Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


10 October 2013

Landholding at pa-ki-ja-na: toward spatial modeling of Mycenaean agricultural estates

Michael F. Lane Pasiphae. Rivista di filologia e antichità egee VI (2012): 59-115.


Over fifty ago, E. L. Bennett, Jr., published “The Landholders of Pylos” in the American Journal of Archaeology. It may be among the most important studies of Linear B landholding texts published since Michael Ventris’s decipherment of this script in 1952. Most remarkable is that Bennett’s presentation is based principally on his analysis of texts from the “Palace of Nestor” at Pylos (Áno Englianós) before the publication of the decipherment, while he was a fellow at the American School of Classical Studies and at Yale University from 1951 to 1953. The arithmetical and geometrical (as opposed to linguistic) methods of Bennett have lately been neglected, arguably because of the success of translating Linear B into what we now call Mycenaean Greek. Since the publication of Bennett’s AJA article, discussion of Mycenaean landholding, much of it productive, has concentrated on the proper rendering in Greek of certain key terms, on kinds of ownership, on whether the texts represent a cadastre or not, and on what manner of agriculture was practiced on the land recorded. It has not concentrated nearly as much on the size and configuration of the land plots described, which were the subject of Bennett’s interest.

I start where Bennett left off in 1956, bringing his readings up to date and his analysis into conformity with current interpretations of the sets and series of texts from Pylos that concern landholding at a place named pa-ki-ja-na. My purpose is to lay the groundwork for a general topographical model of tracts of cultivated land and their several constituent allotments in the Mycenaean Palace Period (ca. 1430–1190 BC). Thus I provide for the possibility of their detection and proper interpretation in archaeological fieldwork in parts of Greece with suitable conditions of preservation, such as the drained Kopaic Basin of Boiotia. I construe Bennett’s conclusions, which I find sound, according to the findings of another very important but lately neglected analysis of Linear B landholding records, Pia De Fidio’s I dosmoi pilii a Poseidon. I then interpret the reconstructed whole with the guidance the latest expert readings of texts from Pylos that summarize the areas of land plots recorded in the texts Bennett studied. The reconstruction has implications for the interpretation of other Linear B landholding and fiscal documents from Pylos and other archives, political organization centered on Mycenaean Pylos (if not also in other places in the period), and current discussions of Mycenaean state finance in general.

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