Whether it’s the possibility of hearing the voices of ancient peoples or the puzzle solver’s taste for the challenges posed by breaking codes, undeciphered scripts have long tantalized the public. Here, Andrew Robinson investigates the most famous examples, beginning with the stories of three great decipherments: Egyptian hieroglyphs, Maya glyphs, and the Minoan Linear B clay tablets.
He then tackles the important scripts that have yet to be cracked. Perhaps the greatest challenge is the Indus script, the onl writing of the four “first” civilizations that cannot be read and a potential key to better understanding the impressive Indus Valley civilization. Then there are the Etruscans, builders of sensational tombs and the cultural conduit through whom the Greek alphabet reached Rome and the rest of Europe. Yet the language spoken by the Etruscans remains wrapped in mystery. And on isolated Easter Island, the Rongorongo script, inscribed on wood with sharks’ teeth, has long been an irresistible magnet for ambitious scholars.
The struggle to decipher these three scripts and six others—including the Phaistos disc of Crete and the Zapotec script of Mexico—is recounted with extraordinary depth and erudition in this wonderfully illustrated book. Lost Languages is an archaeological and linguistic detective story that will appeal to anyone interested in ancient peoples and the intricacies of language.
Andrew Robinson’s many books include The Story of Writing.
A potent mix of academic esoterica, codecracking and controversy – the same giddy cocktail that made ‘The Da Vinci Code’ such a success, but with much greater scholarship.
— New York Post
Andrew Robinson has written more than twenty-five books on the arts and sciences. They include Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World’s Undeciphered Scripts, India: A Short History, and Earthshock, which won the Association of Earth Science Editors Outstanding Publication Award. He is also a regular contributor to magazines, such as Current World Archaeology, History Today, The Lancet, Nature, and Science. A former literary editor of The Times Higher Education Supplement, he was also a visiting fellow at the University of Cambridge.