10 Feb 2013

Why we outlasted the Neanderthal

On the Wall Street Journal website, author Chip Walter of Last Ape Standing describes what we know about the Neanderthal's day-to-day life and why Homo sapiens were better adapted to survive and thrive.

What he mentions about postnatal development in humans is food for thought. Remarking on human beings differing from other primates by our extensive brain development, we may appreciate how a slight genetic shift in the timing of brain development from prenatal to postnatal could finally allow the brain to fully develop after birth, effectively liberating our cognitive development from the limited confines of the womb. He alludes to an important change in human development towards a brain more increasingly shaped by the environment around us (including social influence) versus a former development guided more by an innate programming of our inner genetic world. This led to many new advantages, chased by yet new challenges specific to our species.

As for his thoughts on language, he divulges nothing new but merely restates what is already obvious to researchers, that Neanderthals probably had some type of language but we can't be too sure how complex it was. To quote Walter in this brief interview:
"And so there's a lot of interesting theories about exactly how complex their language was but generally now anthropologists are coming around to the belief that they did have pretty sophisticated ways of communicating but they may have been quite different from ours. They might have been quite musical and it might have been a combination of gestures and sounds. Uh. So that in itself would have made it difficult to share ideas because they might not have had as rich a vocabulary to share those ideas."
Much of what he says is sensible but I must take arms against his last sentence which I've put in bold above. It should be pointed out that the belief that gestural language is less capable of expressing complex thought is unintellectual nonsense that I really wish genuinely science-minded people would finally abandon. It's unfortunate to see this prejudice being repeated again.

The presence or absence of a human-like larynx is a persistent distraction from the pertinent facts regarding the question of Neanderthal language which depends on an assumption that our human cousins can only express complex thoughts through voice as we do. This language chauvinism should be quite condescending to the signing community who daily express complex ideas through elaborate gestures and facial intonations among each other. In toto then, Neanderthals simply have no relevant restrictions to complex, grammatical language at all. We keep feeding this nonsense only to feed our last ditch effort to make human beings unique to the universe. Old ideas die hard. I will leave you readers with a what-if scenario:

What if complex grammar was already developing in the African savanna through gestural language in absence of a human-like larynx many hundreds of thousands of years ago? Is it not possible for vocal language to naturally evolve from sign language assuming it had accompanying vocal gestures that would have reasonably existed in a hearing-able proto-human signing community?


  1. First off, hi. I really like your blog.

    Now I'm not a linguist,

    but I've thought for quite a while that this is pretty much the only path human language could have gone without essentially coming into existance ex nihilo.

    For what it's worth, the Wikipedia page on language origin claims that areas of the primate brain associated with motor controls and gestures seem to be analogous to the Broca's area of a human - where much of language processing occurs.


    (most relavent citation)
    Petrides, Michael, Cadoret, Genevieve, Mackey, Scott (2005). Orofacial somatomotor responses in the macaque monkey homologue of Broca's area, Nature: 435,#1235

    I remember reading something speculative saying that part of why we get carsick when reading is because this part of the brain is busy readin instead of making the fine muscular adjustments needed to prevent sickness. Sounds really reaching though, likely why I can't find it anymore.

    Even so, in many ways vocal speech is gestural as well - particles, morphemes, etc., thrown about around roots and lexemes, and, depending on the language, haphazardly at that. I would like to think that would back that up. So to me the question did language evolve out of gestures is like asking "does stone come from stones?".

    Of course things all depend on what counts as language. I've heard people try to define the difference between speech and "what the Neanderthals spoke" to be symbolic usage or grammaticalization. But of course there exists a great poverty in describing what that even means - there's really a great deal of differing kinds of symbolic usage, which parts?. I'd wager that symbolic and even solipsistic grammaticalized language usage was present at least as far back as Homo egastor - necessary, I think, for them to have rafted out of Africa. As a common ancestor to other species thought to possess language (us and Neanderthals), this seems parsimonious to me as well.

    Which itself opens up a provocative little idea - human ancestors migrating out of Africa must surely have borrowed terms from their Neanderthal neighbors if they did indeed possess modern(ish) speech - would that imply linguistic polygenisis? or at least that there may be Neanderthal words floating in our vocabulary?

