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Voynich Manuscript May Have Originated In the New World

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the good-to-know-which-side-of-the-atlantic-we-were-trolled-from dept.

Encryption 170

bmearns writes "The Voynich Manuscript is most geeks' favorite 'indecipherable' illuminated manuscript. Its bizarre depictions of strange plants and animals, astrological diagrams, and hordes of tiny naked women bathing in a system of interconnected tubs (which bear an uneasy resemblance to the human digestive system), have inspired numerous essays and doctoral theses', plus one XKCD comic. Now a team of botanists (yes, botanists) may have uncovered an important clue as to its origin and content by identifying several of the plants and animals depicted, and linking them to the Spanish territories in Central America."

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I deciphered it last month. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46031215)

It was easy, common ciphertext.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (5, Funny)

femtobyte (710429) | about 6 months ago | (#46031233)

translated: d-r-i-n-k-y-o-u-r-x-o-c-o-l-a-t-l

Re:I deciphered it last month. (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | about 6 months ago | (#46032291)

Wikipedia says [wikipedia.org] "The book has been carbon-dated to the early 15th century (1404–1438)", yet it contains information about Mexico.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46032519)

Wikipedia says [wikipedia.org] "The book has been carbon-dated to the early 15th century (1404–1438)", yet it contains information about Mexico.

This is possibly way more interesting than the text itself. I can think of a few explanations:
1: Native Americans made books before Columbus arrived
2: Knowledge of America existed in Europe before Columbus's first journey
3: somebody predicted the invention of carbon dating and used an old blank book

None of them appears to be very likely. #2 is supported by the vinland map (roughly same age), but that one too is controversial. What we do know is that vikings settled Greenland and the lack of timber made them to go Newfoundland to cut down trees, apparently regularly until the vanished from Greenland in mid 14th century. It's unknown if they had contact with Europe and Greenland is somewhat too far north to provide knowledge of central American plants.

What if people travelled the world earlier than we normally expect. However for some reason the records are lost or never made. The age of exploration might not have been when the people learned of the existence of an outside world, but the time when they realized they were willing to invest in proper exploration. Later we learned stuff like Columbus was the one to figure out the earth is round, which is made up. The resistance to his journey was that he might not find land before reaching Africa (they didn't know the map), in which case the expedition would have starved to death before arriving. This was too great a risk compared to the price of the expedition.

One interesting part of traveling the world is that a roman grave was examined a few years back in Sicily. Despite being around 1800-1900 years old it contained a man born in China. There is no records of the romans having contact with China. However clearly they must have had some sort of contact as the man arrived in Italy somehow. Maybe our history books are too quick to assume based on preserved records alone. Lack of existence of evidence is not the same as evidence of lack of existence.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (5, Insightful)

samkass (174571) | about 6 months ago | (#46032629)

There is no records of the romans having contact with China.

There are such records. The Bible discusses silk, and the Romans loved it. The Silk Road was established about 1800-1900 years ago to supply the Roman empire with Chinese silk. Later the Romans attempted to breed their own silkworms.

As for extensive pre-Colombian contact, I would assume based on the exchange of plants, animals, metals, disease, and technology, that such contact would stick out in the historical record. In my opinion it's far more likely that the carbon dating was inaccurate or that the interpretation of the plants as American than that extensive pre-Colombian exchange existed.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (0)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 6 months ago | (#46032835)

The romans having silk does not mean they had contact with china. You know there is this mysterious ancient gild called 'traders'.
Traders tended to trade between main trading points, e.g. from china to persia from persia to north africa, from africa to rome, or what ever more plausible route you come up with.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46033309)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sino-Roman_relations

Re:I deciphered it last month. (4, Informative)

cusco (717999) | about 6 months ago | (#46033117)

There was pre-Colombian contact, although perhaps not extensive. Central American and Alaskan jade show up in Chinese tombs of the 13th and early 14th centuries, and peppers from the Americas have been grown in Szechuan since ancient times.. IIRC, the Piri Reis map mentions Portuguese sailors visiting the territories shown on that map. A mummy in Paracas had TB, and another (in Tumbes?) had syphilis, both European diseases. Of course if you want to go further back the round stone heads of the Olmec show what are very clearly African faces, and black peoples were mentioned by Europeans when they arrived in Central America. Even further back the bottle gourd was cultivated in tropical South America apparently as soon as humans arrived in the area, and it has been an exclusively domesticated (as in, can't reproduce naturally) since at least 9,000 years ago.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (2)

cusco (717999) | about 6 months ago | (#46033269)

Oh, and I forgot the nicotine and cocaine found in Egyptian mummies, produced by plant which ONLY existed in the Americas.

