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 641 +

KN Le 641+ records deficit of the te-pa type fabric, textile that an officer called a-po-te had been commissioned to collect. The textile is indicated by the logogram *159/TELA in ligature with the syllabogram TE, abbreviation of the te-pa type fabric. In the tablet, sometimes the logogram is preceded by an adjunct (syllabogram which qualifies or describes the logogram by means of an acrophonic abbreviation), in this case alternatively ‘pe’ or ‘mi’: the first has been traced back to the Greek word πεπλυμένος, “washed, clean”, while the second has been read mi-ja-wo, that is μιαρός, “dirty” (Docs2, 317), but more likely in this context “dyed” (Luján 2010, 381).

The textiles are distinguished according to the toponym associated to the feminine ethnic adjective agreed with the te-pa fabric. The first ethnonym refers to the locality of Phaistos (pa-i-ti-ja), followed by da-wo (da-wi-ja), a place not yet localized, but linked to Phaistos if not geographically, at least administratively (Bennet 1985, 247;  Privitera 2009, 68-69; 2014, 436, 440; Bendall 2017 with further references). In the third line the ethnic do-ti-ja and qa-mi-ja (qa-mo) are mentioned, while the last line records the place-names Knossos (ko-no-so) and tu-ni-ja, instead of the derived ethnic adjectives. In the case of Knossos, in particular, the place-name is followed by the group of women specialized in manufacturing the te-pa type fabric (te-pe-ja).

.1        o-a-po-te  ,  de-ka-sa-ṭọ  ,  a-re-i-jo  ,  o-u-qe-po[

.2        pa-i-ti-ja  ,  ‘pe’   TELA+TE   2     mi   TELA1+TE   14̣     da-wi-ja  ,  pe   TELAx+TE   1[

.3        do-ti-ja      mi   TELA+TE   6     qa-mi-ja     TELA1+TE   1[

.4        ko-no-so  , / te-pe-ja     ‘mi’   TELA+TE   3     tu-ni-ja     TELA1+TE   1   [

.5             vac.             [            ]            vac. [

.6             vac.             [            ]            vac. [


  1. So A-po-te son of Areios has received and not [
  2. of/from Festòs 2 clean te-pa cloths, 14 dirty/dyed te-pa cloths, of/from da-wo 1 clean te-pa cloth [
  3. of/from do-ti-ja 6 dirty/dyed edged te-pa cloths, of/from qa-mo 1 te-pa cloth [
  4. at Knossos the weavers of te-pa cloths 3 dirty/dyed edged te-pa cloths, at yu-ni-ja 1 te-pa cloth[

.5             vac.             [            ]            vac. [

.6             vac.             [            ]            vac. [


O-a-po-te: o- is the deictic prefix ὡ-, corresponding to ὥς, “so”, frequent at the beginning of Linear B texts. a-po-te may be more likely a male personal name, also recorded in tablet KN Od(1) 562 as one of the men who deliver quantity of wool (Duhoux 2008, 270), rather than the adverb of location ἄπωθεν, “from afar”, formed by the preposition ἀπό “from/by”, followed by the location suffix of the motion from place -θεν (Docs2, 317).

de-ka-sa-to: verbal form, 3rd person singular aorist indicative medium, without ε-, δέξατο, from δέχομαι, “to receive”.

a-re-i-jo: singular male anthroponym, *Ἀρέhιος or Ἀρήιος, used as a patronymic (DMic, s.v.).

o-u-qe-po: negation *oὔκwε, corresponding to the Greek negation oὔτε (“and not”). The syllable –po[ seems to be more likely to be considered as the beginning of the following word falling into gap (DMic, s.v.).

pa-i-ti-ja: ethnic adjective feminine plural, derived from the toponym pa-i-to, Φαιστός (Festòs). Its geographical localization in the plain of the Mesara, to the south of river Ieropotamos, is unanimously accepted (DMic, s.v.).

da-wi-ja: ethnic adjective feminine plural, derived from the toponym da-wo. Its geographical location still remains unknown, but the frequent association with pa-i-to (Festòs) in the corpus of Linear B texts of Knossos allows us to locate da-wo probably in the same area of Festòs (DMic, s.v.).

do-ti-ja: ethnic adjective feminine plural, probably connected with the locality of the same name (do-ti-ja), eventually referred to the toponym Δώτιον πεδίον (DMic, s.v.).

qa-mi-ja: ethnic adjective feminine plural, derived from the place-name qa-mo, often associated with the place of u-ta-no, and, therefore, perhaps to be placed in central Crete, South-West of Knossos, in the north-eastern area of the Mesara plain (DMic, s.v.).

ko-no-so: toponym, in the locative (/nominative of rubric). This is a place name of pre-Greek origin, generally interpreted as Kνωσσός (Knossos). The geographical localization near the northern coast of central Crete is unanimously accepted (DMic, s.v.).

te-pe-ja: name of person female plural, nominative of rubric, indicating the workers who made te-pa type fabrics (DMic, s.v.).

tu-ni-ja: toponym in the singular locative (/nominative of rubric). It is often associated with Knossos, so perhaps it must be placed in the same geographical area, as the possible identification with Ἐλτυνία, south of Knossos, would confirm (DMic, s.v.).

The tablet, edited by scribe H 103, would measure (12) x 6 x 1.5 cm approximately (Olivier 1967, 49).

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