    All idle speculation on my part, of course. It's unanswerable now, considering the degree of linguistic change since, but I suppose an aspiring fool might try to name a non-African innovation from this, though.

    Now, to offer an alternate theory over our language-centric explaination of human dominance:

    Could it be that H. sapiens simply was the first to develop meaningful agriculture? Or even that we were simply better prepared to use plant matter for substanance than the more carnivorous Neanderthal? Essentially, that we happened to survive better.

    Of course, not a nutritionist, archaeologist, or any sort of ist as well, so, you know, don't take this very seriously.

    But I feel we should keep in mind that H. sapiens didn't really do much for over half of its 200k year existance - it wasn't even until about 70k years ago that we first took a step out of Africa. So it probably isn't even that. But it probably wasn't language, either. Full behavioural modernity didn't arise until much after the expansion, so one would expect to see nonmodernity in non-Africans or even substrate-like or isolated nonmodern populations somewhere, but that doesn't seem to be the case either. From Khoisan to Han there's nothing that really unique about any population.

    So... essentially in all regards maybe we're just asking the wrong questions, based on false assumptions? Wu.

  2. An article that gave me lots of food for thought crosses the disciplines of computer science and linguistics to get at a purely computational-oriented understanding of language emergence (whether human or artificial): Computational modeling on language emergence: A coevolution model of lexicon, syntax and social structure by Tao Gong and William Wang from the University of Hong Kong.

    For those who are both linguistics enthusiasts and programmer nerds like myself (ie. zany fun-loving weirdos), this is both information about natural language origins and how to create language-capable artificial intelligence. Sweet!

    Gong & Wang conceptualize human language as a dynamically evolving list of semantic fragments (ie. pairs of "utterance" and "meaning"). A list of utterances are mapped to a list of meanings with the allowance for "mutations" to occur in the vocabulary among a population of AI agents, inducing a programmatic form of semantic drift over time.

    Carrying further with this idea, we could easily imagine complex grammars arising from this system, particularly if it could further allow for embedded semantic structure within the machine descriptions of its "meanings" and "utterances". I perceive all languages to be nothing more than fractal systems of data fully describable under lambda calculus (see Rojas. A tutorial introduction of the lambda calculus (1997)).

  3. This maybe slightly off topic, but it seems pertinent...

    Automated reconstruction of ancient languages using probabilistic models of sound change

    Alexandre Bouchard-Côtéa,1,
    David Hallb,
    Thomas L. Griffithsc, and
    Dan Kleinb

    Author Affiliations

    Edited by Nick Chater, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom, and accepted by the Editorial Board December 22, 2012 (received for review March 19, 2012)


    One of the oldest problems in linguistics is reconstructing the words that appeared in the protolanguages from which modern languages evolved. Identifying the forms of these ancient languages makes it possible to evaluate proposals about the nature of language change and to draw inferences about human history. Protolanguages are typically reconstructed using a painstaking manual process known as the comparative method. We present a family of probabilistic models of sound change as well as algorithms for performing inference in these models. The resulting system automatically and accurately reconstructs protolanguages from modern languages. We apply this system to 637 Austronesian languages, providing an accurate, large-scale automatic reconstruction of a set of protolanguages. Over 85% of the system’s reconstructions are within one character of the manual reconstruction provided by a linguist specializing in Austronesian languages. Being able to automatically reconstruct large numbers of languages provides a useful way to quantitatively explore hypotheses about the factors determining which sounds in a language are likely to change over time. We demonstrate this by showing that the reconstructed Austronesian protolanguages provide compelling support for a hypothesis about the relationship between the function of a sound and its probability of changing that was first proposed in 1955.


  4. Off topic. Hi, Glen, your writings are very interesting, and after having pretty much read everything you've written (and I'm not even a linguist), I have quite a few questions for you, but by far the most important is this:

    Is your Cyprian Syncope theory the same things as Helmut Blix describes in "The Ancient Languages of Europe" (Woodard, 2008), page 147 (

    "in the Proto-Tyrsenic period word-final vowels were apocopated due to a penultimate accent"

    Also, are you aware of the recent Azoria discovery of a possible Eteocretan word inscribed on a vase? The word is ETZAK, the first E is actually the 3 horizontal lines without the vertical line. Do you think it's Eteocretan?

