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The mysterious inscription was found on a rock in the French village of Plougastel-Daoulas

Mysterious Inscription Baffles French Village, Prize Offered to Crack the Code


A recently discovered engraving is baffling local people in the small village in north-west France. The locals have made various attempts to decipher the inscription and have enlisted the help of many local experts to no avail. Now they are offering a prize to anyone who can decipher the mysterious inscription.

The inscription is near the small village of  Plougastel-Daoulas, Brittany, on the north-west of France near the Atlantic coast. The engraving is on a rock that is as ‘high as a man’ and is only seen when the tide is low. According to Newsweek, ‘the rock is accessible via a path from the hamlet of Illien ar Gwenn just to the north of Corbeau point’.  Its remoteness and the fact that it is completely submerged at high tide mean that it only came to light four years ago. The Mayor of Plougastel-Daoulas  Dominique Cap, has stated that no one has been able to understand the meaning of the engraving, despite their best efforts.

A Baffling Set of Words

The enigmatic inscription consists of a number of letters and some symbols, one depicts a boat with sails. Not all of the inscription is legible, but the letters are definitely from the Latin alphabet, used in modern French.

Newsweek reports that it has been suggesting that it is ‘written in Basque or in an archaic version of Breton, a Celtic language still spoken in Brittany’. Some of the engraving reads "ROC AR B... DRE AR GRIO SE EVELOH AR VIRIONES BAOAVE,"  according to CNN.

The locals have become increasingly frustrated at being unable to decipher the inscription. CNN quotes Michel Paugam, a local councilor as saying, "there are a lot of words….., but we can't read them, we can't make them out."

The village has enlisted the help of local linguists, academics, and epigraphers, but even these experts who are familiar with Breton history and culture have been baffled by the words and the symbols. This is despite the fact that the date of the writing is only just over two centuries old.

Some of the mysterious inscription on the rock

Some of the mysterious inscription on the rock. (24MIN)

There are two dates in the inscription, and these are 1786 and 1787, a time just before the French Revolution. At that time the Royal government in Paris had ordered the construction of batteries and fortifications to protect the harbor at Brest. This was France’s most important Atlantic port at the time.

There is the possibility that it was a memorial left by one of the builders who worked on the project at Brest. Romantics believe that it may have been some sort of love message. Some villagers have even begun to call the inscription their ‘Rosetta Stone,’ reports Channel News Asia.

The Competition to Decipher the Mysterious Inscription

The local community has now decided to ask for the help of experts from beyond Brittany to help them to break the code. They have decided to launch a competition that is open to linguists, students, epigraphers, and anyone who thinks that they can solve the mystery. Both professional and amateur code breakers can enter the competition.

Those who do manage to decipher the mysterious words will receive a prize of 2000 euro (2240 USD). A local official, Veronique Martin, is managing the competition and she has assembled a team to help her.

Detail of the inscription

Detail of the inscription. (Fred Tanneau)

The village will examine all of the entries and the proposed solution to the mystery. NDTV reports that a ‘ jury will then meet to choose the most plausible suggestion and award the prize’. How they will actually determine which is the most plausible solution has not been stated.

There is the possibility that given the nature of the inscription it may not be deciphered and the prize not awarded. It is also possible that the engraving may never be deciphered. It can be said though that the village of Plougastel-Daoulas has been put on the map thanks to the enigmatic words engraved on the rocks.

Top image: The mysterious inscription was found on a rock in the French village of Plougastel-Daoulas. Source: AFP

By Ed Whelan



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Ed Whelan's picture


My name is Edward Whelan and I graduated with a PhD in history in 2008. Between 2010-2012 I worked in the Limerick City Archives. I have written a book and several peer reviewed journal articles. At present I am a... Read More

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