Calgary man believes he's cracked the mysterious Voynich Manuscript
The 600-year-old book appears to have been written in Old Turkic.
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A Calgary man and his two sons claim they've cracked the code in the mysterious medieval Voynich Manuscript, which has stumped language experts and cryptographers for over a century.
Ahmet Ardic is an electrical engineer by trade who also studies the Turkish language in his spare time. He has been working on the manuscript for the past four years with his sons Ozan and Alp.
The original manuscript, which has been carbon dated to the early 15th century, resides in the Yale Library, but Ahmet found one of the many available reproductions.
Right away Ahmet noticed that the words in the book appeared to be built of repetitive roots with prefixes and suffixes added. It reminded him of his native Turkish.
He began by looking for characters in the text that were similar to Old Turkic script.
At first he found seven characters that were the same as Old Turkic, and slowly the language revealed itself.
The family had many clues to work from. A circular image on one page with 12 divisions was thought by scholars to be a calendar.
They were able to decode the tenth month as "autumn month" in Old Turkic. The seventh month translated to "harvesting month."
Other illustrations allowed them to match up Old Turkic words with the images pictured.
"We were convinced this was simply plain Turkish, so we challenged ourselves by translating a full page of text," said Ahmet.
Ozan said he was skeptical at first but he worked with his dad and really started to believe once they translated a whole page.
"It wasn't just an individual image clicking with a single word. Everything started to fall into place," he said.
Folio 33-V, which was thought to have an illustration of a sunflower, describes a "harvestable sunny flower with flat, oval-like loose and sticky seeds."
Lisa Fagin Davis, executive director of the Medieval Academy of America, has weighed in on other attempts at decoding the Voynich Manuscript, and she calls this one an intriguing theory.
"I'm not in any position to judge the accuracy of their translation, but this is one of the few solutions I've seen that is consistent, is repeatable, and results in sensical text," she said in an email to Metro.
She said she'd like to see it vetted by scholars who study ancient Turkish.
Ozan said it could still take years to fully translate the 200+ page manuscript. They're now hoping other scholars will verify their findings and develop a full translation.
They've submitted a paper on their findings to a scholarly journal at John Hopkins University, and are awaiting word on possible publication.
Claims about cracking the code have been popping up in the past few years, but none have been definitive yet.
In the spring of 2017, a researcher named Nicholas Gibbs published an article in the Times Literary Supplement claiming a solution, which was later debunked.
More recently, two Edmonton computer researchers used AI to try and determine the language. They suggested it might be Hebrew.
Ozan said other scholars have put forth theories, but his father's method is the only one that gives a method that produces tangible results.
Ahmet is currently travelling to Turkey to meet with scholars who specialize in Old Turkic.
Editor's Note: At the request of Ahemt, we have removed the word "engineer" from the headline. While he is a certified engineer in his native Turkey, that certification does not extend to Canada.