Around the Mediterranean

· Archaeology, Geography, Linear A, Numismatology

While there is much evidence in the LinA texts and the Minoan culture for the Minoan/Japanese association, evidence beyond the shores of Crete continues to present itself in support of early Japanese presence. This post supplements Beyond the Mediterranean with evidence about bronze-aged and post-bronze-aged Mediterranean culture, as it relates to Japanese culture.

Mekku Stones

Mekku Stones

More than 100 of these 15-cm cobalt-colored glass ingots were recovered from the shipwreck of a trading vessel near Ulu Burun, Turkey [Fawcett & Zietsman 2000:8]. Dated to the 14th century BCE, they are presumed to be identical to the “mekku stones” that are mentioned in the bronze-aged Egyptian letters of trade [Bass 1987], which are known as the Amarna letters [Brass 1999; Fawcett & Zietsmann 2000:8] and which indicate that mekku stones originated west of Lower Egypt, along the Canaanite coast [“Canaanite”]. Moreover, through chemical analysis, the ingots have a demonstrated similarity to both Egyptian and Mycenaean glass during the same period [Fawcett & Zietsman 2000:8]. Although artificial, this glass was considered precious. Nevertheless, glass was not employed in original forms but was used to imitate pottery and stone forms [Nicholson & Henderson 2000:195].

Compare the Japanese meku (めく) “to have the appearance of” and mekki “pretense”. Compare, further, the LinA ligature *545 , which can be read as both KI.ME and ME.KI (HT 26, 127). In Japanese, the kanji of kime (粗) “grain, texture” can be reversed to read meki.


  1. Bass, George F. 1987. The Oldest Known Shipwreck Reveals the Splendors of the Bronze Age. The National Geographic. Vol. 172, No. 6, Dec. 1987. pp. 692-733.
  2. Brass, Mike. 1999. The Chemical Composition of Glass in Ancient Egypt. Antiquity of Man: Anatomical and Behavioural Evolution. Ret. on 05 Dec 2012 <>.
  3. Canaanite. The Ellis School: Pittsburgh, PA. Ret. on 05 Dec 2012 <>.
  4. Fawcett, N. & Zietsman, J.C. 2000. Uluburun–Discovery and Excavation of the World’s Oldest Known Shipwreck. University of Stellenbosch. Ret. on 05 Dec 2012 <>.
  5. Nicholson, Paul T. & Henderson, Julian. 2000. Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology. Paul T. Henderson and Ian Shaw, Ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Entry added on 23 Oct 2012
Updated on 05 Dec 2012

Potins and Zenis

While there is much disagreement among scholars about LinB decipherments, there appears to be universal agreement about the decipherment of PO-TI-NI-JA as πότνια (potnia) “lady, mistress, queen”. Consequently, the well-known A-TA-NA-PO-TI-NI-JA (KN V 52) has the superficial sense of either “Mistress Athena” or “Mistress of Athens”.

Didrachm (334-268 BCE) with the head of Athena

The bronze age is testimony to the understanding that the melting point of copper decreases with an increasing amount of added tin. Nineteenth-century metallugists are credited with the term, potin, to describe a bronze Celtic coin that comprises up to 25% tin. As Celtic society was developing from the 4th century BCE, coinage was influenced by gold staters and silver drachms and tetradrachms [Breitsprecher], as well as didrachms, obols, and trihemiobols. Prominently featured on these coins is the head of Athena and of her alter egos, Artemis, Demeter, and Diana. Consequently, I believe that the term, potin, is hardly recent but has ancient roots in A-TA-NA-PO-TI-NI-JA, Mistress of Athens.

Among LinB words is NA-ME [ (PY Za 1379). Whether this word coincides with the Japanese name–an archaic term that refers to the unlettered, back surface of an old zeni coin–must be determined. Nevertheless, the Japanese zeni, a round coin with a square hole, has a common meaning of money. Note that Zeus, of which Ζηνί (Zeni) is a poetic form, is prominently featured in head form on the fronts, and in seated form on the backs, of many ancient Mediterranean coins.


  1. Breitsprecher, Marc. A Brief Introduction to the Celtic Coins of Gaul. Ret. on 21 Nov 2011 <>.

Entry added on 26 Oct 2012

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