MASt – Winter Seminar 2022 (Friday, February 25): Summaries of Presentations and Discussion

Edited by Rachele Pierini and Tom Palaima

§1. Rachele Pierini opened the Winter session of the MASt seminars by welcoming the participants to the February meeting. Before entering into the heart of the Winter MASt talks, all the participants joined the MASt organizers in congratulating Marie Louise Nosch, a steady member of the MASt network, for her latest exceptional achievement of high-profile awards. Nosch has been the 2022 recipient of the Gad Rausing prize, the most important prize of the Swedish Academy of Science. Here is the Gad Rausing prize official web site, with the full description of the awards and the motivations. Congratulations Marie Louise!

Figure 1. Marie Louise Nosch receiving the 2022 Gad Rausing prize from the Crown Princess of Sweden Victoria. Ph. by Felicia Margineanu.
§2. The talks of the Winter 2022 meeting were “Little things make big things happen – Aegean textiles and the EuroWeb COST Action CA 19131 ‘Europe through Textiles. Network for an integrated and interdisciplinary Humanities’” by Agata Ulanowska, and “Thoughts on Landscape, Religion, and Toponymy in the Pylian Archive” by Kyle Mahoney.
§3.1. Ulanowska coordinates the COST Action Europe through Textiles: Network for an integrated and interdisciplinary Humanities (EuroWeb), a project aiming to rewrite the history of Europe through textiles. The EuroWeb project fosters a pan-European network of scholars and stakeholders from academia, museums, conservation, cultural and creative industries. By exploring technology, economy, and the culture of Europe through the lens of textiles, EuroWeb proposes a more nuanced understanding of the past in which textiles shaped economies, as well as cultural and individual identities in elements like gender, age, and status.
§3.2. In her MASt paper, Ulanowska presented a subjective overview of how the ongoing research on Aegean textiles is embedded into the main objectives of the EuroWeb action. She also remarked that Aegean textiles have become the “new black” in Aegean archaeology as of late. In her view, notable progress in textile research over the past 20 years and the application of an integrated approach to the study of Aegean textiles largely contributed to achieve these results since this joint effort revealed that textiles and textile production were of the utmost importance to Bronze Age societies.
§3.3. Finally, she highlighted that, under the umbrella of the EuroWeb action, this intensive research is now receiving new feedback from scholars and craftspeople from 32 European countries and Israel, as well as benefiting from broader perspectives in textile research—e.g. expertise in sustainable textile production and technology, clothing identities, terminologies, and interweaving textile production into the fabric of (Aegean) societies.
§4.1. Mahoney’s paper dealt with the Mycenaean sanctuary on the southern peak of Mt. Lykaion, located along the northern border of the Mycenaean state centered upon Pylos and potentially related to Pylos culturally (and perhaps politically, too).
§4.2. Within this framework, Mahoney examined two Linear B words from the Pylos tablets, namely the personal name ne-da-wa-ta /Nedwatas/ and the place name ru-ko-a2-ke-re-u-te /*Lukohagreus/. Nedwatas stems from the river Neda, which rises on Mt. Lykaion and whose associated nymph was one of the nurses of Zeus, according to Arcadian traditions. *Lukohagreus reminds us of historical place names in southwestern Arcadia like Lykaion and Lykoa, which refer to the concept of “light” and, in some cases, show religious associations as well. In light of this and previous suggestions, Mahoney proposes to interpret *Lukohagreus as “uncultivated area of light”.
§4.3. Finally, Mahoney discussed other Pylos place names with ἀγρός as a second element. By concluding that these toponyms refer to uncultivated and wild areas, he argued that the place names with ἀγρός are the linguistic corollary of the Pylos elites practice to incorporate rural institutions into the official, palace-based religion through the institution of local cult-centers.
§5. Substantial discussions followed each presentation. Specifically, contributions to the seminar were made by Natasha Barshadsky (see below at §38), Janice Crowley (§31), Elena Dzukeska (§§58; 64), Hedvig Landenius Enegren (§25.1), Kyle Mahoney (§§60; 70), Leonard Muellner (§32.1), Gregory Nagy (§§27.1; 61—63; 68—69), Marie Louise Nosch (§§24.2; 27.2; 28; 29; 33.1), Tom Palaima (§§26; 56; 65; 71), Rachele Pierini (§§24.1; 30; 32.2; 33.2; 33.4; 59), Agata Ulanowska (§§24.3; 25.2; 33.3), Brent Vine (§§57.1—57.2; 72), Roger Woodard (§§66—67).

Little things make big things happen—Aegean textiles and the EuroWeb COST Action CA 19131 ‘Europe through Textiles. Network for an integrated and interdisciplinary Humanities’

Presenter: Agata Ulanowska

EuroWeb COST Action CA 19131

§6. COST Action CA 19131 Europe through Textiles: Network for an integrated and interdisciplinary Humanities (EuroWeb, years 2020—2024) aims to formulate a new vision for European history based on textiles: their mass production, trade, symbolic meanings, consumption and reuse. [1] The EuroWeb fosters a pan-European network of scholars and stakeholders from different disciplines across academia, museums, conservation, cultural and creative industries. By employing textiles as a prism through which the technology, economy and culture of Europe can be explored, the EuroWeb proposes a more nuanced understanding of the past in which textiles, seen as central components of societies for more than 10,000 years, shaped economies, as well as cultural and individual identities such as gender, age and status.
§7. In this paper, I present a subjective overview of how the ongoing research on Aegean textiles is related to the main objectives of the EuroWeb action. This is a fully mutual relationship resulting, in the first place, from the research interests of the main proposer of the EuroWeb project: Prof. Marie-Louise Nosch. It is enhanced by both old and new evidence for Aegean textiles, e.g. archaeological evidence for excavated textiles, their imprints on clay, textile tools and the remains of specialized workshops, as well as new readings of textual and iconographic sources and experimental data.

§8. All COST Actions aim to achieve their objectives through sharing, creation, dissemination and application of knowledge organized via the work of Working Groups. The main aims and objectives of the EuroWeb are to be fulfilled with the help of four Working Groups and their leaders:

  • WG 1 Textile Technologies (leader: Christina Margariti): technology behind textiles through instrumental analysis, textile tools, experimental archaeology, traditional crafts and conservation;
  • WG 2 Clothing Identities (leader: Magdalena Woźniak): gender, age and status: meaning of clothing through ages, areas and cultures; a key to explain values in society and to understand individuals, self-representation, and groups;
  • WG 3 Textile and Clothing Terminologies (leader: Louise Quillien): exploring and comparing the vocabulary of textiles and garments in Europe and its neighbors, across time;
  • WG 4 The Fabric of Society (leader: Francesco Meo): economic and agricultural impact of textile production and consumption; the basis for textile crops and trade by tracing textile trade patterns and paths through Europe and through time.
§9. Additionally, two teams are working towards the main EuroWeb deliverables: The Digital Atlas of European Textile Heritage (leader: Angela Huang) and the EuroWeb Anthology (leader: Kerstin Droß-Krüpe).

Studies on Aegean textiles as the ‘new black’

§10. Textiles became the ‘new black’ in Aegean archaeology due to notable progress in textile studies over the past 20 years. [2] The big stimulus has originated from research undertaken by the Centre for Textile Research (CTR) in Copenhagen. Established in 2005, CTR aimed to place textile studies into the core of mainstream research, moving it from the specialized and auxiliary outskirts of archaeology. At the same time, CTR successfully promoted multidisciplinary approach to textiles, which, given the general scarcity of textiles in archaeological contexts, brought important advances and new insights into the topic, as well as the new, fully interdisciplinary standards for research methodology.
§11. There have been numerous publications discussing Aegean and Greek textiles over the last two decades, [3] but to name a few, I choose two books that, in my view, made the major impact on the recent developments in the field. The first is “KOSMOS”, the 33rd volume of the Aegaeum series edited by Marie-Louise Nosch and Robert Laffinuer. [4] In this impressive 810-pages multi-authored book, a wide range of the available evidence and research approaches have been presented together: from textile tools and workshops, such as dye-works, through iconographic and textual sources, jewelry and adornments, to socio-cultural processes beyond textiles and textile production.
§12. The second book “Tools, Textiles and Contexts”, co-edited by Eva Andersson Strand and Marie-Louise Nosch (2015), offers a concise guide for understanding functionality of textile tools, specifically spindle whorls and loom weights, and a broad overview of tool assemblages from several sites from Bronze Age Greece and the eastern Mediterranean. [5] The remarkable growth of interest in textile tools that followed this publication reflects the importance of an experimental approach. As a result of a series of archaeological experiments undertaken by the CTR program “Tools and Textiles, Texts and Contexts”, functional parameters of textile tools have been recognized and related to the weight and geometric form of a tool, specifically the proportions of height and diameter in case of spindle whorls, and height and thickness in case of loom weights. With this knowledge, it has been possible to speculate about the qualities of yarns/threads and woven fabrics produced using specific tools, even if the extant textile remains are not preserved at a given site.

