Archive for desember, 2013


Latinske julesongar frå mellomalderen

Åslaug Ommundsen:

Kva songar blei framførte under julefeiringa her i landet i mellomalderen? Svaret finst blant dei 6000 fragmenta frå norske handskrifter som har overlevd som innbindingar på arkivmateriale frå 15- og 1600-talet. Her finst både tekst og musikknotasjon for julesongane frå fortida.

Les meir.


Alice Kober og Linear B

After her death, the architect Michael Ventris built on Kober’s work and with some inspired guesses deciphered the script [gresk Linear B] in 1952.

Wikipedia om Alice Kober, en amerikansk filolog. Klassiskfaget i Bergen tar ikke stilling til om beskrivelsen av Michael Ventris og Kobers innsatser er riktig, men vidareformidler her et tipp fra Erik S. om en anmeldelse av en bok om Kober. Fra

In February 1893, a collection of strange semiprecious stones caught the eye of an amateur archaeologist strolling through the flea markets of Athens. They were etched with primitive carvings. “It is impossible to believe that the signs on these stones were simply idle figures carved at random,” the Englishman later confided to his diary. He bought as many gems as he could find. Upon learning that they had come from Crete, Arthur Evans purchased six acres of Cretan farmland rumored to rest over a city mentioned in Homer’s “Iliad.”

Evans dug at Knossos in the hopes of uncovering a prehistoric Aegean writing system. Within a year he had found three. To this day, two of those scripts remain unreadable: the hieroglyphic engravings Evans first spotted in Athens and “Linear A,” the script thought to record the language of the ancient Minoans. For more than five decades after its discovery, the riddle of “Linear B,” the writing system of the mainland Mycenaean civilization, went unsolved. But on July 1, 1952, a young English architect named Michael Ventris informed the world via a BBC Radio broadcast that he had deciphered the script.

The intriguing story behind that decipherment has never been told in full. It forms the subject of Margalit Fox’s bracing new book, “The Riddle of the Labyrinth” (Profile Books). Fox is a New York Times journalist with no background in Mycenaean or Classical studies. Her interests are not with Linear B itself, but the handful of scholars who made a life out of cracking its code. This lends her study an unacademic but grippingly human perspective. Over its most ardent cryptologists Linear B cast a haunting, almost Tutankhamun-type curse. Evans himself was stumped by their dizzying pictograms; he went to the grave tormented by his inability to access the written documents of the very civilization he had unearthed. An American woman, Alice Kober, spent two decades sorting out the intricacies of Linear B. She died unexpectedly on the very cusp of its decipherment. It was Ventris who finally decoded Linear B a year later. He was killed in a car accident shortly afterward, hounded by the lurking suspicion that his findings may have been false.


Recently listed as one of the New York Times’ “100 Notable Books of 2013,” “The Riddle of the Labyrinth” is a complicated story clearly and passionately told. As Fox rather giddily notes, her book documents “a real-life quest to solve a prehistoric mystery, starring flesh-and-blood detectives with nothing more than wit, passion, and determination at their disposal.”

But Fox’s bounding penchant for historical drama curiously glides over the most dramatic element of the Linear B saga: what the decipherment of Europe’s earliest-known documents actually meant. For all the hype surrounding their translation, the Linear B tablets proved remarkably uninteresting for all but a small circle of Bronze Age scholars. They read like ancient receipts in their terse cataloguing of Mycenaean palace inventories (“Thus the wood-cutters give to the wheeler’s workshop 50 new branches and 50 axles.”).

Their content is not what makes the Linear B tablets fascinating. It is the language in which they are written. Classicists were insistent that, whatever language the Linear B tablets recorded, it was certainly not Greek. Ventris’s announcement upended those theories overnight. The Linear B tablets were written in Greek, “a difficult and archaic Greek, seeing that it is 500 years older than Homer and written in a rather abbreviated form, but Greek nevertheless.”

The finding proved that Greek was Europe’s – and perhaps the world’s – oldest continuously used language. Greek speakers had been inhabiting Greek lands, worshipping Greek deities and acknowledging a certain vision of Hellenism a full millennium earlier than previously believed. Linear B’s decipherment added vast new stretches to the Greek historical narrative. In the diverse ethnic zone of the Balkans, the Hellenes’ presence in Greece could now be definitively dated back at least 3,500 years. Linear B’s decipherment proved that, against considerable odds, today’s Greeks speak a language akin to that which was spoken by Greeks four millennia ago.