North American Scholar
KOBER, Alice Elizabeth
A.B. Hunter Coll., 1928; A.M. Columbia, 1929; Ph.D., 1932; study at ASCSA, 1939.
- Professional Experience:
Instr. class. Hunter Coll., 1928-30; instr. to asso. prof. Brooklyn Coll., 1930-50; Guggenheim fell. 1946.
"The Use of Color Terms in the Greek Poets, Including All the Poets from Homer to 144 B.C. except the Epigrammatists" (Columbia, 1932); printed (Geneva, NY, 1932).
"Some Remarks on Color in Greek Poetry," CW 27 (1933-4) 189-91; "The Gender of Greek Nouns ending in -inthos," AJP 63 (1942) 320-7; "The Scripts of Pre-Hellenic Greece," CO 21 (1943-4) 72-4; "The 'Adze' Tablets from Knossos," AJA 48 (1944) 64-75; "Evidence of Inflection in the 'Chariot Tablets from Knossos," AJA 49 (1945) 143-51; "The 'Thracian Pig Dance,' " with Lillian B. Lawler, CP 40 (1945) 98-107; "Inflection in Linear Class B: I-Declension," AJA 50 (1945) 268-76; "The Minoan Scripts: Fact and Theory," AJA 52 (1948) 82-103; " 'Total' in Minoan (Linear Class B)," AO 17 (1949) 386-98; "A Note on Some 'Cattle' Tablets from Knossos," JKF 1 (1950-1) 142-50. Bibliography: S. Dow, AJA 58 (1954) 83-4.
Alice Kober played an important role in the classification of remains from Knossos and Pylos and the ultimate decipherment of Linear B. While an undergraduate at Hunter, Kober became interested in the seemingly impenetrable Minoan scripts found in the clay tablets unearthed by Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos. Few of these had been published by the time Kober took her doctorate, but she devoted herself to the decipherment of the phonetic signs. To do so, she studied archaeology in New Mexico and at the ASCSA, acquainting herself with the scripts of as many ancient languages and cultures as she could. She studied the methodology of natural science as well as statistics in order to develop an original method of her own that ultimately detected inflection in Linear B in three examples known popularly as "Kober's Triplets." The abiding difficulty was the lack of classification or even publication of the majority of Evans' tablets. She enlisted the cooperation of Evans' associate Sir John Myres and began cataloguing and classifying the tablets and later some 1,700 Knossian documents in Oxford. Her work, published in the second volume of Myres's Scripta Minoa, was characterized by energy and a method based on sound scientific principles. Her teaching at Brooklyn College showed similar devotion and energy coupled with great sensitivity to the needs of the students. Sterling Dow said of her, "Her distinction was ... in the combination of constructive with destructive ability, of creation with criticism, of courageous imagination with acid analysis." Despite her important contributions, she remained an assistant professor for nearly 15 years, finally being promoted only four months before her death.
Emmett L. Bennett, Jr., NAW 2:344-6; S. Dow, AJA 58 (1954) 153-4; E. Adelaide Hahn, Language 26 (1950) 442-3; Minos 1 (1951) 138-9; NYTimes (17 May 1950) 29; J. Sundwall, JKF 1 (1950-1) 344. See also Margalit Fox, The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code (New York: ECCO / HarperCollins, 2013).
- Author: Ward W. Briggs, Jr.