Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


7 May 2012

Counting threads. Saffron in Aegean Bronze Age writing and society

Jo Day Oxford Journal of Archaeology 30:4 (November 2011): 369-391.


The ideogram for saffron has long been recognized on the Linear B tablets from Knossos. Close examination of this corpus allows a distinction in content to be made between the LM II–LM IIIA1 tablets of the Room of the Chariot Tablets and the later LM IIIA1–2 tablets from the North Entrance Passage. It is suggested here that the later material demonstrates an increasing control over saffron production by the palace, with a greater overall quantity of the spice recorded, larger individual contributions, potential supervisors in charge of collection, and pressure to reach targets. This increase in organization coincides with a dramatic decrease in crocus imagery in other media, and may indicate a deliberate Mycenaean rejection of the symbolic world of Minoan floral iconography, and an interest only in the commercial value of the precious spice. Possible antecedents of the saffron ideogram in Linear A and Cretan Hieroglyphic are also considered.


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