Textiles from Bronze Age Greece—highlights

§13. Excavated textiles are rare finds due to the environmental conditions in Greece that do not favor the preservation of organic materials. Although excavated textiles increase in number and a greater attention than ever is paid to their analyses, [6] the preserved fragments represent an environmentally limited range of textile products that were originally consumed by the Bronze Age societies. The surviving textiles come, in the majority, from funerary contexts, where they were often preserved in contact with metal objects. [7] From settlements, a significant collection of textiles survived e.g., at Akrotiri, due to carbonization. [8]
§14. Textile imprints on clay are yet another form of textile preservation at settlements. Imprints constitute useful evidence for analyzing the properties of actual yarns, cords and fabrics. Those impressed on the undersides of clay sealings are currently being analyzed within the research project “Textiles and Seals”. [9] They provide information about the so-called ‘technical textiles’ that were used in storing and sealing practices. ‘Technical textiles’ is a broad terminological umbrella that covers a range of products, such as threads, cords, textiles, mats, baskets, wickerwork, leather pieces and thongs, produced using various techniques and raw materials as a means for tying, wrapping, fixing, hanging and storing. With possible impressions of 32 threads; 127 cords; 181 textiles and 62 impressions of other organic products on 225 modern casts from the Corpus der minoischen und mykenischen Siegel (CMS) in Heidelberg examined so far, [10] technical textiles from the undersides of clay sealings constitute one of the most numerous collections of textile finds from Greece. This collection, for the first time, allows tracking diachronic changes in textile technology throughout the centuries of the Bronze Age in Greece.

§15. Due to the specific preservation pattern for excavated textiles and their impressions, there are several notable discrepancies among the evidence of actual textiles, textual and iconographic evidence, and general knowledge of Aegean textile technology resulting from other archaeological and experimental data. For example, the economic and symbolic importance of wool, commonly considered as the innovative and even revolutionizing raw material, is well attested by the Linear B tablets, [11] but very poorly evidenced among the extant textiles. Woolen fabrics are known from Middle Bronze Age Eleon [12] and Akrotiri, [13] and Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age Stamna [14] and Lefkandi. [15] Similarly, patterned, multicolored and diaphanous textiles, so distinct in the imagery, especially in wall paintings, are almost not attested at all by the excavated textiles. Exceptions are fragments again from Lefkandi. These display chevron pattern, tapestry, soumak and pile knotting technique. [16] Traces of other decorative techniques, such as the use of supplemental thread and stitch are attested by fragments from Akrotiri, [17] Eleon, [18] and one textile impression on the cast from Phaistos (Figure. 2). [19] Also purple-dyed textiles are indeed few in number, [20] although purple-dyeing industry, both small- and larger-scale, is well confirmed at several Aegean sites, especially on Crete. The preserved evidence comprises finds of crushed Murex shells, dyeing installations, [21] the actual presence of the purple pigment in wall paintings [22] and residues of Murex dye on pots from dye-works. [23]

Figure 2. Imprint of a decorated textile from Phaistos (PH 697). Traces of a possibly thicker thread inserted in regular intervals are indicated by arrows. Cast—CMS Heidelberg, Dino-Lite photo by A. Ulanowska.

§16. Except for Lefkandi, all the preserved textiles, regardless of their date, origin and function, were made in a tabby weave, which seems to constitute an important characteristic of textile culture(s) in Greece in the Bronze Age and possibly beyond. [24] More technological variety, however, has been observed in techniques for making yarns and threads. Recent research on the European and Near Eastern textiles implies that splicing was the oldest technique for making threads of plant-origin fibers, such as tree-bast and fibers from plants of fibrous stems. Draft spinning, the technique suitable for short fibers such as wool, was a later innovation, however both techniques must have been in use in the Bronze Age. [25] In Greece, the earliest examples of spliced yarns come from the first millennium BCE, but characteristic features for splicing have been observed in textiles from Mycenae [26] and on imprints of fine threads on the CMS casts (Figure 3). In excavated textiles from Bronze Age Greece, yarns have been identified as S-plied of z-twisted single elements. [27] However, textile impressions from the undersides of clay sealings, especially the ones from Middle Bronze Age Phaistos, provide information about Z-plied and braided threads and cords, implying that more techniques might have been in use at one site in the same chronological and functional contexts. [28]

Figure 3. Impressions of spliced threads on the silicone casts of nodules from Agia Triada, Crete (AT 501/3 and AT 516). Casts—CMS Heidelberg, Dino-Lite photos by A. Ulanowska.

Textile tools—highlights

§17. As accurately observed by Bela Dimova and Margarita Gleba in their 2020–2021 Report, there is a true explosion of tool studies in the recent years in Greece. [29] This growth in interest in tools followed the development of the CTR method for analyzing functional properties of tools and the already mentioned publication of the TTTC project. This functional approach to textile tools has been developed for Greece by the late Joanne Cutler, whose original research on the tool evidence from many Greek sites was then followed by her wider socio-cultural reflections on the transmission of skills and knowledge, craftspeople mobility and, more generally, social relations of production. [30] Early textile tools from Greece have been examined by Małgorzata Siennicka [31] and Kalliope Sarri [32] in their Marie Skłodowska-Curie projects. Textile tools are also studied in their relation to early wool production in the new project of Sophia Vakirtzi and Aikaterini Papagianni “Interdisciplinary Research on Early Wool Production in the Aegean”. Additionally, there are several ongoing studies that focus on the evidence for textile tools from specific sites.
§18. Except for the elementary functional analyzes, textile tools constitute the most numerous and often the only available evidence for discussing the major innovations and developments in textile technology, as well as the organization of textile production throughout the Bronze Age. For example, the universally observed change in the form of spindle whorls from flat discoidal to conical, biconical and spherical tools has been related to the introduction of wool as the new raw material. [33] The wide dispersion of discoidal loom weights from Crete to the Southeast Aegean has been connected to the transmission of the warp-weighted loom technology and demand for textiles of specific qualities and appearance, as well as with the role of female weavers as the active transmitters of textile knowledge and skills. [34] At a site-specific level, textile tools provide valuable insights into the scale and organization of textile production, and they inform us about the variety of textile products that were manufactured at a given location. [35]
§19. Marking practices on textile tools, such as seal-impressing, incising and writing, are a new topic in Aegean archaeology. In Greece, these practices were observed throughout the entire Bronze Age, however they were always rare and, apparently, site specific. One hundred twenty-one marked tools are recorded in the “Textiles and Seals” database, [36] but this number reflects only the first, preliminary overview of the variety of marking practices. These practices require further detailed studies.

Iconography of textiles and clothing—highlights

§20. Aegean iconography has been intensively explored as an important source of knowledge about textiles and clothing. [37] In my opinion, it is possible to distinguish two main approaches in studies of textile and clothing imagery. In the first one, research is focused on the cultural, symbolic and religious meanings of clothing and the broad scope of textile consumption, including maritime and household textiles. [38] Textile technology, design and construction of clothing seem to be the main research focus in the second approach, which is often combined with experimenting. [39] Experiments aim to verify the reliability of depictions and the extent to which the imagery of textiles can be seen as the accurate graphic attestation of specific textile techniques.

§21. Iconography of textile production is less frequent and almost exclusively limited to Aegean seals. The entire network of semantic references to textile manufacturing has been revealed by the “Textiles and Seals” project (Figure 4). [40] Textile motifs have been recognized based on a visual resemblance of motifs to their potential real-world references: actual fibrous plants, woolly animals, tools, tasks, etc. Characteristic features specific for each referent and motif, such as the shape of stem, leaves, crown and seed capsules in flax plant and ‘flax motif’, shape of head, horns, ears, tails, presence of fleece in woolly animals and ‘woolly animal’ motifs, features of functional significance such as loom weights as a part of a warp-weighted loom and specific technical gestures, have been distinguished in order to test the validity of new interpretations.

Figure 4. Network of potential real-world references to textile production on Aegean seals. A. Ulanowska, seal drawings after the CMS Arachne database.

