Reading Ancient Scripts.

02 Dec

Because I am learning how to read and write the ancient scripts of Crete I thought it appropriate to write about this subject on my blog.  Maybe some of you out there would be interested also in learning how to read the scripts which is useful when visiting museums. The script was written on clay tablets and first discovered by Sir Arthur Evans while excavating the great palace of Knossos, Crete in l900. It was Arthur Evans who named them Linear B. Other tablets were discovered at Knossos known as Linear A but these have not as yet been deciphered.

Several scholars  had attempted to decipher the tablets but it was Michael Ventris along with John Chadwick and Alice Kober who eventually cracked the code in l952


MichaelVentris studying linear B

Michael Ventris studying one of the Linear B Tablets

Michael Ventris spoke European languages fluently. He studied Latin and Greek at Stowe and at the age of fourteen he questioned Sir Arthur Evans about the Linear B tablets.

Michaels interests were split, should he follow his artistic beliefs and become an architect, or should he become a classist and follow his dreams of deciphering the unknown script. He decided to become an architect and enrolled in the Architectural Association but the war intervened and he joined the RAF.After the war he returned to architecture but gradually his interest in the script reasserted itself. Ventris was again gripped by the lure of the ancient tablets, he decided to give up architecture and live off his private income for a year or so and devote himself entirely to decipherment of the tablets.

The scripts  had originally been discovered by Arthur Evans, but as he grew older Evans kept these discoveries, hoping to decipher them himself. Later more tablets were discovered by the American, Carl Blegan, at  Pylos. Now was the time for the scripts to be further investigated.

Michael Ventris resumed his work on the Linear B script and had two main methods of working, the first was that of   ‘ group working ‘ where he established a system of work notes, which he sent out to colleagues and possible rivals around the world.

It seemed clear to Ventris that Linear B was a syllabary-  that is, each sign represented a combined consonant and vowel. He devised a grid which were drawn up with architectural precision, and lettered with his superb lettering ability, he worked day and night producing work notes at the rate of about one a month.

The break through was made in March l952 when he was about to produce work note 20. He  began to realize that some of the signs seemed to indicate place names. Gradually through his constant vigilance names of towns began to emerge such as Knossos, Phaestos  and  Luktos.

On June 1st Michael Ventris sat down to type what would turn out to be his final work note, No 20, rapidly more and more words began to fit in on his grids and work notes, carpenters, wainwrights , chair makers, and bakers as did    pa- te  meaning (Father) .

A pioneering book ” Documents in Mycenaean Greek’, was written jointly by Michael Ventris and John Chadwick and published by the Cambridge University Press. However, Ventris was becoming disenchanted with the Academic world and on the 5th September l956 he left his home late at night, driving fast down the Barnett by- pass, and crashed into a stationary lorry and was instantly killed, he was only 34. Such a tragic death for one so young. Who knows ! if he had lived maybe he would have cracked the code for Linear A also.


Whilst surfing the Internet I recently came across a website that looked extremely interesting as it was about learning how to read and write ancient script, which at that time I was not at all  familiar with. I carried on reading only to find myself becoming interested in the subject, better still as I perused further I discovered that the person whose blog I was reading was Richard Vallance and was offering to teach online, the Linear B. script .I therefor contacted him on his blog which is as follows- to say I would like to attempt the course.

Richard  was delighted to accept me as his first student because he had only just started his own blog where he is approaching the study of Linear B Progressive Grammar and Vocabulary from an entirely new prospective never before done.


Richard Vallance Janke

Richard as a young Student.                                                       Richard now Retired

Although Richard is Canadian he speaks  English and French Fluently, reads Latin fluently, Greek and Italian very well also Spanish competently, and has a smattering of Japanese kanji. He is also familiar with both German and Russian. As well as being a linguist, Richard is also a widely published poet and poetry publisher.

Even as an adolescent Richard was fascinated by languages ancient and modern, learning Russian himself at the age of l7 ( which unfortunately he has allowed to lapse.) . Much like Michael Ventris whom Richard admires immensely, frequently reminding us that Ventris was a genius of the first order, Richard has taken it upon himself  to take an entirely  novel approach to the study of Linear B in his own now familiar  Wordpress blog. Linear B Knossos & Mycenae, and his PINTEREST board, Mycenaean Linear B: Progressive Grammar & Vocabulary: where he has set about simplifying the study of the practical application of Mycenaean Linear B Progressive Grammar and Vocabulary in such a way that anyone interested in this fascinating script such as myself for instance, may more easily and more comfortably go about learning it and I have to say since taking on this course that is exactly how I feel. Richard’s tuition is excellent in as much that he allows you to explain some of the ways in which you can work best with him. I am really enjoying learning this subject and have almost completed Level 2.

Comparison of  my Linear B handwriting to Ancient Linear B Handwriting

Above left is an example of my script writing in comparison with the Ancient script on the right.

Professional Linguists of course will be interested in this new approach to an ancient language quite unlike any other, Mycenaean Linear B, the earliest of the Greek dialects (ca. l450-l200 BCE).

In around the year 20l6, Richard will be publishing his book, Mycenaean Linear B Progressive Grammar and Vocabulary.

Please Note:- Richards most recent Anthology, ‘ The Phoenix Rising from the Ashes ‘. an international multilingual anthology of sonnets in English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese and Farsi, can be ordered in hardcover, softcover or as an e book  from the Friesen Press bookstore                   :


Posted by on December 2, 2013 in Uncategorized


10 responses to “Reading Ancient Scripts.

  1. Kelly M

    December 2, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    Good luck with your Linear B studies! I wouldn’t mind learning the script one of these days. Just need to set my mind to it.. 🙂


  2. vallance22

    December 3, 2013 at 6:44 am

    Wow, this is beautiful, Rita. I am thrilled with your bios of Michael Ventris and myself, and delighted that you should honour me so by mentioning me in the same breath as you do Michael Ventris. Rihard


  3. vallance22

    December 3, 2013 at 6:44 am

    Reblogged this on Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae.


    • ritaroberts

      December 3, 2013 at 9:02 am

      You are most welcome Richard and Thanks for the Re-blog.


  4. dianabuja

    December 23, 2013 at 11:50 am

    Rita, most interesting. As you know, my work has primarily been south – Egypt and elsewhere. I’ve linked to Richard’s blog – which I’ll reblog. Here are a couple of links to reviews of “The Riddle of the Labyrinth: the Quest to Crack and Ancient Code and the Uncovering of a Lost Civilisation,” by Margalit Fox – review. I saved them back in August but perhaps you already know about them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ritaroberts

      December 23, 2013 at 12:49 pm

      Hi Diana, Thanks for the Re-blog. Yes ! as a matter of fact I am in the middle of Margalit Fox’s book right now. Fascinating !


      • dianabuja

        December 23, 2013 at 1:30 pm

        Sorry I cannot get the book here in Burundi, but nice to have the reviews.


  5. Urwendur

    May 14, 2017 at 3:53 am

    Reblogged this on Mouzafphaerre.



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