The tablet found at the `Palace of Nestor' in Greece that clinched the decipherment of Linear B in 1953 was simply an inventory of tripod cauldrons--one of them with its legs burnt off--and of goblets of varying sizes and numbers of handles.
A fact of archaeological decipherment is that it attracts both geniuses and cranks; and it is not always easy to tell the two apart.
Andrew Robinson, Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World's Undeciphered Scripts (McGraw-Hill, 2002); Maurice Pope, The Story of Decipherment: From Egyptian Hieroglyphs to Maya Script (2nd edn, Thames and Hudson, 1999); John Chadwick, The Decipherment of Linear B (3rd edn, Cambridge UP, 1992); Andrew Robinson, The Man Who Deciphered Linear B: The Story of Michael Ventris (Thames and Hudson, 2002); Michael D.
The story of Mayan decipherment is longer, odder and more compelling than most.
Quite suddenly, some pieces of the jigsaw fell into position, some new approaches were tried, and as one reading made possible another, the decipherment became a rush.
The Blood of Kings was first published in 1986, on the occasion of a most important exhibition at the Fort Worth museum about Mayan empires as the unfolding decipherment saw them.
But he makes the standard error of ascribing the decipherment of Mesopotamian cuneiform to H.
Egyptian is a well-illustrated, competent-looking survey of the stages and varieties of script from Narmer's Palette to Coptic, with an elementary sketch of the grammar added; the chapter on decipherment is very well done, though it overlooks the fact that Champollion was quite explicit about his dependence on and divergences from the work of Thomas Young.
Very useful would be similarly compressed but competent treatments of: Italic inscriptions (and the other, even more obscure, remnants of pre-Classical Indo-European languages); Latin inscriptions; Indian epigraphy and paleography; Ogham; Slavic materials (with Armenian and Georgian); modern script inventions, beginning with Korean and Cherokee; Chinese; Japanese; and the process of decipherment.
These arguments in favor of the Dravidian hypothesis are, in general, already familiar to readers of recent studies of the decipherment problem, including those of Parpola himself, and reinforce what is now something like a majority consensus in its favor.
Having presented this background for his decipherment, Parpola boldly ventures in the remainder of the book (chapters 10 through 15) to posit actual Dravidian readings for specific graphemes and sequences.