§22. As a result, it has been possible to identify sets of references related to entire sequences in the textile chaîne opératoire, such as raw materials (e.g., ‘flax’ and ‘woolly animal motifs’), processing of fibers (‘combs’), formation of yarns (‘spindle whorl’ and ‘spinner’ motifs), dyestuffs and possibly dyeing (‘Murex shell’ motif), weaving (‘warp-weighted loom’, ‘loom weights’, ‘rigid heddle’, ‘weaver’ motifs), final products (‘fabric with fringes’ ‘interlaced bands’) and a potential symbolic reference to textile production in the motif of ‘spider’ (Fig. 3). Motifs such as flax (CHIC 031), woolly animal head in profile (CHIC 016), spindle with whorl (CHIC 050, 062, 063), rigid heddle (CHIC 038) and textile with fringes (CHIC 041) have also been identified as the real-world referents for Cretan Hieroglyphic signs. [41] These new identifications correspond well with the already observed, more general relationships of the graphic forms of the signs of Aegean scripts and the materiality of textile production. [42]

EuroWeb and Aegean textiles: concluding remarks

§23. The ongoing intensive research on Aegean textiles and textile manufacturing has been reflected by a series of presentations at the conferences and workshops organized by the EuroWeb Action. [43] Under the umbrella of the EuroWeb Action, this intensive research is now receiving new feedback from scholars and craftspeople from 32 European countries and Israel, as well as benefiting from broader research perspectives. Textiles, textile technology, production and consumption, although embedded locally, created also geographically and culturally wider textile traditions, which did not necessarily overlap with what we define as archaeological cultures. Furthermore, the EuroWeb Action fosters big research themes in Aegean textile archaeology, such as textile economies and sustainable textile production and technology, production modes and gendered division of labor, transmission of skills, craftspeople perspective: status, identities and gender of textile workers, creativity and user-tool entanglement, clothing identities, textile and clothing terminologies and interweaving textile production into the fabric of societies.

Comments following Ulanowska’s presentations

§24.1. Rachele Pierini opened up the discussion by asking what is the long-term vision of the EuroWeb COST Action and what will be the next concrete step in this direction. She praised the high scientific quality of the EuroWeb project as well as its ability to successfully involve European countries that are underrepresented in the contemporary academic scenario.
§24.2. Marie Louise Nosch highlighted that Ulanowska’s recent works on the relationship between Aegean textile and glyptic have just filled a gap in Aegean studies. Moreover, Nosch noted that fresh research has also covered areas like dyes and plants. Hence, she argued that the natural next step would be to integrate this specialized textile knowledge into the understanding of society and economy.
§24.3 Agata Ulanowska seconded Nosch’s view and added that one of the EuroWeb project’s goals is to turn the specialized textile knowledge into a mainstream topic. Ulanowska also stressed that textiles are one of the very few objects that human beings uninterruptedly use on a daily basis from birth to death. Hence, the importance of textiles throughout history and the importance of textiles as artifacts—Ulanowska remarked.
§25.1. Hedvig Landenius Enegren asked how someone who is not a member of the EuroWeb project can have access to it and take part in it. In addition, she mentioned the accessibility of sources from Cyprus and its related issues like how to contribute and whom to contact.
§25.2. Ulanowska explained that particular countries have some restrictions due to national laws. However, Ulanowska stressed that she welcomes, and also encourages, direct contacts for contributions, questions, and discussion of ideas. Also, she emphasized that the whole EuroWeb network can be reached out to in any moment regardless of membership.
§26. Tom Palaima drew attention to the gap between different areas of expertise and the difficulties in communication that this implies since each specialized field requires high specialized knowledge––and since it is not always easy or possible to make this specialized knowledge fully accessible to colleagues with different specializations. By way of example, he mentioned the color terminology since in this area a common reader will interpret specialized terms from a non-specialized perspective. Specifically, Palaima referred to Homeric texts and the definition of ζωστήρ, the interpretation of which varies between a cloth and an object with metal in it. In cases like that, how is a textile expert supposed to explain to a wide audience the value of a ζωστήρ, which also changes overtime––he wondered.
§27.1. Greg Nagy drew attention to the volume Belted Heroes and Bound Women. The Myth of the Homeric Warrior King (Bennett 1997), a book focusing on male figures wearing belts, with belts being the only textile piece on otherwise naked bodies. He also stressed that belts do share several characteristics with textiles, apart from the material that is leather.
§27.2. Nosch observed that today we interpret belts as made of leather, but in ancient times these objects could have been way more prestigious––e.g. crafted by using weaving techniques in parallel with metal threads.

§28. Nosch and, simultaneously, Natasha Barshadsky highlighted that the above-mentioned Bennett’s book also contains the analysis of a metal geometric belt, now situated at the Harvard museum, that shows plates of metal with leather and stitching.

Figure 5. Engraved Belt, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Robert A. Kagan, Photo ©President and Fellows of Harvard College. Accession Number: 1986.384.
§29. Next, Nosch focused on this example by emphasizing how beneficial a more integrated approach between textile and other crafts would be in order to shed new light on the role of craftsmanship in prehistoric societies and economy––something that she previously indicated as the next concrete step for the future of textile studies. Nosch observed that the particular belt in Figure 5 is an example of how a mixture of leather, metal, and textile can work together. Also, she pointed out that belts represent gifts that men can exchange. Two elements make this detail particularly relevant, Nosch continued: (i) women usually give men a gift of clothing but a gift from a man to another man is a much more intimate; and (ii) belts emphasize the body. Finally, Nosch mentioned the key role of belts in myths and stories that show how belts saved heroes from dying or prevented killing shots, thus providing a protective layer to male bodies and a good view into masculine friendship. Hence, the specialness of men giving belts as gifts to each other––Nosch concluded.
§30. To add still more to the topic of the values of belts, Rachele Pierini examined the Homeric epithet βαθυζώνος ‘deep-girdled’, which also appears in Aeschylus’ The Persians. The tragedy, Pierini continued, opens with a chorus of old men of Susa. The last few verses of the parodos introduce Queen Mother Atossa’s entrance. Pierini remarked that the chorus addresses the queen by saying ὦ βαθυζώνων ἄνασσα Περσίδων ὑπερτάτη, a verse that might refer to Atossa’s own robe or show an ornamental use of the epithet. From a philological perspective, Pierini observed, it is debated whether to interpret βαθυζώνων as ‘low-girt’ (i.e. with the girdle above the hips) or ‘with deeply receding girdle’ (i.e. with the girdle cutting deeply into the peplos). Graeco-Persian intaglios representing the manner in which Persians wore voluminous Ionic chitons favor the latter interpretation (see also Broadhead 1960; Garvie 2009), Pierini concluded.
§31. Janice Crowley addressed the perspective of a more integrated approach to the role of textiles in ancient societies and economies by discussing a concrete example. The Minoan seal CMS I 223, Crowley continued, shows a prestigious garment that is termed as “diagonal robe” in her monograph (Crowley 2013). She also observed that the “diagonal robe” is described as the clothing of a priest from the early literary attestations and it remains as such in later texts as well. However, male figures wearing the “diagonal robe” are not shown officiating in any ceremony, Crowley added. Hence, she questioned the iconographic interpretation of these male figures, i.e. whether we should continue to identify them as priests only on the basis of the “diagonal robe” and in the absence of additional confirming details.
§32.1. Leonard Muellner added a passage from the Odyssey as a parallel for gift exchange. In Od. 15.101—108 Telemachus receives guest gifts from Menelaus and Helen, respectively a silver cup and an extremely beautiful and particularly large embroidered cloth that shines like a star––Muellner continued.
§32.2. Pierini observed that shining clothes also appear in Iliad 18.590-606 along with male belts. The passage, Pierini continued, describes a dance in which maidens were wearing fine linen clothes and youths shining chitons and silver belts.
§33.1. Nosch clarified that “embroidery” must be a translation error in the above-mentioned passage from the Odyssey since this technique was very unusual in Bronze Age times.
§33.2. Pierini thus suggested “tapestry” as a more accurate technique in relation to the Homeric context.
§33.3. Ulanowska seconded Pierini that “tapestry” would be a more accurate interpretation.
§33.4. Pierini closed the first session by addressing the impact of backwards projections of contemporary categories of thoughts into ancient times and the resulting bias and anachronisms that it causes.

§34. Ulanowska’s Bibliography

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Thoughts on Landscape, Religion, and Toponymy in the Pylian Archive

§35. Since the 2007 field season, the Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project has been investigating the Mycenaean levels of the Ash Altar, located on the southern peak of the mountain at 1,382 masl (Romano and Voyatzis 2014). Cult activity on the peak was continuous from the Late Helladic II period until at least the Hellenistic era, and the use of the site extends back even further in time, as material dating from the Late Neolithic, Final Neolithic, and Early and Middle Helladic periods could very well imply earlier ritual activity. Analysis of the burnt thigh bones of sheep and goats has yielded the earliest radiocarbon date of 1527 +/- 97 BCE, and the Ash Altar accordingly presents us with one of the oldest archaeological records of ritual thysia (Starkovich et al. 2013; Mentzer et al. 2017).

