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Writing is perhaps the greatest invention in human history; it made history possible. But how did scholars first decipher forgotten scripts? Join Irving Finkel and Andrew Robinson as they show us how we unlocked the secrets of cuneiform and hieroglyphics, and how many ancient writings remain mysterious today.
Irving Finkel takes us through his work on cuneiform, which has uncovered secrets from over five thousand years ago, including the story behind Noah’s ark. Andrew Robinson will then present the revolutionary life of Jean-François Champollion, the volatile French scholar who decoded Egyptian hieroglyphs using the Rosetta Stone and thereby doubled the historical timespan of Egypt, with crucial help (not always acknowledged by Champollion!) from the researches of the polymathic Thomas Young—physician, physicist and philologist—sometimes known as ‘The Last Man Who Knew Everything’.
Irving Finkel is the British Museum curator in charge of cuneiform inscriptions on tablets of clay from ancient Mesopotamia, of which the Middle East Department has the largest collection—some 130,000 pieces—of any modern museum. This work involves reading and translating all sorts of inscriptions, sometimes working on ancient archives to identify manuscripts that belong together, or even join to one another. He is the author of The Ark Before Noah: Decoding the Story of the Flood.
Andrew Robinson is the author of twenty-five books from leading general and academic publishers. They include two biographies of Champollion and Young, Cracking the Egyptian Code and The Last Man Who Knew Everything, plus Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World’s Undeciphered Scripts. A former literary editor of The Times Higher Education Supplement, he also writes arts and science reviews/features for magazines and newspapers, such as Nature and The Wall Street Journal.