    Thanks very much.

  5. AdygheChabadi, combining this idea with a blurrier wave model view of language change could be even more interesting. Imagine a database of information that can not only reconstruct language items and grammar, but can even map specific, prehistoric regionalisms by cross-correlating data in rational ways that may be too complex for human beings to recognize when done manually one word at a time.

    Kalupitero, if you're referring to this artifact of pithos handles, it looks to me like it reads ERTAK. At a brief glance, this sparks a theoretical *arθaχ in my mind, if we appeal to Etruscan for help, using the verb ar 'to lift' (mistranslated as 'to do' via Indo-European bias, cf. *h1er- 'to set in motion, to do', but this fails to explain the Etruscan epithet of the god Atlas: Aril, lit. 'Lifter'). The passive participle of this verb is arθ 'lifted'. Thus *arθaχ would mean 'that which is lifted' and thus possibly, albeit trivially, 'handle'. That's only an idle guess but it's always worth a shot.

  6. Kalupitero, ooops, I almost forgot about your other question. Woodard's statement refers to the same thing basically but I disagree with the idea of a purely penultimate accent pace Prosdicimi (nb. a brief critique of this view tucked in someone's footnotes). I believe the accent wandered between first and second syllable before the syncope and that inherited word-initial consonant clusters in Etruscan, which are restricted to two consonants only, are indicative of this (nb. I take streta [LL 11.xxxii] in the Liber Linteus to be a late Latin borrowing since str- is exceedingly rare in this language). I also think that in the same paragraph Woodard's misanalyzed -ca, confusing two distinct and non-overlapping morphemes: -ca 'this, the' (with vowel preserved because the unbounded form ca 'this' came to be postfixed to the noun AFTER syncope) and -c 'and' (without vowel due to syncope, presumably from Aegean *-ka).

  7. Just to be sure, can you confirm that your decision to include Eteocretan in the Cyprian Syncope group is for founded linguistic reasons? Obviously, I presume that to be the case, but I want to be sure.

    Regarding the vase, from a different perspective, if you couldn't connect the word to anything and had to go only on its syntax, does it look unusual for a Greek word? Or perhaps it actually looks distinctively Tyrsenian, if that's possible?

  8. Based on what little instances of Eteocretan are available to any of us, I still note certain words and phrases that strongly suggest to me a close relationship with Etruscan. One inscription in particular shows instances of ona (cf. Etr una 'of a libation'), desime (cf. Etruscan tesiame 'with sacrifice') and restn=m tora (cf. Etr restm=um tura 'and [he/she/it] gives lees (ie. wine sediment)'). They are uncannily similar in phonotactic constraints and vocabulary. I am as sure as anyone can be, given so little data to work with, that Eteocretan is some kind of close relative of Etruscan and also exhibits syncope which is most obviously signalled by the use of /m/, /n/, /l/ and /r/ as vowels in unstressed syllables.

    Now, if we surmise that ERTAK is a Greek inscription instead, we have a problem with the rules of word formation in that language. Greek nouns typically end in -ax because Greek marks masculine nouns in the inherited Indo-European nominative marker *-s (unlike in Aegean languages where nominative and accusative nouns are bare). Very few words end in -ak in classical Greek if the Perseus Dictionary has anything to say about it. Correct me if I'm wrong but while the letters are Greek, the word doesn't strike me as Greek unless abbreviated for something perhaps.

    Perhaps interesting is the fact that an Etruscan verb erθce is attested in ET Ta 1.171 (= TLE 883) however the text is fragmentary and I can only surmise based on morphological grounds that the word must mean 'has been raised', based on a passive derivative of ar 'to lift' using the suffix -θ- that I see optionally attached to other verbs elsewhere. Old Etruscan a rises to e before coda-final nasals and liquids in stressed syllables (nb. stress is fixed to the first syllable as in Proto-Germanic or Uralic). If the same rise of vowel has occurred in Eteocretan, it could still be independent convergence but perhaps I should ask: Is Eteocretan merely a dialect of Etruscan as Lemnian already appears to be? I have no certain answers, however speculation and hypothesis can still be informative in absence of them by teaching us what things are *not* possible in the array of possibilities laying before us.

