British linguist, known for his
translation of previously undecipherable scripts and the theory that
Linear B was an archaic form of the Greek language. Although born in Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire, he grew up in Switzerland and was
therefore able to speak French and German as well as English. From
his Polish mother he acquired Polish and he was known to have a
talent for learning languages, including the ancient Greek and Latin
he studied at school. He had no formal linguistics training and
started out as an architecture student.
As a schoolboy, Ventris attended a lecture by Sir Arthur Evans on
undeciphered Minoan scripts and he became fascinated by their
decipherment and the study of similar ancient texts. The script in
question, called Linear B, was found on tablets dating from the
middle of the 2nd millennium bc that were discovered by Evans in
1900 in Crete. While Evans ruled out any possibility that Linear B
could have been connected with Greek, Ventris noticed some possible
similarities in the word endings and, pursuing this clue, he began
to outline the structure of the language, which he believed seemed
similar to Greek. He was able to decipher much of the text and show
that it was Mycenaean. In doing so he upended Evans`s
theory that the scripts (and civilization in Crete at the time they
were written) were Minoan.
The Arcado-Cyprian dialect, about which very little is known, is the
descendant of a form spoken in Mycenaean times in at least the
Peloponnese and some of the southern islands. The deciphering (1952)
of the so-called Linear B script (by British linguist Michael
Ventris), examples of which were found on tablets during the
excavations made in Crete and on the mainland of Greece after 1900,
revealed it as an ancestor (1500-1400 bc) of Arcado-Cyprian. These
researches indicate that the Greeks were a literate people many
hundreds of years before the period of the first Greek poet, Homer (probably
the 9th century bc).
Most scholars of today accept Ventris`s
theory that Linear B was related to the Greek language.
Ventris`s life was cut short when he died in a car accident, shortly
before a collaboration with John Chadwick, Documents in Mycenaean
Greek (1956), was published.
taken from Microsoft ENCARTA
FROM MYTH TO HISTORY
Antonis Vasilakis Adam Editions
A shell found on a Greek island with Greek symbols A, Y,
estimated at 6000 B.C.
Clay seal impressions indicating the rank of the official,
the 3 symbols
× Î Õ
decipherment the activities of works involving Earth excavations,
to produce and lay ceramic pipes for water and sewerage.
From the palace at Knossos