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In this lively, clear and balanced book Andrew Robinson offers a series of perspectives on decipherment, focusing almost as much on deciphered as on undeciphered scripts.
After an introductory chapter that summarises the nature and history of writing and the nature of decipherment, in Part I (pp.
Thompson's portrayal of a single Maya moon goddess as one of the major figures of ancient Maya cosmology has been uncritically adopted by later scholars within the fields of archaeology and art history but also by historians and scholars of religious studies who are less qualified to evaluate Thompson's intellectual biases and the recent progress made in hieroglyphic decipherment.
Although the decipherment of Maya hieroglyphic writing, more than that of Egyptian hieroglyphs or Mesopotamian cuneiform, has been a cumulative enterprise, Yuri Knorosov has a good claim to having been its Champollion or Rawlinson.
to which he was introduced by his professor, Sergei Aleksandrovich Tokarev, that steered him towards decipherment of the Maya script.
Decipherments provide readings of names but, to date, little understanding of why the Maya favoured certain names over others.
Recent decipherments of Maya hieroglyphs indicate that similar concepts prevailed among the Classic Maya.
Instead, I pass on to the latter, which contains two points that have proven highly controversial since the work was first issued in 1992 -- first, that Eric Thompson 'single-handedly held back the decipherment for four decades'; and second, that Maya archaeologists in general have been adamantly slow both in accepting the decipherments that form the consensus among epigraphers, or that, even if they do so, they consider the results, at best, as lies and propaganda and, at worst, simply as 'not worthy of notice'.
The topics within these books range from short papers to a full-length book, and in subject matter from an intellectual history of the decipherment of Maya hieroglyphic writing (Coe) to the role of wetland agriculture in Maya culture (Harrison, in the Clancy & Harrison volume).
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.
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.
Nonetheless, should progress on an eventual decipherment ever begin in earnest, this section of Parpola's book, along with the corpus he has been publishing, will prove to be of immense value.