Speaking of mysteries, this week is an appropriate time for me to delve into some of my favorite cryptological mysteries throughout history. None of these write-ups have anything to do with the contest, I promise (I'll put up a post summarizing how I solved it afterward, assuming I solve it). I simply like sharing my obsession with unsolved coded puzzles throughout history. And my posts will need to get shorter anyway, as a certain nine-day-old little dictator has launched chemical weapons against me (mustard gas, of course — other new parents, you'll know what I mean).
As a kid, I was entranced by the quest for the lost ark of the covenant in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." As a teenager, "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" captured my fancy once again by making me wonder if the Holy Grail indeed was discoverable. Tales of Indy doing his research and putting together esoteric bits of information to crack hidden codes throughout history made me want to become an archaeologist. (My first ever college class was in Archaeology 101. My eyes opened wide when Dr. John Rick walked in with a scruffy beard, lecturing in the same style as Dr. Indiana Jones — I think he got a kick out of doing that year after year. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had followed him to an ancient Inca dig rather than working for the department of astronomy that first summer.)
As an adult, I flew through "The Da Vinci Code" along with the rest of the world back in the early 2000's — the Holy Grail rears its possibility yet again. The mystery of the Grail has been bandied about for centuries, and so many people have done a nice job with fictionalizing the stories behind it. But who knew there was an actual code built into a monument in England, possibly encoding the secret location of the actual Holy Grail (if it actually exists)?
Even more compelling is the simple nature of the code. With just ten letters set into a particular pattern, plus lore surrounding the Priory of Sion's involvement, the Shugborough Inscription begs for an a-ha codebreaking moment. Yet in over two centuries, no one has figured out the true meaning. Is the secret still with the Priory, protecting the location of the holy artifact? Or is it an inside joke perpetrated by the builders, or is there some other explanation?
If there is a true answer, it has not been made known to the public. Even if it is some clever scheme to encourage tourism to this one town in England, this site is on my list of must-see places.