Re: I deciphered it last month. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46033335)

This is all very incoherent, also, syphilis was an American continent disease transported to Europe after Columbus.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (4, Informative)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 6 months ago | (#46033091)

3: somebody predicted the invention of carbon dating and used an old blank book

You jest. But paper was expensive, scraping or cleaning and reusing paper, even whole books, wasn't uncommon.

[More recent analogy is the BBC recording over classic TV shows to save money on video tape; now madly trying to find copies, even fragments, forgotten in old archives and basements at TV stations around in the world.]

[[Or the current Canadian government's attitude to science libraries.]]

Re:I deciphered it last month. (1)

ArbitraryName (3391191) | about 6 months ago | (#46033167)

There is no records of the romans having contact with China.

Yes there are. [wikipedia.org]

Re:I deciphered it last month. (1)

tehdaemon (753808) | about 6 months ago | (#46033265)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_codices

The Maya had books. Lots of them. (granted, it is obvious that this isn't a maya book....we can read maya these days)

T

Re:I deciphered it last month. (2, Insightful)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 6 months ago | (#46033367)

4. Carbon dating is very inaccurate for something that recent.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (4, Informative)

lgw (121541) | about 6 months ago | (#46031503)

I thought it was fairly conclusive that it wasn't a cypher - the symbols simply lack the entropy to represent language. It's just what you'd expect from someone combining a few symbols in nonsense ways as a hoax, and not statistically what cyphertext looks like at all. A bit disappointing, really.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 6 months ago | (#46031751)

or it's a teaching tool, specifically teach scribes how to, well, scribe. You see this in other places where the writing is nonsense becasue they are teaching proper locations, or art, or what ever.

We do know it' describes plants.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (5, Funny)

SQLGuru (980662) | about 6 months ago | (#46031951)

So you're saying that it's the original Loren ipsum with illustrations?

"Dolorem ipsum" means "pain itself" (5, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#46031975)

The original "lorem ipsum" was De finibus by Roman philosopher M. T. Cicero [wikipedia.org] . Lipsum.com has a translation of the famous passage into English.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (1)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 6 months ago | (#46032789)

Vellum is expensive, even today. It's inconceivable that they would've use it to teach kids how to write. I doubt even Bill Gates would teach his kids how to write on vellum.

The standard teaching method back in the day was to have students write on sand or clay surfaces, which could be wiped and used again and again.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (5, Interesting)

netsavior (627338) | about 6 months ago | (#46032027)

It has entropy that has been widely regarded as too high to be gibberish... roughly equivalent to the Latin Vulgate Bible - 1 Kings [ixoloxi.com]
On the subject of it being a hoax... The Voynich is a parchment manuscript with many fold-outs, (center cut pieces of parchment were 10 times more expensive than a single leaf), and many expensive inks/dyes. It would have cost a small fortune to create at the time (several years salary for even a skilled bookmaker). If it is a hoax, it was a very well funded one, with no known purpose.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (5, Funny)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 6 months ago | (#46032347)

Wait, you're saying that because it has an entropy similar to a book of the bible it's not gibberish?

Re:I deciphered it last month. (3, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 6 months ago | (#46033003)

Maybe its just me, but when I first saw the thing the first thought that popped into my head was "its an alchemy book" and the more I read about the thing? The more i lean towards that conclusion.

I mean lets take a look at what we DO know from that time period, 1.- Alchemy was practiced by many court magicians at the time, 2.- Alchemy was also dangerous as its link with science made it awful close to heresy in the eyes of many of the clergy, also 3.- Competition was fierce, with many believing that lead into gold was possible the one who found that "method" would become legend, so because of this 4.- Secrecy was SOP for the alchemist, with the man that supposedly made the first air conditioning, Cornelius Drebbel, refusing to write down his method for doing so. Finally 5.- The court alchemist would be one of the few who would have the funds to afford such a book while also having both the knowledge of the natural world AND a reason to keep such knowledge secret.