MASt Winter Figure 6
Figure 6. Map of the Peloponnese with Mt. Lykaion, Neda, and Pylos. Course of the rivers and the place names added by Kyle Mahoney, after a map by E. Gaba, Wikimedia Commons.
§36. The Neda river rises on the southern slopes of Mt. Lykaion. It quickly reaches the foot of Mt. Tetrazio to the south, at which point it turns west, running for 31 km until it reaches the Ionian Sea just south of modern Tholo (Meyer 1935:2170-2171). In historical times, the river’s homonymous nymph was listed among the nurses of the infant Zeus, who according to Arcadian tradition was born at Kretea on Mt. Lykaion (Callimachus, Hymn 1.18-41; Pausanias 8.31.4, 38.3, 47.3). It is generally accepted that this river formed the northern boundary of the Mycenaean state centered upon Pylos (Hope Simpson 2014:55), although more recently Birgitta Eder has suggested that Pylos’ control may have extended further north, up perhaps to the Kaiaphas mountain range (Eder 2011). In either case, Mt. Lykaion and its Mycenaean Ash Altar were located just across the northern limits of the Pylian realm. This reconstructed political geography therefore implies that Lykaion was adjacent to the northern reaches of the Further Province (FP), and, if Eder’s vision is correct, there may have been close points of contact with the districts of pi-*82 (/Piswa/) and me-ta-pa in the northern Hither Province (HP).
§37. This proximity of the Pylian state to Mt. Lykaion is suggestive, and, given the absence of any linguistic testimony for the earliest phases of the Ash Altar, a search through the Pylian archive for possible connections may yield potential fruit (cf. Palaima 2009:529). The first point of interest comes with the personal name ne-da-wa-ta (/Nedwatas/). Nedwatas is found in the archive twice. On PY An(3) 657, he is the commander of coastal forces, some of whom are described as ku-pa-ri-si-jo, “from Kyparissos.” The troops were thus probably located only a short distance from the mouth of the Neda river, which enters the Ionian Sea just north of modern Kyparissia. On PY Jo 438, Nedwatas, along with other officials and dignitaries, contributes a quantity of gold. Nedwatas was, accordingly, a person of high status, and his name is built upon the earlier form of Neda, *Nedwa (Ruijgh 1967:164; Leukart 1994:104-105, 110, 115-117, 173; Nakassis 2013:318), which originally referred to the river’s reeds (J.L. Melena:Personal Communication March 7, 2022). I suggest that his name is a theophoric, which finds parallels in the historical names derived from nymphs and rivers, both of which were closely associated with the birth and care of children in historical antiquity (Burkert 1985:174-175; Larson 2001:5, 43). [44] Indeed, in historical times Phigaleian youths offered locks of hair to Neda as a kourotrophic divinity (Pausanias 8.41.3), and local traditions about the Lykaion cult emphasize Neda’s performance of the kourotrophic function for baby Zeus. Perhaps the parents of Nedwatas gave him his name for a similar reason, thereby dedicating him to her perpetual protection. While we cannot with great confidence assert that Neda was already tied to the Mycenaean Ash Altar, we can say that this motif of a kourotrophic Neda documented in the Arcadian myth seems already implied by the name of Nedwatas.
§38. The second point of interest is found in the place name ru-ko-a2-ḳẹ-re-u-te, which will lead us out of Arcadia and into the world of the Mycenaean scribes. The place is documented on PY Jn(1) 415 as a location where 12 smiths were located. Smith’s analysis of the Jn series associates this place with the qa-si-re-u a-pi-qo-ta, who is also linked with the places a-pe-ke-e, ạ-ka-si-jo-ne, o-re-mo-a-ke-re-ụ, and wi-ja-we-ra2 (Smith 1992/1993:190—191). This last toponym is linked on PY Cn(3) 643 and 719 with the district of Piswa, which, as I noted above, may very well have had points of contact with the Lykaion mountains. It makes good enough sense to suggest that all the places connected to the qa-si-re-u a-pi-qo-ta were in this general area of Piswa, or at least in the northern part of the HP.
§39. PY Jn(1) 415, which was written by Hand 2, begins with the heading ru-ko-a2-ḳẹ-re-u-te, ka-ke-we, ta-ra-si-ja, e-ko-te. The grammatical case of ru-ko-a2-ḳẹ-re-u-te, whose nominative would be *ru-ko-a2-ke-re-u, may be locative, or else the final -te may represent the adverbial suffix -θεν, with ablative function. The phrase thus means something like “the smiths at/from *ru-ko-a2-ke-re-u who have ta-ra-si-ja” (Lejeune 1958:163-164 n. 17, 294 n. 46, who argues that -te more likely represents locative -θει; Hajnal 1995:207-225, who sees the suffix -te as perhaps equivalent to alphabetic -θε(ν)). ru-ko-a2-ḳẹ-re-u-te is a place name of a type found elsewhere in the Pylian archive, where the second element may be derived from ἀγρός, which in Mycenaean Greek refers to “the uncultivated wild field,” that is, zones which were forested and/or utilized for grazing and hunting (Ilievski 1987; Palaima 2014:97—98; Pierini 2014:117—118). In the case of *ru-ko-a2-ke-re-u, we are probably dealing with an ethnic used in lieu of the place name proper, perhaps *ru-ko-a2-ko-ro (Hajnal 1995:209—211; Pierini 2014:117). It is also possible, however, that the second element could be derived from ἄκρος, “at the farthest point, topmost, outermost” (Lane 2012:178-183; Melena 2013:224; Melena 2014:74) which could imply a mountainous setting similarly fit for pastoral activities. Nevertheless, in what follows I proceed with the analysis from ἀγρός.
§40. The morphological analysis of the first element of the place name depends upon our understanding of the scribe’s use of sign *25, or a2, the aspirated ha. We are either dealing with a case of sandhi resulting from the lenition of intervocalic *-s- to an aspirate (Pierini 2014:117—118), or else sign *25 marks the compound boundary in cases where the second element begins with an -a- (Melena 2013:224—226; 2014:74—75). [45] Ventris and Chadwick noted as a parallel the Arcadian toponym Lykoa, which was located on Mt. Lykaion (Ventris and Chadwick 1973:149; Ilievski 1959:122 n. 41: Lykosoura, also on Mt. Lykaion). Lejeune suggested λυγκὸς ἀγρός (“field of the lynx”) or λυκὸς ἀγρός (“field of ransom”) (Lejeune 1971:372), while Gallavotti’s interpretation is closest to what I take to be the correct solution (Gallavotti 1956:16). He suggested that the first element derives from the zero-grade root noun *lúks (“light”), which Egetmeyer has suggested is extant in the instrumental case in the Apolline epithet Λυκηγενής (Egetmeyer 2007:212). [46] The place can thus perhaps be construed as /*Lukohagreus/ or uninflected /*Luko-agreus/ and connotes something like “uncultivated, wild area of light.” If the uninflected form is the correct reading, the first element can also be linked with λύκος, “wolf” (Melena 2014:166), although the connection with “light” is still certainly possible. It is interesting that one of the smiths located here is named ru-ki-jo, or /Lukios/, which may therefore be a related ethnic adjective. [47]
§41. This interpretation acquires further possible implications if we consider the toponymy, religious onomastics, and geology and ecology of Mt. Lykaion. The epithet of Ζεὺς Λυκαῖος and the name of Λύκαιον ὄρος are both derived from a noun *λύκα, which is preserved in Homeric ἀμφιλύκη (“twilight”; Iliad 7.433), while Macrobius (Saturnalia 1.17.37) informs us that the ancient Greeks called the first light of morning λύκη. All ultimately go back to the Proto-Indo-European root *leu̯k-, “to shine, light,” [48] (Pokorny 1959:687—690; Rix 2001:418—419) and there are certain intriguing—if not exact—parallels from other Indo-European cultures. The juxtaposition of Zeus-Lykaios finds comparisons in the Rig-Veda, where the adjective divorúcaḥ (“which shines from heaven”) seems to be applied to divinities (3.7.5), as well as in the Roman Jupiter Lucetius, who is invoked in the Carmen Saliare (Oxford Classical Dictionary4 s.v.). The name of Mt. Lykaion also calls to mind the Latin lucus (“sacred grove”), which originally connoted an illuminated clearing in the forest (de Vaan 2008:350), or, in other words, wild, uncultivated territory.
§42. In antiquity, Mt. Lykaion was the haunt of shepherds, and its lower slopes were covered by oak forests of quercus conferta, quercus petraea, and quercus robur. The geology in the immediate area of the altar, characterized as it is by limestone outcrops, allows for little to grow, and thus in antiquity we can imagine that it rose out conspicuously from the oak forests below. It was (and is), accordingly, a place where the sunlight seems to concentrate, and a curious, low stone construction aligned precisely north may have been laid down to aid in orienting ritual activity and observing celestial phenomena (Romano and Voyatzis 2021:6—7). Concentrations of Mycenaean material have been found associated with this feature, the study of which is still very much in its preliminary phases. In any case, consideration of the toponymy, religious onomastic data, and the local geology and ecology suggest that the Mycenaean Ash Altar on Mt. Lykaion may have been conceived of as a kind of sacred light grove, analogous to the Italic lucus. A residue of this belief is found in the ancient tradition which states that shadows were not cast in the temenos, thus implying a belief that light shined perpendicularly from heaven upon this sacred spot (Brills New Jacoby 115 F343 (Theopompos) = Polybius 16.12.7; Pausanias 8.38.6; Plutarch, Quaest. Graec. 39; scholium to Callimachus, Hymn 1.13).
§43. Returning now to *Lukohagreus/*Luko-agreus, we find an idea similar to that which I have outlined above for the Ash Altar on Mt. Lykaion. In all probability, the entirety of Mt. Lykaion and the Neda river gorge would have been considered ἀγρός in Mycenaean times. Thus, if *Lukohagreus/*Luko-agreus means “uncultivated, wild area of light,” we have found in the Pylian archive a suitable parallel for the historically documented place name of Lykaion in the Pylian archive. Hiller has proposed that Pylian place names that include forms of ἀγρός imply the existence of open-air sanctuaries (Hiller 2011:197). If this is the case, the parallel with Mt. Lykaion—a remote spot with an open-air ash altar where, it seems, the god of the bright sky was worshipped, located in a greater area used for pastoral activities—is even more suggestive. We know in antiquity that the name and fame of Mt. Lykaion influenced toponymic developments in this area. Most notable are the settlements of Lykosoura—which Arcadian tradition said was the first city that the sun illuminated (Pausanias 8.38.1)—and Lykoa. These sites were located on the eastern and northern extents of the mountain, respectively. In this connection, it is interesting that *Lukohagreus/*Luko-agreus seems to have been in the vicinity of Piswa. While I would certainly not argue that *Lukohagreus/*Luko-agreus in any way refers directly to Lykaion, perhaps, just as the name of Lykaion inspired historical toponyms to develop, so here we have a case of this same phenomenon in the Late Bronze Age.
§44. Consideration of *Lukohagreus/*Luko-agreus leads to a discussion of the other Pylian place names formed in a similar manner. Parallels include pu2-ra2-a-ke-re-u (PY Nn 228, Hand 1) and pu2-ra2-a-ki-ri-jo (PY Na(1) 425, Hand 1) (HP), a2-ka-a2-ki-ri-jo (PY An(3) 661, Hand 1) and a2-ka-a2-ki-ri-ja-jo (PY Cn(2) 3, Hand 1) (FP), and o-re-mo-a-ke-re-ụ (PY Jn(1) 320, Hand 2) (HP). There are two further attestations of ]ạ-ke-ṛẹ-ụ[ / ]a-ke-re-u[ on the fragmentary PY Cn(1) 441 (Hand 1) (FP), although the first element (if there was one) in each case has been obliterated. It is possible that two more toponyms, ta-to a-ka-re-u-te and ma-ta a-ka-re-u-te (PY Cn(5) 4, Hand 21) (FP), belong here as well, although we must assume that the dummy vowel is expressed idiosyncratically in these cases (Hajnal 1995:210 with n. 281). Finally, u-po-ra-ki-ri-ja (PY Cn(5) 45, Hand 1/21)/u-pa-ra-ki-ri-j̣ạ (PY An(5) 298, Hand 3) (FP) and u-pi-ja-ki-ri-jo (PY An(3) 654, Hand 1) (HP) may also fit the mold.
