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The Decipherment of Linear B (Canto)
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The Decipherment of Linear B (Canto)

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  139 ratings  ·  28 reviews
The languages of the ancient world and the mysterious scripts, long undeciphered, in which they were encoded have represented one of the most intriguing problems of archaeology in modern times. This celebrated account of the decipherment of Linear B in the 1950s by Michael Ventris was written by his close collaborator in the momentuous discovery. In revealing the secrets o ...more
Paperback, 164 pages
Published September 13th 1992 by Cambridge University Press (first published 1958)
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To say that a book is the exciting story of the decipherment of prehistoric bookkeeping records seems like damning with faint phrase, but that is what it is.

During the excavation of the Bronze Age Palace at Knossos at the beginning of the twentieth century Arthur Evans found hundreds of inscribed clay tablets, written in two different (but similar) scripts which he called Linear A and Linear B. Evans was prone to odd ideas (controversially he rebuilt and repainted parts of the excavated palace)

--The Decipherment of Linear B (Second Edition)

Appendix: Mycenaean Tablets in Transcription
During the Iron Age, the island of Cyprus did not use the common Greek alphabet, but rather its own syllabary, which was deciphered in the 19th century thanks to bilingual inscriptions in Greek in this script and in Phoenician. This syllabary seems to have been designed for a language with a consonant-vowel syllable structure, like Japanese, which does not work well for Greek, which has words like anthropos; the script accommodated such words by using silent vowels. In the early 20th century, ex ...more
Linear B is the alphabet (or syllabet) of the tablets found at Knossos on Crete and subsequently around Mycenaea on the Balkan peninsula. This book is the "popular" version of the academic volume initially published by Michael Ventris, the person who actually succeeded in deciphering Linear B, and John Chadwick, who supplied the linguistic grounding to demonstrate that Ventris's discovery actually worked. There are sufficient details to give the "popular" version sufficient depth to follow the p ...more
Fantástico primer acercamiento a la Lineal B, a su descubrimiento y a la lengua micénica: breve pero completo, claro y sencillo, de mano de uno de los principales partícipes, si bien hoy en día los estudios de micénico han avanzado mucho y es preciso ampliar la información que da este libro. De lectura fácil y entretenida, logra ser conciso y ameno incluso en los pasajes que pudieran resultar más farragosos por ser los más especializados o complejos. Totalmente recomendable para cualquiera inter ...more
When I started this book, I thought that Linear B was an early, unknown form of cuneiform. (Shameful ignorance!) So, I learned a lot from this book: Where Linear B came from, how it was deciphered and early Greek civilization.

The author, John Chadwick, was one of the people who did the deciphering. But the chief architect of rendering Linear B into something readable for modern civilization was an architect named Micheal Ventris, who died before their study was published.
Graeme Merrall
Scientific books are often interesting reads and not just for the content. Kip Thorne's physics book is one example of a dated but fascinating read on physics for example. It's very interesting to note how scientific writing has changed over the 50 or so years since it was written. As opposed to what you might think as an interesting and insightful romp through an fascinating subject, the age and in some respects the very Englishness of the author makes it the subject rather dry. In some areas h ...more
James F
Chadwick worked with Michael Ventris, the decipherer of Linear B, and became the major expert on the subject after his early death. This book explains how the script was deciphered and discovered to be Mycenaean Greek, and gives some of the later history of the reading of the tablets and what they have taught us about the culture of the first Greek civilization. Short, but very detailed.
I ended up pressing this book on everyone I know who's even vaguely interested in linguists, that's how much I liked it. It aims to be pretty much a layman's guide to Linear B, and I reckon it does that very well. My experience in Ancient Greek is limited to two years watching the Storyteller videos and pretending to learn grammar, but I promise you don't even need that - everything relevant is translated. Whilst it's not a comprehensive guide, it's very interesting reading, and has rather persu ...more
Great book for people intersted in historical linguistics. It tells the story of Michael Ventris, a professional architect and amateur linguist, proved that the ancient "Linear B" script was used to write a form of archaic Greek. Particularly interesting is that he himself didn't believe it was possible. He subscribed to the prevailing view at the time, that Linear B was user to write a non-Indo-European language, perhaps a relative of Etruscan. The preponderance of evidence from his own investi ...more
This book details how an unknown Minoan script was deciphered without having any type of Rosetta stone. The author is a co-contributor of the main decipherer, Michael Ventris. Ventris was a child prodigy of languages who died shortly after his cracking the language code. The book is a Homage by Chadwick and for the process of devolving (?) a language.

