Ventris Letters Now Available Online

Back in 2007, the University of Texas Libraries staff digitized and transcribed many of Michael Ventris’ letters held in the archives here at the Program of Aegean Scripts and Prehistory (PASP). They were never fully released and archived onto tape.

This summer (2013) I contacted the UT Libraries staff to see if they still had the files. Colleen Lyon, the Digital Repository Librarian, contacted Wendy Martin in Digitization Services, who managed to restore the six-year-old data from tape. Thanks to UT Libraries, I was able to compile 59 documents from 129 high resolution images and submit them to the UT Digital Repository.

The Michael Ventris Correspondence Collection is available here.

The Collection mainly contains correspondence between Michael Ventris and Alice E. Kober (until her untimely death in 1950) and Emmett L. Bennett from 1948 through 1955. In these letters we see these great minds grappling with Linear B and its decipherment. We see their humor, their acuity, and the way Linear B brought them together in conquering a common challenge.

For example, in this letter in 1954 from Ventris to Bennett, Ventris grapples with putting a grid together based on Kober’s work with inflection.


Not more than five months later, Ventris excitedly reported to Bennett that he has deciphered Linear B as Greek.


One wonders whether in his excitement Ventris has handwritten the letter in his clean architect’s handwriting. This was a major surprise for Ventris who had insisted in earlier letters that Linear B might be Pelasgian or Etruscan.

A year later, Ventris sends Bennett a transcription of a tablet from Blegen where they recognize that “tripods” are written out as ti-ri-po-de.


Other letters detail the work of transcribing and publishing the tablets. These letters truly provide us with a look into the not-so-distant past when Linear B was just being deciphered. Please take your time and read through many of them- you can almost hear the conversations between these great minds.

For more information, you may also be interested in the Alice E. Kober papers. Back in 2012, Zachary Fischer and I worked to digitize Alice E. Kober’s paper correspondence. Her work was essential in the decipherment of Linear B, especially with Ventris’ understanding of inflection. That Digital Repository Collection is available here.

Posted July 26, 2013 by Dygo Tosa, Research Assistant – PASP

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

September 30, 2009

Added Palaima editorial:
“Aesop and the UT Budget”

PASP would like to announce two upcoming guest speakers:

Colloquium 1: Thursday November 12 4 PM WAG 116

Dimitri Nakassis (Ph.D. 2006 UT Austin)
Assistant Professor Department of Classics
University of Toronto

“Under the Sceptre of Agamemnon? Economy, Archaeology and Texts in Mycenaean Greece”

Professor Nakassis will also be giving a lecture in Prof. Palaima’s AHC 378 class on Friday November 13 at 2:00 PM WAG 112 on the topic: “Mycenaean society: in search of a middle class.”

Prof. Nakassis won the prize for best dissertation in humanities and fine arts (UT Austin 2007). His research interests include: Greek history, Greek archaeology, especially Late Bronze Age, social theory, ancient religion

His publications now include:

  • “Named Individuals and the Mycenaean State at Pylos,” in Colloquium Romanum, Atti del XII colloquio internazionale di Micenologia, Roma, 20-25 febbraio 2006, ed. A. Sacconi, M. del Freo, L. Godart and M. Negri (Rome 2008) 549-561.
  • “Siteless Survey and Intensive Data Collection in an Artifact-rich Environment: Case Studies from the Eastern Corinthia, Greece,” JMA 19.1 (2006) 7-43, co-authored with W. Caraher and D. Pettegrew.
  • “The Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey: Integrated Methods for a Dynamic Landscape,” Hesperia 75.4 (2006) 453-523, co-authored with T.F. Tartaron et al.
  • “Gemination at the Horizons: East and West in the Mythical Geography of Archaic Greek Epic,” TAPA 134.2 (2004) 215-233.
  • “Linear A and Multidimensional Scaling.” In K.P. Foster and R. Laffineur eds., Metron: Measuring the Aegean Bronze Age, Aegaeum 24 (Liège and Austin 2003) 335-342, co-authored with Kevin Pluta.