Given this and without any proof that would lead one to believe it was something else I still lean towards an "alchemist recipe book", written using a cipher now long forgotten. Given what we know about the times and about the level of detail (as well as the cost as you pointed out) I would say it would be the most likely source of the book.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (2)

cusco (717999) | about 6 months ago | (#46033143)

Just to pick nits, the goal of alchemy was to produce the Philosopher's Stone, which granted eternal life to imbibers. Turning lead (or other base metals) to gold was simply the test of whether the Philosopher's Stone had been successfully produced or not.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 6 months ago | (#46033515)

Chemistry, Material Sciences, Quantum Physics, and all other Science is essentially the same thing. The only thing (and really the most important thing) they have over Alchemy is that the procedures are openly presented for testing (thus requiring sharing and propagation). Their ideas become immortal. Life itself follows the same pattern of self improvement. DNA is a recipe for an organism. Mutations to it cause different trial and errors and through this experimentation the better solutions are naturally kept and adapted as better information about how to survive forever is encoded into the DNA. The Philosopher's Stone is now called "the singularity".

Re:I deciphered it last month. (1)

findoutmoretoday (1475299) | about 6 months ago | (#46033783)

Yeah, and the aim of cars is to break speed records or at least win a race.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 6 months ago | (#46033261)

Human dissection was also forbidden by the church. I've always thought that the images look like deliberately abstracted versions of magnified anatomical images, disguised as botanical drawings. But the manuscript is way too decorative and formal for a mere coded notebook. [Ditto for an alchemist's secret work.]

Much more likely to be an expensive hoax for a wealthy collector. Any resemblance to blah blah, is strictly coincidental.

That said, the hoax may have well been sold as a super-secret forbidden alchemy text. "...and it is said that whoever shall decode the secret of the book..."

Re:I deciphered it last month. (1)

findoutmoretoday (1475299) | about 6 months ago | (#46033789)

Dissection is still forbidden today, no free ride to the graveyard to get some corpses.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 6 months ago | (#46033373)

It could have been a fake book by a fake alchemist used to fool the king into continuing the funding.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (5, Interesting)

Dan East (318230) | about 6 months ago | (#46032111)

I've written software specifically to do analysis on this manuscript. There are patterns in the formation of the words that show beyond any doubt that it is not a random collection of letters. There are some very specific rules that would take significant effort to generate the words. For example, Gordon Rugg's theory / technique of generating random words using a grid is absolutely, positively not correct.

I'm certain that "words" in the manuscript do not represent words in the original language. They are merely chunks of ciphered text, which explains the unusually homogeneous word lengths, for one thing. I believe the length of the ciphered words is thus arbitrary and chosen by the person doing the ciphering. That also explains how word length and spacing can be perfectly justified and fit along the varied shape of images (consecutive lines must be different lengths to fit in the available space), yet the rules and patterns of the words still adhere even though the words appear to be of arbitrary length.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46032691)

there are many minor languages where adjectives and adverbs are prefixes or suffixes, leading to very long words. Try comparing it our knowledge of remaining centam indigenous languages.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (2)

TheloniousToady (3343045) | about 6 months ago | (#46032823)

there are many minor languages where adjectives and adverbs are prefixes or suffixes, leading to very long words.

Holy Fahrvergnügen, Batman!

Try comparing it our knowledge of remaining centam indigenous languages.

Or, as Eric Idle once put it [madmusic.com] , "Ham sandwich, bucket and water plastic duralex rubber McFisheries' underwear." (Or was that from the Voynich Manuscript?)

Re:I deciphered it last month. (1)

Sique (173459) | about 6 months ago | (#46033553)

There are even major languages which lead to very long words: Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaft [wikipedia.org] . (In the article is a link to an even longer word which is too long for slashcode to display, because the coders of slashcode never imagined that those words might be possible).