  9. Shalom, Mr. Gordon,

    I am struggling to find on your blog where you get the 'Cyprian' name for that group of languages. Why not the Tyrsenian/ Tyrrhenian Syncope Group? Are you saying that the group known as Proto-Tyrrhenian/ -Tyrsenian (Etr., Lem., Raet.) is related as a sister (on a separate branch) to Amathusian (Eteocypriot) or that Amathusian is included as a Tyrsenian/ Tyrrhenian language (a descendant of the Proto-Tyrsenian/ -Tyrrhenian language)? Or that Amathusian is ancestral to the Tyrsenian/ Tyrrhenian group?

    I get that you are saying that Eteocretan may very well be Tyrsenian/ Tyrrhenian.

    I am not at all as well-versed as you are in this particular group of languages, but at least in the Amathus Bilingual inscription, I don't detect any syncope. It seems that all the vowels are written out. Again, this is the only reason I can think of why you use 'Cyprian' (that it seems to be referencing Cyprus and, thus, Amathusian or something like that).

    Amathus Bilingual Inscription:
    Amathusian (Eteocypriot):

    1: a-na ma-to-ri u-mi-e-s[a]-i mu-ku-la-i la-sa-na a-ri-si-to-no-se a-ra-to-wa-na-ka-so-ko-o-se

    2: ke-ra-ke-re-tu-lo-se ta-ka-na-[?-?]-so-ti a-lo ka-i-li-po-ti

    I know I might should use a different blog post for this question, but since it is also mentioned here...I thought I would take a chance and ask.

  10. AdygheChabadi, I have no interest in a trollish quibble about terminology. Call anything whatever you wish. As of thus far, I make a primary distinction between Cyprian and Minoan. However if data suggests otherwise, I am perfectly willing to modify my theory. Do you have data to suggest a different view? Or did you only wish to kvetch about terminology? Shalom back at ya.

  11. Mr. Gordon...

    I was not intending to upset you with that line of questioning....just seeking to understand. No "trollish" intentions on my part nor any "kvetch"-ing about terminology. I was only seeking to know the reason you call it "Cyprian" and how you separate the members of that group out as far as how you perceive them as grouping within "Cyprian". That is all that was. You did not explain that in your blog...if you had, I would not have asked as it would have been answered already and, therefore, unnecessary.

    Again, it was a failed attempt to inquire about how you came to that designation. I was not attacking you or your work. I apologize for any misunderstanding or upset that occurred.

  12. Hi Glen,

    This is a little OT, but in your opinion what would be a good estimate of the time-depth of these common shared innovations in (most? all?) human languages:

    —pronouns / inflection for person

    I ask because "Eurasiatic" seems largely to be founded on the commonality of pronouns / inflection for person among the languages, so it naturally led me to wonder: what if these groups weren't related, but the parent languages didn't have (or didn't have a robust enough) a full notion of distinction for person / number and accepted as loan a common shared innovation of personal pronouns / endings?

    Also, whereas in Semitic it seems that the conjunction which is in Hebrew "waw" ("and," as in "waw-consecutive") was very old, I always get the feeling that in Indo-European, coordinating conjunctions took a while to "find their place," which may hint that they were more recent innovations. (And it seems Sumerian borrowed "and" from Semitic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumerian_language#Syntax)

    For example, in Homeric Greek, the construction "X-te Y-te" is used quite often (which I think is cognate with Latin "X Y-que"), whereas in Attic we often see "te X kai Y" and Koine "X kai Y." Latin, too, unless I'm mistaken, used "et" much less frequently in older forms?

  13. Troglodor,
    If you're simply asking me how old a common ancestral protolanguage that produced all modern languages on the earth might be, I would expect it to go back some 80,000 years or more. Even then, together with this "Proto-World" language, there would be other languages spoken in the world whose descendants didn't survive to the present day. No one has a definitive answer. That's one of those beautiful mysteries in linguistics.

