Tărtăria tablets. Is Vinca (proto) Linear B script?


BASICS: The Tărtăria tablets are three tablets, discovered in 1961. at a Neolithic site in the village of Tărtăria, Romania, buried together with the burnt, broken, and disarticulated bones of an adult male, if not that of a shaman or spirit-medium, that of a local most respected wise person.

The tablets are dated to around 5300 BC and bear incised symbols – the Vinča symbols – and have been the subject of considerable controversy among archaeologists, some of whom claim that the symbols represent the earliest known form of writing in the world.

This group of artifacts, including the tablets, have some relation to the culture developed in the Black Sea – Aegean area. Similar artifacts are found in Serbia, Bulgaria and northern Greece.

Various attempts of interpretation had been made, and they vary from mathematical and astronomical to ritualistic and ownership symbols. None of the attempts has been officially recognized so far.


At the first glance of these tablets, particularly the one pictured above, I noticed many similarities with the Linear B script.  I took a shot with the last quarter at the lower right and got the word I-E-RE-AI, or “priest” in Linear B. This discovery encouraged me to continue deciphering the rest of the text. But let’s first see how that translation looks.

This is the example of the word “priestess” in Linear B:


And this is how the inscription looks in original Linear B script, this time the word is I-E-RE-U, priest.

priest linear

Luckily, this was not the only way to spell this word in ancient times, otherwise my search would stop here. In a closely related Minoan-Cypriot, same word is written like this:

priest cypriot

priest cypriot2

Zoomed in

Source: http://www.palaeolexicon.com/

Now, the main problem is that in case of Tărtăria tablet we have two signs, whereas in Linear B there are four. But what if on Tărtăria tablet signs are grouped two in one, something that was normal practice in Linear B? In that case we get the following:


I admit, it takes a little imagination to see how these are connected, as second letter needs to be rotated and superimposed on the first. Rotation is not a problem as we will see – some other letters are also rotated on Tărtăria tablet, but these letters are clearly the same as in linear B. As for the few mismatching lines, for the sake of argument let’s imagine that this is the result of changes that occurred somewhere in a 3000 years gap between two scripts.

The second symbol on Tărtăria tablet is much more straightforward. We clearly see sign “RE”, just the same as it is written in Linear B and Cypriot texts pictured above.

Syllable RE in the Minoan Aegean Sign Concordance (1)

However, the fourth part is clearly not “SE” as we see it above in Cypriot. I could not find a match anywhere on the Paleolexicon, but I did manage to find it on the other websites. And yes, it existed in Linear B, and it looked just the same, although again rotated. The phonetical value was “AI”


So our second sign would read:


Unlike in the first sign, here we have a 100% match. The only thing that we need to do is to use two Linear B letters and put them together in one sign. So let’s put it all together – it could be that this part of the tablet spells I+E+RE+AI, (phonetically YEREY?) very close to I+E+RE+IA in Linear B or I+E+RE+SE in Cypriot. This translation also goes well with the fact that these tablets had been found in a grave of a priest or a shaman.

Now if this was really a priest, what kind of priest it was, to which God it served? I believe the lower left part of the tablet could give us the answer to that.

This part of the tablet looks like this:


Here are the exact same signs in Cypriot:


As we see, all these letters can be found in Cypriot (two are rotated) and their value is TI-PI-PA (or PA-PI-TI?), unless the phonetic value of some signs did not change over time of course. Unfortunately I have no idea what this word could mean (help welcome).

Another, (daring), option would be to read these letters as Thracians would, in which case we get the name FI-LL-PA, or FILIP, a personal name or a name of the city.


Source: http://www.palaeolexicon.com/ Thracian

Now the more confusing half. In the quarter above we see only two signs. The first one can’t be found in Linear B written in the same way (the closest version is SI shown in the detailed chart above, with the AI sign). However, in Linear A we have a match with a value PE.


So now, the hardest part. What are these D and O shaped signs. Even though they look like Latin letters, we don’t really see them in Linear scripts. EXCEPT in their measuring system.


In some texts I read on the Tărtăria tablets sign “D” is represented as a symbol of the moon. It is interesting to see that in Linear B it represents volume, possibly given on a monthly bases. The second thing that is important to mention is that other signs represented in the lower part of the picture mean units of measurement but at the same time have phonetic value. (ie PE, ZE, MO…) So it is safe to say that if our D  sign was really a unit of measurement, it also had a phonetic value. If so, what could it be? I believe it could be MO, even though MO is already taken as a value for a different sign on a picture above.

However, in Cypriot it looks like this:


I am allowing myself to make these sort of jumps from one script to another solely because they are all closely related and because Vinca is at least 3000 years older, so it would mean that it is the root for all three. Again, for the sake of argument, if we read this D as MO, what do we get? We get either a word PE-MO or SI-MO. SIMO is a personal name, well attested in linear B and still present in Balkans. PE-MO on the other hand is a very common word in Linear B, meaning “seed”. NOTE: PE-MO was pronounced PERMO, so in this case SI-MO could also be pronounced SIRMO, very familiar name in this region.

Examples of a word PE-MO in Linear B:

land ownership

And now let’s get to the last quarter of the tablet and wrap it up. In the last quarter, apart from the sign “D” we see straight lines and a circle. There are two ways to read this: 1. as a system of measurement, where vertical straight lines mean 1, horizontal 10, D monthly and a circle means 100. (the last sign that looks like unfinished circle should be regarded as such according to many authors, otherwise the closest match is a Cypriot PO). Here is an example of Linear B numbers:

mycenaean-linear-b-wheat-yields-kn-849-kn-850 (1)

source: https://linearbknossosmycenae.wordpress.com

So this is how 132 is written. In our case we would have 6 vertical lines and 1 horizontal, meaning 60. Two times D, meaning two months, and two times O meaning 200. This goes well with a notion that in the first quarter we have a word Seed, as most of Linear B scripts indeed speak on this topic. However it would be a bit strange to find this mundane tablet in a burial of a holy man.


My second take on the second quarter is that straight lines represent a combination of sounds NI+KE in Linear B, a name of a pre-Hellenic goddess. My excitement grew even stronger when underneath I read MO-MO (two D) signs, which is a name of Satyr, offspring of Nike. Nike was also a patron of Themis, a goddess whose name still resonates on a river Tamis that flows trough Serbia and Romania. Sign O had a value TY in Linear A, so here we would get TY-TY, but I don’t know what that could mean.

NI+KE in Cypriot:


So, in conclusion, is this just another tablet talking about how much wheat certain individual gave to a priest, or it says something like SI(R)MO-NIKE, MOMO,TYTY-PHILIPI-YEREY? No idea, my guess is just as good as yours. I am not saying that I can read this tablet, but I have no doubts in the following:

  1. All of the signs on this Tărtăria tablet do exist in the scripts of the region which are recognized by the science and are a few millenniums younger.

which means:

2. Signs on Tărtăria tablet are not random signs but actual letters.

which means:

3. In the 6th millennium BC Vinca culture had a fully developed culture including an alphabet that gave bases to Linear B and A, Cypriot, Proto-sumerian and even echoed as far as Indus script and Oracle bone script in China.

This was just my small rant on the subject, as there are virtually no academic materials to be found that threat this topic seriously, even though it is clear that it may have an enormous impact on how we perceive the roots of literacy and civilization itself.

I am not an expert, just an enthusiast, so all comments / opinions are more than welcome.


General information about Linear B, Table of table of 32 supersyllabograms and chart modified from Ribaud are taken from https://vallance22.wordpress.com/