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Wed, 06 Apr 2011 16:37 - Updated Wed, 06 Apr 2011 16:36

Oldest known written record in Europe discovered

Greece

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Greece, - A clay tablet discovered in an excavation in Greece has changed what is known about the origins of literacy and bureaucracy in Bronze Age Southern Europe.


Measuring 5cm by 8cm, this tiny tablet fragment is thought to be the earliest known written record in Europe – dating back to between 1450 and 1350 B.C. – 100 to 150 years before the tablets from the Petsas House at Mycenae.

“I was in disbelief,” said Michael Cosmopoulos, the Professor of Greek Studies at University  of Missouri–St. Louis (UMSL)U and director of the Iklaina Archaeological Project, which he has directed for 11 years. “According to what we knew, that tablet should not have been
there.”

The rare find was unearthed in 2010 at Iklaina, which lies in the middle of an olive grove in southwest Greece.

Iklaina dates to the Mycenaean period (ca. 1500-1100 B.C.), an era famous for mythical sagas such as the Trojan War. It was one of the capital cities of famed King Nestor, who figures prominently in Homer’s “Iliad.”

“This is a rare case where archaeology meets ancient texts and Greek myths,” Cosmopoulos said.

The Mycenaeans used clay tablets in their palaces to record state property and transactions.


These tablets are written in the Linear B system of writing – which consists of around 87 syllabic signs. These signifying signs stand for objects or commodities and the tablets are mostly lists of property and accounting records.

Archaeologists are still studying the Iklaina tablet, but preliminary analysis suggests it may refer  to some sort of manufacturing process.