Re:I deciphered it last month. (1)

idunham (2852899) | about 6 months ago | (#46033679)

That's not quite a sensible response: he said that the words were unusually homogenous in length, not that they were unusually long.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (1)

teslar (706653) | about 6 months ago | (#46033857)

I'm certain that "words" in the manuscript do not represent words in the original language. They are merely chunks of ciphered text, which explains the unusually homogeneous word lengths, for one thing. I believe the length of the ciphered words is thus arbitrary and chosen by the person doing the ciphering. That also explains how word length and spacing can be perfectly justified and fit along the varied shape of images

Now that you mention it... it's obviously an early entry to the IOCCC [wikipedia.org] .

Re:I deciphered it last month. (4, Informative)

mbone (558574) | about 6 months ago | (#46032531)

I thought it was fairly conclusive that it wasn't a cypher - the symbols simply lack the entropy to represent language. It's just what you'd expect from someone combining a few symbols in nonsense ways as a hoax, and not statistically what cyphertext looks like at all. A bit disappointing, really.

That is wrong. The word entropy is similar to English [newscientist.com] , and, while the second order entropy [ixoloxi.com] is low, it is similar to Polynesian languages.

This is a nice nice review [isi.edu] of Voynich studies.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (1)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 6 months ago | (#46032769)

Carbon dating proves it was written in the 1400's. Who exactly was the writer trying to hoax? For what purpose?

Re:I deciphered it last month. (3, Funny)

TheloniousToady (3343045) | about 6 months ago | (#46032831)

Judging by the technology and the timeline, it can only be the work of Dr. Who.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (1)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | about 6 months ago | (#46033023)

Carbon dating proves it was written in the 1400's.

I'm not so sure about that. It seems to me that carbon dating of the parchment and ink can only say that the materials are from the 1400s, but cannot say anything about how long they were in storage before the ink was put on the parchment.

Could writing materials that had been in storage for a couple of centuries have been sent to the New World on some of the Spanish ships? If the owner of a stationary shop got a government contract to supply parchment and ink to an expedition going half way around the world, maybe that would seem like a good opportunity to get rid of all that old stock in the back room that he could not sell.

Re:I deciphered it last month. (1)

cusco (717999) | about 6 months ago | (#46033203)

Unlikely. Vellum and parchment were expensive, and bookworms and moths were likely to infest stock that was just shoved in a corner and forgotten for 5 or 10 generations. If they had extra they just wouldn't have bought more, it's not like monasteries and publishers had warehouses full of excess stock.

Re: I deciphered it last month. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46033601)

that just means it is good cypher text. Most modern encryption is by design impossible to distinguish from random data.

Of course botanaists (0)

geekoid (135745) | about 6 months ago | (#46031299)

it's full of plant descriptions. Sheeesh.

Think I've almost got it... (0)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 6 months ago | (#46031315)

hordes of tiny naked women bathing in a system of interconnected tubs (which bear an uneasy resemblance to the human digestive system)

Are there little wooly mammoths as well?

Predicts the internet (5, Funny)

Toe, The (545098) | about 6 months ago | (#46031411)

A series of tubes? With naked women in it?

How could that be anything but the net?

Re:Predicts the internet (0)

Mashdar (876825) | about 6 months ago | (#46031989)

At least it's not some truck that the women were dumped on.

Re:Predicts the internet (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 6 months ago | (#46033013)

But it's lacking trolls and spam

Re:Think I've almost got it... (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | about 6 months ago | (#46033855)

What does this tell us about your digestive system?

Botanists did a thing (4, Funny)

immaterial (1520413) | about 6 months ago | (#46031317)

I don't believe this. Botanists, really? And here I thought they were only good for fertilizing my plants. I'll have to stop composting them when I catch them prowling outside.

If we find out they can do other sapient stuff, like make fire and use Facebook, I may start feeling guilty about the whole composting thing.

Re:Botanists did a thing (2)

game kid (805301) | about 6 months ago | (#46031463)

I will doubt your repentance until you also stop eating Girl Scouts without baking them into Girl Scout cookies first.

tiny naked women (0)

turkeydance (1266624) | about 6 months ago | (#46031331)

safe search slashdot oxymoron

Clearly obvious... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 6 months ago | (#46031343)

It's 500 pages, right?

They needed a thick enough book to reach the cookie jar.

