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You Probably Can't Guess the Topic of This Recently Deciphered 18th Century Document


“Historians believe that secret societies have had a role in revolutions, but all that is yet to be worked out..."

Mysterious symbols and Roman letters adding up to more than 75,000 characters and 105 pages bound by gold and green paper baffled a team researchers for months. It is the Copiale Cipher, which found in East Berlin at the end of the Cold War.

Two Swedish scientists and one from the University of Southern California worked to crack the code from January to April. And what did it reveal?  Drum roll please.

The cipher comes from a secret German society of ... eye enthusiasts? This seems a bit anticlimactic when you realize that the researchers went through more than 80 languages and met several dead ends before deciphering the document, which holds rituals of eye surgery and other ophthalmological information.

But, the University of Southern California News reports that Kevin Knight, as saying the process for how they cracked the code is more important than what the document contained:

This opens up a window for people who study the history of ideas and the history of secret societies,” said computer scientist Kevin Knight of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, part of the international team that finally cracked the cipher. “Historians believe that secret societies have had a role in revolutions, but all that is yet to be worked out, and a big part of the reason is because so many documents are enciphered.”


“When you get a new code and look at it, the possibilities are nearly infinite,” Knight said. “Once you come up with a hypothesis based on your intuition as a human, you can turn over a lot of grunt work to the computer.”

Watch Knight explain the process:

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As Knight says, they first thought the Roman letters were the actual code, while the mysterious symbols were filler. The complete opposite was true: the Roman characters represented spaces between encoded words. Once they started seeing patterns in the symbols, they began associated them with letters or words.

USC News reports that Knight is now using this skill to reveal coded messages sent by the Zodiac Killer, a murderer who sent taunting messages to the press but was caught, and "Kryptos", a message carved on a statue at CIA headquarters.

[H/T Fox News]

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