This article examines the earliest attestations of writing on Crete at the beginning of the second millennium bce, the so-called ‘Archanes formula’. The aim is to reassess its origin, purpose, significance and ‘reading’ through a multi-step analysis taking in details of palaeography, correlations with iconographic seal motifs, and material culture. Key issues are considered, namely the extent to which is it comparable with the Linear A ‘libation formula’ a-sa-sa-ra-me, or, conversely, whether it should be singled out as a separate writing tradition. To address these questions, the ‘Archanes formula’ is brought under close scrutiny, vis-à-vis the graphic repertoires of Cretan Hieroglyphic and, in parallel, Linear A. Our conclusions point towards a strong connection with the Cretan Hieroglyphic milieu, in terms of sign shapes and direct links to seal imagery. In this light, the earliest writing in the Aegean is revisited not so much as a script in itself, nor as a prequel to Linear A religious sequences, but as a direct manifestation of the iconic glyptic practices of the Hieroglyphic tradition.