  14. AdygheChabadi,
    You don't upset me at all. I just didn't believe the sincerity of your "struggle" to find the answer to this shallow question. I trust most people will not be "struggling" too much to understand that there are many shallow debates over irrelevancies such as the terminology of things. They've plagued online forums for a decade straight and are always distractions from deeper discussions about their *substance*. Some may wish to use Tyrrhenian or Pelasgian or a countless number of terms. But a name is a name is a name. Please cease the kvetching about what names I prefer. ;o)

    "Cyprian" simply refers to a center in Cyprus, the ancient land of Alashiya, which was of course connected to the Arzawa region (W. Turkey). So a Cypro-Minoan line divides the group into west and east. Surely you've encountered the term "Cypro-Minoan" in your studies and this is precisely due to the fact that there was fertile trade between Alashiya and Minoa. Copper was an important material.

    I also forgot to address the inscription you mentioned. This inscription being written in a syllabary makes it difficult to determine syncope naturally. There is little evidence here, leaving many options open. Was there syncope in Eteo-Cypriot? How can we tell? Are the inscriptions recording colloquial Cyprian language (I quite frankly doubt it)?

  15. "This inscription being written in a syllabary makes it difficult to determine syncope naturally. Was there syncope in Eteo-Cypriot? How can we tell?"

    But then how were you able to determine that Minoan belonged to pre-Syncope?

  16. I think people may be losing track of the fact that Cyprian Syncope, regardless of what we wish to call it, is already commonly recognized by Etruscanists merely by internal reconstruction. That event is different than the syncope that occurred around 500 in Etruscan itself. So whether or not we wish to consider Eteo-Cypriot itself "anachronistic" or simply a language that did not undergo this earlier syncope is a matter of debate.

  17. Kalupitero: "But then how were you able to determine that Minoan belonged to pre-Syncope?"

    I figure that the reason why the Minoans adopted a syllabary in the first place was that their language was more "syllabic", ie. avoiding consonant clusters much like in modern Japanese. The internal reconstruction of Etruscan that leads to the discovery of an earlier Pre-Etruscan syncope is in line with this interpretation.

    My question about Minoan would be: Is Minoan an already-dead language by 1400 BCE, merely an anachronistic tongue kept alive by the religious traditions as other Minoan-related tongues prospered among the commoners? Or is Minoan a genuine branch that evolved separately? How might we be able to answer these questions with the current information at our disposal?

  18. In Scandinavian languages syncope was a result of changed stress in words that caused weakly stressed syllables to disappear. It is a process that took place between 400-600 AD, sometimes called Werner`s law, I think.

    I take it that syncope will normally affect already weakly stressed syllables only. Would it then be possible to reconstruct eventual changed stresses in syllables of the mentioned Pre-Etruscan language?
    Am I deducting this correctly when I assume that an Aegean language with consonant clusters must have gone through a syncope whereas languages such as Minoan, avoiding consonant clusters, is a language of more archaic type?

  19. Norseman,
    Yes, that sounds like an accurate summary. The nature of word-initial clusters in Etruscan (ie. being two-consonant clusters only, save for a few later Latin loanwords like streta) directly suggests that while primary stress on the first syllable must have been most common (becoming fixed *exclusively* on the first syllable in Etruscan), the stress in this earlier pre-Etruscan stage was occasionally pushed forward to the second syllable.

  20. Hi Glen,

    I was pondering whether conjunctions and pronouns in particular may not have been part a lot of human languages until well after the proto-language(s). If languages ancestral to [one or more of] Indo-European, Uralic, Eskimo-Aleut, etc. may at some point (but well after 80 000 BP) have just used names always instead of pronouns, and then pronouns came in as loanwords. It's an unusual hypothesis, but I feel it has to be considered in light of any claim of Eurasiatic / Nostratic.

    Same with conjunctions, that they might have used subordinating conjunctions exclusively, or separate sentences, or no conjunctions. (Why would "and" be a loanword into Sumerian?)

