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Computer engineer cracks 150-year-old 'Odyssey' code

Computer Engineer Cracks 150-Year-Old 'Odyssey' Code

Leave it to an Italian computer engineer to crack a 150-year-old, handwritten code.

Back in 2007, collector M.C. Lang donated a Venetian edition of Homer's "The Odyssey" to the University of Chicago Library – the book dated back to 1504 and featured "mystery marginalia," or annotations, throughout.

All the library knew about the mysterious script was that it maybe dated back to the mid-19th century. So, Lang offered a $1,000 prize to whomever could figure out just what was written on those pages, with evidence, of course.

And this week, the university announced Italian computer engineer and University of Pisa humanities student Daniele Metilli had finally figured it out.

Metilli and colleague Giula Accetta released a 27-page report explaining the notes were mainly shorthand for French translations of Greek words and phrases from the book.

Metilli and Accetta eliminated several possibilities before figuring out the notes were in a system of shorthand developed by Frenchman Jean Coulon de Thévénot in the late 18th century.

According to The Economic Times, the key to linking the transcription to Thévénot's system was a repeated series of lines and shapes.

The duo credits easy access to Google Books ...

And the Greek Word Study Tool for helping them make the discovery.

But one mystery remains: who wrote all these notes? Metilli says he plans to continue analyzing and translating the annotations in hopes of finding out.

Join the discussion

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pipe412 May 07 2014 at 11:37 AM

This is exciting and someday there will be others trying to figure out what we said since one of these days we will all be blown to bits and pieces. Good show and congratulations.

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usci1 May 07 2014 at 11:15 AM

Good to see a brain being used instead of being wasted?!

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laferiabil May 07 2014 at 11:17 AM

Now your talking Turkey and I hope you don't get in Dutch because it sounds like greek to me

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smgeronimo May 07 2014 at 7:44 PM

It was actually the entire Obamacare Affordable Care Act, that's why it couldn't be deciphered for 500 years

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4 replies
jurmik May 07 2014 at 11:32 AM

Bravo Italia!

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Brian Hope May 07 2014 at 11:35 AM

To those who sneer, I would only say that geeks like these people gave critical help towards winning World War 2.

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2 replies
henry_bevis Brian Hope May 07 2014 at 12:07 PM

Yes, and Korea, Viet Nam, the Gulf War.......and many others. Technology is above and beyond most other Countries. Italy is just one of the Countries that has some top notch people.

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David S. Brian Hope May 07 2014 at 3:54 PM

Except no doubt a computer helped him.......not too many o f those were floating around during WW II.....

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dohcman May 07 2014 at 7:23 PM

The good news: Its an alien language that when properly translated reads: "To serve Mankind". The problem is its for a cook book...........

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5 replies
Jive Turkey May 07 2014 at 6:30 PM

I clicked on the headlines thinking I might actually find out what this mysterious encoded document actually read. Instead I discovered an advertisement for : The Economic Times, Google Books, and Greek Word Study Tool cleverly disguised in article format.

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2 replies
Jive Turkey Jive Turkey May 07 2014 at 6:35 PM

I forgot to mention an ad for University of Chicago Library as well. Because we can always trust what is written in the pages of Universities everywhere to bring us the authorized truth on any matter. Because no one would ever revise history.

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Ken Jive Turkey May 07 2014 at 6:35 PM

Yep. The Matrix has you.

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1 reply
Jive Turkey Ken May 07 2014 at 6:44 PM

I think it has us all. While those who opted for the blue pill generally don't seem to notice the strange system that has them in a head lock. I opted for the red pill myself. While it has been eye opening, it doesn't seem to offer much comfort in coming to the realization that you are a battery that runs a species destroying machine that will eventually ingest the batteries it no longer needs once it's tyrannical system is in place.

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larry May 07 2014 at 3:05 PM

Just ask Harry Reid what it says. That old fool thinks he knows everything and what's best for the American people. He's been around since the dinosour walked the Earth.

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1 reply
obloodyblada larry May 07 2014 at 4:38 PM

You're obsessed

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ninjadrvr May 07 2014 at 4:50 PM

I'm surprised that there's such a thing as Italian Computer Engineers. Kind of like saying "Hindu Cheeseburger Specialists".

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2 replies
ldelsordi ninjadrvr May 07 2014 at 5:14 PM

That was a very ignorant and incredibly unintelligent comment...

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HELLO LENNY G. ninjadrvr May 07 2014 at 5:57 PM


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