Re:Clearly obvious... (4, Funny)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 6 months ago | (#46033591)

Textbooks in Academia are very often subject to the now normalized purposeful practice of being embiggened with useless redundancy and other such non essential and pointless filler to give them a high "thud factor" [wordspy.com] , id est, a physical quality exhibited by a bound set of printed manuscript as its conversion of potential to kinetic energy -- most commonly expressed as free-fall -- ends abruptly upon colliding with the approximately parallel planar surface of a coffee table, desk or other such platform, such that the humanoid observer will cromulently valuate the manuscript as having a higher value due to this property being associated with other well respected volumes of physical information conveyance.

Yes, this from your 'best and brightest'. Your race is doomed.

Re:Clearly obvious... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46033597)

Science is compression of information. Our accreditation system is now directly opposed to science.

Re:Clearly obvious... (1)

idunham (2852899) | about 6 months ago | (#46033685)

Oh for mod points!
+1, Hilarious.

Interesting as it points to how to decipher it.... (4, Interesting)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 6 months ago | (#46031347)

According to TFA, plant names in Nahuatl (the language of the aztecs) have been identified.

If indeed people who wrote it were writing in Nahuatl, and perhaps in a dialect, they may have needed to make their own script (since there was none around).

So given time, perhaps it can be deciphered...

Re:Interesting as it points to how to decipher it. (3, Informative)

Sabbatic (3389965) | about 6 months ago | (#46031793)

That's not even remotely plausible. You can't develop a writing system overnight. The first and only thing surviving the invention of a writing system certainly wouldn't be a large codex. Such a work would also not be produced in a vacuum. Writing systems are developed with a future reading community in mind. They record things for posterity and allow for certain sort of communication that either need to be recorded or which are directed at people who are accustomed to writing. It's not plausible that everyone capable of reading the thing just died off without telling anyone, and the book floated itself into the hands of Westerners. Moreover, if you look at the examples of writing systems developed relatively late in history, they are derived from existing writing systems for other languages. You don't just invent such things from scratch, unless it's a personal system, in which case it's really a cipher. Moreover, if the system weren't derived from that of another language, it would have to be inspired to some degree by native iconography. If either case were true, the thing would have been easy to decipher. If people claim that they have identified Nahuatl, that identification is only possible if the system is derived from earlier Nahuatl iconography, which as noted, would have made the interpretation quite easy long since, or it's some sort of phonemic transcription, which is something they could only have learned from another language community with a writing system in so short a space. In the latter case, the system would certainly have been adapted from that system.

Re:Interesting as it points to how to decipher it. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46032037)

I think that some of your points are valid, but not this bit: "It's not plausible that everyone capable of reading the thing just died off without telling anyone." Given the impact of the Spanish conquest, I would say thay is perfectly plausible, morover it could have happened in a single generation. People don't seem to understand the impact of disease and slavery on the native American populations. Even educated people aren't going to have much time for reading between shifts in the salt mines, and when you're dead from smallpox you don't read much of anything. This thing could have been written for a tiny surviving readership, for posterity.

Re:Interesting as it points to how to decipher it. (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 6 months ago | (#46032779)

Not to forget that the spanish invaders burned everything which looked like scripts or writing believing it was written in 'devils tongue'.

Re:Interesting as it points to how to decipher it. (3, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about 6 months ago | (#46032129)

That's not even remotely plausible. You can't develop a writing system overnight.

Well not over night, but it doesn't take that long. [kli.org]

A Phonetic equivalence seems quite plausible, and you can whip up a phonetic equivalence chart for your private
use, or the use of a small group in a few hours.
And that might be the natural course of action for someone trying to document knowledge from an oral tradition.

That this book didn't contain the key to the symbols is also not that unusual. Maybe this scribe needed to retain
it for subsequent work.

Western letters drawn with a quill certainly speaks to the possibility of early Spanish origins deliberately trying to
encode information to be sent home such that it couldn't be used by just anyone. There may never have been more
than a dozen who knew the key or the symbology. Maybe they and the key went down with a subsequent ship,
even thought this book or perhaps a few others weren't on that boat.

Re:Interesting as it points to how to decipher it. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 6 months ago | (#46032885)

Well not over night, but it doesn't take that long.

A claim completely unsupported by your link.
 

A Phonetic equivalence seems quite plausible, and you can whip up a phonetic equivalence chart for your private use, or the use of a small group in a few hours.

