Marks on a clay tablet fragment found in Greece are the oldest known decipherable text in Europe, a new study says.
Considered “magical or mysterious” in its time, the writing survives only because a trash heap caught fire some 3,500 years ago, according to researchers.
Found in an olive grove in what’s now the village of Iklaina (map), the tablet was created by a Greek-speaking Mycenaean scribe between 1450 and 1350 B.C., archaeologists say.
The Mycenaeans—made legendary in part by Homer’s Iliad, which fictionalizes their war with Troy—dominated much of Greece from about 1600 B.C. to 1100 B.C. (See “Is Troy True? The Evidence Behind Movie Myth.”)
So far, excavations at Iklaina have yielded evidence of an early Mycenaean palace, giant terrace walls, murals, and a surprisingly advanced drainage system, according to dig director Michael Cosmopoulos.
But the tablet, found last summer, is the biggest surprise of the multiyear project, Cosmopoulos said. Read more.