10 Undeciphered Codes and Texts


 

10. The Codex Seraphinianus

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The Codex Seraphinianus is a book written and illustrated by the Italian artist, architect and industrial designer Luigi Serafini during thirty months, from 1976 to 1978.The book is approximately 360 pages long (depending on edition), and appears to be a visual encyclopedia of an unknown world, written in one of its languages, a thus-far undeciphered alphabetic writing. The illustrations are often surreal parodies of things in our world: bleeding fruit; a plant that grows into roughly the shape of a chair and is subsequently made into one; a lovemaking couple that metamorphoses into an alligator; etc. Others depict odd, apparently senseless machines, often with a delicate appearance, kept together by tiny filaments. There are also illustrations readily recognizable, as maps or human faces. On the other hand, especially in the “physics” chapter, many images look almost completely abstract. Practically all figures are brightly coloured and rich in detail. The whole Codex is composed in a bizarre alphabet that has still yet to be translated even after intense study by linguists. Since the text itself is unreadable, the Codex has become most famous for Serafini’s artwork, which ranges from the surreal and beautiful to the downright disturbing.

 

9. Indus Script


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The term Indus script (also Harappan script ) refers to short strings of symbols associated with the Indus Valley Civilization, in use during the Mature Harappan period, between the 26th and 20th centuries BC. In spite of many attempts at decipherments and claims, it is as yet undeciphered. The underlying language has not been able to be identified, primarily due to the lack of a bilingual inscription. Over the years, numerous decipherments have been proposed, but none has been accepted by the scientific community at large. The topic is popular among amateur researchers, and there have been various (mutually exclusive) decipherment claims. None of these suggestions has found academic recognition.

 

8. Dispilio Tablet


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The Dispilio Tablet (also known as the Dispilio Scripture or the Dispilio Disk ) is a wooden tablet bearing inscribed markings (charagmata), unearthed during George Hourmouziadis’s excavations of Dispilio in Greece and carbon 14-dated to about 7300 BP (5260 BC). It was discovered in 1993 in a Neolithic lakeshore settlement that occupied an artificial island near the modern village of Dispilio on Lake Kastoria in Kastoria Prefecture, Greece. The site appears to have been occupied over a long period, from the final stages of the Middle Neolithic (5600-5000 BC) to the Final Neolithic (3000 BC). A number of items were found, including ceramics, wooden structural elements, seeds, bones, figurines, personal ornaments, flutes (one of them dating back to the 6th millennium BCE, the oldest ever found in Europe) and what appears to be the most significant finding, the inscribed Dispilio Tablet which could not be deciphered by symbologists till date.

 

7. Vinča Script

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In 1875, archaeological excavations led by the Hungarian archeologist Zsófia Torma at Tordos, Hungary (today Turdaş, Romania) unearthed a cache of objects inscribed with previously unknown symbols. In 1908, a similar cache was found during excavations conducted by Miloje Vasic  in Vinča, a suburb of Belgrade (Serbia). Later, more such fragments were found in Banjica, another part of Belgrade. Since, over one hundred and fifty Vinča sites have been identified in Serbia alone, but many, including Vinča itself, have not been fully excavated. Thus, the culture of the whole area is called the Vinča culture, and the script is often called the Vinča-Tordos script . The nature and purpose of the symbols is a mystery. It is dubious that they constitute a writing system. If they do, it is not known whether they represent an alphabet, syllabary, ideograms or some other form of writing. Although attempts have been made to decipher the symbols, there is no generally accepted translation or agreement as to what they mean. At first it was thought that the symbols were simply used as property marks, with no more meaning than “this belongs to X”; a prominent holder of this view is archaeologist Peter Biehl. This theory is now mostly abandoned, as same symbols have been repeatedly found on the whole territory of Vinča culture, on locations hundreds of kilometers and years away from each other. The prevailing theory is that the symbols were used for religious purposes in a traditional agricultural society. If so, the fact that the same symbols were used for centuries with little change suggests that the ritual meaning and culture represented by the symbols likewise remained constant for a very long time, with no need for further development. The use of the symbols appears to have been abandoned (along with the objects on which they appear) at the start of the Bronze Age, suggesting that the new technology brought with it significant changes in social organization and beliefs.

 

6. Singapore Stone


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The Singapore Stone is a fragment of a large sandstone slab which originally stood at the mouth of the Singapore River. The slab, which is believed to date back to at least the 13th century and possibly as early as the 10th or 11th century, bore an undeciphered inscription. Recent theories suggest that the inscription is either in Old Javanese or Sanskrit. It is likely that the person who commissioned the inscription was Sumatran. The slab was blown up in 1843 to clear and widen the passageway at the river mouth to make space for a fort and the quarters of its commander. The slab may be linked to the legendary story of the 14th-century strongman Badang, who is said to have thrown a massive stone to the mouth of the Singapore River. On Badang’s death, the Rajah sent two stone pillars to be raised over his grave “at the point of the straits of Singhapura”. The Stone, now displayed at the National Museum of Singapore, was designated by the museum as one of 11 “national treasures” in January 2006, and by the National Heritage Board as one of the top 12 artifacts held in the collections of its museums.

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