9 Dec 2009

Clay seals and goddesses

Robert Eisner asserts, "The Greek Artemis surely descends from the Minoan Mistress of beasts."[1] This statement seems hard to deny nowdays which is why I recently explored how a-ra-tu-me on a Minoan clay seal (HT Wc 3024.a) might in some way be related to the name 'Artemis'. That being said, a caveat is in misconstruing the linguistic origins of the goddess and the mythological origins as a single issue. My casual brainstorming on the meaning of the as-yet undeciphered term a-ra-tu-me is fundamentally no lesser nor greater than Miguel Valério's book-published hypothesis that du-pu3-re signifies 'master' based on its idle phonetic similarity to Hittite tabarna- which he must assume a priori to mean 'ruler' to make stick.[2]

So blogger Judith Weingarten's recent attempt under Paleoglot: Etruscan Artemis and the unexpected vowel change to smother open query with ridicule and self-promotion is unconstructive for all of us. Let's not let our behaviour fall into the stereotype of stuffy traditional academia that defeats itself by its cartoonish elitism and slavish clique system. Being published or non-published on paper will never free any of our egos from critique or human fallibility. Blogging isn't an enemy to scholars. It has a purpose in academia. Blogging wastes less trees and properly treats ideas as ever-evolving concepts rather than absolute conclusions set in stone. I use blogging as a healthy way to both hone my evolving understanding on historical languages and to solicit informed alternative views. However, I do not solicit personal attack in place of reasoned opposition.

Concerning a-ra-tu-me meaning 'Artemis', I feel I can safely drop that idea since it suffices to reason that corresponding Mycenaean seals normally show terms for commodities and transactions as explained by Vassilis Aravantinos in The Mycenaean inscribed sealings from Thebes - Problems of content and function [pdf][3]: "We have the reference to things that are 'holy' i-je-ra. We have technical economic vocabulary like o-pa which specifies a kind of contractual obligation and the operational term qe-te-o. qe-te-o generally implies an obligation on the palace center to 'pay' something out to somebody else. In two cases, ewes and male pigs 'are to be paid' te-qa-de 'to Thebes'."

The recorded conversation of experts further down the article is fascinating to read and, alas, it appears that nowhere is a deity's name mentioned in these artifacts. Why then should I expect so in similar Minoan texts? Also as I read further on the functionality of these clay sealings as "modernday padlocks" for ancient trade, I may be overemphasizing the significance of depicted scenes stamped on the clay in relation to the accompanying writing. (My skepticism of Weingarten's claim that some of the accompanying images are somehow non-religious in origin is a separate issue that I may address in a separate blog entry.) Although i-je-ro 'holy' is evidence for religious property in these seals, a lack of precedent found in the Mycenaean world for the explicit writing of a divinity's name is logically sufficient to disqualify my bold departure from status quo. I stand corrected.

Even based on my independent linguistic approach to these texts, other words found with the figure of an archer like ka-ku-pa in HT Wc 3016 seem most sensibly interpreted as nouns describing commodities, not deities. In HT 16.1-2, the phrase ka-ku-pa • di-na-u, especially if approached from the assumption that Minoan is related to Etruscan, seems to show a noun followed by a participial adjective in -(a)u (nb. the Etruscan participle ending -u as in tur-u 'given') in much the same way as adjectives are placed after commodity terms in Mycenaean.

To err is human afterall and I wouldn't be a good student if I didn't dare to both err and correct myself in turn. Nonetheless, this still doesn't answer a most basic question: What was Artemis called in Minoan? My personal search continues...

[1] Eisner, The Road to Daulis: Psychoanalysis, psychology and classical mythology (1987), p.162 (see link).
[2] Chavalas, The ancient Near East: historical sources in translation (2006), p.267 (see link): "Tabarna is a royal title of uncertain translation."
[3] V. Aravantinos, Mycenaean Texts and Contexts at Thebes: The Discovery of New Linear B Archives on the Kadmeia, in S. Deger-Jalkotzy, S. Hiller, and O. Panagl (eds.), Floreant Studia Mycenaea I (Vienna 1999) 45-78 (see pdf).


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