The Riddle of the Labyrinth

The Quest to Crack An Ancient Code

Fox, Margalit

(Book - 2013)
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Riddle of the Labyrinth
Baker & Taylor
An award-winning journalist presents a gripping, intellectual detective story set in the 1900s that follows the three men who were driven to unlock one of the great secrets of human history - the decipherment of an unknown script from the Aegean Bronze Age. 35,000 first printing.


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.

& Taylor

An intellectual detective story follows the quest to unlock one of the great secrets of human history--the decipherment of Linear B, an unknown script from the Aegean Bronze Age.

Publisher: New York : Ecco, c2013
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780062228833
Branch Call Number: 487.1 F
Characteristics: xx, 363 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm.


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Tuesday, September 10.

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Feb 03, 2014
  • srmechs rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Well written and very interesting. Baker and Taylor's description says it's about 3 men driven to unlock one of the great secrets of human history, but the central figure is a woman whose exceptional talents and determination provided the pivotal information leading to success.

Dec 30, 2013
  • bibliotechnocrat rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

In 1900, a Victorian archeologist named Arthur Evans discovered a cache of tablets covered in an unknown language. Linear B confounded decoding efforts for the next 52 years, until it was suddenly solved by Michael Ventris, an obsessive architect without academic training or credentials. Ventris built his solution on the work of Alice Kober, an American Classicist whose years of labour on the project have gone largely unrecognized until now. This is the unlikely grist for a terrific book that reveals as much about the 20th century as it does about 1450 BCE.

The book is divided into three parts, each covering the main players in the drama, and despite the reader knowing the outcome from the beginning, the author manages to build an atmosphere of suspense as the quest progresses. There is tragedy and hope, sexism and cigarettes; the all-too-human foibles of the characters described make this so much more than a dry and dusty academic tome.

Aug 24, 2013
  • BrickBook rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This is an excellent book! Unlike most writers of popular science, Fox feels no need to dumb down the science part. Maybe my opinion is influenced by my own interest in linguistics, but I think any moderately curious human would find it engaging and intriguing. It was a real page-turner!

Aug 02, 2013

A patron review from the Adult Summer Reading Game: This is a fascinating chronicle of the deciphering of Linear B. The author begins with the discovery of the tablets and tells of the characters who puzzled and obsessed over them for the next fifty years. While her linguistic and archaeological research is impressive, she also weaves in the stories of the most important participants in the work. Most importantly, this book is a tribute to the dogged work of its unsung hero, Alice Kober, who dedicated years of her life and her exceptional intellect to finding a solution.


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Fox, Margalit
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