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.
Digging into archaeology, linguistics, history and cryptography, Margalit Fox’s The Riddle of the Labyrinth solves this jigsaw puzzle for us in an exciting and easily understandable way...One can’t help but remember President Kennedy’s immortal words: “We do these things not because they’re easy, but because they’re hard.” In that sense Fox’s book is not just an ode to Alice Kober and the men behind Linear B but to all humanity - to the many who have looked at a challenge and soldiered on because they recognized that the way through would satiate our infinite thirst for knowledge. (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).
The New York Times
In explaining the problem and eventual solution, Ms. Fox makes the complexities of linguistic scholarship accessible, weaving observations about language into the stories of her primary characters
A fascinating yarn centered around an unlikely heroine ... Fox's deft explanations of the script-solving process allow readers to share in the mental detective work of cracking the lost language.
Starred Review. Fox is a talented storyteller, and she creates an atmosphere of almost nail-biting suspense. ... This one deserves shelf space along such classics of the genre as Simon Singh's The Code Book.
This exciting linguistic adventure, intended for the nonspecialist, is recommended to anyone interested in archaeological mysteries—and even to crossword puzzle enthusiasts!
Toby Lester, author of Da Vinci's Ghost
Fox recreates the emergence of one of history's most vexing puzzles—and then puts readers alongside the remarkable figures who, brilliantly, obsessively, and even tragically, devoted their lives to solving it. Forget the Da Vinci Code. This is the real thing.
Stephen Mitchell, translator of Gilgamesh and the Iliad
Margalit Fox describes the decipherment of Linear B in such lucid detail that any reader can follow the steps and participate in the thrill of discovery.
In The Riddle of the Labyrinth, Margalit Fox describes the challenge of decoding Linear B: "An unknown script used to write an unknown language is a locked-room mystery: Somehow, the decipherer must finesse his way into a tightly closed system that offers few external clues. If he is very lucky, he will have the help of a bilingual inscription like the Rosetta Stone, which furnished the key to deciphering the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt. Without such an inscription, his task is all but impossible."
In 1799, in the small village of el-Rashid in the Egyptian delta, soldiers from Napoleon's army discovered the tablet. Because the French troops referred to el-Rashid as Rosetta, the stone came to be known as the Rosetta Stone. After Napoleon was defeated, the stone became the property of the British and has been at the British museum since 1802, except for brief times in storage to protect...
Funny and surprising on every page, Is That a Fish in Your Ear? offers readers new insight into the mystery of how we come to know what someone else means - whether we wish to understand Astérix cartoons or a foreign head of state.
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