Lesson 3: What’s in the Jars?

For our third lesson, we looked at an area of the Palace at Knossos which appeared on the site map as lots of very long, very narrow rooms. There were various interesting guesses from the groups about what these rooms might be for. Suggestions included a gallery or slave rooms.

In fact, these were storage rooms which contained lots of very large (in some cases, 7 ft tall or more) jars called “pithoi”. These contained cereals, oil and other products. As well as these long corridor-shaped rooms, lots of clay tablets have been found, with a script called Linear B, as well as a range of ideograms and symbols which appear to represent numbers.

The groups were given two exact copies of the Linear B tablets and asked to try and decipher them! Both classes were very quick to work out the ideograms (a sword and an arrow), and made good guesses at the numbers.

The tablets represented items that were stored in the Palace. The Linear B script, unlike Linear A script, was successfully deciphered by Michael Ventris in 1952, an announcement that brought great excitement to the linguistic and archaeological community. You can find out more about his ‘cracking’ of this script, and the importance of Alice Kober in his work on Linear B, here.


Next week, we are privileged that Dr Philomen Probert, linguist from the University of Oxford, is visiting to run a Linear B workshop for both classes!

As well as learning more about the Minoans, we made a lot of Latin progress this lesson. We finished translating chapter one, and discussed the similarities between creation stories across cultures, before moving on to chapter two, which tells the classical myth of the four ages of mankind. At the start of the lesson, we had done a starter activity looking at abbreviations used for elements in the Periodic Table, and how these are from the Latin words. We now translated together the four ages of mankind – gold, silver, bronze, and iron – looking at how the Latin words we met were similar to English words.

Examples spotted by the class were gladius (sword) and gladiator, vir (man) and virtue, and naves (ships) and navy/navigate.

Quiz question: can anyone tell me next lesson which English words come from the word ‘faciunt’ (they make)?

Finally, we talked about how humans often have the idea that in the remote past, life was better and people behaved in more honorable ways.


Please design and build your own labyrinth! It can be made out of any material you like, or drawn/painted. You can work on your own or in pairs.

Apollo – please bring your homework for Thursday 21st September.

Artemis – please bring your homework for Friday 22nd September.

I am looking forward to seeing your labyrinths – there will be prizes for the best ones – and I will ask another teacher to help me judge.

Good luck!





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