The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code (Ala Notable Books for Adults)

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9780062228833: The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code (Ala Notable Books for Adults)

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 mesmerizing pull on the imagination.

But, captivating as it is, this 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.

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Review:

Praise for Talking Hands

'Fox provides an exhaustive, energetic and frequently elegant tour through the world of sign language and sign linguistics ... informed by the quiet passion of a natural teacher for her subject'

(New York Times)

A captivating and important book, minutely researched and vividly narrated (Oliver Sacks)

Truly memerising. It's also a lovely testament to language and the history of linguistics (Lesley McDowell Sunday Herald 2013-07-14)

The details of how the tablets were deciphered are complicated, and it's a credit to Fox's clear, confident writing that following them isn't too painful. As with any good detective story, there's a driving narrative behind the puzzle, peopled by solitary sleuths who allow marital problems or bills to stack up as they devote themselves to the hunt ... her enthusiasm is compelling when talking about the raw inventive brainpower of the code-breakers, their unswerving passion, and the magical way that a set of lines and curves in clay can be transformed into something with meaning (Jessica Holland Observer)

The author's triumph lies in her presentation of this complex subject, narrated with the pace and excitement of a detective story (Country Life)

Explains Kober's analysis of Linear B brilliantly and with a sense of excitement ... I know of no other account of any decipherment that gives a clearer idea for non-specialists of how some of the detailed technicalities of the process actually work (Mary Beard New York Review of Books 2013-12-05)

A fascinating and very readable account of the life and work of the three scholars whose separate efforts over the course of a century eventually led to the cracking of Linear B. This group biography elegantly illustrates how progress in historical scholarship is made possible by the work of many hands, not just those of a single genius (Caroline Shenton History Today 2013-11-21)

Book Description:

For the first time, the full story of the race to decipher the world's greatest puzzle.

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