical civilizations flourished, known as the Mycenaean Period. Bringing faith to the literal truth of Homer's Iliad. (Powell, 1991)Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Literacy in the Aegean Bronze Assignment

Sir Arthur Evans, an English student of Archaeology followed the great discoveries of Schliemann. Evans believed the civilization could not have existed without knowledge of script. Reports of engraved stones and seals were circulating in the antiquity market in Greece. The Turks withdrew form Crete in 1899 and this gave Evans an opportunity to purchase an area called Knossos, where oral traditions told of King Minos and the sea empire he ruled from a great palace. Evans began digging around 1900. The archaeologist was rewarded with the discovery of several clay tablets with a highly developed script unlike any other, now called Linear B. Knossos was confirmed as a major Bronze Age site rivaling mainland Palaces. Evans unearthed a large complex of buildings reveling a high level of civilization that had developed in Crete two hundred years earlier than the mainland area of Mycenae. Thus, Evans coined the term 'Minoan' to describe the culture in Crete. This prompted the onset of several more great discoveries on the island of Crete. New palaces were excavated at Phaistos, Mallia, Haghia Triada, and all reported finds of several clay tablets.(Schmandt-Besserat, 1992)

The correlation of script found on seal stones resembled the hieroglyphs of Egypt, but not related, noted an earlier palace period. A few examples surfaced of another script written on clay tablets with pictures more stylized and less recognizable, this noted another palace period. Evans called this script Linear A. A even later version of script, carrying the bulk of inscriptions is known as Linear B, and dated from about 1450-1375 BC. (Powell, 1991)

The Linear B. Decipherment

The study of Linear B. was continued by Evans. He compiled the hieroglyphic material and prepared to publish. The Balkan War broke out before the editions of Linear B. tablets were finished. (Hankey, 1993) After the war Evans continued and published, with illustrations of Linear B, the vast amount of work on Knossos, and named it Palace Of Minos. Unfortunately a large amount of documents were still unpublished and inaccessible scholars. Eleven years after Evans death, Sir John Myres finally published in 1952, what Evans compiled around 1911. A devoted team of scholars found that the evidence was inconclusive and there had not been an effort to join fragments and reconstruct the tablets. (Millard, 1998)

Before the 1952 publications, in 1939 the Archive room was discovered at a Mycenaean palace located at Pylos, on the Greek mainland. Hundreds of clay tablets were found. The first pieces lifted from the ground were identified as the same script found decades ago at Knossos. The script had been written on unbaked clay tablets. The tablets were now baked from the fires at the palace and revealed fine examples of Linear B. script. (Powell, 1991)

Americans, Emmett L. Bennett, Alice Kober and British scholar Michael Ventris have given extensive amounts of time and effort, and are credited with the decipherment of Linear B. Although deciphered, this does not mean we have knowledge of the meaning of every ideogram and phonetic sign, unfortunately some have not been decoded.

The conclusions we can draw from the decipherment are valid in understanding the history of the Mediterranean area. Linear B. As we know today was used for an accounting system specifying the commodities and the wealth held by the empire. The clay tablets were never deliberately baked, unless found in an area of the palace that had caught fire. Dates were only mentioned pertaining to 'last year', ' this year'. Assumptions are made, that the tablets were scraped yearly. We can reach a deductive that Linear B. is intolerable for writings and history. With further evidence, archaeologists have failed to produce any diplomatic correspondence, treaties, and literary or religious text. It appears Linear B. was solely a means of record keeping. (Millard, 1998)


Clearly, then, we can see the parallels between writing and society, just as we could see why this time in history was coined as the Bronze Age. Literacy was nothing more than the sum of the society. Everything written in that time depicted the age and condition of the society as a whole. The scripts tell us that those who were literate were in a position of power, those that were not, were in a position to follow. But overall, the period of the 8th-7th century sees literacy becoming widespread. Some would still remain illiterate and others would have had only a basic grasp, but due to the alphabet's simplicity compared with earlier scripts, it would be understood by a wider band of people. The written word became important for Greek society as a tool for record keeping, recording its past and for trade. Finally individual craftsmen's signatures appear on artifacts as they take pride in their work and, like others individuals during the rise of Greek polis, sought to exert their own identity.


1. Claiborne, Robert. The Birth of Writing. The Emergence of Man Series. Alexandria, Virginia: Time Life Books: 1974.

2. Cline, E.H. Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: International Trade and the Late Bronze Age Aegean. Oxford: Tempus Reparatum, 1994.

3. Davies, W.V. And Schofield, L., editors. Egypt, the Aegean and the Levant: Interconnections in the Second Millennium BC. London: British Museum, 1995.

4. Gelb, Ignace J. A Study of Writing. Revised edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974.

5. Gellner, Ernest. Plough, sword and book: The structure of human history. London: Collins Harvill, 1998.

6. Hankey, V. "Egypt, the Aegean and the Levant." Egyptian Archaeology 3, 1993.

7. Millard, A.R. "The Infancy of the Alphabet." World Archaeology 17, 1986.

8. Posener, Georges. "Literature." Chapter in The Legacy of Egypt, edited by J.R. Harris, pp. 220-56. Oxford:… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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