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New Voynich Solution Claims Causing Stir

The so-called Voynich manuscript remains undeciphered, but some progress, possibly, may now have been made in solving the mystery. Two widely separated, but authoritative, sources now cite new breakthroughs. On one hand a U.S. botanist has raised the tantalizing possibility that the strange document may have roots in the new world. And, late in February came word that a professor at Britain’s University of Bedfordshire claims to have actually cracked the code.

Since its discovery in an Italian monastery in 1912, the richly illustrated, 240-page parchment document has defied all attempts to decode it. Though it has been dated to the fifteenth century, some have insisted that it is a hoax. Recent statistical analyses of the handwritten text, however, have shown that it, indeed, has the characteristics of a real language. Now Dr. Arthur Tucker of Delaware University claims that many of the colorful illustrations may actually depict real plants found in Mexico in the fifteenth century. Moreover, says Tucker, the text bears some similarity to Nahuatl, the ancient language of the Aztecs.

In the meantime, Stephen Bax, Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Bedfordshire in the U.K. says he has hit upon a way to break the code by identifying proper names related to objects in the drawings. An expert in Semitic languages, like Arabic, Bax is using a technique like that previously employed to translate other medieval manuscripts. He has, he says, been able to decode several names and thinks he can soon work out the rest.

If it turns out that the Voynich manuscript actually originated in Mexico, some may be reminded of another curious mystery involving inscrutable text found near Mexico City. In the first half of the twentieth century, curiously inscribed stone tablets were discovered there by engineer William Niven. Maverick British archaeologist and explorer Colonel James Churchward subsequently reported the find. The tablets, said Churchward, himself a student of Nahuatl, were in the tongue of a lost people whom he called the Naacals, which he endeavored mightily to translate, and on which he based his popular books on the legendary lost ancient continent of Mu.


Shroud Dating Mixup Blamed on Earthquake

The debate over the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin is generating even more controversy. The latest comes from a group of Italian scientists led by Alberto Carpinteri of the Politecnico di Torino who argue that an earthquake which struck Jerusalem at about the time of the crucifixion may have changed radiocarbon levels which could have resulted in an erroneous report in the 1980s claiming the Shroud to be a medieval forgery.

The purported burial cloth of Jesus, preserved in the cathedral at Turin, Italy, is imprinted with the mysterious image of a seemingly crucified man. Though the cause of the image itself has yet to be satisfactorily explained, the cloth upon which the image appears was officially carbon14 dated in 1989. Yet, even though the official conclusion was that it was only 800 years old—not 2000 as claimed by the faithful—evidence has subsequently surfaced that casts doubt on the testing. Apparently the part of the cloth sampled for the dating was taken from material which had been used to patch—by means of a French reweaving technique—the original which had been damaged by fire. The shroud proper, it is thus claimed, has yet to be reliably dated.

Other evidence—such as pollen and weaving methods—has indicated that the cloth originated in the Middle East at about the right time. Now the new Italian analysis is adding another layer of what some might consider confusion to the debate.

According to the Carpinteri study, neutrons released by the earthquake of AD 33 could have skewed the level of Carbon14 in the material and thrown off all future measurements. There have been, however, no other proven examples of such an effect resulting from earthquakes.