Cypro-Minoan syllabary

The Cypro-Minoan syllabary, also known as CM or Linear C is the Late Bronze Age syllabary used on Minoan Cyprus (in use roughly from the 15th to the 12th centuries BC; i.e., 1500-1150 BCE). The epigraphical evidence has been classified and arranged by date in four groups:

  1. Archaic CM. 23 signs.
  2. CM 1. 745 signs, 85 standard characters.
  3. CM 2. 1310 signs, 59 standard characters.
  4. CM 3. 219 signs, 44 standard characters.

Archaic CM is closely related to Linear A, the script used in Minoan Crete, and it evolved into the Iron Age Cypriot syllabary from ca. the 11th century BCE (the Greek Dark Ages).

The inscription corpus may be divided into

  1. economic texts
  2. votive inscriptions
  3. short legends on clay balls from Enkomi and Kition

Economic texts


Eight clay tablets have been found, one of which, Enkomi 1885, containing 23 signs, is the sole content of archaic CM. Four tablet fragments are CM 2. The eight are augmented by tablets or tablet fragments from Ugarit: RS 19.01 and 19.02 are CM 1; RS 17.06 and 20.25 are CM 3.

Clay cylinders

Six cylinders have been found displaying CM 1 signs, the longest of CM 1 being on Enkomi 19.10, dated to the 14th century BCE. It contains 179 signs expressing 36 standard characters. The other cylinders, which are Kalavassos (Agios Dimitrios), have 112, 5, 10, 10 and 27 signs. They date to the 13th century BCE.

Votive inscriptions

  • ivories from a temple treasury at Kition
  • bronze miniature ingots and other bronze objects from Enkomi
  • a vessel from a sanctuary at Pigades

Legends on clay balls

The 83 clay balls contain 3-5 signs typically with a maximum of 8, for a total of 370 signs, an average of about 4.5 signs per ball, which are all in CM 1. About 70 standard signs are attested.


Palaima makes this definitive statement about decipherment:
None of the proposed decipherments is systematic or comprehensive ... none produces ... more than limited results applicable to isolated lexical items on a few specific texts. In short, none is capable of proof; ...



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