Michael's radio recording in which he announces his decipherment, uploaded here to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of its transmission on the Third Programme on 1st July 2022

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MICHAEL VENTRIS CENTENARY, 12th JULY 2022

 

Michael Ventris (1922-1956) was a young British architect who carried out the greatest archaeological achievement of the 20th Century: the decipherment of Linear B, a prehistoric form of writing which preceded any known alphabet. 

 

Michael first learnt about this ancient script at the age of fourteen when he met Sir Arthur Evans, the eminent archaeologist who discovered it in Crete in 1900. The Linear B bug bit him and Michael spent the rest of his life trying to decipher it, although he was an architect and not an archaeologist. 

 

In 1952, in the face of fierce academic opposition, he announced his discovery to the world: Linear B was Greek. When the newspapers picked up the story in the same week as Tensing Norguay and Sir Edmund Hillary conquered Everest, the decipherment was dubbed “The Everest of Archaeology” and Michael became a deeply reluctant celebrity.

Tablet-641-drawing trans.png

Michael's illustration of a Linear B tablet from Pylos, P641