Class L of Knossos includes the tablets which deal with the textile industry recording types of textiles and the logogram *159/TELA (Nosch 2016, 437). The documents of Class L are 219 and are grouped into five series: Lc, Ld, Le, Ln and L. The latter is the largest group and comprises tablets not included in the other series.

The logogram *159/TELA is a rectangular piece of fabric, with vertical strokes at the bottom to form fringes. Thanks to the different number of the fringes, from 3 to 7, different variants of the logogram can be distinguished. They are transliterated as TELA followed by a superscript number corresponding to the number of fringes between the two external lateral sides.

*159/TELA is also recorded in ligature with several syllabograms, which are drawn inside the rectangular inner part of the sign. The syllabograms in ligature with TELA are TE, TU, PA, PO, PU, KU and ZO, acrophonic abbreviations of the words that specify different kinds of textiles, unfortunately not all identified. One of the distinguishing elements for the types of fabrics is the amount of wool used for their manufacture, calculated on the basis of the association between the type of fabric, the amount of wool and/or the number of sheep needed for the production of wool, as recorded in some Linear B texts. (Killen 1964; Greco 2012). For example (for the readings and meanings of the abbreviations see DMic s.vv.; Luján 1997; Del Freo et al. 2010):

  • the abbreviation PU would specify the fabric pu-ka-ta-ri-ja, possibly corresponding to the Greek πυκ(ι)νός “heavy, thick” (DELG, v.), in this context “close-woven fabric”, and made up by using 1 unit of wool (3 kg), likely supplied by 4 sheep, with an average of 750 g of wool per animal;
  • the abbreviation PA is acrophonic of pa-we-a, a fabric produced using about 1 and half units of wool (4,5 kg), which corresponds to the productivity of 6-7 sheep; the word has been read as φᾶρος (DELG, v.), term used in the Odyssey to mention the cloth that Penelope wove by day and unraveled by night deceiving the Suitors (Od. XXIV 120f);
  • TU is the abbreviation of tu-na-no and would indicate a heavier fabric than pa-we-a because it was produced using 4 units of wool (12 kg), supplied by 12 sheep;
  • TE is the abbreviation of te-pa, which would correspond to the Greek τάπης, -ητος, “carpet, blanket” (DELG, v.), and in the Homeric poems is specified as a textile used to make a bed or chair more comfortable (Il. IX 200, Od. IV 124 e X 12); therefore, it would have been a wide and thick cloth, features that fit well with the amount of wool needed for its manufacture, that is 7 units (21 kg), supplied by 28 sheep.

Other types of textiles recorded in Class L are:

  • pe-ko-to, derived from the verb πέκτω, “to comb, to card”, so, “carded fabric” produced using 10 units of wool (30 kg), likely supplied by 40 sheep (Luján 2010, 381);
  • ki-to, χιτών “tunic”;
  • e-pi-ki-to-ni-ja, *ἐπιχιτωνία, perhaps “elements attached to the tunic”;
  • we-a-no/we-a2-no, ἑανός, word that in the Homeric lexicon indicates a “fine garment”;
  • u-po-we, perhaps a type of undergarment because of the preposition ὑπό in the reading ὑποέστης as mentioned in the Hesychicus’ Lexicon.

In some tablets the colour (ko-ro-ta2 “coloured”; po-ri-wa “gray”) and the decoration of different kinds of textiles are described. The most distinctive decorative pattern is the one called o-nu. The word can be traced back either to the Greek ὄνυξ, -χος (“nail”) or the word *ὄνυχα (“weft, warp”). Such decoration can be either white (re-u-ko-nu-ka, gr. λευκός + o-nu-ka) or mult-icoloured (po-ki-ro-nu-ka, gr. ποικίλος + o-nu-ka) (Luján 1997, 363-367).

Furthermore, Class L allows us to reconstruct the textile production chain, since it refers to the different phases of the textile industry. For instance, sets Lc(1) and Lc(2) record the textile production estimates for the following year, based on data and estimates of sheep flocks and as demanded to several Cretan centres (Killen 1966). Set L(3) records, instead, provide information about the villages involved in the textile industry, focusing on the deficit in the delivery of the pu-ka-ta-ri-ja type fabric (TELA+PU). In addition, series Ld and Le (Killen 1979a) deal with deliveries to the palace and storage of textiles. Such series also record the workers employed in the textile industry. Usually, they were groups of women either under the direct control of the palace or controlled by the collectors, officials employed by the palatine centre as workers’ supervisors. Some tablets also mentioned the work performance of the employed women, called ta-ra-si-ja, which involved the provision by an institution, for example the palace, of a given quantity of weighed raw material to craftsmen who had to transform it into finished objects, in number corresponding to what they had received from the central institution (Killen 1979b; Nosch 2000; 2006). Other tablets, on the other hand, record the specialization of some women: for instance, a-ze-ti-ri-ja/a-ke-ti-ri-ja/a-ke-ti-ra2 (*ἀσκήτριαι) would have worked on the decoration and finishing of fabrics, while pe-ki-ti-ra2 (*πεκτριαι) in the production of the pe-ko-to type textile (DMic s.v.).


L 469                  L 695                L 8025           Lc 504 recto      Lc 504 verso          Lc 546                Le 641              Le 5629

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