French Town Solves The Mystery Of A Strange Cipher Carved Into A Rock 240 Years Ago

Officials in a French village have solved the mystery of a strange cipher carved into a rock about 240 years ago, The Jerusalem Post reports. It seems the message on the stone was a memorial to a friend or colleague of the carver, who died at sea.

As reported at the time by The Inquisitr, back in May 2019 the village of Plougastel-Daoulas, in Brittany, northwest France, offered a reward of €2,000 ($2,168) to anyone who could solve the mystery of the strange carvings in a rock near the town. The rock is tucked away in a seaside cave that is only accessible at low tide. It is about three feet tall and bears about 20 lines of text and pictograms.

The lines of text appear to be little more than gibberish to French speakers and English speakers alike.


"R I OBBIIE: BRISBVILAR... FROIK...AL," is another one.

There were other clues as well. The dates 1786 and 1787 are carved into it, roughly corresponding to the time period when forts and artillery batteries were built in a nearby port city. A couple of Scandinavian letters, such as Ø, appear in the lines of text. Pictograms depict a sailboat (giving credence to the suggestion that it has something to do with the construction at the nearby seaport) and a Sacred Heart, suggesting that its carver was a Christian.

the french village of Plougastel-Daoulas
Wikimedia Commons | Moreau.henri

Other than that, officials didn't have much to work with.

Now, thanks to crowdsourcing the deciphering efforts, it appears that two parties have separately reached the same conclusion. One man working alone and a team of two agree -- the inscription is a memorial to a friend or colleague of the carver, who died at sea.

Both solutions are based on the idea that the inscription was written by someone who was semi-literate, and was thus writing how the words sounded to him phonetically, rather than according to proper spelling. Both solutions also are based on the idea that the man was writing in Old Breton, possibly with some Welsh thrown in.

The translations differ, but they both reach the same conclusion.

"Serge died when with no skill at rowing, his boat was tipped over by the wind," reads one translation, via Noël René Toudic.

"He was the incarnation of courage and joie de vivre [zest for life]. Somewhere on the island he was struck and he is dead," reads the translation from the team of Roger Faligot and Alain Robet.

Toudic and the team of Faligot and Robet will split the €2,000 prize.