28 Jul 2009

Diktaian Master of Crete?

When I was briefly interacting on the online forum AegeaNet before quickly pulling the plug on that shallow group, there was a certain individual there pushing his article called 'Diktaian Master': A Minoan Predecessor of Diktaian Zeus in Linear A? by Miguel Valério. Personally, I'm a spartan Stoic and prefer facts over naive friends. However this forum gave me neither friends nor facts. These anonymous group forums are more an irritation for me than informative since I never know on the face of it whether I'm talking to a genuinely educated person, a kook or an outright troll. I'm also not a team player even on my good days and am proud of my antiGroupThink stance. Goddess forbid if Albert Einstein was forced to validate his theories of time dilation and multidimensional geometry by nothing less than group consensus. Where would we be at today? String theory à la Wikipedia? Eeek! But I digress...

The little spat this individual and I had concerned the Libation Formula, a long phrase repeated several times with minor variations on Minoan libation tables. (John Younger is kind enough to display the variations of this interesting formula on his site at people.ku.edu.) My opponent apparently had meant his article, which had been published in Kadmos in March 2008, to be an effective counterargument to my philosophy of not only analysing each word of the inscription individually but translating the entire inscription coherently at the same time. Surely this constitutes a stronger theory than one based only on picking words out of context according to personal whim and word games as the late Cyrus Gordon was so prone to do. Ironically, as you will notice when you read the above article, it appears that Valério falls into the same stubborn pitfall with closed eyes and his arguments become a matter more of faith than science.

Valério makes an interesting, if not convincing, case in favour of identifying words like labyrinthos in the end as derivatives of a Minoan root as he pans through a plethora of vraisemblable vocabulary in various languages of the Eastern Mediterranean. While Luwian verb tabar- 'to rule' is attested, he notes that it coincidentally remains unanalysable in Indo-European terms. It's true that given our pitiful knowledge of the Minoan language, a Minoan source of the word remains an idle possibility that can't yet be proved or disproved. So granted, it's difficult to resist capitalizing on that gap of information to weave a thought-provoking article. As long as the author properly separates fact from speculation, there's no harm in the open exploration and may to the contrary inspire others to dig a little deeper.

However, it's on page 9 of the article when interesting trivia starts to crumble into subtle self-worship as he treats his hypotheses now as if they were reality without further necessary proof. Valério admits in the accompanying footnote of the following quote to parroting previous word games played by Gareth Owens, his Kadmos predecessor of 1993: "I now follow the idea that the first element of the form in question, i.e. (ja)-di-ki-te-te-, is related to Mount Dikte." I do hope this is not shallow namedropping of the "keep in the family"-type because Owens has ne'er a hope of doing better at linking this Minoan string of sexy syllabica to Mount Dikte when using the same flawed methodology of phonetic eyeballing. This reference is only a distraction to the reader rather than an aid. Following this is another empty statement that the reader must plod through: "Consequently, it is difficult a priori not to translate this whole shape as ‘Master of Dikte (dat.)’ (vel sim.), even though this translation leaves us with two unexplained affixes: j/a- and -(e)-te." Difficult to avoid a priori statements? Egad, a logician he is not. Non sequiturs still beg to be resolved here: Why 'master'?; Why 'Mount Dikte'?; Why 'Master of Dikte'?; What proof of a dative case in -te? Etc.

Beyond just two unexplained affixes (indeed, if they can even be proven to be genuine morphemes at all), this is another tragic case of splicing and dicing text however one feels with complete disregard for surrounding context and deeper, overall meaning. Rather than strengthen his case with objective fact, the author already skips straight to the repercussions of his grandiose discoveries/delusions of a most tiny snippet of text by the conclusion of page 10 and, as I'm bombarded with one assumption after another, the text becomes increasingly irritating for me to read.

Nowhere here has Valério truly established with any certainty why du-pu₃-re must read 'master' as opposed to any of the other billions of possible permutations that this item could possibly represent. There is also no attempt to crack the entire Libation Formula, the true core of this puzzle that is suspiciously avoided. Fundamentally, despite all the disjointed archaeological, linguistic and religious factoids in his arsenal of 'evidence', Valério is just playing another meaningless word game as sensible deductive procedure is ignored.

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