§45. The first element of pu2-ra2-a-ke-re-u/pu2-ra2-a-ki-ri-jo has been associated with historical φυλία, “wild olive tree” (Melena 2013:224; Melena 2014:72). [49] As is the case with *ru-ko-a2-ke-re-u, the hiatus has been ascribed to sandhi or explained as marking the compound boundary. Thus, I take the name to mean something like “uncultivated, wild area of the wild olive tree.” Despite this double reference to the wild, the place appears in the Na and Nn records, where we learn that it is assessed at 27 units of flax. The local smiths are freed from contributing three units, while Nn 228 informs us that the place has a deficit of ten units. While it may seem strange to find an “uncultivated” area assessed for flax contributions, we have evidence for a ro-u-si-jo a-ko-ro (PY Fr(1) 1220, 1226, Ua 1413, Un(3) 47, Vn 10) and a pa-ki-ja-ni-jo a-ko-ro (PY Fr(1) 1236), or ἀγροί in the otherwise cultivated districts of ro-u-so and pa-ki-ja-ne/pa-ki-ja-na (Palaima 2014:97—98). Perhaps most of the area in pu2-ra2-a-ke-re-u/pu2-ra2-a-ki-ri-jo was uncultivated, or perhaps it was only recently placed under development. We unfortunately cannot say, but at least we have some evidence in the ro-u-si-jo a-ko-ro and pa-ki-ja-ni-jo a-ko-ro that a district could include both cultivated and uncultivated, wild zones. In any case, this is the only instance of a place name formed in this way found associated with cultivation. I suggest that the place name may have derived from an open-air sanctuary associated with a sacred tree or grove of trees. Tree cults are a known feature of religious life in the Aegean Bronze Age, and the wild olive was considered sacred in Greek antiquity (Kourou 2001). [50]
§46. Lejeune and Ruijgh connected the first element of a2-ka-a2-ki-ri-jo and a2-ka-a2-ki-ri-ja-jo with alphabetical ἀκή, “healing” (Lejeune 1971:372 with n. 45, where ἀκή ‘silence’ is also proposed; Ruijgh 1967:174; Pierini 2014:119—120), [51] while Michael Lane has more recently suggested a link with ἅγος, ἅγιος, “sacred” (Lane 2012:179). Both would imply a cultic context, and I suggest “uncultivated, wild area of healing,” for which there is a historical parallel at Ἄκη, located on the road from Megalopolis to Messene, where Arcadian tradition said Orestes was cured of his madness (Pausanias 8.34.1—2). Again, the hiatus has been ascribed to the effects of sandhi, or else -a2 marks the boundary between the first and second elements. Both tablets documenting this place are associated with the o-ka texts, as PY An(3) 661 sends 30 u-ru-pi-ja-jo from a2-ka-a2-ki-ri-jo to the Nedon river, and PY Cn(2) 3 has, presumably, these same men contribute an ox for sacrifice. I’ve argued elsewhere that these men themselves were marginal (Mahoney 2017), and I suggest now that they were from a marginal, uncultivated region used primarily for pastoral activities. They were, in other words, auxiliaries from the ἀγρός.
§47. o-re-mo-a-ke-re-ụ was, like *Lukohagreus/*Luko-agreus, the location of smiths, and it too is associated with the district of Piswa. Recently, Lane has suggested a contracted /*Oresmo’a-ke-re-u/, where the first element would be connected to ὄρος (“mountain”; Lane 2012:179). It is safer, however, to suppose a genitive plural first element which is otherwise opaque. The form has been analyzed as a nominative of rubric (Jiménez Delgado 2016:89-90), but it is also possible that we are dealing with a locative in -e-u (Santiago Álvarez 1975). Significantly, when we can establish prosopographical links with other texts from both *Lukohagreus/*Luko-agreus and o-re-mo-a-ke-re-ụ, all but one of such links that can be made are with pastoralists, and the only man possibly associated with agriculture is also a pastoralist. [52]
§48. The two further attestations of ]ạ-ke-ṛẹ-ụ[ and ]a-ke-re-u[ are on the fragmentary PY Cn(1) 441, which significantly deals with pastoral activities involving goats and enclosures. ta-to a-ka-re-u-te and ma-ta a-ka-re-u-te are both listed as the locations of pastoral stations with deficits of sheep in the FP district of a-si-ja-ti-ja. [53] Both would thus quite naturally be part of the ἀγρός. ta-to could be a genitive plural, or else a connection with θής (“serf, bondsman”) has also been suggested (Lejeune 1971:372). ma-ta, on the other hand, may be a genitive connected with alphabetic μάτη (Lejeune 1971:372). It may thus mean something like “uncultivated, wild area of fault/folly/idleness” or, perhaps, “profane uncultivated, wild area.” [54]
§49. If u-po-ra-ki-ri-ja/u-pa-ra-ki-ri-j̣ạ and u-pi-ja-ki-ri-jo belong here, it is noteworthy that the former is found as a major pastoralist center with sheep and goats on PY Cn(5) 45, while the latter is an adjective that describes the location of coastal forces. [55] PY An(5) 298 records the presence of a leather-worker (ra-pte-re) at u-po-ra-ki-ri-ja/u-pa-ra-ki-ri-j̣ạ, where we also learn that the place was located in the vicinity of the FP district ra-wa-ra-ta2. Note that three individuals at u-po-ra-ki-ri-ja/u-pa-ra-ki-ri-j̣ạ on Cn(5) 45, pe-qe-u, do-ṛọ-jo, and *wi-ja-te-u, are listed as smiths on PY Jn(1) 693, 320, and 431, while po-ko-ro and *wi-ja-te-u are in charge of sheep on PY Cn(1) 131 and Cn(5) 600 (Nakassis 2013:236, 336, 346, 407).
§50. Finally, PY Mb(1) 1432 (Hand 14) reads ]ḳạ-a-ki-ri[, which just may represent pa-]ḳạ-a-ki-ri[ (Melena 2021:158), which could—although need not—be an alternative for the pa-ka-a-ka-ri found on Na(1) 926 (Hand 1), which deals with flax production. If the reading pa-]ḳạ-a-ki-ri[ is valid, we might imagine a first element παγά (“spring”). If we could accept “uncultivated, wild area of the spring,” note that πηγαί were typically sacred zones in historical antiquity (Larson 2001:10). PY Mb(1) 1387 (Hand 14) reads ]ạ-ki-ri-jo[ and therefore may preserve a final place name of the kind we are discussing. Both Mb(1) 1432 and 1387 deal with *146, a textile product.
§51. I turn now to the task of tying the threads of this discussion together. We find toponyms that include ἀγρός in the following contexts: flax assessment and taxation, textile offerings, (if we can include PY Mb(1) 1432 and 1387; these may have been offerings of some sort: Hiller 2011:173—174), metalworking, pastoralism, [56] and the o-ka texts. We can add to these the procurement of wood from the ro-u-si-jo a-ko-ro, and both this last place and the pa-ki-ja-ni-jo a-ko-ro provide sage-scented oil and figs for religious offerings. Similarly, men from a2-ka-a2-ki-ri-jo/a2-ka-a2-ki-ri-ja-jo contribute an ox for sacrifice. Where available, prosopographical links indicate that the men located at these places were active as smiths and pastoralists elsewhere. As Palaima has demonstrated, pastoral use of the ἀγρός is also supported by some personal names from Knossos (Palaima 2014:98). An a-ko-ro-qo-ro (/Agrogwolos/, “who frequents the wild regions”; KN Da 1079) is in charge of 200 male sheep, while an a-ko-ro-ta (/Agrotas/, “man of the wild area”; KN Mc 4459) is associated with goats, wild-goat horns, hides, and other products from the countryside. The same name is found at Mycenae associated with wool (MY Oe 115) and the ideogram *190 (MY Go 610), which may refer to a secondary product from animal husbandry. [57] Finally, on KN C 7064 a-ki-ri-ja describes wild goats, and on KN Dl 932 and 7138 a man named a-ko-ro /Agron/ is involved with sheep and wool.
§52. We have evidence for another place a-ke-re-u-te from Mycenae (MY Ge 606), which provides a do-si-mi-ja of aromatics. [58] The Pylian HP district a-ke-re-wa (/Agrew(w)a/) is a collective place name in /-a-/ derived ultimately from /Agreus/ (Hajnal 1995:215-225). This usage, that found in ro-u-si-jo a-ko-ro and pa-ki-ja-ni-jo a-ko-ro, the presence of a-ke-re-u-te at Mycenae, and, perhaps, the position of da-i-ja-ke-re-u (“divider of the ἀγρός”) at Pylos suggests that this was a naming convention characteristic of the scribal bureaucracy of Mycenaean states.
§53. The toponymic use of ἀγρός and its derivatives is, therefore, an elite linguistic strategy employed to mark out certain kinds of territory from the perspective of the center. Indeed, as Palaima has noted, naming often serves as a mechanism for defining relations of power. He cites Derrida’s concept of naming as “originary violence,” as well as Dawe’s comments that “[n]aming is a strategy that one deploys in power relations”; that names “institute violent binaries”; and that “[n]aming is authority’s attempt to categorize and control difference” (Palaima 2014:93). Accordingly, in the compound place names we have surveyed here, the second element was arguably assigned by the scribes as they mentally organized the different zones of the state. The first element of the compounds, I suggest, is what the locals who inhabited and utilized the zones in question called them. This same strategy is seen in the Pylian toponyms where the second element is wo-wo or wo-wi-ja (Lane 2012:122-123).
§54. In some of the cases under discussion, the first element of the place name is a concept. We have evidence for “light,” “wild olive tree,” “healing,” “fault” or “folly” or “idleness” or, perhaps, “profaneness” or “irreverence,” and, possibly, “spring.” As I noted above, Hiller has suggested that place names which include ἀγρός imply the presence of open-air sanctuaries. We can imagine that religious sites and ideas had an impact on the development of toponyms, as of course was often the case in historical antiquity. For the places under discussion here, I have already alluded to the fact that *Lukohagreus/*Luko-agreus is formally similar to the religious toponym of Mt. Lykaion. Perhaps there was a similar sacred light grove or peak in the vicinity of *Lukohagreus/*Luko-agreus. It is likewise possible that behind a2-ka-a2-ki-ri-jo/a2-ka-a2-ki-ri-ja-jo and pu2-ra2-a-ke-re-u/pu2-ra2-a-ki-ri-jo were an open-air healing shrine and a sacred wild olive tree (as was the case at Olympia) or grove, respectively. The name ma-ta a-ka-re-u-te could imply a profane zone in the vicinity; perhaps it was even inspired by a local memory or myth of some egregiously foolish act. We should not exclude the idea, however, that ma-ta simply connotes idle land.
§55. To conclude, I suggest that we apply Jim Wright’s archaeological analysis of the so-called Mycenaean cult centers to this toponymic data (Wright 1994:61-63). Wright argues that the cult centers were established in order to incorporate rural religious institutions into the official, palace-based religion as the palaces took control of more and more territory. I propose that place names such as the ones I have discussed here are the linguistic corollary of this archaeologically documented practice. As I have already argued, the use of ἀγρός derives from the organizing mindset of the palatial administrators, while the first element in each of these compounds represents what locals called the district in question. By adapting the toponyms with the addition of their own term for uncultivated territory, the scribes defined these areas in terms of their relationship with the palace. But at the same time, in the first element we find the administrators’ acknowledgment of the local traditions attached to these outlying, uncultivated, and wild regions. If Wright is correct in his analysis of the cult centers in the palaces, which were meant to give “an official sanction” (Wright 1994:63) to religious life of the territories under palatial control, we can plausibly submit that ideas such as rural healing shrines, wild tree cults, and sacred light groves or peaks were among the concepts that received such official sanction. This is, of course, merely a hypothesis, but it offers a possible avenue for extending models such as Wright’s beyond the physical remains left behind by archaeology.

