Decipherment is the analysis of documents written in ancient languages, where the language is unknown, or knowledge of the language has been lost.
It is closely related to cryptanalysis — the difference being that the original document was not deliberately written to be difficult to decipher.
Some people have also used the word metaphorically to mean something like 'understanding'.
Examples of successful script decipherment:
Famous documents that have been the subject of decipherments, successful or failed:
- the Behistun Inscription
- the Dresden Codex
- the Edicts of Ashoka
- the Phaistos Disc
- the Rohonc Codex
- the Rosetta Stone
- the Voynich Manuscript
- the Franks Casket
- Magnus Celsius, decipherer of the Staveless runes
- Jean-François Champollion, decipherer of the Egyptian hieroglyphs
- Georg Friedrich Grotefend, decipherer of the Old Persian Cuneiform
- Edward Hincks, decipherer of the Babilonian Cuneiform script
- Bedřich Hrozný, decipherer of the Hittite cuneiform script
- Vilhelm Thomsen, decipherer of the Old Turkic script
- Sūn Yíràng, decipherer of the Oracle bone script
- Michael Ventris and John Chadwick, decipherers of the Linear B
- Yuri Knorozov, decipherer of the Maya script
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