破译一种神秘语言的竞赛——苏珊 · 卢派克 Susan Lupack: The race to decode a mysterious language

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演员: Susan Lupack

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
他猜测这些符号代表着 欧洲最古老的文明
by Europe’s oldest civilization.
Their meaning would elude scholars for 50 years.
这些符号的含义让学者们 摸索了整整五十年。
Evans discovered these tablets amid the colorful frescoes
伊文斯是在克诺索斯宫殿 色彩绚丽的壁画
and maze-like hallways of the palace of Knossos.
和迷宫般的走廊中 发现这些泥板的。
He called the civilization Minoan—
after the mythical Cretan ruler, King Minos.
这个名称出自神话中 克里特的统治者,米诺斯国王。
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––
由于伊文斯对那些泥板戒备森严, 这些文字愈发显得神秘莫测——
only 200 of the inscriptions were published during his lifetime––
在他生前,仅有两百块 刻字泥板公诸于众——
but he couldn’t decipher the script.
However, he did make two accurate observations:
不过,他的确做出了 两项准确的观察:
the tablets were administrative records, and the script was a syllabary,
这些泥板是行政记录; 文字是音节文字,
where each symbol represented both a consonant and a vowel,
其中的每个符号 都代表了一个辅音加元音,
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.
科博是布鲁克林学院的古典学教授, 当时仅有极少数女性能位居这样的职位。
To help in her quest, she taught herself many languages––
为了她的理想追求, 她自学了很多门外语——
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.
在接下来的二十多年里, 她对那些符号进行了分析。
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
她把自己的发现记录在碎纸片上, 保存在香烟盒里,
because writing supplies were scarce during the Second World War.
因为在二战期间, 书写用品非常稀缺。
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.
他甚至在二战服役期间 还在对铭文进行解读。
After the war, Ventris built on Kober’s grid
战后,文特里斯进一步完善了 科博的字符关系表,
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.
这批泥板是在希腊大陆上的 另一处遗迹皮洛斯出土的。
His real breakthrough came when he compared the tablets from Pylos
他在对比皮洛斯和 克诺索斯两地的泥板时
with those from Knossos
and saw that certain words appeared on tablets from one site but not the other.
他发现某些词只出现在 其中一处遗址的泥板上。
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,
他知道,即使历经数个世纪, 地名也大多保持不变,
and decided to compare Linear B
于是他决定将线形文字 B
to an ancient syllabary from the island of Cyprus.
和塞浦路斯岛上的 古代音节文字进行对比。
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
当文特里斯将塞浦路斯 音节文字的某些发音
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.
也就是伊文斯发现泥板的 城市的名字。
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,
伊文斯曾坚持认为, 米诺斯人征服了希腊大陆,
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.
大陆上的希腊人入侵了克里特岛, 并借用了米诺斯文字作为自己的语言。
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.
它依然是未解之谜—— 至少到目前为止。