Ventris, Michael George Francis (19221956)

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.

Excerpt taken from Microsoft ENCARTA

Antonis Vasilakis Adam Editions








A tablet with the ideogrammatic script.

From the Knossos archive


Stone ladle a heart-shaped cult vessel of translucent
alabaster Linear A symbols are incised on the rim

From the Troulos district at Archanes.



A shell found on a Greek island with Greek symbols A, Y, , X
estimated at 6000 B.C.


Clay seal impressions indicating  the rank  of the official,
the 3 symbols decipherment the activities of works involving Earth excavations, to produce and lay ceramic pipes for water and sewerage.      

From the palace at Knossos



Clay tablet with a Linear A text

From the palace at Knossos



Clay tablet with a Linear A
From the Knossos archive 

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