The Linear B syllabary used by the Mycenaean was first deciphered in 1952 by Ventris and Chadwick. A large number of Linear B tablets had been found at Knossos in Crete (and also Pylos on the mainland), meaning that Ventris, a mathematician familiar with the cryptological advances from World War II could apply frequency analysis to the tablets. A pattern of similar word beginnings with varied endings showed the language to be inflected. Ventris guessed that the language was Greek, and began searching for known Cretan place names beginning with characters he assumed to be vowels. Slowly, he identified the language as a syllabary and began to construct a syllable table. Once he had identified a small number of syllables, he and Chadwick realized that they were dealing with an early form of Greek with some strong similarities to Homeric Greek and quickly began to identify common words and place names. The large number of tablets recovered enabled use of statistical methodology.
The tablets are short administrative records, mainly of who paid or sent what goods to whom, and reveal a great deal about the economic and material culture of Mycenaean Greece.