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The Man Who Deciphered Linear B

The Story of Michael Ventris

Andrew Robinson

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The compelling story of Michael Ventris and the decipherment of Linear B, Europe’s oldest readable writing

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First discovered in 1900, on clay tablets among the ruins of the Palace of Minos at Knossos in Crete, Linear B, Europe's oldest writing, remained a mystery for over fifty years. In 1936 Michael Ventris - then a fourteen year-old schoolboy - visited an exhibition at the Royal Academy where the tablets were displayed and heard Sir Arthur Evans, the archaeologist who had discovered them, confirm that the tablets had not yet been deciphered. Ventris was a talented linguist and decided then and there that he would be the one to find the key to Linear B.

Dubbed the ‘Everest of archaeology’, the decipherment was all the more remarkable because Ventris was not a trained classical scholar but an architect whose first, youthful, introduction to Linear B became a lifelong obsession. In 1952 he finally decoded the symbols, finding that its signs did not represent an unknown language as previously believed, but an archaic dialect of Greek, more than 500 years older than the Greek of Homer.

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'A superb biography of Michael Ventris, combining a warm account of his life with just enough technical detail to satisfy those who have knowledge of linguistics or indeed of the classics. It is a splendid read, and a fine memorial to the split personality that enabled Ventris to decipher Minoan Linear B so triumphantly'
Current World Archaeology

'Compelling reading'
The Times Literary Supplement

' Excellent … tells a fascinating human story'

'A wonderfully swift and clear biography'
The Economist

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback

Size: 21.5 x 13.5 cm

Extent: 168 pp

Publication date: 20 February 2012

ISBN: 9780500289983

About the Author

Andrew Robinson is the author of twenty-five books in the arts and sciences, nine of them on aspects of Indian history and culture. They include two definitive biographies: Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye, described by V. S. Naipaul as ‘an extraordinarily good, detailed and selfless book’, and the coauthored Rabindranath Tagore: The Myriad-Minded Man. He holds degrees from Oxford University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, has been a Visiting Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge, and is currently a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society.

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