Puzzles might be one of the oldest forms of entertainment in human history. Our ancestors would create mysterious codes while newer ciphers were made to hide certain secrets. Although some have been deciphered, there are still a great number of codes that have been deemed uncrackable.
Most ciphers are of great interest to scholars yet one was completely ignored by the US government. In 1918, John F. Byrne invented the Chaocipher. He tried to offer it to the government but was refused for over 40 years. Byrne repeatedly offered cash rewards to anyone who could solve the code but the algorithm is now available online. While it’s easy to figure out the Chaocipher these days, here are eight other uncrackable codes that have not yet been deciphered.
1. The Voynich Manuscript
Let’s start off with one of the most popular unsolved cases in cryptography. The Voynich Manuscript is an illustrated codex that is believed to have been created in the early 15th century. The images and writing have captivated scholars for hundreds of years yet no one is any closer to figuring out what the manuscript is about.
But could it really be so simple? In 2017, television writer Nicholas Gibbs said he had deciphered the codex, which is supposedly a mostly plagiarized guide to women’s health. The hypothesis has been rejected because the translation was mostly wrong.
2. The Phaistos Disc
The disc was found in the Minoan palace-site of Phaistos in 1908. However, it has been dated back to the beginning of the Neo-palatial period (1700- 1600 BC) and might be one of the oldest mysteries of archaeology.
The disc is covered with distinct symbols that are believed to be a syllabary or a logography. If it is a code, it remains uncracked because there is not enough context available for a meaningful analysis.
3. Linear A
Here’s a strange writing system that was expected to be related to a similar script. Linear A was the writing system used by the Minoan civilization and is somehow connected to Linear B, which was utilized by the Mycenaean civilization. Although Linear B has already been deciphered, Linear A is still a mystery.
So what exactly is Linear A about? There are theories suggesting that it could be a coded form of an ancient language. Scholars have looked into several languages but have yet to crack this difficult code.
4. The Dorabella Cipher
On July 14, 1897, English composer Edward Elgar sent a strange letter to Dora Penny. The note consists of about 24 symbols spread over three lines. Penny never figured out the message and the Dorabella Cipher continues to baffle scholars to this day.
There are several theories about the note. Some believe it is not a message but a melody dedicated to Penny. Others argue that the letter professes Elgar’s true feelings for Penny. Either way, nobody has come up with a solution and the cipher is still considered one of the most uncrackable codes in existence.
5. The Beale Ciphers
Would you solve a puzzle to find some buried treasure? Hundreds have tried to crack the Beale Papers since the ciphertexts were published in a pamphlet back in 1885. The only text that has been solved confirmed the content of the treasures. The other two, which details the location and owner of the treasures, have yet to be deciphered.
So is it worth it? The treasures, which includes gold, silver, and jewels, have been estimated to be worth around $43 million. However, some believe that the Beale ciphers are a hoax and the treasures do not exist.
6. The D’Agapeyeff Cipher
You’d think that a 1939 elementary book about cryptography would feature codes that school children could easily solve. However, cryptographer Alexander D’Agapeyeff included a truly uncrackable puzzle in the first edition of Codes and Ciphers. The supposed “challenge cipher” remains unsolved to this day.
The reason why the D’Agapeyeff Cipher is undecipherable is truly an interesting one. D’Agapeyeff claimed that he couldn’t remember how to encrypt the code. Nevertheless, scholars are hoping to figure it out by using a computational algorithm.
7. The Shugborough Inscription
In Staffordshire, England, an 18th-century Shepherd’s Monument in the grounds of Shugborough Hall possesses one of the world’s top uncracked ciphertexts. The code appears on a mirror image of Nicolas Poussin’s painting, the Shepherds of Arcadia and is rather simple: the eight letters ‘OUOSVAVV’ framed by the letters ‘DM’. Yet, no one has figured out what it actually means.
There are several theories surrounding the Shugborough Inscription. However, the most interesting one would be the possibility that Poussin is a member of the Priory of Scion and the code reveals the location of the Holy Grail.
Here’s something that even the CIA can’t solve. The Kryptos sculpture was installed by Jim Sanborn on the CIA grounds in Langley, Virginia. Although the first three messages on the sculpture have been deciphered, the final message still has everyone scratching their heads.
Think you have what it takes to crack the fourth Kryptos message? Sanborn offered a few clues about the final message. He teased that it might have something to do with a clock in Berlin.
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