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The Decipherment of Linear B (Canto) [Paperback]

John Chadwick
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

13 Sep 1990 Canto
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 classical 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 momentous discovery. In revealing the secrets of Linear B it offers a valuable survey of late Minoan and Myceanean archaeology, uncovering fascinating details of the religion and economic history of an ancient civilisation.

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The Decipherment of Linear B (Canto) + The Man Who Deciphered Linear B: The Story of Michael Ventris + Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World's Undeciphered Scripts
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Product details

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; New Ed edition (13 Sep 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521398304
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521398305
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 104,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

'In this present short book - lucid, concise and admirable - Chadwick tells us something of Ventris and his mind, and of the problems involved in the decipherment of Minoan-Mycenaean scripts. It is written for the layman and very well written. It is not only an account of a startling piece of philological and archaeological research, but a simple, moving human story.' The Spectator

Book Description

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 classical archaeology in modern times.

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The urge to discover secrets is deeply ingrained in human nature; even the least curious mind is roused by the promise of sharing knowledge withheld from others. Read the first page
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A popular account by an expert 8 Jun 2005
Format:Paperback
The decipherment of this ancient Mycenaean script from about 1400 BC was one of the great mystery stories of the 20th Century. John Chadwick is an expert in archaic Greek, who assisted Michael Ventris in deciphering the thousands of clay tablets discovered in the ruins of Knossos and Pylos. Ventris's demonstration that the language was an archaic form of Greek rocked the world of Ancient Greek history. In this book, Chadwick gives a popular account of the decipherment, somewhat light on the technical details of Ventris's discoveries, but with a good section on what the translated records show of Mycenaean society. The book was written in the 1950s but has a modern postscript which shows that most of the original findings still stand today.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise and very well written 4 April 2008
Format:Paperback
This slim volume elegantly and concisely describes the process by which Michael Ventris deciphered the Linear B script. The story is worth telling, not least because Ventris was an amateur scholar - working as a professional architect while pursuing this work as a hobby in his spare time. It was written by Ventris' close collaborator, John Chadwick, shortly after the decipherment and this proximity to the events described allows Chadwick to convey to the reader some of the excitement of discovery.

The book was prepared for the general reader so does not require any great specialist knowledge. As such, it is heartily recommended to anyone with an interest in learning more about the topic. The story is made poignant by the tragic death in a road accident of Michael Ventris in 1956, a couple of years after the main events described. Chadwick's own sense of loss can be seen through the text.

My copy dates from 1961 so lacks the later postscript but, such was the quality of the original work by Ventris and Chadwick, the content remains relevant today in all its essentials.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Masterwork 26 Aug 2013
Format:Paperback
I first read this book many years ago, and have re-read it at intervals since, always with pleasure, and with gradually deepening understanding (despite the accessible style, there is too much subtlety to get it all first time round).

The subject matter is both a fascinating intellectual journey and a tragedy, given that the person mainly responsible for the decipherment, Michael Ventris, died in a motor accident not long after his triumph. One wonders what he might have achieved had he lived: perhaps even a real contribution towards understanding the enigma of the Phaistos Disk, otherwise a happy hunting ground for a swarm of hopeful if mostly unconvincing "translators" ever since?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling detective story 31 May 2012
By R. Clay
Format:Hardcover
This book was recommended to me, and I read it in the early 1960s. I did not think it would appeal to me in the very least, but in fact I was enthralled by it as a brilliant detective story. I love the quote (from memory, so probably wrong), "How do you tell the Greek curator of a Greek museum that the mysterious language inscribed on this artifact in their care is actually - Greek ?"
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