Carbon dating shows the world's most mysterious document may be older than previously thought.

The Voynich Manuscript first came to (modern) light in 1912. It is named after Wilfrid Voynich, a rare book dealer who plucked the forgotten tome from a dusty shelf in a Jesuit college near Rome, and made it famous. Illustrations of planets, plants, and 'bathing' women decorate its pages. It is also covered with dense text and what seem to be notes and recipes. Why is it named after a book dealer instead of the person who put so many hours into enriching its 230 pages? Because no one knows who the author is. In fact, no one knows anything about the book.

At first glance, it appears to be filled with Latin text, since many of its characters resemble Latin letters. Any scholar could see, though, that the book is not written in Latin. Once linguists and handwriting experts were exhausted, the Voynich Manuscript was kicked over to cryptographers. It was assumed that its author had used some kind of decipherable code. Despite a great deal of work, and probably even more frustration, no one could make out what exactly this mystery writer was saying.


Since then, people have focused on the bathing women, and given up on reading the articles. The hairstyles indicated that the book was written in the late fourteen hundreds or early fifteen hundreds. At last, scholars gave up on the mystery manuscript, dating it to around 1470 to 1500, and labeled it jibberish. Some even consider it a hoax.

The hoax contingent was recently dealt a blow. Carbon dating has revealed the book, or at least the paper of the book, to be even earlier than imagined. University of Arizona scientists have announced that the Voynich Manuscript dates back to the early, not late 1400s. It could be a full century older than it appears. The manuscript itself has still not been deciphered, but now that it's not a 1920s hoax, what is it? And if it was created in the early 1400s, but its bathing beauties sport hair popular in the late 1400s, why is it so prescient about women's hairstyles?

Via Scientific American and Science Blog.


Share This Story

Get our newsletter