  21. Troglodor,
    A pronoun is just a type of reference. It's inconceivable that a language, being fundamentally referential by its nature, would somehow lack a specific *type* of reference like a pronoun or deictic. Languages like Japanese and Vietnamese certainly challenge our definitions of "pronouns" but the onus is yours to explain how a language, already naturally capable of reference, is somehow unable for so long to evolve pronouns. I see no fruit in this thought.

    I wager that once a common language is shared between a community, pronouns naturally emerge quite quickly from the get-go. Considering that even Austropithecine was mentally capable of *at least* the same level of symbolic understanding as a sign-capable chimpanzee, pronouns are undoubtedly as old as (pre-)human language itself.

  22. AdygheChabadi refers to the Amathus bilingual. Apparently this text does not contain any consonant clusters. Does this mean that Eteo-Cypriot has not gone through a syncope or has this language had a syncope, to revert back to a vowel-consonant construction more like the Minoan system, in your opinion?

  23. And that's a tough question, isn't it? I can follow my hunches and explore certain avenues but I am never certain as yet, nor is anyone else. I remain agnostic on that matter unless someone can show me what evidence can constructively help to answer this puzzle one way or another.

    For now, I have little more than an idle suspicion that the common people living during the 2nd millennium BCE in Cyprus, W.Turkey, Crete and Aegean islands were *not* speaking Minoan. I suspect that as the Achaeans ultimately took control of Crete and Troy, the Minoan language was already a liturgical language supported only by the aristocracy, unspoken by the plebs (ie. just as Latin is used today in Roman Catholicism). With the aristocracy usurped, so too its sacred rituals, thus Minoan easily vanishes after this period for plausible reasons.

    Working with that scenario, Eteo-Cypriot might be either A) simply a "New Minoan" dialect, or B) the rustic language of the people. Either way we find it written in the traditional syllabary (at least for religious purposes). It's a hunch; it's debatable; but I believe it's worth speculating over.

    That being said, the first line is particularly tantalizing to me because of its overt Etruscan-like grammar which I read thus: Ana matori, umiesai Mukulai lasana Aristonose Artowanaksokose = "In his city, the people in Mochlos(?) dedicated [this] to Ariston Artowanax." If the apparent case suffix -ose is indeed a dative suffix corresponding to Etruscan -(a)si (< *-as-ai), this suggests albeit very weakly that Eteo-Cypriot is likelier a syncopated dialect like Etruscan, Rhaetic and Lemnian.

  24. I have read your translation of the Amathus bilingual earlier, from around 2003-4, I think, and I still think it is the most credible translation I have read so far.

    As for syncope in Eteo-Cypriot, I do think proving it is difficult, at least for me. That is why I ask you.

    I am not so convinced about your statements on 2nd millenium Minoan being used as a lithurgical language only, although you may of course be right in this assumption also. Since Linear a is mostly used as a language in book keeping, ceramics and sealstones it appears to me to be a language of everyday use.

    Mind you, ethnic relations on Crete are complicated since Mycaenan type warrior graves are found in Chania from 1450 BCE. Even so research shows that the people in the graves are born and raised on Crete.

    Homer speaks about Kydonians(Chania) as one of the ethnic groups on Crete, also adding Pelasgians and Eteo-cretans. He definitely has not made it easy for us to discern the different ethnic groups. Actually, he may not refer to linguistic groups at all.

  25. Norseman: "I am not so convinced about your statements on 2nd millenium Minoan being used as a lithurgical language only, [...] Since Linear a is mostly used as a language in book keeping, ceramics and sealstones it appears to me to be a language of everyday use."

    Do you have artifacts in mind that are *not* conceivably religious or authoritarian in nature. All that you just listed is naturally tied to the aristocracy and religion, not directly to the commoners upon which the oligarchical authority and religion were imposed. You seem to confuse the rich class with the poor class, and the writing system with the spoken colloquial language. Even Ancient Egyptian writing failed to mirror contemporaneous colloquial dialects; anachronisms of a nobler time, as if all things past, including speech styles and dead languages, were made holy to paint an unbroken continuity between the days of yore and the current regime.