Comments following Mahoney’s presentations

§56. Tom Palaima remarked the relevance of studies on place names and stressed the importance of an accurate reconstruction of the Bronze Age geography and toponymic nomenclature for a better understanding of the Aegean world.
§57.1. Brent Vine drew attention to the second element of the place names that Mahoney mentioned and that in Linear B are expressed either by -a2-ke-re-u- and -a-ke-re-u or by a2-ki-ri- and -a-ki-ri-. Vine questioned the interpretation of these second elements as agros (or as words related to agros) since, for one thing, he disagrees with the interpretation of a2 as a marker for a compound boundary or sandhi in words like ru-ko-a2-ke-re-u-te, with (as he believes) a2 consistently spelling phonetic /ha/, when it is used. He also observed that in terms like pu2-ra2-a-ke-re-u and pu2-ra2-a-ki-ri-jo, the “hiatus” spelling between -ra2 and –a- itself implies an h.
§57.2. In addition, Vine stressed that the spelling of a2 is inconsistent (as is well known), in light of o-re-mo-a-ke-re-u (again with “hiatus” spelling, with implied aspiration) beside ru-ko-a2-ke-re-u-te; similarly pu2-ra2-a-ki-ri-jo beside a2-ka-a2-ki-ri-jo and a2-ka-a2-ki-ri-ja-jo.
§58. Elena Dzukeska supported the idea that a2 was just used for the aspiration and observed that whether the h comes from *s or something else, there was a sound preventing the two compounds to be spelled differently.
§59. Rachele Pierini remarked that the phonetic interpretation of a2 may be discussed but what is hard to deny is the link between the chronology of Linear B and the distribution of this sign, as also highlighted by a recent work on textiles and the chronology of Knossos archives (Nosch 2022).
§60. Mahoney praised Pierini’s work on a2 (Pierini 2014) and stressed how highly inspiring it has been for him.

