Ten Mysterious Undeciphered Codes and Inscriptions
Deciphering the glyphs has proven difficult. Assuming that Rongorongo is writing, there are three barriers that make it difficult to decipher: the limited number of texts, the lack of illustrations and other contexts with which to understand them, and poor attestation of the Old Rapanui language, which is likely to be the language reflected in the tablets. Some believe that the Rongorongo is not true writing, but proto-writing, which is a set of symbols that convey information without containing any truly linguistic content. While it remains unclear exactly what the Rongorongo is intended to convey, the discovery and inspection of the tablets remain an important key to understanding the past civilizations of Easter Island.
In 1961, archaeologist Nicolae Vlassa discovered what may be direct evidence of the earliest forms of writing in the world. While conducting an archaeological excavation at a Neolithic site in Romania, Vlassa’s team uncovered three small clay tablets containing indecipherable etchings, now known as the Tartaria Tablets, which were dated to 5,500 BC.
There have been varying interpretations of the meanings of the etchings on the tablets. Some believe the etchings are an early form of writing, while others believe they are pictograms, random scribbles, religious symbols, or symbols of ownership. Due to speculation that the tablets were found at a sacrificial burial site, many believe that the symbols were of a religious context.
Overall, analysis of the Tartaria Tablets has led to many interesting hypotheses about early human culture, and the emergence of communication by writing. While ancient artifacts may initially appear to answer many questions about human civilization, in this instance, it is clear that some finds ultimately lead us to more questions than answers.
In 1908, an Italian archaeologist ventured into the ruins of Phaistos, an ancient Minoan palace on the south coast of Crete. In an underground temple depository, among burnt bones, dust, and ashes, he found a remarkably intact golden-hued disc. The discovery is known as one of the most famous mysteries in archaeology: The Phaistos Disc.
The Phaistos Disc is a large, fired clay plate, about 15 cm in diameter and 1 cm thick. Both sides of the disc are covered with a spiral of strange stamped symbols, circling clockwise towards the disc’s centre. The symbols are pictograms, portraying images including a man walking, a tattooed head, a helmet, an arrow, manacles, cats, eagles, and more. Both Sir Arthur Evans, discoverer of the Minoan capital Knossos in 1900, and Luigi Pernier attempted to translate the discs but were unsuccessful. Since that time no fewer than 26 notable attempts have been made to decipher the code. It is presumed that the writing is Linear A, a script unconnected to any known language, but some scholars suggest it is syllabic writing related to various languages, such as Hittite, Homeric Greek, Indo-European or a Semitic language. Until the Phaistos code can be cracked and the truth revealed, the golden disc will continue to draw curious linguists, analytical cryptographers, and lovers of a good ancient mystery.
In 1912, a Polish-American book dealer named Wilfrid M. Voynich went to Rome on an acquisitions trip. There he happened upon a trunk that contained a rare 15 th century manuscript now known as the Voynich manuscript. Since its appearance, this document—which is now under lock and key at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript library at Yale—has been studied extensively and has stumped even the most successful cryptographers and code breakers.
The author is unidentified, as is the obscure language used throughout the text. Even many of the illustrations remain enigmatic. Very little can be made of the cryptic language used throughout the text. Some words only appear in certain sections, some letters only in certain places in words. The repetition of wording is also peculiar, and does not follow any identifiable rhythm. Many experts believe this was a language constructed by the author to hide secret information, though it does not follow any known code, causing some to speculate that the book is nothing more than an elaborate hoax. Researchers continue to investigate the enigmatic text in the hope of finally revealing its secrets.
The Dispilio tablet was discovered by a professor of prehistoric archaeology, George Xourmouziadis, in 1993 in a Neolithic lake settlement in Northern Greece near the city of Kastoria. A group of people used to occupy the settlement 7,000 to 8,000 years ago. The Dispilio tablet was one of many artifacts that were found in the area, however the importance of the tablet lies in the fact that it has an unknown written text on it. The wooden tablet was dated using the C12 method to have been made in 5260 BC, making it significantly older than the writing system used by the Sumerians. The text on the tablet includes a type of engraved writing which probably consists of a form of writing that pre-existed Linear B writing used by the Mycenaean Greeks.