In the early 1900s on the island of Crete,
在 20 世纪初的克里特岛上，
British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans uncovered nearly 3,000 tablets
英国考古学家亚瑟·伊文斯爵士 （Arthur Evans）发现了将近 3000 块
inscribed with strange symbols.
He thought these symbols represented the language spoken
by Europe’s oldest civilization.
Their meaning would elude scholars for 50 years.
Evans discovered these tablets amid the colorful frescoes
and maze-like hallways of the palace of Knossos.
He called the civilization Minoan—
after the mythical Cretan ruler, King Minos.
He thought the script, dubbed Linear B, represented the Minoan language,
他猜想这种被称作“线形文字 B”的文本 代表了米诺斯文明的语言，
and scholars all over the world came up with their own theories.
Was it the lost language of the Etruscans?
Or perhaps it represented an early form of Basque?
The mystery intensified because Evans guarded the tablets closely––
only 200 of the inscriptions were published during his lifetime––
but he couldn’t decipher the script.
However, he did make two accurate observations:
the tablets were administrative records, and the script was a syllabary,
where each symbol represented both a consonant and a vowel,
mixed with characters that each represented a whole word.
Evans worked on Linear B for three decades before a scholar from Brooklyn, New York,
在伊文斯对线形文字 B 研究到第三十个年头时，
named Alice Kober set out to solve the mystery.
Kober was a professor of Classics at Brooklyn College
爱丽丝 · 科博（Alice Kober） 决心揭开这个未解之谜。
when few women held such positions.
To help in her quest, she taught herself many languages––
knowledge she knew she would need to decipher Linear B.
她知道在破解线形文字 B 时 需要用到这些知识储备。
For the next two decades, she analyzed the symbols.
Working from the few available inscriptions,
she recorded how often each symbol appeared.
Then she recorded how frequently each symbol appeared next to another.
She stored her findings on scrap paper in cigarette cartons
because writing supplies were scarce during the Second World War.
By analyzing these frequencies,
she discovered that Linear B relied on word endings
她发现线形文字 B 是通过单词词尾的变化
to give its sentences grammar.
From this she began to build a chart of the relations between the signs,
coming closer than anyone before to deciphering Linear B.
比之前的任何人都更接近 对线形文字 B 的破译。
But she died, probably of cancer, in 1950 at the age of 43.
但她却在 1950 年 疑似死于癌症，享年 43 岁。
While Kober was analyzing the Knossos tablets,
an architect named Michael Ventris was also working to crack Linear B.
一名叫迈克·文特里斯（Michael Ventris）的 建筑师也在试图破解线形文字 B。
He had become obsessed with Linear B as a schoolboy after hearing Evans speak.
他在孩提时听过伊文斯的演讲， 由此对线形文字 B 产生了浓厚的兴趣。
He even worked on deciphering the script while serving in World War II.
After the war, Ventris built on Kober’s grid
using a newly published cache of Linear B inscriptions
他参照了新公布的 一批线形文字 B 铭文，
excavated from a different archeological site called Pylos, on mainland Greece.
His real breakthrough came when he compared the tablets from Pylos
with those from Knossos
and saw that certain words appeared on tablets from one site but not the other.
He wondered if those words represented the names of places
specific to each location.
He knew that over centuries, place names tend to remain constant,
and decided to compare Linear B
to an ancient syllabary from the island of Cyprus.
The Cypriot script was used hundreds of years after Linear B,
塞浦路斯文字比线形文字 B 晚诞生了几百年，
but some of the symbols were similar—
he wondered if the sounds would be similar, too.
When Ventris plugged some of the sounds of the Cypriot syllabary
into the Linear B inscriptions,
代入到线形文字 B 中时，
he came up with the word Knossos,
the name of the city where Evans had discovered his tablets.
In a domino effect, Ventris unraveled Linear B,
如多米诺骨牌一般，文特里斯 环环相扣地破译了线形文字 B，
with each word revealing more clearly that the language of Linear B
每个词都愈发清晰地表明 线形文字 B
was not Minoan, but Greek.
Ventris died in a car crash four years later, at the age of 34.
文特里斯在四年后的 一场车祸中丧生，终年 34 岁。
But his discovery rewrote a chapter of history.
Evans had insisted that the Minoans conquered the mainland Greeks,
and that was why examples of Linear B were found on the mainland.
因此才能在大陆上 发现线形文字 B 的范本。
But the discovery that Linear B represented Greek, and not Minoan,
但线形文字 B 属于希腊语， 而非米诺斯语这一发现
showed that the opposite had happened:
mainland Greeks invaded Crete and adopted the Minoan script for their own language.
But the story isn’t over yet.
The actual language of the Minoans,
represented by another script called Linear A,
另一种叫做线形文字 A 的文本，
has yet to be deciphered.
It remains a mystery— at least for now.