A few days ago, Dr Linear, a famous epigraphist who studied ancient Cretan scripts, disappeared. He had been frantically searching for a valuable Minoan object mentioned in the scripts. No one has been able to find it.

According to the sources, the object was very important and the Minoans believed it had magical powers. It was locked away in a secret hiding place, and only the guards protecting it knew where it was and the codeword to unlock the treasure. At the end of the Minoan period, after the arrival of the new dynasty in Crete, the guards changed and the secret was lost.

There are rumours that shortly before his mysterious disappearance, Dr Linear had discovered the location of the lost object. Before leaving, he left his diary on his desk, together with a note marked “For you” and a map.

Dr Linear’s notes


After many years of painstaking research, I have finally managed to discover the secret location where the object with the magical properties has been hidden for centuries. Unfortunately a ruthless antiquities looting gang has got hold of my information. They have been watching me for months. I have gone away to make them lose track of me, and I am assigning you an important mission: find the treasure and deliver it to the museum. But first you must find the five-syllable codeword that unlocks the hiding place. It is written in Linear B script and you will be given a syllabogram each time you pass one of a series of challenges.

Good luck!

Archanes Script

The Archanes Script is believed to be the earliest writing system used by the ancient Cretans. It was already being used before the foundation of the first palaces and continued to be used after they were built.

Characteristics: the script only has 5 signs, grouped in two different sets. You can easily recognise the double axe, the iconic symbol of the Minoan civilisation.

It is called the Archanes Script because it was first found on three bone seals from the cemetery of Phourni in Archanes. However, sealstones and sealings (seal impressions) with this script have also been found in other parts of Crete.



Cretan Hieroglyphic

Arthur Evans named this script Cretan Hieroglyphic because its pictorial symbols resemble Egyptian hieroglyphics.

It began to be used in Crete before the foundation of the first palaces and continued to be used for some time after they were built, alongside Linear A. Although Cretan Hieroglyphic and Linear A share many similarities, we don’t know if they represent the same language or different ones.

Cretan Hieroglyphic stopped being used in the early 17th century BC, when Linear A gradually became widepread across the whole island.

It is a syllabic script, which has:

  • around 100 signs:

syllabograms, which are symbols representing syllables, &

pictograms, which are symbols representing independent concepts (people, animals, objects).

  • Punctuation marks:

Χ at the beginning of a word or phrase

/ between words or phrases.

  • A separate number system.

Most Cretan Hieroglyphic inscriptions have been found at Knossos and Malia.

We find this script incised on clay objects such as tablets and medallions, which were documents used for administrative or other purposes. They often recorded goods, and some were used in the same way that labels are today. Let’s look at some Cretan Hieroglyphic inscriptions

Clay medallion from the Palace of Knossos, 1750-1650 BC





Clay tablet from the Palace of Phaistos, 1750-1700 BC

Clay crescent-shaped label from the Palace of Knossos, 1750-1650 BC

This script was often carved into sealstones, which were used to make impressions on clay objects while the clay was still wet.

Four-sided prism (sealstone), 1800-1700 BC

Prism seal (sealstone), 1800-1700 BC

The Phaistos Disc

The Phaistos Disc is still an unsolved riddle today! Specialists agree that the writing on the disc is syllabic, and that it is similar to Cretan Hieroglyphic and especially Linear A.

Words: The short vertical lines inside the spiral separate the words. So each group of symbols between two vertical lines is one word!

Direction of reading: the text of the disc starts from the large vertical line with five dots on the outer edge, and is read clockwise, to the right.

Linear A

The Linear A script appeared in the Protopalatial period (the time of the First Palaces) and was used alongside Cretan Hieroglyphic. When the use of the older Cretan Hieroglyphic began to decline, when the First Palaces were founded, Linear A became the script most widely used in Crete.

Although there are many similarities between these two scripts, we don’t know if they represent the same language.

Linear A has not been deciphered yet

It is a syllabic script with

  • 97 syllabograms, 64 of which are also found in Linear B. The two scripts also have many identical or similar logograms (a symbol representing a whole word).
  • Punctuation marks: The words are separated by small, clear dots.
  • The number system is almost the same as that of the later Linear B script.

Word order:

  • Sentences or phrases can often continue over two or more lines.
  • The word comes before the number. For example, to write “two swords”, the word “swords” comes first, written in syllabograms and a logogram, followed by the number 2.


Linear A tablets

Where is Linear A found?

Mainly on clay tablets, bars, roundels, sealings, and objects made of stone or metal.

Linear B

Linear B was used after the foundation of the New Palaces, from the 17th to the 13th century BC. It was mainly used in the palaces to record accounting lists. Linear B was deciphered by a young architect called Michael Ventris and a classical scholar called John Chadwick. They proved that the script was an early form of Greek, used centuries before the age of Homer.

To write in Linear B, it will help you to first transcribe the word in Latin characters! 

Linear B Script Numbering System

For example the number 13,659 is written: 𐄫𐄤𐄞𐄔𐄏

Units of Measurement of Weight and Volume

In Linear B, the weight and volume of goods is recorded in a completely different way to the one we use today. For example, there was one symbol for 30 kilos and a different symbol for one kilo.

So 35 kilos is: 𐄇𐄷𐄋𐄸 (one 30-kilo and 5 kilos)

While 75 kilos is: 𐄈𐄷𐄐𐄋𐄸 (two 30-kilos and 15 kilos)

Volume is recorded in the same way.

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