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Thu Jul 31, 2014, 11:19 AM

Alice Kober: Unsung heroine who helped decode Linear B

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22782620
For years, Linear B was seen as the Mount Everest of linguistic riddles.

First discovered on clay tablets at the palace of Knossos in Crete in 1900, it was an unknown script, writing an unknown language.

"It really was the linguistic equivalent of the locked room mystery in a detective novel," says Margalit Fox, author of a new book on Linear B, The Riddle of the Labyrinth.

How do you ever find your way into a seemingly closed system like that? A solution took more than half a century to arrive.

In 1952, a young British architect, Michael Ventris, did discover the meaning of Linear B.

Ventris was the very model of a solitary, tortured genius - so much so that the deciphering of Linear B has often been portrayed as his accomplishment alone.

But some experts now argue that Ventris would never have been able to crack the code, had it not been for an American classicist, Alice Kober.

"Alice Kober is the great unsung heroine of the Linear B decipherment," says Fox.

"She built the methodological bridge that Ventris triumphantly crossed.

"As is so often the case in women's history, behind this great achievement lay these hours and hours of unseen labour by this unheralded woman," she says.

In the 1930s and 40s, Kober was an assistant professor at Brooklyn College in New York where she taught Latin and Greek classes all day.

Kober lived with her widowed mother, and there is no record in her papers of a social or romantic life of any kind.

Instead, for almost two decades, Alice Kober devoted herself to trying to crack this mysterious Bronze Age script.

"She turned herself into the world's leading expert on Linear B," says Fox.

"It was she who was working hundreds of hours with a slide rule sitting at her dining table… a cigarette burning at her elbow, poring over the few published inscriptions, looking and looking for patterns."

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Reply Alice Kober: Unsung heroine who helped decode Linear B (Original post)
geardaddy Jul 2014 OP
niyad Jul 2014 #1
littlemissmartypants Jul 2014 #2
Sweeney Dec 2014 #3

Response to geardaddy (Original post)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 12:06 PM

1. k and r and thank you for posting. are we surprised that she got none of the credit? sadly, we are

not.

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Response to geardaddy (Original post)

Thu Jul 31, 2014, 12:25 PM

2. ^eom

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