What’s in the Jars?

For our next 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.

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