§61. Greg Nagy observed that, in light Sanskrit, agros seems to deal with uncultivated land (rather than cultivated land). However, Nagy continued, agros could mean ‘hunting’, or ‘cultivating the land’ in examples like Meleagros in Illiad 9, as he argued in his piece The Origins of Greek Poetic Language: Review (part II) of M. L. West’s Indo-European Poetry and Myth (Oxford 2007):

“I prefer the solution presented in a report by David Marwede for a seminar held at the Johns Hopkins University in the fall of 1973. (This work is now available online at He argued that the -αγρος of Μελέαγρος is a morphological and syntactical neutralization of a semantic opposition between (1) ἄγρα as a ‘hunt’ in the world of nature and (2) ἀγρός as a tilled ‘field’ in the world of culture, that is, of agriculture in this case. In these terms, the name Μελέαγρος contains a built-in mythical opposition between ‘he who has hunting on his mind’ and ‘he who has cultivating on his mind’. Homeric poetry shows a contextual reinforcement of this etymology. The myth of Meleagros as retold in Iliad 9.529–599 shows a parallel opposition between hunting and cultivating. In this myth, the opposition is signaled by two primal events that take place in the realm of Calydon, homeland of Meleagros: (1) a wild boar ravages the cultivated land of Oineus, agriculturist of vineyards, who is the father of Meleagros, and (2) the Calydonian Boar is then hunted down by the cultivators and their epic allies in the greatest of all epic hunts.” (Nagy 2020: W 253).
§62. Nagy expanded on agros as ‘wild’ and suggested a meaning as ‘wild land waiting to be cultivated’, rather than ‘land that is cultivated already’. In other words, it refers to areas of land that have not been subject to human taming, Nagy specified.
§63. In addition, Nagy focused on the Vedic references to the fertility of land and stressed that there is not much about cultivating in a “homestead” kind of way. For more insights into this topic, he referred to his 2022a paper Nick Allen of Oxford, anthropologist extraordinaire.
§64. Dzukeska suggested a comparison with post-Mycenaean compounds to make Mahoney’s point on semantics even more clear.

§65. Regarding the connection between a-ko-ro and the meaning of uncultivated, Palaima shared a passage from a recent paper:

“Consistent with our proposal for the semantics of a-ko-ro in the Linear B texts and late Mycenaean palatial period would be to interpret the man’s name a-ko-ro-dạ-mo (KN B 1025.b) not as Ἀκρόδᾱμος, i.e., as ‘he who has a high position in the dāmos’, but as Ἀγρόδᾱμος in the sense of ‘he who tames or subdues the wild territory’ (from *demh2). We might compare in structure and meaning the Homeric Ἱππό-δαμος ‘horse-tamer’.” (Palaima 2014:98).
§66. Roger Woodard seconded Palaima’s reading of a-ko-ro as uncultivated, wide-open spaces for grazing. Woodard added on the interpretation of agros as wild and untamed lands by noting that the need for the Bronze Age palatial Messenian in early III C to maximize the exploitation of resources might be in conflict with the interpretation of agros as open uncultivated field spaces due to the limited availably of flatland open space. However, a meaning as hilly land and forested areas might work in this scenario, too—Woodard concluded.
§67. In addition, Woodard drew attention to PY Fr 1236.1: pa-ki-ja-ni-jo, a-ko-ro, u-po-jo, po-ti-ni-ja, OLE+PA S 1 V 1, which he translated as “to the field of Pa-ki-ja-ne, for Potnia of u-po, S1 V1 units of oil”. In light of this text, Woodard argued that if Linear B u-po spells the Greek cognate and provides the ritual equivalent of the Vedic sacrificial pole (i.e. the yū́pa-), then Fr 1236 suggests that the u-po stands in an uncultivated open space, just the Vedic yū́pa- stands in the Mahāvedi, which is bounded sacred space that ritually recreates the wide-open spaces through which early Indo-Europeans moved as transhumant pastoralists.
§68. As regards high peaks and mountains, Nagy drew attention to a Strabo’s passage in which it is stated that Pisa was nestled between two mini mountains, one called Olympus and the other Ossa. Nagy stressed that this is relevant to Mahoney’s research since it refers to a ash altar of Zeus on a very high peak, and also the ash altar of Zeus in Olympia is a miniaturized copy version of an ash altar of Zeus high up on a mountain—Nagy continued. Moreover, Nagy stressed that although we do not know the location of Pisa, Strabo claimed to know it. In light of Strabo’s description, Pisa had two twin mountains—and there is a possibility to read Pisa in Linear B text, Nagy concluded.
§69. Recently, Nagy expanded the research on Olympus and Ossa in his work Ancient Greek heroes, athletes, poetry Part I: Twelve Olympian Essays – Essay 1: Hēraklēs, Mount Olympus, and the Olympia of the Olympics (Nagy 2022c). Particularly relevant to Mahoney’s inquiry are the parts at B7§1 on, at C§4 and C§5, and still more at C§10 all the way to the end—Nagy added.
§70. Mahoney referred to a recently published article (Romano and Voyatzis 2021) where it was suggested that the altar of Lykaion models the altar of Olympia and that there might be some point of contact.
§71. Palaima drew attention to the toponym *ti-mi-to a-ko, for which he favors the interpretation as τιρμίνθων ἄκγκος ‘the hillside vel sim. of pistacia terebinthus trees’. In addition, he noticed that the toponym is written separated (and even with a word divider) on PY Cn 600 and Jn 829, but there is no separation on PY Ma 123, An 661 and Na 361. §64.2 Brent Vine remarked that this kind of variant spellings is to be expected in two-word expressions (which in some cases, as in toponyms, could loosely be referred to as “compound” expressions) and known also elsewhere, e.g. te-ko-to-a-pe (though in this case beside te-ko-to-na-pe).
§72. Vine added that his concerns are not about such two-word expressions, but rather about words that appear to be actual compounds in the linguistic sense, e.g. ru-ko-a2-ke-re-u-te, a2-ka-a2-ki-ri-ja-jo, o-re-mo-a-ke-re-u, pu2-ra2-a-ke-re-u. The -a(2)-ke-re-u- and, similarly, -a(2)-ki-ri- dossiers seem to collect examples of linguistic compounds, since, Vine continued, there is no evidence that the two parts are separable as in the ti-mi-to a-ko cases. On this basis, Vine found it hard to believe that –a2 and the hiatus spellings represent anything other than /ha/ at the beginning of the second member, in which case the connection with ἀγρός does not seem possible to him. Finally, Vine added that in order to defend the connection with ἀγρός, one should also ideally provide a morphological account of the suffix formation(s); e.g. -a-ke-re-u as an -eus noun? somehow extended, in -a2-ke-re-u-te, as a t-stem?

