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The Voynich Manuscript, a book that was found nearly a century ago, has mystified scientists and experts for years. Written in what seems to be an “alien” language, with some characters resembling Latin letters, and others unlike anything used in any known language. One mystery surrounding the book, which is owned by Yale, was recently solved.
Last month, according to the University of Arizona, the book was carbon-dated by a team of scientists from the University and it can now be determined when the mysterious book was written. Carbon-14 dating suggests the book was created between 1404 and 1438, nearly a century earlier than originally thought. However, much of the rest of the book remains a mystery.
The University of Arizona press release explains the mystery with the book in more detail. “This tome makes the “DaVinci Code” look downright lackluster: Rows of text scrawled on visibly aged parchment, flowing around intricately drawn illustrations depicting plants, astronomical charts and human figures bathing in – perhaps – the fountain of youth. At first glance, the “Voynich manuscript” appears to be not unlike any other antique work of writing and drawing.”
“Is it a code, a cipher of some kind?” asked Greg Hodgins, who led the UA team. “People are doing statistical analysis of letter use and word use—the tools that have been used for code breaking. But they still haven’t figured it out,” Hodgins said.
The parchment pages of the Voynich manuscript, which was discovered by a book dealer in an old chest outside of Rome in 1912, were made from animal skin and therefore are able to be carbon dated. Hodgins, a chemist and archaeological scientist was able to use carbon dating on tiny bits of the pages extracted with a scalpel. Dating the book from the early 15th century does not make it the oldest book, but it does make it older than the Gutenberg bible—the first book printed with modern presses.
“There are many reasons why a manuscript would have been written in code at the time,” Hodgins explained, “fears of accusations of heresy or witchcraft among them. Then again, there is also the possibility that the manuscript doesn’t say anything at all. Some of the top researchers in the field lean toward the latter explanation, particularly since it has proven impossible using the latest computer technology to decipher the script.”