Decipherment


The Fenton Vase

The Fenton Vase


Diameter: 17.200 cm

AOA 1930-1


During the Enlightenment, scholars studied the languages of many different ancient civilizations in order to understand how they developed and to make connections between them.

Some studied ancient scripts from Europe. In Britain and Ireland, for instance, the desire to understand the origins of language and writing led to early successes in deciphering. The result was a rich archive of information gathered from runes, Ogam stones and Anglo-Saxon inscriptions from which scholars began to construct their own early history.

But other scripts proved much harder to decipher. For instance, people wished to understand Maya and Aztec glyphs because they believed these Central American civilizations were descendants of the Phoenicians. They hoped that deciphering the inscriptions on their monuments would uncover these common roots. But the glyphs were not deciphered until the twentieth century.

On display: Enlightenment: Ancient scripts