Mahoney’s Bibliography

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[ back ] 1. For more, see:, accessed March 25, 2022.
[ back ] 2. For the recent summary, see Dimova and Gleba 2020/2021.
[ back ] 3. Cf. monographs published in the Ancient Textiles Series by Oxbow books and the CTR,, accessed March 25, 2022.
[ back ] 4. Nosch and Laffinuer 2012.
[ back ] 5. Andersson Strand and Nosch 2015.
[ back ] 6. Cf. Spantidaki and Moulherat 2012; Skals et al. 2015; Margariti and Spantidaki 2016/2017.
[ back ] 7. Margatiti and Spantidaki 2016/2017:49.
[ back ] 8. Cf. Spantidaki and Moulherat 2012:187—189.
[ back ] 9. “Textiles and Seals. Relations between Textile Production and Seal and Sealing Practices in Bronze Age Greece”, project funded by the National Science of Poland to the Faculty of History, University of Warsaw, ref. no. 2017/26/D/HS3/00145,, accessed March 25, 2022.
[ back ] 10. All these imprints are published online in the open access SQL database “Textiles and Seals” that was specifically designed for the project,, accessed March 25, 2022. Additionally, 525 casts from Kato Zakros, examined and recorded in the database in 2022, will become available for general public after the publication of M. Anastasiadou’s monograph on Kato Zakro seals and sealing practices.
[ back ] 11. Cf. Nosch et al. 2021.
[ back ] 12. Dimova and Gleba 2020/2021: 119.
[ back ] 13. Spantidaki and Moulherat 2012: 189.
[ back ] 14. Kolonas et al. 2017: 540.
[ back ] 15. Margariti and Spantidaki 2020: Tab. 3, 408—410.
[ back ] 16. Margariti and Spantidaki 2020.
[ back ] 17. Spantidaki and Moulherat 2015: 21—22.
[ back ] 18. Dimova and Gleba 2020/2021: 119.
[ back ] 19. Ulanowska 2020: 422.
[ back ] 20. Purple-dyed textiles are known from Stamna (Kolonas et al. 2017) and Lefkandi (Margariti and Spantidaki 2020).
[ back ] 21. E.g., Brogan et al. 2012. See now especially Apostolakou et al. 2020.
[ back ] 22. E.g., Aloupi et al. 2000; Brysbaert et al. 2006.
[ back ] 23. Koh et al. 2016: 537.
[ back ] 24. Cf. Spantidaki and Moulherat 2012; Dimova and Gleba 2020/2021: 121.
[ back ] 25. Cf. Margariti and Spantidaki 2016/2017: 56; Dimova and Gleba 2020/2021: 118—119.
[ back ] 26. Margariti and Spantidaki 2016/2017: 56.
[ back ] 27. Spantidaki and Moulherat 2012: 197.
[ back ] 28. Ulanowska 2021: 125—126.
[ back ] 29. Dimova and Gleba 2020/2021.
[ back ] 30. Cf. Andersson Strand and Nosch 2015; Cutler 2019; 2021.
[ back ] 31. Greek Textile Tools. Continuity and changes in textile production in Early Bronze Age Greece:, accessed March 25, 2022.
[ back ] 32. NETIA. Neolithic textiles and clothing industries in the Aegean:, accessed March 25, 2022.
[ back ] 33. E.g., Grabundžija and Schoch 2020.
[ back ] 34. Cf. Cutler 2019; 2021.
[ back ] 35. Cf. Ulanowska and Siennicka 2018.
[ back ] 37. For the most recent publications, see e.g., Nosch and Laffineur 2012; Jones 2015; Shaw and Chapin 2016, Harris et al. 2022.
[ back ] 38. E.g., various contributions in Nosch and Lauffiner 2012; Shaw and Chapin 2016.
[ back ] 39. E.g., Spantidaki 2008; Hoskins 2015a; 2015b; Jones 2015; Ulanowska 2018; Sarri and Mokdad 2019.
[ back ] 40. Cf. Nosch and Ulanowska 2021; Ulanowska 2022;, accessed March 25, 2022.
[ back ] 41. Nosch and Ulanowska 2021.
[ back ] 42. E.g., Nosch 2012; Pierini 2022.
[ back ] 43. Cf. “Textiles and Seals. Relationships between Textile Production and Seals and Sealing Practices in the Bronze to Iron Age Mediterranean”, workshop online March 22—23, 2021: S. Vakirtzi: Ubiquitous motifs: common designs on spindle whorls and seals of the Aegean Bronze Age; O. Krzyszkowska: A rare and enigmatic practice: seal-impressed textile tools in the Aegean Bronze Age; M. Anastasiadou: Hands at work in Neopalatial Kato Zakros: the documents sealed by the flat-based nodules; S. Finlayson: The interweaving of textiles and sealing practices in the Bronze Age Aegean: an overview; F. Blakolmer: Textiles and seals: their manifold interrelations in the iconography of the Aegean Bronze Age; J. Weilhartner: The Linear B logograms for textiles and wool: Some thoughts on their peculiarities; A. Ulanowska et al.: Launch of the ‘Textiles and Seals’ online database; M.-L. Nosch: Summary; “Funerary Textiles in Situ”, workshop online April 15, 2021: M. Siennicka: Two Mycenaean textile imprints from the Tomb XXI at Deiras, Argos (Greece); “EuroWeb Portugal: Fiar, Tecer, Tingir e Corser”, conference online September 15—16, 2021: A. Ulanowska: Textiles and seals: New evidence for textile production in Bronze Age Greece from seals and sealing practices; “From the Household to the Factory: Modes and Contexts of Textile Production from Prehistory to the Pre-Industrial Period”, conference online November 24-26, 2021: T. Boloti: Vitae parallelae: domestic and industrial textile production in the prehistoric settlement on Koukonisi (Lemnos); M.E. Alberti: Palatial and household production in the Minoan textile industry; M. Siennicka: At home and in the palace: textile production in Bronze Age Mainland Greece; “Fabrics, clothes, hairstyles, shoes and ornaments: adornment and textile evidence in diachrony”, December 9-11, 2021, University of Fribourg and online: A. Ulanowska: ‘Textiles and Seals’ project and online database. Recovering new relationships between textile production and seals, and sealing practices in Bronze Age Greece through the (SQL) queries.
[ back ] 44. E.g., Nedontios, Asopios, Kephisios.
[ back ] 45. Melena’s idea may be supported by the presence of writings like pu[ ]-a2-ko next to pu2-ṣị-ja-ko and ko-ri-a2-da-na next to ko-ri-ja-da-na and ko-ri-ja-do-no. We also have da-i-ja-ke-re-u (perhaps, “divider of the ἀγρός”; (PY Aq 218, Hand 21) next to ru-ko-a2-ḳẹ-re-u-te, etc. Note Melena 2014:75: “At compound boundary we may also find alternations between a2 and the unmarked signs (a, ja, a3).”
[ back ] 46. Note also the important Pylian official named ro-u-ko /Loukos/, whose name can be traced back to Indo-European *leu̯k-; Aura Jorro 1993:262-263. For other names associated with Indo-European *leu̯k-, note the toponym re-u-ko-to-ro /Leuktron/, and the personal names re-u-ka-so /*Leukasos/, re-u-ka-ta /Leukatas/, re-u-ko /Leukos/, re-u-ko-ro-o-pu2-ru /Leukrohophrus/, re-u-ka-ta-ra-ja /*Leuktraia/, and perhaps re-u-ko-to /*Leuk(o)tos/. For these (and other) reflexes of *leu̯k- in Mycenaean, see Aura Jorro 1993:243-246. It is also possible that the names ru-ki-ja (PY An(4) 724) and ru-ko-wo-ro/ru-ko-u-ro (PY Es(1) 650 and Es 644, 729) and the first element of the place name ru-ke-wo-wo-wi-ja (PY Na(1) 1053) belong here as well.
[ back ] 47. Also found on PY Gn 720.
[ back ] 48. Greek words that derive from this root: ἀμφιλύκη “twilight,” λευκός “bright, white,” λύχνος “lamp” (< *λύκ-σν-ος), λυκαυγής “of the grey twilight,” λυκόφως “twilight,” and perhaps λύσσα “rage, fury, frenzy.”
[ back ] 49. Both forms are used as toponyms; Aura Jorro 1993:178.
[ back ] 50. At Odyssey 5.474—493, Odysseus finds shelter under a wild olive tree (φυλίης) that was miraculously growing from the same spot as a cultivated olive tree (ἐλαίης). There was a sacred wild olive tree (κότινος) in the Altis at the sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia, from which the victory crowns were made (Theophrastus, Historia Plantarum 4.13.2; Pausanias 5.15.3).
[ back ] 51. a2-ka-a2-ki-ri-ja-jo could be an ethnic adjective, but its position on the tablet may suggest that it is used here as an alternative form of the toponym; Pierini 2014:118 n. 40.
[ back ] 52. *Lukohagreus/*Luko-agreus: a3-ta-ro and a-ta-ro of PY An(6) 35 (Nakassis 2013:224); wi-du-wo-i-jo and wi-do-wo-i-jo on PY An 5, who may the same as the wi-dwo-i-jo on PY Ep 539 who holds GRA T 2̣ at pa-ki-ja-ne (Nakassis 2013:94-95, 406); ẹ-te-re-ro and e-te-re-r ̣ on PY Cn(5) 600 (Nakassis 2013:257). o-re-mo-a-ke-re-ụ: ḳụ-pi-ri-jo and the ku-pi-ri-jo/ku-p̣ị-ri-jo on PY Cn(1) 131, Cn(3) 719, and Un(2) 443 (Nakassis 2013:300-301); do-ṛọ-jo and do-ro-jo-jo on PY Cn(5) 45 (Nakassis 2013:236).
[ back ] 53. The -te in these toponyms is probably the same as that found in ru-ko-a2-ḳẹ-re-u-te, and therefore could be locative or ablatival. It is not clear, however, that a-ka-re-u-te is to be identified with ἀγρός, although it is possible; Hajnal 1995:210-211.
[ back ] 54. It is of interest that PY Cn(5) 4 includes a man named ku-ri-sa-to, who on Jn(2) 706 is named as a smith, although he is not located at the two places discussed here.
[ back ] 55. In these cases, we should also compare historical Ὑπεράκρια, “beyond the heights.” The form u-pa-ra-ki-ri-j̣ạ seems to define ra-wa-ra-ta2 adjectivally on PY An(5) 298, while u-po-ra-ki-ri-ja is used as a toponym on its own. u-pi-ja-ki-ri-jo may be used as an ethnic adjective with ku-re-we on PY An(3) 654.
[ back ] 56. Note also a2-ki-ja, which may be an alternative form of a2-ka-a2-ki-ri-jo/a2-ka-a2-ki-ri-ja-jo. On PY An(2) 830, this is the location of 60 cowherds.
[ back ] 57. Note also the personal name a-ko-ro-da-mo (KN B 1025.b, TH Gp 164, 215), which Palaima analyzes as Ἀγρόδαμος, “who tames or subdues the wild country” (Palaima 2014:98).
[ back ] 58. Note also the ethnic a-ke-re-wi-jo (MY Ge 603, 604).

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