Ancient writing systems in the Mediterranean

A critical guide to electronic resources

Cretan Hieroglyphic

- 18th-17th century BC

Examples of writing

Medallion KN He (04) 06 (CHIC #039)

Medallion KN He (04) 06 (CHIC #039)


Trasnumeration: X 056-023  X 043-070  X 020-077


Medallion from the Knossos "Hieroglyphic Deposit", datable to 18th century BC. The medallion was used exclusively by administrations writing with Cretan Hieroglyphics. Accounting texts are noted down on the medallion, as on the other archive documents in clay. The medallions do not always register numbers (e.g., the one pictured here registers three simple syllabic sequences). When numbers are present, they are generally quite large. The medallions would therefore seem to be totaling documents. The fact that they have a hole at one end leads to the conclusion that they were used as labels.

4-sided seal GOUVES S (4/4) 01 (CHIC #292)

4-sided seal GOUVES S (4/4) 01 (CHIC #292)
Source: CHIC, p. 274


Trasnumeration : .α 042-019 .β ϡ | Σ .γ 019-095-052 .δ ϙ | Δ


Marble seal from Gouves, Central Crete. On α and γ sides the "Archanes formula" 042-019 | 019-095-052 can be read. On β and δ sides there are four fraction signs engraved (302 Δ, 307 Σ, 308 ϙ, 309 ϡ). Signs 042, 019 and 052, which, unlike sign 095, are often attested in “Hieroglyphic”, are homomorphic to signs AB 08 A, AB 31 SA and AB 24 NE of Linear A. For this reason, some believe that the "Archanes formula" is written in Linear A. This, however, is unlikely, as seal inscriptions are attested almost exclusively in Cretan "Hieroglyphic". The sign 095, on the other hand, appears nowhere else in "Hieroglyphic" and has no obvious parallel in Linear A (the hypothesis that it is an antecedent of the sign AB 60 RA is debatable, as is the parallel between the "Archanes formula" 042-019 | 019-095-052 and the sequence A-SA-SA-RA-ME of the Linear A offering tables).

3-sided seal KASTELI S (3/3) 01 (CHIC #265)

3-sided seal KASTELI S (3/3) 01 (CHIC #265)
Source: CHIC, p. 258


Trasnumeration : .α X 038-010 .β X 043-009 .γ X 036-092


Prismatic seal in white carnelian from Kasteli. In the photo, the writing and decorative signs are highlighted in red and green respectively. The cross-shaped signs, which usually mark the beginning of the sequences, have an unusual position here.