Preliminary Notes (class L-)

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.).


Preliminary Notes (series Le)

Series Le has 8 tablets in the shape of a palm leaf or half a page (4-6 lines). They record te-pa type fabrics, represented by the logogram TELA in ligature with the syllabogram TE (Nosch 2016, 442-443). These textile products were delivered to the palace (a-pu-do-si, “delivery”, in KN Le 5629+ and KN Le 5902) by groups of workers involved in their manufacture, sometimes through the mediation of collectors, as in KN Le 642+ (]ra-wo de-ko-to, “]ra-wo received”), KN Le 641+ (a-po-te de-ka-sa-to, “a-po-te received”) and KN Le 654, which records the collector we-we-si-jo, also involved in the management of flocks likely in a very large area in central-southern Crete (KN Da 1156+, Da 1164, Db 1160, Dv 1509, Dv 1607, Dv 5075).

The Le series tablets are also interesting because they provide information on how the textile industry was organized. For example, they record the work performance called ta-ra-si-ja, used to manage the employment of women groups (KN Le 642+).


Le 5629 +

KN Le 5629+ records deliveries (a-pu-do-si) of te-pa (a type of fabric – Bennet 1992, 74), as indicated by the logogram *159/tela ligatured with the acrophonic abbreviation TE. The text was constituted of three lines and most probably included words written in bigger and smaller characters, as can be seen in what remains of this fragmentary document. Each line ends with the logogram *159/tela+TE. However, the quantity of textiles is not preserved and remains unknown. Of the initial word of the text, which is almost completely lost, only the last syllabogram, ]ja may still be discerned. Since –ja is a generic feminine ending, it is impossible to restore this word. However, it seems likely to hypothesise that this could be a feminine ethnic, as suggested by the presence of a feminine ethnic e-ki-[si-]ja in the second line. This word derives from the place-name e-ko-so and refers to the e-ko-so women who would deliver (a-pu-do-si) te-pa.

In the third line, the toponym pa-i-to, Phaistos indicates the delivery location. This is followed by a male personal name in the genitive case, ko-ma-we-to. He would have overseen either the textile delivery or the women in charge of their manufacture. The same name is recorded also in other tablets from Knossos, including in KN Ap(1) 618 where this individual is responsible for two women, and in D-class as a collector. Here this person is related with various place-names, including e-ko-so and da-*22-to, which were probably located around the area of the Amari Valley (for a discussion of the different theories on the topography of Crete see Del Freo 2016).

If these occurrences of the same name indicate the same person and they are not homonyms, it may be hypothesised that ko-ma-we-to was involved in the textile industry, managing flocks and weavers (Carlier 1992, 163; Greco 2010, 630), in the area of the Amari Valley (between e-ko-so and da-*22-to), which would be related to Phaistos as regards the provenance of te-pa (Bennet 1992, 81, 91; Godart 1992, 272).

.1                    ]ja                      tela1+TE     [

.2        e-ki-[si-]j̣ạ  /  a-pu-do-si      tela1+TE     [

.3          pa-i-ṭọ  /  ko-ma-we-ṭọ     tela1+TE   [


  1. ]ja te-pa cloth    [
  2. the women of/from e-ko-so, delivery of te-pa cloth [
  3. at Phaistos (delivery/women[1]) of *Κομάϝεντς te-pa cloth[

.5             vac.             [            ]            vac. [

.6             vac.             [            ]            vac. [

]ja: feminine ending, perhaps in the nominative case.

e-ki-[si-]ja: ethnic adjective, feminine plural, in the nominative case, derived from the toponym e-ko-so, perhaps Ἔξος (DMic, s.v.). This was an important productive centre specialised in textile production. It has not been identified yet; however, it could be located in the Amari Valley (Palmer 1972; Palmer 1979; Del Freo 2016)::Ζ@2.

a-pu-do-si: singular feminine noun in the nominative of rubric, *ἀπύδοσις. It is the dialect form that corresponds to Attic ἀπόδοσις. It means “actual delivery, payment” (DMic, s.v.; Perna 2004).

pa-i-to: toponym, in the locative (/nominative of rubric). This is a place name of pre-Greek origin, generally interpreted as /Phaistos/ (: Φαιστόϛ). The geographical localization in the plain of the Mesara, to the south of river Ieropotamos, is unanimously accepted (DMic, s.v.).

ko-ma-we-to: singular male personal name in the genitive case, from ko-ma-we, *Κομάϝεν(τ)ς (DMic, s.v.). It is possible that the collector named in D-class and other Knossos tablets (KN Ap(1) 618, KN B(1) 988 e KN Cf 913 – Driessen 1992, 208; Godart 1992, 272) is the same person. In this case, he would be in charge of either the delivery of te-pa type fabrics or the women in charge of producing them at Phaistos.

[1] For the double reading see the below the explanation of ko-ma-we-to.

⇒ Further information on LiBER

The tablet, half-page in shape (Marazzi 2013, 55), is rather fragmentary and measures 12 x 6.6 x 1.71 cm (the measurements were taken in June 2019 during the epigraphic mission at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum by the team of The pa-i-to Epigraphic Project).

The join with KN 8512 was recognized by J.-P. Olivier and revised by R.J. Firth and J.L. Melena. Olivier had juxtaposed the two fragments in correspondence to the first line, so as to read e-ki-si-ja at the beginning of the text (Olivier 1969, 252). Otherwise, Firth ad Melena found a better coincidence between the two fragments at the beginning of the second line (Firth – Melena 2002-2003, 116), which is the one accepted to date (KT6).

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