Margalit Fox’s Book and NY Times article on Alice E. Kober and the Deciperment of Linear B: Uses of the PASP archives

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Margalit Fox’s new book The Riddle of the Labyrinth (Ecco Press) will be released on May 14.      http://www.harpercollins.com/books/The-Riddle-of-the-Labyrinth-Margalit-Fox?isbn=9780062228833&HCHP=TB_The+Riddle+of+the+Labyrinth

The Times Sunday Review for May 12, 2013 has a biographical essay about Kober by Fox:   http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/12/sunday-review/alice-e-kober-43-lost-to-history-no-more.html?pagewanted=all

Margalit used the PASP archives and the School of Information resources at UT Austin in order to tell the story of the decipherment of Linear B. She places the the work of Alice Elizabeth Kober in the context of the research done on the Aegean linear scripts from 1900 through the decipherment of Linear B in 1952.  As Margalit quotes:

“Kober was ‘the person on whom an astute bettor with full insider information would have placed a wager’ to decipher the script.” —Thomas Palaima

Margalit also gives us a way of grasping Kober’s sense that work on the scripts was what we might call ‘a sacred duty’. For her working with other serious scholars like Johannes Sundwall and Emmett L. Bennett, Jr., and John Franklin Daniel was a life calling (alongside her full-time obligations as a professor with major teaching obligations). But it was also  deeply satisfying, worth all the painstaking effort, and fun.

In short, Margalit gives us  Kober as a full human being.

I have read every page of the manuscript in draft and proof stages. The Riddle of the Labyrinth is a fine book, well-documented, fascinating and humanly engaging.  It makes clear how Kober’s work was related to the work of Sir Arthur Evans, Michael Ventris, Emmett L. Bennett, Jr., Johannes Sundwall, Sir John Myres and others.

I just met today with Sue Trombley, director of consulting at Iron Mountain, a digital records management company. In 2003-2005, Sue preserved and organized the Kober archives, writing the first finding aid for the materials. Sue did the Kober-like work of going through each and every one of the cigarette-carton and other files (over 180,000 items) making sure each one was not in a destructive environment (removing all sorts of intrusive matter) and housing all assemblages of items in archivally sound environments.

Here is the commentary piece Sue and I wrote in 2003 about Alice Kober and her archives. It gives some sense of the human side of Alice that going through her records gave to Sue (and vicariously to me):

http://www.utexas.edu/research/pasp/publications/editorials/27oct03.html

Margalit thanks Zachary Fischer, who put the Kober and Ventris letters up on-line in summer of 2012. He and Sue are happy to see Alice’s story told primarily from the materials they worked hard to preserve and make available.

Zachary reports that as of May 2013, UTDR (University of Texas Digital Resources) usage statistics are that the collections have good use by visitors. In the last nine months or so, SMID has had ca. 1155 views and the main Kober page has had ca. 1245 views!

https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/16096

Christy Costlow Moilanen has done the complete finding aid to the PASP Kober, Ventris and Bennett materials (mainly in 2007-2008).

http://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/16210

Many PASP assistants have helped in keeping the Kober materials well-organized and fully accessible to visiting scholars.  Margalit Fox, in her acknowledgements (pp. 347-349), explicitly thanks Dygo Tosa. Dygo has worked with these materials for three years now. Dygo has finished his M.A. degree and is now finishing his certification in the University of Texas at Austin’s UTeach Program. Dygo is a mainstay of PASP, a bright young mind and an inspiring teacher. He has written and given papers on Minoan language and linear scripts.

Margalit also thanks, as do I, Alison Fell, whose engrossing novel, The Element -inth in Greek  (Sandstone Press 2012) tells in a fully human way some of the Kober story.

Alison investigated the life of Kober and provided PASP with documents pertaining to Kober’s life, for example, her birth and death certificates, photographs, and the ship’s manifest marking the arrival of Alice’s mother and father in the new world. Alice’s mother was already in her first trimester of pregnancy with Alice. Alison also provided us with census reports showing where the Kobers lived after they arrived in the new world.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-element-inth-Greek-ebook/dp/B0086742OO

The Kober archives were in the possession of the late Emmett L. Bennett, Jr., since soon after Alice’s death (May 16, 1950) until the late 1980’s when he entrusted them to my personal care.  I have made them available to PASP and have supplemented them with the kinds of materials I have mentioned above. Here are links to materials.

http://www.utexas.edu/research/pasp/venkoba.html

https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/15875

Thanks to everyone involved. In a few days Alice will step into the spotlight at last, something she was ever reluctant to do when she was alive and when work took priority over any concern for any kind of fame connected with her work.

The late Robert Graves said, “I write poems for poets…. For people in general I write prose, and I am content that they should be unaware that I do anything else.  To write poems for other than poets is wasteful.”

Mutadis mutandis, this describes Alice E. Kober’s mindset, spirit and work. She wrote beautiful, exacting, sound and serious scholarship for serious scholars.

Tom Palaima May 10, 2013

ALSO OF INTEREST TO STUDENTS OF HUMAN COMMUNICATION BY  MARGALIT FOX:

Talking Hands: What Sign Language Reveals about the Mind (Simon & Schuster, 2007)

Manolis Stavrakakis and the Treasures of PASP

Report of Manolis Stavrakakis July 2012 as  Short Term Scholar in the Classics Department, University of Texas – Austin  Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory (PASP)

‘The treasures of PASP’

The title I am giving to this short report, ‘The treasures of PASP’, has a literal and a metaphorical meaning.

Its literal meaning stems from the variety, importance and number of the materials of the PASP Collection and Archives.

Its metaphorical meaning refers to the person who has created it, Professor Tom Palaima, as he is himself one of the ‘treasures’ of PASP and the ‘soul’ of the Program.

There are two themes with which I will refer in my experience as a short-term visiting scholar at the University of Texas in Austin. One is my studying at PASP and the other is the life in Austin.

As a Ph.D. student at the Architectural Association, under Mark Cousins’ supervision – to whom I am indebted for his support to work on this topic, his contribution, as well as his encouragement to go to Austin – I started exploring the connection between Michael Ventris’ architectural education and his decipherment. I received the ‘Michael Ventris Extraordinary Award in Architecture’ in July, 2011 so that I could travel for one week to Austin and work at PASP on the correspondence of Michael Ventris and Emmett Bennett.

It was there that I had the chance to meet for the first time with Professor Tom Palaima and discuss my Thesis with him. Had it not been for Tom Palaima’s enthusiasm and generosity I would not have been able to return to the PASP for a whole month, in July 2012, and I would not have been able to continue with my research. Up to today Tom Palaima’s invitation to work with him has been the most generous gift that this Ph.D. has offered to me.

My studying in PASP can be described within three different themes. Continue reading

Welcome to the new PASP blog!

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This is the updated main website of the Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory, previously located at http://www.utexas.edu/research/pasp/.

All the material on the previous website is intact and can still be accessed. The majority of content has been converted to this new site. This updated site features better search capability and stable links to articles.

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