Friday 19 March 2010

Erik Hallager
Danish Institute at Athens

The date of the Mycenaean administrative documents at Knossos
The controversy on the date of the Linear B tablets at Knossos started in the late 1950s and it was introduced in Greece at the 1st International Cretological Congress in Heraklion in 1961 by the British Oxford professor in comparative philology, Leonard R. Palmer, who was one of the pioneers working with Linear B. Palmer’s ideas and arguments for a late date of the Linear B tablets were not met favourably, and after Mervyn Popham’s publication in 1970 “The Destruction of the Palace at Knossos. Pottery of the Late Minoan IIIA period” the matter seemed settled in that Evans’ original date to LM II was slightly lowered to the beginning of LM IIIA:2.
There were, however, still oddities to be explored and after having studied the original excavation material at Knossos, at the British School at Athens and in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, I suggested in 1977 in a small book “The Mycenaean Palace at Knossos” that an LM IIIB date for the Linear B tablets was not impossible. Some of the best evidence for this suggestion came from the stratified deposits in the West Wing and from the Domestic Quarter in the East Wing.
In the West Wing there was in the deep cists in the Long Corridor and the original large cists in the Magazines found evidence of a destruction debris together with pottery of the LM IIIA:2 period. The West Wing had been rebuilt after this destruction and must have functioned for some time since there seems to have been yet another construction phase, which I have only recently realised. The pottery found above the floors of the West Wing is not decisive for the date of the final destruction. One of the key pieces is dependent on joining sherds and this problem will be discussed in general terms with examples from the Greek-Swedish Excavations at Khania.
The other area where a piece of new evidence has turned up since the 1977 publication concerns the Passage of the Daemon Seals and the Wooden Staircase in the Domestic Quarter. I shall argue that on our present knowledge of LM III pottery there can be little doubt that the basement rooms in the Domestic Quarter functioned during at least part of the LM IIIB period and that the original context of Popham’s key deposit from the Passage of the Daemon seals is unknown.
With all the cross-links we have with scribes working at both the East Wing and the West Wing of the palace and with the distribution of sealings with the same seal impression also found in the different parts of the palace it cannot – in my opinion – be excluded that these documents were of LM IIIB date.


Next Seminar

Friday 12 May 18.30

M. Marthari
Raos on Thera...