Deciphering The Mysterious Minoan Language Of Ancient Crete

The mythological history of the Greek island Crete goes back pretty far — one of its earliest kings was supposedly the son of the gods Zeus and Europa. King Minos was no benevolent ruler as far as the stories go, demanding a tribute of 14 children from Athens every nine years to feed to the Minotaur (a bull-headed creature with the body of a man).

While we can deduce some things about the building techniques and artwork of the five-millennia-old Minoan civilization on Crete, we know very little about the language they spoke. As a result, it’s unclear where the Minoans arrived from at the dawn of their civilization in roughly 3000 B.C.

“Getting to know the language behind Linear A — the Minoan language — could also give us an idea about population movements,” says Ester Salgarella, a linguist and archaeologist who studies the ancient language of the Minoans at St. John’s College at the University of Cambridge. “Who were the settlers of Crete? Where did they come from?”