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Linear B and Related Scripts (Reading the Past, Vol. 1)

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520060197
ISBN-10: 0520060199
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Product Details

  • Series: Reading the Past (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (May 22, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520060199
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520060197
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.8 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #599,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
John Chadwick's book on Linear B and related scripts (part of the 'Reading the Past' series put out by the British Museum in cooperation with the University of California Press) is an excellent primer to the subject of this ancient language. Like the other texts in this series, the book itself is only 64 pages long, which makes the task of learning an ancient language like Linear B, an ancient proto-Greek script, less daunting. Do not be deceived by the low number of pages - there is a wealth of material here.
This is, strictly speaking, not a book from which one learns the language as much as it is a primer to learn about the language, with a little technical and translation information thrown in for good measure. In the course of such a short book, however well written, one could not expect otherwise. However, the depth of material is impressive given the limited number of pages.
In the first chapter, Chadwick deals with the history of the discovery of Linear B. He talks of Schleimann's Troy expeditions, and the various nineteenth century discoveries and excavations around Turkey, Greece and Crete that enabled the archaeologists to uncover civilisations long forgotten, seemingly even by their successors, the ancient Greeks and other Aegeans. The second chapter describes the process of initial decipherment, covering both basic ideas in solving such a puzzle, as well as a bit of narrative history relating the people involved. The deciphering of Linear B is a relatively recent enterprise, coming to fruition really in the middle of the twentieth century.
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Format: Paperback
Having just read Simon Singh's brilliant book on codes, which has a brilliant chapter on the decipherment of the ancient Cretan language known as Linear B, I wanted to read further about it. This is as far as I have got so far and its a pretty easy second step. John Chadwick is of course the man who assisted Vestris to decipher this ancient language and perhaps that is why Singh's chapter on how the language was initially 'cracked' is so much more interesting than the chapter Chadwick provides on it. Chadwick determindly doesn't blow his own trumpet, in fact he almost glosses over some of the stages which Singh emphasises. Still it is a reasonable telling of it and Singh clearly drew heavily on Chadwick's own examples for his chapter.
Chadwick starts to get interesting in the later chapters where he examines the form of Linear B in far greater depth - how it was used and the sounds and its relationship to the ancient Greek language. He also discusses the advances which have been in made in deciphering the older, and as yet not fully understood writing, also found on Crete and called "Linear A". It is a short, pithy book, but a good further step for those interested in reading more on these languages but with no technical training in the subject (like me) - an enthusiastic amateur.
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Format: Paperback
"Linear B and Related Scripts" is the first volume of the British Museum's "Reading the Past" series, which introduces laypeople to ancient writing systems. This volume is written by John Chadwick of Cambridge University, who did essential work on deciphering Linear B in the 1950s. Linear B was a Bronze Age script used in the Minoan culture and in Mycenaean Greece exclusively for record-keeping, dated to the 14th-15th centuries BC. It is not sophisticated or precise enough for writing prose. It was a script consisting of syllabic signs, ideograms, and numerals, used for lists and accounts, but the language the signs represented was an archaic dialect of Greek.

Chadwick takes the reader through the discoveries of clay tablets on Crete, Knossos, and Greece and attempts to decipher them. Linear B was written on clay tablets, which were not kept for more than a year, and they were never baked. The tablets that are preserved are those that were accidentally exposed to fire. Even so, there are enough that Chadwick and his colleagues were able to compile a syllabary of 87 signs for the script and to translate it. This volume is one of the most enjoyable of the "Reading the Past" series, because it tells the reader how to decipher the writing, although you would have to know Greek to understand its meaning.

Once we have learned how Linear B works, Chadwick discusses what historical information can be deduced from Linear B tablets, considering that the information they contain is limited to a certain type. He discusses Linear A, an earlier script used by the Minoans that is closer to hieroglyphs and has yet to be translated. Though it has similar symbols to Linear B, they appear to represent a different language.
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Format: Paperback
This concise but fascinating explication of the once-mysterious Cretan script called Linear B, and the story of its ultimate decipherment, makes a perfect little book for people with avocational interest in ancient writing systems. Likewise ideal are all the other, equally interesting and authoritative little books in this most worthy series.
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