Title: The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code
About the Book:
A thrilling intellectual detective story that brings into focus one of the most mesmerizing puzzles in Western history-an unknown script from the Aegean Bronze Age-and chronicles the obsession of the people who unlocked its secrets
In 1900, British archeologist Arthur Evans made a discovery that would forever change our understanding of ancient history. Beneath the dirt of Knossos, in the ruins of an ancient Cretan palace, he found a set of clay tablets dating to about 1450 B.C., the records of the oldest European civilization ever uncovered. Inscribed with a stylus when the clay was still wet, the characters used to write this unknown language-outline drawings in the shape of human figures, swords, chariots and horses’ heads, among other tiny pictograms-resembled the symbols of no known alphabet, ancient or modern.
Evans named the curious writing Linear B, and for five decades, its decipherment was one of the most formidable puzzles of all time, challenging some of the world’s most distinguished scholars. Then, in 1952, Michael Ventris, a dashing young English architect, cracked the code-opening a portal onto the daily life of a wealthy and literate society that had been lost for thirty centuries. The language of the tablets was Greek, written in the strange characters of Linear B nearly more than half a millennium before the advent of the Greek alphabet.
But Ventris’s achievement would not have been possible without the painstaking work of anunheralded American classicist named Alice Kober, whose magnificent contribution to the decipherment have been overlooked, until now.
Award-winning journalist Margalit Fox weaves together the remarkable story of Linear B and the three flesh-and-blood characters central to its story-Evans, the digger; Kober, the detective; and Ventris, the architect-a diverse trio who shared the traits of ferocious intelligence, nearly photographic memory, and a single-mindedness that bordered on obsession. Fox takes us from the Mediterranean at the turn of the dawn of the 20th century to Brooklyn, and England after World War II, and into these three lives driven by a passion to unlock one of the great secrets of human history. The Riddle of the Labyrinth is the first full account of one of the most fascinating stories of the modern age.