I just loved this book!! Archaeological decipherment is one of my favorite non-fiction subjects; I already have several general histories on my bookshe...moreI just loved this book!! Archaeological decipherment is one of my favorite non-fiction subjects; I already have several general histories on my bookshelf. This is a great addition to the genre for the generalist.
The book is divided into thirds and the subjects of the first and last third are already well known. Sir Arthur Evans was a giant in his field. He had uncovered the palace at Knossos (on Crete) and discovered the major cache of clay tablets written in what became known as 'Linear B'. It was clear from the moment of discovery that these tablets were the palace records-inventories, tax records etc. The numbering system was worked out as well as the word 'total'. As Linear B is pictoral in nature, Evans and crew acquired a grasp of a number of the animal symbols. But they were still no closer to solving the problem of deciphering an unknown language in an unknown script. Young Michael Ventris, architect by training, eventually deciphered linear B and won fame, if not fortune, for the deed. The middle third of the book is devoted to an American woman,classical scholar Alice Kobel. The author takes full advantage of the release of her letters, journals and working notes, to flesh out her invaluable contribution to the effort. As I was reading of all of her painstaking work (done by hand, after she had done a full teaching schedule), I was in awe (so wishing that she had had a personal computer)! Go Alice! Quite frankly, without her hard work and deep analysis, it would have taken Ventris years longer. Conversely, if Alice hadn't died young (cancer),she might well have made the break-through herself. The author does a very good job of keeping the examples and explanations simple without dumbing down the subject matter. I never felt lost and could follow along and understand the rationale with no problem.
Recommended for puzzle fans, armchair archaeologists and those in search of a good story.(less)