The Enigmatic and Undeciphered Voynich Manuscript Unlikely to be a Hoax - RiseEarth

The Enigmatic and Undeciphered Voynich Manuscript Unlikely to be a Hoax


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by April Holloway; Ancient Origins

The Voynich manuscript is among the most perplexing texts ever discovered as it has never been decoded despite over 25 analyses conducted in an attempt to decipher its meaning. As a result, many have drawn into question whether the manuscript is authentic, or nothing more than a hoax.

However, a study published in the journal PLOS One offers convincing evidence that the patterns present in the writing resemble those from real languages, suggesting the enigmatic text is authentic and does indeed contain a genuine message.

Mysterious Manuscript

A page from the mysterious Voynich manuscript, which is undeciphered to this day. The image on the right indicates a 24-month cycle with the seasons listed and the image to the left indicates the moon-cycles and planetary positions. (Public domain)

The Medieval manuscript, which has been dated to between 1404 and 1438 AD, was discovered in an old trunk in 1912 by Wilfrid M. Voynich, a Polish-American antiquarian and bibliophile, who operated one of the largest rare book businesses in the world. The 240-page book contains both text and illustrations that appear to cover a wide range of themes, including astronomical, biological, cosmological, herbal, and pharmaceutical.

The author is unknown, as is the obscure language used throughout the text. Even many of the illustrations remain enigmatic, as many of the plants portrayed in the book—which are often crudely drawn—are unidentifiable, and the numerous pictures of nude women are involved in inexplicable acts.

A page from the mysterious Voynich manuscript (public domain)

Meaningful Messages

Very little can be made of the cryptic language used throughout the text. Many experts believe this was a language constructed by the author to hide secret information. Some doubt that the text uses a real language, pointing out that it has words that only appear in certain sections, some letters that are only in certain places in words, unusual repetition of wording, and lack of identifiable rhythm.

Nevertheless, many studies have now shown that the unknown language does demonstrate similarities to known languages. The study published in PLOS One supports this view, reporting that the manuscript “presents a complex organization in the distribution of words that is compatible with those found in real language sequences... These results together with some previously known statistical features of the Voynich manuscript, give support to the presence of a genuine message inside the book.”

A page from the mysterious Voynich manuscript (public domain)

A Real Language

"It's not easy to dismiss the manuscript as simple nonsensical gibberish, as it shows a significant [linguistic] structure" said Dr Marcelo Montemurro, a theoretical physicist from the University of Manchester, UK, who has been analysing the manuscript’s linguistic patterns for years. “It is unlikely that the patterns were deliberately incorporated into the text as part of a hoax as knowledge of those linguistic structures did not exist at the time the manuscript was created.”

Using a computerised statistical method, Dr Montemurro and colleagues carried out the first analysis of the Voynich manuscript addressing the large scale organizational structure which results from the distribution of words over the whole text. Their results showed that content-bearing words are present in grouped patterns where they are required as part of the information being written. Furthermore, the semantic networks show that related words share structure similarities, which is a pattern observed in known languages.

Detail from page 86v of Voynich Manuscript depicting the "cosmological" section (Public domain)

So, What Does It Say?

While experts have been gaining ground in proving the authenticity of the manuscript, it’s real meaning still remains elusive. Craig Bauer, author of ‘Secret History: The Story of Cryptology’ believes it could be hiding something significant. "It could solve a major crime, reveal buried treasure worth millions or in the case of the Voynich manuscript, rewrite the history of science," he said. Dr Montemurro agrees: "There must be a story behind it, which we may never know”.
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