Why are we so drawn to the mysterious? Could it be the opportunity to understand that captivates us? Or, perhaps, a chance to solve the supposedly
unsolvable, thereby earning our place in history?
Well, here are a few ancient (and not so ancient) mysteries....can you decipher the message?
1. Up first is the infamous Voynich Manuscript
Written in Central Europe at the end of the 15th or during the 16th century, the origin, language, and date of the Voynich Manuscript—named after
the Polish-American antiquarian bookseller, Wilfrid M. Voynich, who acquired it in 1912—are still being debated as vigorously as its puzzling
drawings and undeciphered text. Described as a magical or scientific text, nearly every page contains botanical, figurative, and scientific drawings
of a provincial but lively character, drawn in ink with vibrant washes in various shades of green, brown, yellow, blue, and red.
Apparently no one has managed to translate the Voynich Manuscript successfully. An interesting mystery, to be sure.
2. The Beale Ciphers
About a century and a quarter ago, a slim pamphlet was published in Virginia, USA. Amazingly for such an unassuming little document, it has ruined
numerous lives, mostly through greed and obsession. It tells the story of buried treasure, and has snared the unwary ever since it was published. It
is hard to imagine a treasure more like 'fool's gold' than that described in The Beale Papers. The story revolves around a set of ciphers, that
have so far resisted every effort to break them. Fools, read on and become beguiled...
Supposedly, a man by the name of Thomas Beale left a locked box with an innkeeper named Robert Morris in Lynchburg, Virginia. When opened, the box
proved to contain several sheets of encoded script and no encryption key. Supposedly, the sheets (when decoded) would reveal the hidden fortune of
Thomas Beale, buried somewhere in Lynchburg, VA.
There are doubts as to the authenticity of the Beale Ciphers, with some claiming it is an elaborate hoax. Despite this, many people do believe in the
Beale Ciphers, and have spent years digging for the hidden treasure. I include it here, despite its possibly dubious nature, as it is an interesting
story (and quite similar to the movie "National Treasure" in many ways).
3. Phaistos Disc
In 1908, Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier discovered the Phaistos Disc in the Minoan palace site of Phaistos.
The Phaistos pictographs seem unrelated to Minoan hieroglyphs, and no other example of this script has been unearthed. Because the disc is unique, the
script remains undeciphered. (Several attempts have been made, but there is no concensus that any one is correct.) Curiously, given that only one
example of the script has been found, each pictograph is impressed into the clay disc with a stamp, rather than incised individually. If the disc was
intended to be a unique document, why go to the trouble of creating a set of stamps? And if other documents were made, why has none been found?
Another curiosity is that stratigraphic evidence dates the disc to about 1700 BCE, at which time another Minoan script was common. This script is
called Linear A. It appears to be derived from Minoan hieroglyphic and, like Mesopotamian cuneiform, the signs represent syllables rather than
individual sounds. This script, too, remains undeciphered for the most part.
The disc remains undeciphered, hence its reputation as one of the most enigmatic discoveries in archeology.
4. The Shugborough Inscription
For 250 years it defied all code-breakers. Darwin had a go; Dickens, and Wedgwood too. But the 10-letter inscription - DOUOSVAVVM - carved into a
monument on the Shugborough Estate in Staffordshire thumbed its nose at the curious. Those of a romantic (or deluded) disposition believed it to be a
coded message of the kind used by the Knights Templar and their successors to point to the whereabouts of the Holy Grail or some other religious
relic. Others believed it to be a private affirmation of love.
According to some, the code has been deciphered. However, the experts disagree on what the code means; some believe it eludes to the Knights Templar
while others insist it is a simple poem to a lost love.
Here is the code: DOUOSVAVVM
In 1864, the French lay missionary Eugène Eyraud -- the first known non-Polynesian resident of Earth's most isolated inhabited island, Easter Island
or Rapanui -- reported in a letter to his superior that he had seen there "in all the houses" hundreds of tablets and staffs incised with thousands
of hieroglyphic figures [Figure 1]. Two years later, only a small handful of these incised artefacts were left. Most rongorongo, as the unique objects
were subsequently called, had by then been burnt, hidden away in caves, or deftly cannibalized for boat planks, fishing lines, or honorific skeins of
human hair. The few Rapanui survivors of recent slave raids and contagions evidently no longer feared the objects' erstwhile tapu or sacred
Although it appears the Rongorongo might have been successfully translated, I'll let you follow the link and read about it for yourself.
So there you have it, ATS. A series of mysterious codes, all awaiting your perusal and decryption skills. Good luck, and enjoy!