Friday, January 05, 2007

Say what?

Long, long ago I put up a post titled The Most Mysterious Manuscript in the World [5/14/2003] about a mysterious text that has defied the translational efforts of linguists the world over for nearly a century now. The document, nearly 240 pages long, is known as the Voynich Manuscript. And while it is a fascinating study in mysterious writings and lost languages, it is far from the only example. There are numerous other undeciphered texts out there, waiting for the right mind to unlock them.

Damn Interesting recently explored the lost language of Rongorongo (or Rongo Rongo), the written script of those ever-mysterious Easter Islanders of the South Pacific. Their culture was nearly extinct when the Europeans discovered the island in the 18th century. Missionaries decided the strange language was too closely tied to the islanders' pagan roots and forced the inhabitants to destroy virtually all of the tablets. When an interest in the language finally did arise, there was little left to study and even fewer left who were able to decipher the marks.

Omniglot is a site devoted to studying and archiving writing systems and languages from around the world. They have a list of nine still undeciphered scripts. Voynich is in there, as is Rongo Rongo. Read the rest of the list here.

Puzzles is another section at the site, with readers submitting samples of mysterious scripts they've come across, hoping to locate someone who can help translate. Neat.

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