Andrew Robinson, a visiting fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge, has written several works on the decipherment of ancient scripts, including a book about the brilliant Michael Ventris (1922-1956), the "Man who deciphered Linear B." In this work, published by the Tess Press, an imprint of Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers in New York in 2002 (352 pp. with copious drawings and illustrations, a bibliography and index, ISBN 978-1-60367-003-4), Robinson exposes the reader to other significant problems of decipherment in the history of civilization. In his introduction on "Writing Systems, Coded Civilizations, and Undeciphered Scripts," he compares THREE great human endeavors realized in May 1953: Crick and Watson''s discovery of the double helix structure of DNA, Hillary and Norgay''s successful surmounting of Everest, and the proof of the correctitude of Michael Ventris'' decipherment of the Minoan Linear Script B. He states that the latter of these is the rarest of type and describes the exhilaration inherent in such a feat. Then, in Part I, he describes THREE "great decipherments" in human history: the "voices of the Pharoahs" in the deciphered hieroglyphics, the "labyrinth of Minos" in the deciphered Linear B, and the "Bishop de Landa''s Inquisition" associated with the decipherment of Mayan glyphs in Central America.
Part II concerns the still "undeciphered scripts," --those of the Meroitic Scripts of the Sudan, the Estruscan alphabet of pre-Roman Italy, the "Mediterranean Mystery" of the script Linear A, the Proto-Elamite ledgers of ancient Iran, the RongoRongo scribings in reverse boustrophodon found on remote Easter Island in the Pacific (literally the best description of this intriguing problem extant), Central America''s Zapotec and Isthmian Scripts, Pakistan''s Indus Valley Script, and Crete''s Phaistos Disc. As Robinson writes he reveals subjects sure to be fascinating to linguists, logologists, paleographers, ethnologists, and even general cultural historians. One can only agree with the comment on the book jacket from the journal ARCHEOLOGY that "Robinson''s enthusiasm for the subject is so infectious that you might find yourself trying to crack Etruscan in your spare time." It''s a great read, a treasure trove, filled to the brim with insightful analyses and intriguing cultural information.