Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Thinking About Linear B

I hadn't given a lot of thought to the tablets -- known as Linear B -- that were excavated in Crete at the beginning of the 20th century.

In the course of reading Margalit Fox's excellent book, The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code, I thought about them a lot.

The tablets themselves are fascinating. Clear evidence of a written civilization well before the Classical Age that were impenetrable for decades. Unlike the Rosetta Stone, there were no clues as to what these massive and detailed tablets meant. So, scholars and archaeologists worked for decades to crack the code.

The Riddle of the Labyrinth focuses on two people who dedicated most of their lives to "cracking" Linear B: Michael Ventris, an English architect who is credited with deciphering the tablets, and Alice Kober, a classicist at Brooklyn College who's vital contribution has been largely ignored.

Among her accomplishments, Fox wrote obituaries for The New York Times, so her narrative has that sense of an entire life told. I enjoyed learning about the code, cheering for the ultimate decoders, and admiring Fox's efforts to give Alice Kober her due.

Check it out:

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