Saturday, July 6, 2013

Unknown Writing

A few weeks ago, I mentioned Dr. Lamascus recommended the book The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code which I just finished reading this week. The book is about the decades long effort to understand an ancient language called Linear B. It is a detective book about trying to figure out what an unknown writing means. The money quote in the book is:
Evans underestimated the formidable challenge Linear B would pose. 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.
An unknown script used to write an unknown language. Nobody alive for a thousand years knows the language, how to speak it, what the writing means and what the language sounds like. You think you research project is hard?

I can't image the work to figure out what this means yet the book tells the tale. It reminds me of another great book called The Story of Writing: Alphabets, Hieroglyphs, & Pictograms, Second Edition which talks about Linear B plus a number of other writings including Egyptian hieroglyphs. Both are fascinating reads and recommended. 

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