    My impression is that the Minoan elite had all the education in the world to learn Linear A, Egyptian script and Babylonian cuneiform while the lower classes were mostly left illiterate until finally adopting en masse the easier-to-learn Semitic alphabet from the Near East.

    "Even so research shows that the people in the graves are born and raised on Crete."

    That statement doesn't conflict with a scenario of a privileged Minoan-literate elite living on Crete which was at the time supported by an Eteocretan-speaking population ("Pelasgian", if you will). When the Greeks roll in, we are left with a mix of Greek- and Eteocretan-speaking peoples effectively sharing a single culture and with no further trace of Minoan, which makes further sense if it was no longer *spoken* despite being written for religious, authoritative and administrative purposes.

    "Actually, he may not refer to linguistic groups at all."

    Unless specifically said in the accounts of these classical historians, we would be careless to presume that even they made conscious distinctions between culture, language and identity. This is what makes this all so complicated.

  26. "Do you have artifacts in mind that are *not* conceivably religious or authoritarian in nature."
    Yes, there are mason`s marks found several places.

    How can you presuppose from a culture you do not know that there is an aristocracy of a recognizable type there? Evidence point more in the direction of a matrilinear theocracy than a traditional aristocracy in Minoan Crete, among which the Hagia Triada sarcofagus is one rather clear indication.
    Supposing that the majority of the population was both poor and illiterate, concluding that this part of the Minoan population spoke other languages than Minoan, is a conclusion ex silentio. There is no evidence in the material culture of the Minoan period that indicates the presence of other religions than the Minoan. Their material culture appears rather uniform, although complex like in most religions. Culture, language and religion are normally closely knit elements in a culture that appears homogenous.

    There is no clear cut evidence of widespread dissimilar cultural elements until the Mycaenan type warrior shaft graves appear in Chania around 1450 BCE. When adding that all palaces except Knossos were destroyed around 1450 BCE, most of the present available evidence point to an extensive warlike situation in this period. The leader of the Greek-Danish-Swedish excavation in Kastelli, Chania, Maria Andreadaki-Vlasaki says so in an interview here: http://www.athenapub.com/11khania.htm

    Besides Linear b obviously replaces Linear a in the Late Minoan period, rather abruptly. Linear b is linked to Mycaenan palaces on Crete according to the above mentioned interview, which again should give som food for thought as to what is actually Minoan and what is Mycaenan in the palace of Knossos.

  27. Disproving an educated hunch with blatantly false claims and non-sequiturs is overt axe-grinding. First and last warning.

    Any further commenting requires respect for the rules of rational debate and an educated commonground, lest a forum such as this devolve into the typical infantile hostilities instigated by the unknowledgeable and malcontent.

    The following textbook common sense will not be debated further:
    1. Homogeneity in religion and/or material culture does *not* automatically imply linguistic homogeneity.
    2. A city-state bureaucracy could scarcely emerge without prior social stratification.
    3. The majority of all major Bronze Age civilizations were both poor and less literate compared to privileged classes orbiting an everpresent aristocracy.

    To declare it certain that Minoan "mason's marks" are non-religious is ignorant of the current debate, period. Religious purpose is naturally suggested by the occasional marks of a double axe, already a religious icon elsewhere. Without proof, misconstruing personal *opinions* with absolute fact is the most pathetic attempt at debate and constitutes a deception that has no place in a decent debate.

    And surely you are aware that bookkeeping is related to an administration driven by the temples. You make no sense to keep asserting that anything I have said is disproven.

    By the time you start claiming that the Hagia Triada sarcophagus proves a "matrilinear theocracy" and choose to side with academic fringe, I feel I must implore you to educate yourself out of these misinterpretations. Just to make sure we are on the same page, the final character in the funeral scene is a **man** indicated by red tint since women are given pale tint. What then is left to validate your "matrilinear theocracy" fantasy in this scene? We see a male-dominated scene!

    Please. No more. This infantile contempt for rational debate bores.

  28. Sorry, my link to the Hagia Triada scene failed. Let's try again: the photo of the Hagia Triada sarcophagus