Alice Kober
Alice Kober was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 classical scholar and archaeologist best known for laying the groundwork for the decipherment of Linear B
Linear B
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...


Starting in the early 1940s, Kober conducted her studies of Linear B while an assistant to Sir John Myres
John Myres
Sir John Linton Myres was a British archaeologist. He conducted excavations in Cyprus in 1904. He became the first Wykeham Professor of Ancient History, at the University of Oxford, in 1910, having been Gladstone Professor of Greek and Lecturer in Ancient Geography, University of Liverpool from 1907...

. At the time, it was agreed that the writing direction of Linear B was from left to right. Most of the known clay tablets were inventory data which contributed to the early decipherment of the counting system. The number of distinct characters that had been identified – 90 – indicated a syllabary
A syllabary is a set of written symbols that represent syllables, which make up words. In a syllabary, there is no systematic similarity between the symbols which represent syllables with the same consonant or vowel...

 writing system. Arthur Evans
Arthur Evans
Sir Arthur John Evans FRS was a British archaeologist most famous for unearthing the palace of Knossos on the Greek island of Crete and for developing the concept of Minoan civilization from the structures and artifacts found there and elsewhere throughout eastern Mediterranean...

 also suggested that the language used inflection
In grammar, inflection or inflexion is the modification of a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, grammatical mood, grammatical voice, aspect, person, number, gender and case...

. While some scholars suspected it might be related to Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 or a Cypriot language, most assumed Linear B was an unknown Cretan
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...


Since World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 rationing had made paper rare, Kober cut her 2" x 3" (5 x 7 cm) note cards from any paper she could find, including flyers, books, and envelopes. She filled over 186,000 note cards with information about occurrences of the 90 Linear B characters.

Kober found patterns in the writing: she identified word stem
Word stem
In linguistics, a stem is a part of a word. The term is used with slightly different meanings.In one usage, a stem is a form to which affixes can be attached. Thus, in this usage, the English word friendships contains the stem friend, to which the derivational suffix -ship is attached to form a new...

s and endings which she presumed indicated the grammatical case
In linguistics, declension is the inflection of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and articles to indicate number , case , and gender...

. She also labelled some characters consonant
In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front of the tongue; , pronounced with the back of the tongue; , pronounced in the throat; and ,...

s and others vowel
In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...


Kober died of cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

at the age of 43, two years before the decipherment of Linear B was announced.

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