The Decipherment of Linear C: ICS 219

· Linear C Decipherments

ICS 219, British Museum

ICS 219.1

ICS 219 detail

Scalpel inscription

Line drawing after R.H. Lang in Schmidt, 1876

ICS 219.Masson

Line drawing after O. Masson, 1961

A surgeon’s cautery

7.125”  (18 cm)
19 characters, sinistroverse
Relative date:  6th cent. BCE

.1  a-mu-se-ka-te-te-ke-ta-i-ti-o-i-ta-i-ko-lo-ki-a-I

Proposed syntax:
.1  a-mu-se , ka-te-te , ke-ta-i , ti-o , i-ta-i , ko-lo , ki-a-i

1. a-mu-se |  ἄμυξι(ς) (amucis) | scarification
2. i-ta-i | ἱ(σ)τᾷ (istai) | he lies [in repose]
3. ka-te-te | καθετή(ρ) (kateter) | that which is let down [e.g. an instrument such as a cautery]
4. ke-ta-i | κεῖται | to lie wounded
5. ki-a-i | κεῖαι (keiai) | to cauterize
5. ki-a-i | κῆαι (kiai) | to cauterize
6. ko-lo | κόλο(ς) (kolos) | amputated
6. ko-lo | κῶλο(ν) (kolon) | a limb
7. ti-o | τεο | anyone, someone

.1  ἄμυξι καθετή κεῖται τεο ἱτᾷ κόλο κεῖαι

  • a scarification instrument [a cautery] to cauterize the amputated limb of he who lies wounded

Annotation: Note that ICS 219 shows a diagonal mark just left of the upper-right arm of the seventh sign (from left).  Whereas Masson [1961:219, Fig. 64] includes this mark to render /ke/, Lang [Schmidt 1876:pl. VII] omits this mark to render /i/; it is probable that Lang construed this as a stray mark, perhaps because it did not quite meet the upper end of the right arm.

Consequently, Lang’s line drawing may be read as

a-mu-se-ka-te-te-i-ta-i-ti-o-i-ta-i-ko-lo-ki-a-i,

and Masson’s line drawing may be read as

a-mu-se-ka-te-te-ke-ta-i-ti-o-i-ta-i-ko-lo-ki-a-i.

Some readers may alternately construe the seventeenth sign, /ki/, as /la/;  however, in Masson’s Idalion syllabary [1961:Fig. 2], /ki/ resembles /la/ as it appears in the common syllabary [1961:Fig. 1], with the addition of a horizontal stroke above the main sign.   It is possible that the similarities between /ki/ and /la/ result from different names for the same object.

ICS 219, which Lang purchased from a Dhali farmer, is popularly attested as a broken spoon after Masson [1961:245]: “Cuiller à libations en argent” (silver spoon with libation). However, context suggests a broken cautery, which, perhaps, resembles a spoon.  A cautery is an instrument, often comprising metal, that ancient surgeons heated and applied to wounds to promote scarification, a practice which was used to stop bleeding and to close amputations [“Cauterization”].

Ancient surgical instruments

References:

  1. British Museum. Collection Online: #1872,0816.991872,0816.99. Ret. on 09 Apr 2015 <British Museum.org>.
  2. Cauterization. Wikipedia.org. Ret. on 10 Apr. 2015.
  3. Masson, Olivier.  1961.  Inscriptions Chypriotes Syllabiques. Paris: E. de Boccard.
  4. Schmidt, M. 1876. Sammlung kyprischer Inschriften in epichorischer Schrift. Jena: Hermann Dufft.

Special thanks to Dr. Anna Cannavò for providing clarification regarding the disparities among the images and the transcriptions.  Dr. Cannavò oversees writing systems from Cyprus on Mnamon: Ancient Writing Systems in the Mediterranean, a website of the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa in collaboration with the French School of Athens. 

Updated on April 14, 2015

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