Plougastel-Daoulas, a small village in northwestern France, has recently attracted the attention of many linguists, epigraphers, and many local experts in Brittany after the village people made a baffling discovery.
Calling all puzzle geeks: the town of Plougastel-Daoulas in Brittany, France, is offering approximately $2,250 USD to anyone who can help decipher an inscription in an unknown language carved into a rock at a local beach. https://t.co/NQKIASfrYU
— Smithsonian Magazine (@SmithsonianMag) June 2, 2019
The residents discovered, about four years ago, that a rock the size of a man, which is covered during high tide, contains an inscription in an unknown language.
Despite local efforts to decipher what appears to be a code, it seems that we are still in deep darkness when it comes to the secrets of our ancestors.
The engraving on the rock is only visible during low tide, and no one has managed so far to discover the meaning of the engraving, despite its quite recent date: approximately 230 years ago.
The baffling words are a combination of symbols and letters from the Latin alphabet, which is currently used in modern French. Some argue, according to CNN Travel, that the code was written in Basque or Old Bretton.
France 24 notes that the code also includes pictures of a sailing boat and, according to the BBC, even a sacred heart, or the shape of a heart trespassed by a cross.
What specialists have revealed so far, in the four years since the discovery of this text, is that there are two dates on the rock, 1786 and 1787.
These dates correspond to the period right before the French Revolution, and might be more or less linked to the building of forts and artillery batteries, which were created to protect the harbor city of Brest.
The riddle of the rock
Due to the thick mystery surrounding the code, the village put together a contest, inviting any professional or amateur to have a look and try to decipher the code. The town hall of Plougastel-Daoulas offers a €2,000 reward to anyone who solves the mystery. A jury was put together to decide which interpretation is the most likely to be the correct one.
Sur la presqu’île de Plougastel-Daoulas (Finistère), un rocher laisse apparaître une énigmatique inscription, datant peut-être du XVIIIe siècle. Pour lever le mystère de sa signification, la commune a lancé un appel national doté d’une prime de 2.000 euros 📹 @sanferrer #AFP pic.twitter.com/ch1YSVdHRq
— Agence France-Presse (@afpfr) May 8, 2019
However, considering that it’s already been four years, and many local historians, linguists and epigraphers have not yet managed to crack the code, some pessimists would argue that the message will remain undeciphered.
The letters are from the Latin alphabet, and, despite its recent date of only two centuries ago, local specialists have been unable to read them and make them out. The contest is aimed at attracting other specialists and amateurs, even code enthusiasts to attempt to break the code and be awarded the prize.
Theories about the message appeared quickly. Romantics believe that it might be some type of love letter due to the symbol of the sacred heart.
Others believe that the inscription is tied to the naval defenses which were closely positioned to the mystery rock. Until 1783, England and France were at war, thus you can see a fort and gun site in its proximity.
Meanwhile, the locals started to call the inscription their own Rosetta Stone. This is a reference to the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics deciphered by Jean-Francois Champollion on the Rosetta Stone found in Egypt in 1799, according to the BBC. For this reason, the locals called their appeal for help “The Champollion Mystery at Plougastel-Daoulas”.
What is certain, however, is that the code remains uncracked until today. According to the BBC, people can make a few sections of the code, while others remain too faded to be understood:
“ROC AR B … DRE AR GRIO SE EVELOH AR VIRIONES BAOAVEL”.
“OBBIIE: BRISBVILAR … FROIK … AL”
The mix of letters, symbols, and the two dates in the code put the small French village of Plougastel-Daoulas on the map.
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Presumably, now the jury will determine which interpretation is most likely to explain the truth behind the mysterious rock and award the prize.