RECORDS OF SOCIETY IN THE SECOND MILLENNIUM
T he Mycenaean palaces of Greece like the Minoan palaces of Crete and many palaces in the Near East kept their records on clay tablets. Inscribed tablets from Knossos and other Cretan sites have been known for many years. Blegen discovered tablets (fig. 1) when he found an unknown palace some seven miles north-east of Navarino Bay at Pylos in 1939; this was followed, after the war, by his further discoveries at Pylos and by Wace's discoveries at Mycenae. Ventris' decipherment of the script known as Linear B has made it possible to read the tablets written in this script from Knossos, Pylos, and Mycenae, and compare them with tablets in other languages. Thus we have an entirely new kind of material for the comparative study of Mycenaean civilization, written texts from the fifteenth-century palace at Knossos, from the thirteenth-century palace at Pylos, and from thirteenth-century houses at Mycenae. These houses may very well have been the houses of palace officials rather than private houses in the normal sense, so that palace records can be claimed from Mycenae as well.
Comparison with tablets of other civilizations not only illumines dark passages in the Mycenaean tablets themselves, but also shows what elements of Mycenaean civilization were common to other civilizations and what were the divergences. The Mycenaean tablets are records which can be put alongside contemporary Eastern records, just as Mycenaean art and architecture can be compared with contemporary Eastern art and architecture. The juxtaposition has yet a third purpose: to establish what kinds of record have survived from other sites but are lacking from Knossos, Pylos, and Mycenae. If records are largely alike, the civilizations which produce them are likely to have large common elements. If some kinds of record are missing, the reason must be sought.
The Mycenaean records that can be read are written in Greek.