Linear B Archives and the Mycenaean World

Linear B Archives and the Mycenaean World

What contribution do the Linear B archives make to understanding the Mycenaean world in respect of one of the following social organisation cult practices stock breeding and agriculture warfare bronze working

The Linear B archives provide us with the earliest primary evidence about Mycenaean palatial civilisations1 and an unparalleled insight into the nature of Mycenaean warfare The archives consist of approximately five thousand clay records2 and contain information on armour weapons chariots naval warfare and subsidiary details about possible troops The importance of these documents is greatly enhanced by the complete lack of historical accounts3 from this era and also the fact that nearly all of the ideograms used in the archives are devoted to armour weaponry horses and chariots4 means that they are of intrinsic value to the understanding of warfare in the Mycenaean world

However there are limitations with the Linear B archives particularly in terms of their chronological range inventory style and perhaps bias representation of the importance of warfare under normal circumstances It is also important to consider what other discoveries have made vital contributions to our understanding of Mycenaean warfare such as the palaces themselves surviving weapons and representations of war or armour in art

Since all of the tablets come from the palatial centres one of their most important contributions is that they tell us directly about the economies of the palaces and that their main focus were military preparedness5 defensive strategies and the wealth to support these things The Linear B archives record information about the production refurbishment and also the distribution6 of many different types of military equipment It is possible to interpret from the archives that the Mycenaeans used a very centralised system to gather and organise military equipment and that this was based around the main palatial complex Evidence for this can be seen in a tablet from Pylos which lists sixteen different places that were responsible for supplying an amount of bronze in the form of heads for arrows and spears7 The tablets also directly show the extent that these palaces were concerned with having a fully equipped force8 this is mainly due to the sheer number of references to armour and weapons throughout the archives

The many tablets depicting armour are especially useful when trying to understand Mycenaean warfare Tablets at Tiryns9 Pylos and Knossos all record suits of armour and provide us with evidence for the use of armour across a wider range of palatial centres than archaeological finds would suggest At Pylos the tablets mention at least twenty suits of armour with the ideograms for a cuirass and a helmet and at Dendra there are at least one hundred and forty suits recorded in the chariot tablet10 The ideograms themselves are of great value because form them you can see the style and type of armour which is very similar to the suit which was discovered at Dendra and those described by Homer11

Not only do the archives provide evidence for the use of armour they also give us some indication of the value of the armour itself In some tablets the ideogram for armour is replaced with one for a bronze ingot12 this could be interpreted as a representative of the value of the armour or perhaps as an approximate quantity of material used to make the armour itself

A further contribution made by the archives is the existence of an illustration on the reverse of a tablet The drawing shows a man wearing greaves and drawing his sword and was probably the work of a scribe while he was waiting to make his recordings13 This is particularly interesting as it allows us to see the influence that warfare may have had on a member of Mycenaean society who chose to sketch this scene and its shows the weapon and armour which was associated with a soldier

Weapons are an essential part of warfare and were a major resource recorded in the ta

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