Ancient writing systems in the Mediterranean

A critical guide to electronic resources


- (end 16th - 11th century BC)

edited by: Anna Cannavò (translation revised by Melanie Rockenhaus)

  • Introduction
  • Further information

Tablet inscribed with Cypro-Minoan 2 script. Baked clay, Late Bronze III (1230-1050 BC). From Enkomi, north-western Cyprus.
Musée du Louvre, Paris, France

Cypro-Minoan is the name used for a group of scripts, strongly connected by a number of similarities, found mainly in Cyprus during the Late Bronze Age (1600 – 1050 BC). The name Cypro-Minoan, created by Arthur Evans in 1909 and since then unanimously accepted and used (although the name of Linear C has also been proposed and sometimes employed), indicates a direct link between these scripts and the Cretan script (the Linear A). All the same, there is not total agreement about this in the scholarly community.
The Cypro-Minoan script is still not deciphered. Without bilingual inscriptions, and with a reduced corpus of documents (217, among which less than ten are of significant length), every attempt at an even partial interpretation has been unsuccessful.
On the basis of the available documents four different scripts have been identified:
Archaic Cypro-Minoan, or Cypro-Minoan 0 (CM 0), found in a single text, on a tablet from Enkomi dating from the end of 16th c. BC and with three lines of script (23 signs in all); it is the Cypro-Minoan script that shows the greatest similarities with Linear A.
Cypro-Minoan 1 (CM 1), found all through the Late Bronze Age in Cyprus and Ugarit: it is employed for different kinds of texts, mostly very short, inscribed on various mediums.
Cypro-Minoan 2 (CM 2), ), found on four fragmentary clay tablets coming from Enkomi and dating from the 13th – 12th c. BC: they bear texts of a certain length, written in continuous script by an apparently expert hand.
Cypro-Minoan 3 (CM 3), ), found in texts coming only from Ugarit, dating from the 13th c. BC, which reveal a certain influence of the cuneiform Ugaritic alphabet.
The Cypro-Minoan inscriptions are written on various mediums: the longest texts are inscribed on clay tablets and cylinders, whereas the inscriptions on clay balls or metallic weights are normally composed of only a few signs. Inscriptions on different mediums such as ivory, ceramic, etc. are also known. Some important experts of Cypro-Minoan scripts include Emilia Masson, Paolo Meriggi, Thomas G. Palaima, Nicolle Hirschfeld and Jean Pierre Olivier; the last has recently published the long-awaited corpus of Cypro-Minoan texts, with a critical edition of all the available documents and an extensive analysis and systematization of the repertory of signs (JEAN-PIERRE OLIVIER, Édition holistique des textes chypro-minoens, avec la collaboration de Frieda Vandenabeele [Biblioteca di «Pasiphae» VI], Fabrizio Serra Editore: Pisa - Roma 2007).

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