“Think about it. If no one spoke English any more, the people of the far future…they’d have no basis for comparison. If they only had a few hundred fragmentary inscriptions to go by, they wouldn’t even know if each letter was a sound or a pictogram. Hell, it’s hard enough for most people to decipher Chinese, and we have living speakers to guide us!”

Robert chewed this over for a moment, still gazing intently at the pottery fragments. “But some of it must be obvious,” he said. “Like that spoon over there. The Linear A letters on the spoon have to mean ‘spoon,’ don’t they?”

“It could just as easily say ‘this spoon is property of Aeneas of Troy,’ or ‘this spoon manufactured by the Mycenae Spoonworks.'”

“Don’t we know anything?”

A sigh. “There are only a few words that we know the meaning of. ‘Ku-ro,’ for example, means ‘whole’ or ‘total.'”