That's probably true for your and me who have grown up with a phonetic system. I wouldn't think it to be true of someone who didn't grow up in a phonetic system and to whom the whole idea is new. The one historic example with which I'm familiar to twelve years [wikipedia.org] to create.

Re:Interesting as it points to how to decipher it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46033177)

And Spaniards didn't grow with a phonetic system? Don't think anyone was suggesting an Aztec independently figured out how to illustrate this is vellum, built a caravel and sailed across the Atlantic right on time to drop this in Europe before anyone else crossed the Atlantic as a prank. The scenario would be closer to a Popol Vuh without the Spanish translation. It is not unlikely the popol vuh also had such an original phonetic manuscript.

Re:Interesting as it points to how to decipher it. (1)

cusco (717999) | about 6 months ago | (#46033253)

The Domincans created a Quechua/Spanish dictionary before Pizarro even reached Cusco, so it's not unreasonable. The dating is problematic though, unless perhaps it was created by the Portuguese or Venetian merchants that were suspected to have been using secret trade routs to bring rare items to Europe before the 'official' discovery of the Americas.

Re:Interesting as it points to how to decipher it. (5, Informative)

SpectreBlofeld (886224) | about 6 months ago | (#46032259)

That's not even remotely plausible. You can't develop a writing system overnight.

Sequoyah.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

"In 1821 he completed his independent creation of a Cherokee syllabary, making reading and writing in Cherokee possible. This was the only time in recorded history that a member of a non-literate people independently created an effective writing system.[1][4] After seeing its worth, the people of the Cherokee Nation rapidly began to use his syllabary and officially adopted it in 1825. Their literacy rate quickly surpassed that of surrounding European-American settlers.[1]"

  So, yes, it's remotely plausible, in the sense that it's absolutely happened (at least) once.

Re:Interesting as it points to how to decipher it. (2)

khallow (566160) | about 6 months ago | (#46033757)

So, yes, it's remotely plausible, in the sense that it's absolutely happened (at least) once.

And it might even be the same sort of situation as Sequoyah. A native Aztec (or related dialect) speaker who can't read or write, but knows it is possible because the Spaniards could do it. So he or she creates a phonetic script and writes everything they can into the book.

The methodical nature of the book, with its natural division into somewhat identifiable subjects could indicate it is a knowledge dump perhaps for a posterity that might forget the past. Or maybe it's a crazy person with an opinion from some point in the last 500 years.

Re:Interesting as it points to how to decipher it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46032467)

>you can't develop a writing system overnight
It is said that Hangul (the written Korean alphabet) was constructed by one scribe in a single afternoon.
google: how to learn to read korean in 15 minutes
, then click the pictures.

Re:Interesting as it points to how to decipher it. (1)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 6 months ago | (#46032489)

That's not even remotely plausible. The first and only thing surviving the invention of a writing system certainly wouldn't be a large codex.

Funny because the fact that such a large codex survives, would seem to indicate that indeed it's possible for it to have happened.

Writing systems based on an alphabet are, by definition, phoenetic. If you were to learn chinese, you'd probably use the roman alphabet to write down notes on how to spell it phoenetically.

Given that there probably are not a whole lot of speakers of Ancient Aztec it stands to reason maybe a phonetic representation of Aztec wasn't something easily figured out. (Remember the Navajo code talkers were unbreakable during world war II).

And, this is consistent with what is known about the manuscript if you check the wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] . Specifically:

The language is quite unlike most European languages.
Between 20-30 glyphs could explain the entire text
The language resembles a natural language.

Re:Interesting as it points to how to decipher it. (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 6 months ago | (#46032773)

Ofc you can invent a writing system over night.
Tolkien did plenty, and so did I as a child between 8 and 14. And I bet I was not a singular case. After 12 or 14 I however was more into simple encryption and 'secret codes'.
However I get your point ... I was still stuck withe the idea that a single person invented this writing system for his own purpose (regardless of underlying language).
I don't think that it necessarily would need to be an adaption of "one" script. A spanish scholar of that time might have been able to read/write in several scripts (greek / coptic and latin etc.) and like Tolkien be simply very inspirated.

buy a copy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46031397)

Anyone know where can I find a good hardcover version of Voynich? Like a coffee table book?

