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All them nekkid ladies

Did you see, somebody over here might have cracked the Voynich manuscript? If that doesn’t ring a bell, you’d probably know it if you saw it — it’s one of those perennial old mysteries at the heart of Ripley’s Believe it or Not and such like.

It’s a manuscript from the early 1400’s in a completely unique and undecipherable language. Lots of cryptographers and linguists have had a go at working it out, without any success what-so-ever. The pictures are mostly of plants that were contemporary herbal remedies, so it’s thought to be a pharmacopeia of some kind. But then there are other illustrations, like these naked ladies and things that look like astronomic (or astrologic) charts.

Up to now, one of the leading theories was that the whole thing was a fake, perhaps by Voynich himself — the antiquities dealer who turned it up in 1912. There are characteristics — like doubled and tripled words — that are very unlanguage-like. The fact that nobody could crack a word of it probably pissed everybody off, too. But that always struck me as extremely unlikely — writing out 250 pages of nonsense, using proper ancient materials, and drawings and calligraphy appropriate to the age, without once breaking character? Nah.

According to the BBC article, the ‘breakthrough’ was some kind of statistical analysis of the word patterns, which sounds very boring. Cue learned men huffing and pooh-poohing.

But the Daily Mail’s version sounds much more interesting (*shakes fist at Daily Mail*). They interviewed Bax, the scientist, who said he’d taken the known Arabic words for some of the herbs illustrated and managed to find them near the appropriate illustration. He says he has decoded Juniper, Taurus, Coriander, Centaurea, Chiron, Hellebore Nigella Sativa, Kesar and Cotton. That’s better.

If you’re interested, the Wikipedia rundown on the thing is as good as any.


Comment from Uncle Al
Time: February 22, 2014, 12:31 am

To heck with the Hellebore Nigella Sativa – I like the naked ladies.

Comment from Skandia Recluse
Time: February 22, 2014, 2:30 am

has to be alien, from outer space. Notes from a cultural anthropologist doing a study on human social development.

Maybe from the future.

Comment from Veeshir
Time: February 22, 2014, 2:34 am

I always figured it said, “Your parents loved you very much”.

Comment from Oceania
Time: February 22, 2014, 10:58 am

It is written in an ancient language.

Nothing complicated.

In a time, before the wandering Jews.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: February 22, 2014, 2:00 pm

Must resist Obamacare Healthcare plan joke; the NSA is watching

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: February 22, 2014, 5:14 pm

Nah, its probably an alchemist’s notebook, they tended to write in code to protect their “knowledge” from others. Probably a bunch of ridiculous nonsense too.

Comment from AltBBrown
Time: February 22, 2014, 11:40 pm

I can barely decipher my own writing/scribbling.

Comment from Oceania
Time: February 23, 2014, 12:33 am

It is perfectly understandable, if you understand how neatly it is written, and know the words, to which the language pertains.
Most of these words are already recorded in Spanish books and journals.

Comment from CaseyReno
Time: February 24, 2014, 3:06 pm

I’m guessing the last line translates to “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine”.

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: February 24, 2014, 10:48 pm

Shit. Harold Ramis has passed. I liked that guy….

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 24, 2014, 11:35 pm

Weasel’s blog: doing what it can to soften the loss of a public figure and/or celebrity.

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