Linear B is a syllabic script with approximately
ninety syllabic signs, ideograms and numerals. The palace bureaucrats kept these
inscribed clay tablets, which were administrative documents such as lists,
inventories and tax forms. These documents provide invaluable information on
palace hierarchy, the professional and social classes, and the production and
manufacture of goods.
The clay tablets come in two shapes. The larger
ones are rectangular and the smaller ones are elongated and leaf-shaped. Some
tablets are inscribed on both sides and there are groups of tablets referring to
the same subject. The tablets were stored in the palace archives, arranged by
subject inside baskets, which were marked with clay labels bearing brief
information on each basket s contents.
The text was inscribed on a damp clay tablet using
a sharp bone or metal stylus. Then the tablet was left to dry in the sun.
When the Mycenaean palaces were destroyed by fire in approximately 1200 BC,
these clay archives were baked and so preserved until today.