Book Review: The Man Who Deciphered Linear B

1 min read

Andrew Robinson
Thames & Hudson, £8.95

Half a millennium before Homer described ‘Crete, set in the wine-dark sea’, its inhabitants used a mysterious alphabet that baffled archaeologists. Linear B was discovered during Arthur Evans’ Knossos excavations (for the full story, see CWA 51, Great Excavations’) but for over 50 years the inscriptions remained unreadable.

At last, in 1952, Michael Ventris – not himself a Classicist, but instead an architect who had a lifelong passion for languages – cracked the code, making Linear B the earliest deciphered writing in Europe.

Now Andrew Robinson reveals how Ventris achieved this feat, his narrative interwoven with biographical details and vivid flashes of Ventris’ personality. Philological detective work could make for a complex read, but Robinson’s conversational style keeps things light and his personal approach really brings the story to life.

This article is an extract from the full article published in World Archaeology Issue 52. Click here to subscribe

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