While enthusiasts across the world pored over the Voynich manuscript, one of the most mysterious writings ever found – penned by an unknown author in a language no one understands – a research team at the UA solved one of its biggest mysteries: When was the book made?
University of Arizona researchers have cracked one of the puzzles surrounding what has been called "the world's most mysterious manuscript" – the Voynich manuscript, a book filled with drawings and writings nobody has been able to make sense of to this day.
Using radiocarbon dating, a team led by Greg Hodgins in the UA's department of physics has found the manuscript's parchment pages date back to the early 15th century, making the book a century older than scholars had previously thought.
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.
An alien language
But a second, closer look reveals that nothing here is what it seems. Alien characters, some resembling Latin letters, others unlike anything used in any known language, are arranged into what appear to be words and sentences, except they don't resemble anything written – or read – by human beings.
Hodgins, an assistant research scientist and assistant professor in the UA's department of physics with a joint appointment at the UA's School of Anthropology, is fascinated with the manuscript.
"Is it a code, a cipher of some kind? 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."
A chemist and archaeological scientist by training, Hodgins works for the NSF Arizona Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, or AMS, Laboratory, which is shared between physics and geosciences. His team was able to nail down the time when the Voynich manuscript was made.
Currently owned by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University, the manuscript was discovered in the Villa Mondragone near Rome in 1912 by antique book dealer Wilfrid Voynich while sifting through a chest of books offered for sale by the Society of Jesus. Voynich dedicated the remainder of his life to unveiling the mystery of the book's origin and deciphering its meanings. He died 18 years later, without having wrestled any its secrets from the book. ...
To obtain the sample from the manuscript, Hodgins traveled to Yale University, where conservators had previously identified pages that had not been rebound or repaired and were the best to sample.
"I sat down with the Voynich manuscript on a desk in front of me, and delicately dissected a piece of parchment from the edge of a page with a scalpel," Hodgins says.
He cut four samples from four pages, each measuring about 1 by 6 millimeters (ca. 1/16 by 1 inch) and brought them back to the laboratory in Tucson, where they were thoroughly cleaned.
"Because we were sampling from the page margins, we expected there are a lot of finger oils adsorbed over time," Hodgins explains. "Plus, if the book was re-bound at any point, the sampling spots on these pages may actually not have been on the edge but on the spine, meaning they may have had adhesives on them."
"The modern methods we use to date the material are so sensitive that traces of modern contamination would be enough to throw things off."
Next, the sample was combusted, stripping the material of any unwanted compounds and leaving behind only its carbon content as a small dusting of graphite at the bottom of the vial.
"In radiocarbon dating, there is this whole system of many people working at it," he said. "It takes many skills to produce a date. From start to finish, there is archaeological expertise; there is biochemical and chemical expertise; we need physicists, engineers and statisticians. It's one of the joys of working in this place that we all work together toward this common goal."
The UA's team was able to push back the presumed age of the Voynich manuscript by 100 years, a discovery that killed some of the previously held hypotheses about its origins and history. ...
via Experts determine age of book 'nobody can read'.
I believe above article (February 10, 2011 By Daniel Stolte ) is about the same work I posted about in 2009 where it was dated to between 1404 and 1438 with "95% confidence".
The likely date range is 1404 to 1438 at 95% confidence, and apparently have found evidence that the ink was added in the same period. As Nick says, "that pretty much rules out Roger Bacon, Francis Bacon, the Knights Templar, the Rosicrucians, Leonardo da Vinci, and indeed more or less everything pre-1400 or post-Columbus." That is, pretty much every theory ever offered on the origin of the mysterious manuscript! - tdg
Researchers at the University of Arizona used the radiocarbon dating method on the 246 pages written in Europe by and found that the parchment was made between 1404 and 1438 - earthtimes.org
See the document for yourself here: http://voynichcentral.com/gallery/. To repeat my previous comment, as Al Harrison points out in his book After Contact, even if we do one day encounter signals from intelligent aliens, even when SETI succeeds, without some kind of Rosetta Stone, we might not understand a single word for over 100 years. The Voynich Manuscript seems to be an example that we can not decode things without a common point of reference. The idea from Star Trek of a Universal Translator is more absurd than it at first seems.