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The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code (2013)

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The decoding of Linear B is one of the world's greatest stories: from the discovery of a cache of ancient tablets recording a lost prehistoric language to the dramatic solution of the riddle nearly seventy years later, it exerts a mesmerising pull on the imagination. But this captivating story is missing a crucial piece. Two men have dominated Linear B in popular history: Arthur Evans, the intrepid Victorian archaeologist who unearthed Linear B at Knossos and Michael Ventris, the dashing young amateur who produced a solution. But there was a third figure: Alice Kober, without whose painstaking work, recorded on pieces of paper clipped from hymn-sheets and magazines and stored in cigarette boxes in her Brooklyn loft, Linear B might still remain a mystery. Drawing on Kober's own papers - only made available recently - Margalit Fox provides the final piece of the enigma, and along the way reveals how you decipher a language when you know neither its grammar nor its alphabet as well as the stories behind other ancient languages, like the dancing-man Rongorongo of Easter Island.

In the tradition of Simon Winchester and Dava Sobel, The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code tells one of the most intriguing stories in the history of language, masterfully blending history, linguistics, and cryptology with an elegantly wrought narrative.

When famed archaeologist Arthur Evans unearthed the ruins of a sophisticated Bronze Age civilization that flowered on Crete 1,000 years before Greece’s Classical Age, he discovered a cache of ancient tablets, Europe’s earliest written records. For half a century, the meaning of the inscriptions, and even the language in which they were written, would remain a mystery.

Award-winning New York Times journalist Margalit Fox's riveting real-life intellectual detective story travels from the Bronze Age Aegean—the era of Odysseus, Agamemnon, and Helen—to the turn of the 20th century and the work of charismatic English archeologist Arthur Evans, to the colorful personal stories of the decipherers. These include Michael Ventris, the brilliant amateur who deciphered the script but met with a sudden, mysterious death that may have been a direct consequence of the deipherment; and Alice Kober, the unsung heroine of the story whose painstaking work allowed Ventris to crack the code.