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October 19 2012

Cracking the code: the decipherment of Linear B 60 years on


A conference in Cambridge this weekend will mark the 60th anniversary of the decipherment by Michael Ventris of Linear B, a script used for an early form of ancient Greek. His stunning achievement pushed back the frontiers of knowledge about the ancient world.

When during the early 20th century archaeologists excavated some of the most famous sites of Ancient Greece notably Knossos on the island of Crete and Mycenae and Pylos on the mainland they found large numbers of clay tablets inscribed with a type of script that baffled them. It was significantly different to any other script known at the time. Moreover, it was immediately clear that there were at least two variants of this type of writing.

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