THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO
23 JULY 2013
ThingsThat Make You Go
Arthur Evans died in July of 1941 at the age of 90.A rather ordinary name disguised an extraordinary
life during which the famed archaeologist made many
notable discoveries, including the unearthing of theMinoan Palace at Knossos, the site of a famous Greek
Legend has it that this huge palace complex whichcomprised hundreds of rooms linked by a labyrinthof passages, was home to the fearsome Minotaur,the half-man, half-bull who devoured seven young
Athenian men and seven maidens every seven years
until he was killed by Theseus with the sword of hisfather, King Aegeus.Of course, this being Greek mythology, anunequivocally happy ending just wouldn't do, so thetale nishes with Theseus's neglecting to raise a white sail upon his return as a sign to his fatherthat he has been successful in his quest, and Aegeus's promptly committing suicide by throwing
himself into the sea that today bears his name.
What is it with Greeks and a dearth of happy endings? Actually, scratch that question. We'll getback to it later.Where were we? Ah yes, Arthur Evans.During his excavation at Knossos, Evans would also discover a series of tablets dating back tothe Bronze Age that bore a riddle in the form of a set of mysterious inscriptions destined tobafe the world for the next half a century — haunting Evans to his grave.The inscriptions were like nothing ever seen previously: although they contained a set ofpictograms that were fairly easy to decipher, there was also a set of cryptic characters thatwould consume some of the smartest minds of a generation until, 52 years after their discovery,
an Englishman called Michael Ventris would at last be credited with solving the riddle of the
language that Evans had, for reasons known to only himself, named Linear Script Class B — orLinear B for short.In the years that intervened between Evans's discovery and Ventris's solution, an Americancollege professor named Alice Kober would devote her life to the unraveling of Linear B; but,though her work undoubtedly laid the groundwork for Ventris's discovery, it was the Englishmanwho received the acclaim. Such is the way in matters like these, unfortunately.