His articles accepted and in progress are on the following topics: (1) the finances of Mycenaean Pylos, (2) state and society in the Aegean Bronze Age, (3) the concept of redistribution in Aegean archaeology, (4) feasting and the king in Mycenaean Pylos, (5) structuration and the Mycenaean state, and (6) the Dipolieia festival and the Kylonian conspiracy.


Colloquium 2:

Thursday December 3 4 PM WAG 116

Ruth Palmer (Ph.D. University of Cincinnati 1989)
Associate Professor of Classics and World Religions
Ohio University

“What the scribe saw: artistic representations of deer and the invention of the Mycenaean deer ideogram.”

Professor Palmer will discuss how deer are represented in Mycenaean art from the Shaft Graves at Mycenae (and before) to the end of the palatial period, with a special focus eventually on the ambience in which scribes created the ideogram they used in Linear B.

Professor Palmer will also be giving a lecture in Prof. Palaima’s AHC 378 class on Monday November 30 at 2:00 PM WAG 112 on the topic: “Between Pylos and Knossos: women workers in the Linear B texts.”

Here Prof. Palmer will present the kinds of evidence that we can extract from the Linear B tablets about the status and jobs done by the female work force, and the difference in social conditions that exists in the groups listed in the Knossos tablets vs. the Pylos tablets. She will also bring in comparisons with the Mesopotamian records of the female work forces.

Professor Palmer is one of the foremost authorities on foodstuffs in the ancient world and their role in society.

Her publications include her definitive monograph: Wine in the Mycenaean Palace Economy.

Review: J. T. Killen, in Minos 29-30 (1997) 371-373.
Review: Paul Halstead, in JHS 117 (1997) 242-244.

And many articles, including:

  • “Trade in Wine, Perfumed Oil and Foodstuffs: the Linear B Evidence and Beyond.” Ploes… Sea Routes… Interconnections in the Mediterranean, 16th-6th c. BC. Proceedings of the International Symposium held at Rethymnon, Crete, September 29th-October 2nd 2002, Stampolidis, Nicholas Chr. and Vassos Karageorghis, eds. Athens, University of Crete and the A. G. Leventis Foundation, 960-7143-25-6. p. 125-140.
  • “Bridging the Gap: The Continuity of Greek Agriculture from the Mycenaean to the Historical Period.” Tandy, David W., ed. Prehistory and History: Ethnicity, Class and Political Economy. Montréal, New York, and London: Black Rose Books. 1-55164-189-5 (hardcover)//1-55164-188-7 (paperback). p. 41-84.
  • “Perishable Goods in Mycenaean Texts.” Deger-Jalkotzy, Sigfrid, Stefan Hiller, and Oswald Panagl. Eds. Floreant Studia Mycenaea. Akten des X. Internationalen Mykenologischen Colloquiums in Salzburg vom 1.-5. Mai 1995. Band I. Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. p. 463-485.
  • “Models in Linear B Landholding: An Analysis of Methodology”. Bennet, John and Jan Driessen, eds. A-na-qo-ta. Studies Presented to J. T. Killen. Minos 33-34. p. 223-250 (Bibliographical Abbreviations, 371-375).
  • “Linear A Commodities: A Comparison of Resources.” Laffineur, Robert and Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier, eds., Politeia: Society and State in the Aegean Bronze Age. Proceedings of the 5th International Aegean Conference / 5e Rencontre égéenne internationale, University of Heidelberg, Archäologisches Institut, 10-13 April 1994, Vol I., Aegaeum 12. Université de Liège, Histoire de l’art et archéologie de la Grèce antique; University of Texas at Austin, Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory. p. 133-155.
  • “Wheat and Barley in Mycenaean Society.” Olivier, J.-P., ed. Mykenaïka. Actes du IXe Colloque international sur les textes mycéniens et égéens, Centre de l’Antiquité Grecque et Romaine de la Fondation Hellénique des Recherches Scientifiques et École française d’Athènes. BCH Suppl. 25. Diffusion de Boccard, Paris. p. 475-497.
  • “Subsistence Rations at Pylos and Knossos.” Minos 24. p. 89-124.

Added Palaima article: “1984: It’s Coming,” in Times Higher Education 3 September 2009
PDF available here