The Knossos series D- (namely, Da, Db, Dc, Dd, De, Df, Dg, Dh, Dk, Dl, Dm, Dn, Do, Dp, Dq, Dv and D series) comprises tablets, both complete and fragmentary, for a total of about 990 documents. They form the largest thematic group of the entire archive and deal with the records of the flocks of sheep belonging to the Palace. All the tablets of this group are long and narrow in shape, and have thus been called ‘palm-leaf’ tablets. On the basis of their context, contents and palaeographic characteristics, they may be classified into two distinct subgroups: one includes the series Da, Db, Dc, Dd, De, Df, Dg, Dh(1), Dk(2), Dm, Dn and Dv; the other includes Dh(2), Dk(1), Dl, Do, Dq(4) and D.

The series D- tablets tend to show fairly standardised textual patterns, based on the regular recurrence of ‘formulaic’ information. The texts of this class generally present an anthroponym, written in large characters in first position on the left. The tablet may show a single line of writing or it may be separated into two parts, usually by means of a horizontal cross-line. The upper part may contain the name of a functionary of the Palace, conventionally named ‘collector’ – a person who is in charge of the management of the flocks of sheep, with a higher degree of responsibility than shepherds –, or an adjective, and the lower part usually presents a toponym. It is important to remember, however, that these positions may sometimes vary. In the end, the texts register the number of each type of sheep. In some texts (as in series Dk, Dl and Dp, in particular), quantities of wool may also be indicated.

Shepherd – collector – toponym – type of livestock

The Mycenaean numerical system is decimal and non-positional, and numerals are easily recorded. Units are represented by short upright bars, tens by horizontal bars, hundreds by circles, thousands by circles with four departing short rays and tens of thousands by circles with an ulterior inscribed horizontal bar surrounded by four departing short rays.

The Mycenaean numerical system

There is no doubt that the anthroponyms recorded in first position are the names of the shepherds who managed the flocks of sheep on behalf of the Palace. As regards the above-mentioned so-called ‘collectors’, these were probably closely involved in the administration of the Palace. However, their exact role within the administrative frame of Knossos cannot be determined with certainty, since the tablets record only their names, providing no further indication concerning their specific functions within the sphere of livestock management, or other areas of the palatial economy.

Chadwick and Ventris (Chadwick and Ventris 1973) first introduced the term ‘collector’, on the basis of Myc. a-ko-ra, possibly interpreted as /agorā/ ἀγορά ‘collection’, and Myc. a-ke-re, /ageirei/ ἀγείρει ‘he collects’, cf. /ageirō/ ἀγείρω ‘collecting, gathering’. Although the term is still used conventionally, various other interpretative hypotheses have been advanced.

Palmer (Palmer 1957) believed that these collectors were probably the owners of flocks. This view was revised by Bennet (Bennet 1992), in his thorough investigation of this subject. He observed that about 30% of the productive capacity of the Knossian kingdom was managed by collectors, and he came to the conclusion that these individuals may have belonged to local elites of settlements subordinated to the Knossos Palace, whose ancestors had established relations with the emerging Knossos administration. Although they were involved in the Knossian economy, their activities seem to have been concentrated outside the immediate region of the Palace. The idea of ‘marginality’ in the Knossian administration led Lupack (Lupack 2006) to hypothesize that they may have managed several ‘micro-economic centres’ (breeding and production centres), enjoying some degree of economic independence from the Palace.

It is also worth remembering that in their fundamental studies on sheep and textile series, Olivier and Killen embraced the idea that these collectors may have been prominent members of palatial elites. According to Killen (Killen 1976, 1979, 1983), they may have been members of the nobility who were allocated part of the productive capacity of the kingdom for their own benefit.

According to Carlier (Carlier 1992), the collectors were rather ‘fermiers’ who probably acted as entrepreneurial contractors, leasing the flocks from the Palace and profiting from surpluses in production.

Godart (Godart 1992) has observed however that since they managed large sections of the economy of the state and were in constant contact with the Palace, they may instead have belonged to an elite, or even the entourage itself of the Wanax.

Rougemont (Rougemont 2001 e 2009) surmised that they were palatial auditors who inspected the productive force of flocks. She noted that only 30% of the tablets dealing with flocks record collectors and that the collectors are recorded for nearly 50% of the tablets that mention deficits in sheep records.

Without going into the sociological implications, Greco (Greco 2010) is in partial agreement with Godart’s perspective. However, he sees the Knossos collectors as individuals who acted as intermediaries or contractors, as suggested by possible parallels offered by the Near East. In particular, he has focussed on a comparison with the neo-Sumerian administrations of the XXII-XXI cent. BC, where it is interesting to find, for example, the figure of naqīdum in the city of Larsa – a “herding contractor”, after Postgate’s translation (Postgate 1992). These contractors were functionaries, of various rank and with various specific tasks, who served the function of intermediary between the palace and the shepherds. They dealt precisely with those flocks owned by the palace which the palatial administration could not or did not wish to manage directly. An analogous task was perhaps held by the figure of rab nāqidī, a kind of inspector or overseer of herdsmen, mentioned in Middle Assirian documents.

The possible Near East comparanda might also suggest that the Mycenaean collectors such as e-me-si-jo or we-we-si-jo – prob. Werwesios (this may be interpreted in the light of Hom. εἶρος ‘wool’) – could also be assigned more important roles, although on the basis of current knowledge this cannot be proven with certainty. This view might have the advantage of allowing us to overcome several problems of interpretation and the difficulties inherent to the nature of the documentation. If this line of interpretation is correct, it is clear that the scribes could have no better choice nor shorter way to refer to this figure of intermediary than simply recording their names. In fact, whatever their rank and precise range of tasks within the palatial administration may have been, they probably served the same function in managing the flocks and there was therefore no need for the scribes to record ulterior information for the sake of comprehension.


Da 1156            Da 1163             Da 1164             Da 1170            Da 1172         Da 1173 lat inf   Da 1173 recto        Da 1341          Da 1341 join


Da 1352             Da 1378             Da 1495            Da 8201              Db 1159            Db 1160             Db 1344             Db 1464            Db 1507


Dd 1157             Dd 1342            Dd 1429             Dd 5174           De 1084         De 1084 verso        De 1585             Dg 1158            Dg 5185


Dk 1067             Dm 1180           Dm 1184            Dn 1094           Dp 1061             Dq 7126            Dq 7137             Dq 7852            De 1085


Dv 1509             Dv 1607             Dv 5075            Dv 5322             Dv 8413            Dv 8742             Dv 9568            Dv 9591             Dv 9603


Dv 9603 verso        Dv 9604

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