Micro-technology in the Mycenean period!

The development of microtechnology in the Mycenaean period to such an extent that symbols could be depicted on surfaces in the size of a lentil (!), is the direct result of the study of a small figurine, the only one that has been found to date, with engraved symbols of Linear B.

It is a bronze small bull figurine, which is kept in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion and dates from the Mycenaean period.The figurine was discovered in 1903 in Agia Triada, near the square of the sanctuaries (Piazzale dei Sacelli).


In 2010 the then director of the Museum, Athanasia Kandas, proceeded in extensive examination and digital recording of old findings, for museological study and re-exhibition in the Museum; then collaborated with the Institute of Electronic Structure and Laser of the Foundation for Research and Technology, aiming in a multi-spectral analysis of photographs of the figurine.

The figurine has a height of 4.6 centimeters and a total body length of 6.5 centimeters. In the middle of the bull’s forehead, and in a cavity measuring only 3.4 mm in diameter, there is a golden disc that makes the figurine stand out from other similar ones found in Crete. On this golden surface of the figurine, which has the size of a lentil, two engraved Linear B symbols were observed, out of four that most probably have originally been there.

μικρον μινωικον2

The reason that the two symbols are hardly recognised is that at some stage there had been an attempt to clean the golden surface and polish the golden disk, something which led to the elimination of the two points. This happened probably due to maintenance procedures in the early days of Cretan archeology.

The word that is probably written is “τιμαήεις” (τι-μα-Fη-Fεις) and is most likely related to the dedication figurine. In Homer, there is the type τιμήεις and τιμήεσσα, stating the ‘honorable’, ‘respected’ or the ‘precious’ “golden gift”.

The question that arose for the researchers is with which technology they could print four syllabic symbols on a surface in size of a lentil in the 14th century BC.

The way of writing on the small golden surface of four syllabic symbols shows great skill. This extremely tiny recording follows the miniature tradition that is evident in the making of seal-stones. (NovoScriptorium: check our relative post on the seal-stone of Pylos https://novoscriptorium.com/2019/06/23/the-seal-stone-of-pylos-a-miracle-of-technology-and-art-that-shouldnt-be-there-15th-century-b-c-2/)

It must be noted that similar writing technology has been observed on a silver pin from the vaulted tomb 2 in the Fourni of Archanes (Minoan period) where the height of the smaller syllabic symbols is 2.0 mm.

In the case of the figurine, however, syllabic symbols are even smaller, just 1.4 mm. Their width is only 0.2 mm, while the engraving thickness of their lines is about 0.01-0.025 mm.


As the Aegean Scripts’ researcher, Dr. Minas Tsikritzis, said to ΑΜΠΕ “with the multi-spectral analysis of the photographs, we were able to see the third syllable with value ‘Fe‘. The aforementioned evidence confirms that the engraver of the symbols certainly used a powerful magnifying glass. The second interesting question that arises is what kind of engraving needle, or chisel, was used that could scale to a line thickness of 0.01 per millimeter.”

“The development traces of this microtechnology, which is unique for the world at that time, and also the existence of the Minoan computer from Palaikastro used for predicting eclipses, are important findings that concern us and probably confirm the acquisition of knowledge and multiple skills in Cretan-Mycenean civilization.” adds Mr. Tsikritzis.


Also interesting is the fact that this inscription must be considered the first of the Linear B found on a golden tribute.

Inscriptions on copper, silver, and gold are common only for the Linear A. In spite of the thousands of texts that have an accounting, commercial, and administrative character in Linear B, no texts of it had been found on metallic tributes before this one.

(Source: ΑΠΕ/ΜΠΕ or ANA-MPA in English. http://www.amna.gr/en)

Research-Translation: Philaretus Homerides

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