Re:buy a copy? (2)

Toe, The (545098) | about 6 months ago | (#46031429)

Well, from the linked resource [yale.edu] , you can download the whole thing as a PDF. The rest is left as an exercise for the reader.

Re:buy a copy? (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about 6 months ago | (#46032797)

Well, from the linked resource [yale.edu] , you can download the whole thing as a PDF. The rest is left as an exercise for the reader.

archive.org has several different formats as well.

https://archive.org/details/Th... [archive.org]

Re:buy a copy? (2)

hax4bux (209237) | about 6 months ago | (#46031983)

I got mine (years ago) from Aegean Park Press, P.O. Box 2120, Walnut Creek, CA 94595

Is there an Ebook (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 6 months ago | (#46031425)

Is it available as an Ebook?

Re:Is there an Ebook (4, Informative)

Spiridios (2406474) | about 6 months ago | (#46031441)

Is it available as an Ebook?

Yale [yale.edu] has digital scans and you can download the whole thing as a PDF.

Re:Is there an Ebook (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46032235)

How long until Disney makes it into a movie and claims copyright?

For those curious about the tiny naked women... (3, Informative)

QilessQi (2044624) | about 6 months ago | (#46031437)

Second image down:

http://www.midorisnyder.com/th... [midorisnyder.com]

Man, but medieval porn was tame.... :-)

Re:For those curious about the tiny naked women... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46031843)

I want to know if the girls depicted in this manuscript were underage. If they were I demand that we give these girls or decedents a generous compensation package. Also we should go and kill all these child pornographers or their decedents. Ohh. it is the aztecs. Good. Mission accomplished. However why are there no black people depicted in this obviously racist manuscript. Fucking Europeans always holding blacks down. Also women down too. We need to destroy this manuscript before it is deciphered and potentially destroys our carefully thought out ideas of political correctness.

Re:For those curious about the tiny naked women... (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 6 months ago | (#46032373)

Somebody has a weird idea of what the human digestive system looks like.

Re:For those curious about the tiny naked women... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46032485)

The second image down makes me think of the female reproductive system. ovaries to the left and right, fallopian tubes up top, uterus in the middle, and naked women at all the important spots just so you won't miss the hint.

HerbalGram? (1)

Kaenneth (82978) | about 6 months ago | (#46031489)

What an unfortunate name for a (I presume) 'legit' botanical journal.

Re:HerbalGram? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46031571)

It's not legit. It's for "herbal enthusiasts," not academics. Seriously, "real" journals don't announce articles through PR Newswire.

Codex Seraphinianus - a modern-day Voynich analog (4, Interesting)

cjellibebi (645568) | about 6 months ago | (#46031885)

Codex Seraphinianus [wikipedia.org] is an encyclopaedia of an imaginary world published in 1981 and written in a similar style to Voynich, but the illustrations are much more surreal.

Why is this so hard to decipher? (2)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 6 months ago | (#46031903)

I would've thought surely NSA could crack it by now....

Re:Why is this so hard to decipher? (1)

srmalloy (263556) | about 6 months ago | (#46032371)

After five hundred years, the likelihood that any of the terrorist plots outlined in the Voynich Manuscript have either been carried out or abandoned approaches unity; there's nothing in it that would be useful for extending control over the current population.

Re:Why is this so hard to decipher? (1)

myowntrueself (607117) | about 6 months ago | (#46033569)

After five hundred years, the likelihood that any of the terrorist plots outlined in the Voynich Manuscript have either been carried out or abandoned approaches unity; there's nothing in it that would be useful for extending control over the current population.

Everyone underestimates the Illuminati...

Re:Why is this so hard to decipher? (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | about 6 months ago | (#46033707)

They weren't around back then to install a backdoor into the manuscript, or to pay off the writer to weaken the encryption.

Not an original idea (2)

braindrainbahrain (874202) | about 6 months ago | (#46032059)

I'm pretty sure that at least one plant was previously identified as American , and that would be the sunflower [unicamp.br] . These botanists have taken the idea a lot further though. Their paper is well researched, but I will leave it to the peer review process to ultimately determine its veracity. The identification of Nahuatl words in the script seems a bit of a stretch IMHO.

Cannabis? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46032155)

Is it only me or the plant at page 16r (32 of 210) looks like a cannabis plant?

