Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code Paperback – April 15, 2014
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
“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.” (Publishers Weekly)
“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.” (Toby Lester, author of Da Vinci's Ghost)
“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.” (Stephen Mitchell, translator of Gilgamesh and the Iliad)
“Fox’s achievement here is to make this fascinating tale accessible to a broader audience.” (Washington Post)
“… a nail-biting intellectual and cultural adventure.” (The Times UK)
“Deft, sharply written … Fox’s account runs with the pace and tension of a detective story - and has much to say about language and writing systems along the way.” (The Guardian UK)
“[Fox] … has cracked it, fashioning an intellectual puzzle into an engrossing detective story of driven personalities, hidden clues, perseverance and intuition. In the process, she has uncovered a remarkable woman who had been buried by history.” (Sunday Times UK)
“As with any good detective story, there’s a driving narrative behind the puzzle, peopled by solitary sleuths.” (The Guardian US)
Top Customer Reviews
I think everyone knows by now about the Rosetta Stone and how its discovery in Egypt in 1799 by forces of Napoleon led to the deciphering of hieroglyphics. But it took French, British, and other European scholars until 1824 to finally complete the work. Another such effort was needed to decipher the code on tablets found by British archeologist Arthur Evans, in the excavations on Crete, near the palace of Knossos in 1900. The writing and the language on the tablets, soon referred to as "Linear A" and "Linear B", became the focus for the next 50 years of scholars and archeologists and, one architect, all of whom worked in relative solitude in their attempts to decipher the coded languages. "Relative solitude" because in the days before the internet and the mass sharing of both information and individual effort, attempts to reach out to others working on the same task was difficult.
In the United States, the main scholar working on the code was a Brooklyn College classics professor, Alice Kober, who worked for years by herself. While she did maintain written correspondence with others in England - and visiting Oxford twice to see the original data - she really was alone in her work. And working during the years of WW2 and the post-war, with paper shortages both in the US and the UK, Kober made discoveries that took her to the brink of deciphering the code.Read more ›
The fascinating story of Evans is much better told in Minotaur: Sir Arthur Evans and the Archaeology of the Minoan Myth by MacGillivray. The story of Ventris is much better told elsewhere, too.
The main reason this book appears to have been written is to write Kober's work back into the equation, where it rightfully belongs. However, it doesn't seem to have been enough for a book in its own right and so hence is sandwiched between these other two stories.
It also lacks the historical context of the Cretan and Mycenaen civilizations.
It's still worth a read - just don't expect it to be very in-depth.
I am glad to know of Kober's work, and sad to learn how so much of her life ended up being "a contender" and not a victor. Her contribution is rightfully restored, but somehow something is still missing.
During the Victorian era, the sun never set on the British Empire--as you may have heard--and Victorian gentlemen trampled all over the empire and the world digging up artifacts of ancient civilizations. In 1900, one of these gentlemen, Arthur Evans, discovered a huge, ruined palace on Crete, where the clay tablets were preserved by fire after the palace was apparently sacked and torched.
Some of the symbols on the tablets were pictograms, lovely little representations of horses, for example. Mostly, though, the characters were a mystery. Nobody knew what language was used on Crete at the time the tablets were written, and the characters that weren't pictograms were just tantalizingly ornate hints of life in this long-ago civilization.
Margalit Fox tells the story of the three preeminent figures in the life of "Linear B," as Evans called the script on the tablets. Evans, the archeologist whom she calls "The Digger;" Alice Kober, an assistant professor of Classics at Brooklyn College, who spent most of the 1940s sitting at her kitchen table painstakingly making note cards, charts and graphs to crack the code of Linear B; and Michael Ventris, the precocious English polymath with a prodigious systematic memory, who made the final breakthrough discoveries that allowed the mystery of Linear B to be solved.Read more ›
Dated to 1000+ years earlier than the classical texts of the Ancient Greeks, this treasure trove of artifacts was unearthed on Crete in 1900; yet 50 years passed before the cuniform and pictographic clay tablets were deciphered and understood. Most memorable to me was the work of Alice Kober, a classics professor who spent years, pre-computer, to handcraft her own database / enigma-style machine with matchbooks and bits of paper. While the crafting of the physical accoutrements to solve the puzzle was unbelievably complex and a testament to some serious determination, the continual and systemic discounting of her work, and the lack of recognition that seemed to be wholly sexist in its genesis was frustrating to me as a reader. Often it is said people are born `before their time' - Kober is my new reference point.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I found this to be a really engaging piece of 'dramatic' history written in the style of Simon Winchester. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Ryan Mease
Be sure to read this on your iPad, as the illustration are useless on the paper kindle. This fascinating account of several very different fanatics is gracefully written. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Jane Post
This is one of the best linguistics books I ever read. It's a great story about a woman who deserves to be remembered as a pioneer of Linear B scholarship. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Christopher Phipps
I agree with another reviewer who termed this a 'Lite' version of the story. For those interested more in the mechanics of the decipherment and less in the personalities of those... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Reviewer