This book covers more of the process on how the deciphering was approached and offers up a number of interesting incites in how languages have been
I bought "The Decipherment of Linear B" because I wanted a book about... well, about the decipherment of Linear B. While a few chapters indeed discuss the decipherment, there was a lot of material that I just wasn't interested in: background of Michael Ventris, what we can learn of Mycenean life from the decipherment, etc. After the book described the decipherment and some of the acceptance/criticism thereof, the last third was pretty sluggish.
While it wasn't exactly what I was looking for, I en
Vince Mulhollon
This is a short easily readable second hand account of the decipherment of an old form of Greek writing with different lettering and somewhat different grammar. Worth the time.
Pierpaolo Da Fieno
This is a story of an amazing human achievement, the disclosure of a secret 35 century old. It's the fascinating chronicle of how a single person, an amateur archelogist named Michael Ventris, attacked the mysterious minoic language called Linear B rewriting our knowledge of ancient greek history.

All the technical details of the process are quiet hidden to make it an easy read for everyone, but the main stream of ideas is still so clear and well told that genius arises clearly.

An inspiring book.
I should've read this book a long time ago. Better late than never. The story of the decipherment and its critics is great. In Chapter 4, Chadwick mentions the principle of cryptography that "any code can in theory be broken" as long as enough text is available. This is a really interesting thought. The bad translations that some scholars made before Ventris are funny, as is some of the criticism of Ventris's discoveries. The Decipherment of Linear B is a good book.
Aug 10, 2007 Dan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: cryptographers, philogists, people interested in ancient greece
This is the true story of how ancient tablets in a forgotten ancient Greek language "Linear B" was deciphered.

This book was interesting, but it was very hard to read. The reading is very dense, but the subject matter is very interesting.

I read this book because it shows an interesting application of cryptanalytic techniques to a non cryptology related field. I was told it was a good book for people who study cryptology to read.
A very interesting book. I have been wanting to read this one for some time now. It was fascinating to see the decipherment process. Amazing to think they doubted the Mycenaeans used Greek. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!
This was a very engaging account of the decipherment of an ancient script without the aid of a key like the Rosetta Stone. Cryptographic methods end up being the key. I would have enjoyed it even more if I knew Greek.
Michael Kotsarinis
Despite its age it is a must read for anyone whose interested in history and language. It is clear and concise and it will not trouble the non specialist, on the contrary it will elucidate and educate!
"[Michael] Ventris' discovery... demonstrated a Greek-speaking Minoan-Mycenaean culture on Crete, and presented Greek in writing some 600 years earlier than what was thought at the time."
Mark Flowers
A fascinating book about an extraordinary achievement. Not recommended for people without a little background in 1) Linguistics, 2) Greek, and/or 3) Bronze Age history.
Totally amazing story. Michael Ventris opened the doors to a world shrouded in mystery - the Minoans of Crete.
Interessante, peccato che il volume sia un po' datato e non riporti quindi gli ultimi studi sul tema.
James Boling
A little more challenging than I bargained for. I guess I am spoiled by modern pop-science authors :)
A neat, concise essay on the titular topic, most of which is already explained in 'The Code Book'
Great story. This is the non-technical version, but it is pretty technical.
An interesting look at how a writing system was deciphered.
Up there with the best airport thrillers.
Sorobai marked it as to-read
Mar 30, 2015
Doug marked it as to-read
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Worked on code breaking during the second world war. Classical linguist, played an important part in the decipherment of Linear B.

More about John Chadwick...
The Mycenaean World Linear B and Related Scripts Corpus of Mycenaean Inscriptions from Knossos: 1, 1-1063 The Unusual Guide To Bath The Knossos Tablets

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