Not new (4, Informative)

Dan East (318230) | about 6 months ago | (#46032183)

It isn't a new theory that the Voynich Manuscript is Nahuatl. Here's a book from 2001 positing that very thing:
Keys for the Voynich Scholar: [google.com] Necessary Clues for Tahe Decipherment and Reading of the World's Most Mysterious Manuscript which is a Medical Text in Nahuatl Attributable to Francisco Hernández and His Aztec Ticiti Collaborators

The botany side seems to further reinforce this existing theory, as opposed to originating it.

Gimme (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46032211)

That's what happened to my junior high school art project.

Post-contact. (1)

tpstigers (1075021) | about 6 months ago | (#46032219)

They compared the flora to the period of the manuscript's assumed appearance - about a century after contact. Knowledge travels fast (as do people). The manuscript could have been written anywhere Europeans had gotten themselves into.

And we're talking the height of the Age of Exploration here.

You've been snookered (5, Interesting)

Jiro (131519) | about 6 months ago | (#46032899)

Googling up the American Botanical Council shows that
1) they're unimportant enough that Wikipedia does not have an article aboutf them or their magazine
2) They are not part of any professional botanical organizations
3) Their facebook page calls them "Your source for reliable herbal medicine information" and shares links for organizatioins whose descriptions include phrases such as "holistic" and "alternative medicine".
4) Their own homepage is clearly aimed at the herbal medicine crowd and even includes a disclaimer that "The information on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional". Their magazine is called HerbalGram, for pete's sake.

I dare you to read their own site's news page at http://abc.herbalgram.org/site... [herbalgram.org] and conclude that they are anything but a bunch of alternative medicine crackpots whose belief about the Voynich Manuscript should be taken as seriously as their belief that it's worth giving a presentation at an aromatherapy conference.

Re:You've been snookered (2)

nadaou (535365) | about 6 months ago | (#46033527)

just because they may be alternative medicine crackpots does not mean that they are not experts in identifying exotic plant species. one might expect just the opposite actually.

train your brain to avoid the ad hominem.

Re:You've been snookered (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 6 months ago | (#46033803)

Turns out it's an enormous long con to sell us all herbal viagra?

Ha, "enormous long con".

Re:You've been snookered (1)

idunham (2852899) | about 6 months ago | (#46033809)

Looks like an herbal product trade group; that said, I'd hesitate to describe this particular one as "crackpots".
I expect the "Botanical" would be better read as "Botanicals", which is very roughly "plants used for non-food purposes".
That disclaimer is virtually mandated by US laws.

Full disclosure:
I'm an ag major who comes down on the side of conventional agriculture. While I was still at the university, I knew some people (professors included) interested in "alternative medicine", partly because of the restrictions related to organic production.
My impression of alternative medicine is that it's a very mixed bag, with too much room for quacks in a field that could include legitimate work.

XKCD got it wrong (2)

Tablizer (95088) | about 6 months ago | (#46032955)

It's the Perl of the dark ages.

Explanation is simple, really: (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 6 months ago | (#46032985)

A botanist was working on a journal, ran out of tobacco, and decided to smoke some of the odd plants he was writing about rather than merely illustrate them.

one-time-pad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46033549)

Maybe the manuscript's text is a one time pad, and the encrypted text belonging with the pictures is in another book.

Gondola, gondola! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46033715)

The manuscript contains a small castle graphic, which displays peculiar dove-tail embattlements. Based on this architectural detail and taking into consideration the recent C-14 dating results, the Voynich book was written somewhere in early renaissance Northern Italy, like Venice or Milan.

Part of the Voynich disease, not part of the cure (1)

Nick Pelling (3507831) | about 6 months ago | (#46033717)

If only the two authors were as good at researching historical mysteries as the American Botanical Council (ha!) is at writing press releases. Gosh, are we supposed to say "Hooray for the two plucky outsiders, disregarding or trashing everything that might possibly stand in the way of their flaky narrative"? Bless 'em, but this is the kind of super-selective nonsense that makes idiot TV history documentary producers go all moist and short of breath. Lord save us from such tosh. Anyway, here's a link to my rather more specific review of their New Spain Nahuatl Voynich theory:- http://www.ciphermysteries.com... [ciphermysteries.com]
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