MusesRealm.Net--What Inspires You?
Herodotus' Corner

This session's topic: Aegean Bronze Age Writing Systems

The earliest writing system used in Greece was a type of hieroglyphic writing. These hieroglyphics were not related to the Egyptian hierolyphics. They were drawings of specific objects, and have been discovered on seal stones. They have not thus far been deciphered.

The next oldest form of writing found is called Linear A, and was discovered by Sir Arthur Evans, a British Archaeologist. Linear A was used by the Minoans, and has been discovered on Crete, Thera, Milos, Mycene, and other sites in and around the Aegean. It was developed and used between 1800 and 1450 BCE. Linear A does not appear to be a true alphabet, consisting of numbers and ideograms. Archaeologists have found Linear A on clay tablets and other portable objects as well as on walls as a sort of graffiti. I was used for record keeping purposes, but might also have been used for decoration or to denote ownership. THe Minoans society that used it appears to have been very bureaucratic, and many examples that we have of Linear A show up on official-type documents. Linear A has not been deciphered, due to the facts that we do not know the language that it is based on, and very few varied examples of it have been found.

Linear B is another Greek script, and it appears to be based on Linear A. The earliest examples of Linear B come from the Greek mainland, but the script has also been found on several o the Greek islands. It is the first written script to record Greek words. Linear B first appeared around the 1200s BCE. Like Liear A, Linear B was written on clay tablets that were used for notes to be later transferred to official documentation. This documentation may have been on paper or parchment, but no examples of them have yet been discovered. Linear B is a syllabary form of writing, and does not have a true alphaet. Linear B symbols fall into three categories: ideograms and logograms, numbers, and syllables. The number system used in Linear B is like the decimal system that we use today, even including fractions, but not having the number 0. Examples of Linear B have been found at several site in and around Greece, including Knossos, Mycene, Thebes (Egyptian), and Pylos. Michael Ventris made the first accurate translation of Linear B since ancient times in 1952.

One last script found inn early Bronze Age Greece is Cypro-Minoan, which was used between 1400 and 1100 BCE. The Cypro-Minoan script was discovered on the island of Cyprus. Some of the symbols used are also found in Linear B, but it does not appear to be related to either Linear B or Linear A. The most famous example of Cypro-Minoan is found on the Phaistos disk, which was found on the island of Crete. So far the Cypro-Minoan script remains un-translated.


Green, Peter. Ancient Greece: A Concise History. Thames and Hudson, Ltd: London, 1973.

Nakanishi, Akira. Writing Systems of the World. Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc.: Rutland, VT, 1980.