Minoan Place Names: The Enigma of Unknown Origins

Activity: Talk or presentationPresentation at conference/workshop/seminar


This paper aims at an etymological reconstruction of some possible Minoan place names according to an Indo-European key of interpretation. Minoan is an unknown language ‘hidden’ behind the undeciphered Linear A writing system, used in Crete during the Bronze Age and witnessed by archaeological findings (mainly clay tablets inscribed with this script) from the beginning of last century. While the ‘sister syllabic writing system’ of Linear A, Linear B, was deciphered by Michael Ventris (with the cooperation of John Chadwick) in 1952, revealing to that it transcribed Mycenaean Greek, Linear A, despite being considered the writing system from which Linear B grammatologically derived, is still undeciphered and has, so far, resisted all attempts of interpretation. By applying an experimental phonetic transcription methodology to clusters of symbols in Linear A, some
segments of characters, because of their recurrent position in the Linear A clay tablets and because of their possible morphology, could be interpreted as probable place names (among others, KU-NI-SU, SE-TO-I-JA, I-DA,
SU-KI-RI-TA, SA-RA). This paper, starting from their phonetic transcription, deals with their possible etymological reconstruction, showing that all the Minoan place names so far hypothesized can be explained according to an Indo-European historical-phonetics. If confirmed, this could be a significant breakthrough in the study of the Minoan civilization and of its origins, still ‘obscure’, at the moment. The lack of knowledge of the Minoan language and the apparent impenetrability of the Linear A script, indeed, have prevented, so far, scholars from
establishing if Minoan people were Indo-European, or Semitic, or Afro-Asiatic (among all the possible options). The Indo-European reconstruction of place names in the Linear A tablets could shed new light on the general interpretation of the Minoan civilization and open a debate on the origins of its toponymy, and ultimately, on the origins of the Minoan civilization itself. This is the purpose of this paper.
Period24 Aug 2021
Event title27th International Congress of Onomastic Sciences (ICOS): ICOS Kraków 2021
Event typeConference
Conference number27
LocationKraków, PolandShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Linear A
  • Minoan
  • Language Decipherment
  • Toponymy
  • Toponomastics